How Much Should Photographers Charge Per Hour?

Mar 6, 2014

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.

How Much Should Photographers Charge Per Hour?

Mar 6, 2014

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.

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The short answer is, of course: As much as possible.

The long answer depends a lot more on where you personally fit into the photography industry and your local market.

In this article I am going to explore the seven critical factors that determine how much should photographers charge per hour, along with an example of how to calculate a reasonable billable rate.

how much should photographers charger per hour toronto commercial business photographer jp danko blurmedia photography

Warning – We Are Going To Talk About Money

Money is a touchy subject for a lot of people – and it seems especially so for photographers.

Everyone’s personal circumstances are different, and we have a global audience with drastically different markets and ideas about income levels – so the numbers I am presenting in this article are what I would consider realistic for a typical middle class Canadian – but please feel free to make adjustments to suit your own income goals and local market.

If you don’t read any further, just take two minutes to watch this clip from the Cosby Show – I clearly remember watching this episode when I was a kid, and its something that has stuck with me my entire life.

What You Bill is Not What You Earn

Say it with me – what I bill per hour is not what I earn.  What I bill per hour is not what I earn.  What I bill…OK you get the point – but for some reason this seems to be a particularly hard lesson for photographers to learn – especially those just starting out.

The reality is that all professionals who bill by the hour – such as lawyers, engineers, architects, accountants etc. bill their clients at a minimum two to three times their take home pay rate.  For example, if a lawyer earns $60 per hour – they would typically bill at least $120 to $180 per hour.

For photographers who own and operate their own businesses (often as the sole employee), the ratio of billable rate to take home pay is even higher, as we will see.

Quick Tip!

To estimate how much you will earn in a year based on an hourly rate, simply double the hourly rate and move three decimal places.

For example $35 per hour is approximately $70,000 per year.

($35 per hour x 8 hours per day x 5 days per week x 50 weeks per year = $70,000)

How Much Is Your Time Worth

If you are a recreational photographer and you practice photography purely because you love it and you would do it for free – that is awesome – do us all a favor and just do it for free.  Seriously!

There is nothing wrong with working for free – as long as everyone knows you are working for free.  The problem is when photographers fall into the trap of working almost for free.  Photographers that undervalue their services are not doing themselves any favors, and are in fact contributing to the wholesale undervaluing of the entire industry – but that is an argument for another day.

If you are a part time photographer, you can look at what you earn in your day job to gauge how much your time is worth.  If you earn $30 an hour at the office, chances are you’d like to earn at least $30 an hour from your photography.

If you are a full time photographer, you can work backwards from what you need to earn in a year to support your family and your lifestyle.  Or, you can figure that if you had to quit photography to put food on the table, you would presumably have a suitable full time job and rate of pay.

For the purpose of providing an example, the average income for a married person with a family in Canada is around $60,000 per year.  That’s about equivalent to $30 per hour.

How Much of Your Work Is Non-Billable?

Nobody that charges by the hour is working on something that they can bill to a client 100% of the time (nobody honest about it anyway).  So, the question becomes, how much work do I do that I don’t get paid for?

For a photographer, this is a substantial portion of time.

Think about everything you do on a daily basis that is related to your photography business, but does not directly earn income.

Email, answering the phone, proposals, bids, social media, promotion, your website, blogging, personal projects…the list goes on and on.

I estimate that I easily spend 50% of my time as a photographer doing work that I can’t bill to a client – and that is probably on the low side.

That means that in order to earn that $60,000 a year goal, I would have to bill $60 per hour, not $30 per hour.

To adjust your billable rate depending on your own ratio of billable versus non-billable time, take your target hourly rate, multiply by the total number of hours per week you work, and divide by the number of hours you bill to clients.

For example, if I want to earn the equivalent of $30 per hour for a 40 hour work week, but I can only bill 20 hours, I have to bill $60 per hour.  I am still working 40 hours per week, but only 50% can be billed to a client so my billable rate doubles.

($30 per hour x 40 hours per week total / 20 billable hours per week = $60 per hour)

Pay in Lieu of Benefits

As independent small businesses, photographers are on their own to cover the costs normally paid as benefits to salaried employees.

Of course, benefit plans vary greatly, but most companies cover some portion of dental, medication, vision, life insurance, sick time etc.

Where I live in Ontario, Canada, salaried employees may occasionally work in lieu of benefits – such as when they are picking up extra shifts or working overtime.  In these instances, they are normally paid an additional 18% on top of their regular pay rate “in lieu of benefits”.

If you live somewhere that does not have universal healthcare, the value of a corporate benefit plan that covers health insurance would be substantially more that 18%.  If you live somewhere that has social dental, medication and / or vision plans, the value of a corporate benefit plan would be less.

For the sake of this example, I am going to equate the value of a corporate benefit plan to 18% of my adjusted billable rate.

That means that I have to add $10.80 per hour to my $60 per hour billable rate to cover the cost of benefits – bringing me up to $70.80 per hour.

($60 per hour x 18% = $10.80 per hour)

Who Wants to Work Until They Die?

Not me, that’s for sure.

Problem is, we all need to eat, live somewhere, and have something to do between the time when we stop working and when we kick the bucket.

If you’re a self employed photographer, you’re not getting a corporate pension – so tough luck – you’re on your own.

Therefore, saving for your retirement is not a luxury or an option – you must build it into your photography business plan.

How much money you actually need to save for retirement depends a lot on your personal circumstances.

Where I live, the maximum annual contribution to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) is 18% of your net income, which is roughly 10 to 15% of your gross income.

For this example, I am going to plan on putting 15% of my gross income away for retirement.

If I plan on earning $60,000 per year, I need to save $750 per month – or approximately another $9 per hour.

That brings my billable rate up to 79.80 per hour.

($60,000 per year x %15 / 50 weeks / 20 hours per week = $9 per hour)

Vacations Aren’t Free

You might have noticed that so far there are two weeks out of the year we are not accounting for.

We are assuming that we are on vacation for those two weeks and as an independent small business, cannot earn income.

However, Canadians typically get 4 to 6 weeks per year of paid vacation – Europeans a little more, Americans a little less.

That means that if I want to take more than two weeks off and still reach our target $60,000 per year, I have to adjust my billable rate to make up that lost time.

For our example, I’m just going to stick with two weeks of vacation because I would have to start the math all over from the start based on working 46 weeks in a year instead of 50 – but you get the point.

‘Cause time equals money,
And money’s all right,
So I’ll be working past nine.
And those f@%king Europeans who vacation from September,
They ain’t in their right mind.

We’ve got deadlines to meet!

The Arkells – Lyrics from Deadlines

YouTube video

What’s Your Overhead

Finally, we have to consider our overhead.

Again, like many of the other factors, overhead varies greatly depending on a photographers personal circumstances and business model.

At a minimum, overhead would include things like: camera upgrades, computer equipment, home maintenance or rent, software, cellphone, internet, advertising, web hosting, transportation, insurance etc.

Most photographers drastically underestimate their overhead, and if you are a recreational or part time photographer, the lines between what is overhead and what you are just buying for your own enjoyment blur together a little.

But, for our example, lets put an overhead budget together:

Camera Upgrades – say maybe a new body and maybe a lens, and some lighting gear every three years – roughly $2400 per year, or $200 per month.

Computer Equipment – say a new computer every three years too – roughly $600 per year, or $50 per month.

Home Maintenance or Rent – this can vary a lot – but lets say a modest $200 per month would cover a home studio.

Software – upgrades, Photoshop CC etc. – $100 per month.

Cellphone & Internet – I pay around $200 per month.

Advertising and Web Hosting – depends on how heavily you advertise – but say $100 per month.

Transportation – again depends on your mode of transportation – but easily $200 per month.

Insurance – say $100 per month.

That all adds up to $1,150 per month in out of pocket expenses (and that is on the very low home studio end).  To cover $1,150 per month in overhead, or 23% of your target annual income, you have to add another $13.80 per hour to your billable rate.

That brings our total billable rate up to $93.60 per hour.

Show Me The Money!

OK – so here is how the whole example breaks down.

If we bill $93.60 per hour and we work 40 hours per week but only bill 20 hours per week, and we take two weeks of unpaid vacation, in one year we will gross $93,600 per year.

($93.60 per hour x 20 billable hours per week x 50 weeks per year = $93,600).

Now we get to play Bill Cosby and figure out where the money goes.

$10,800 goes to pay for benefits (18% of $60,000), $9,000 goes to retirement savings (15% of $60,000) and $13,800 goes to cover overhead (23% of $60,000), leaving us with our target income of $60,000.

($93,600 – $10,800 – $9,000 – $13,800 = $60,000)

The Bottom Line

In the end, we can see that a photographer’s billable rate should be at least triple of what they plan to take home as pay – and even four times would still be reasonable in most cases.

How Much Do You Think Photographers Should Charge Per Hour

What have I overestimated?  What have I underestimated?  What do you think photographers should factor into their billable rate?  Do you agree that a billable rate three to four times of take home pay is reasonable for photographers?

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

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JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.

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66 responses to “How Much Should Photographers Charge Per Hour?”

  1. Viviana D'Angelo Avatar
    Viviana D’Angelo

    thank you for this !

  2. Joshua Targownik - Targophoto Avatar
    Joshua Targownik – Targophoto

    You can’t charge based on your own lifestyle, expenses, and financial needs. If that was the case, you could just tell photographers to charge enough to retire in one year. All you can really do is find numbers that make it “worth it” for both you and your client. If your work isn’t “worth it” for your clients (too high a fee), they won’t hire you. If the money and future benefits* of the job aren’t worth your effort, you won’t be happy taking it. *Future benefits may be getting great shots for your portfolio, making connections with important people, etc; these have a potential future value that may cause you to take an otherwise underpaying gig. You can also choose to take a gig that doesn’t feel worth it if you simply need the money, but as time goes on, you should try to work your rate up so you are always happy with the deal. So what do you charge? As much as you can, but low enough that the client will book you (and book you again), and high enough that you consider it a fair deal. Bidding is a tricky game, and it takes time and experience to get a feel for the numbers. As your career goes on, you’ll be approached with new experiences, asked to shoot things you never have before, for clients you have never worked with before, and you will have to take chances with your bids. Luckily, as your work gets better, and as you acquire more steady clients, you can keep upping your rate. Forget about your rent, how much gear you buy, insurance, and all that; clients don’t care about that. They care about what you can do for them, what your value is to them. If you want to buy a new camera, fine, but don’t expect your clients to pay for it. Buy it if you need it, make great pictures with it; Your clients will pay for those.

    1. Josh Targownik, Avatar
      Josh Targownik,

      P.S. When I was starting out, I decided to make my day rate equal to the absolute minimum amount of money I needed to survive for one month. I figured if I booked just one full day a month, I could live. Divide that by 8 and it gives you a pretty good starting point for a general hourly rate. I know this goes a little bit against what I just said above, basing your rate on your own expenses, But you do have to start somewhere, and it’s a good rule of thumb.

      When I had made enough to cover my month, I would always charge a little more for my next gig, to see how much people were willing to pay for my work.

      Also use sites like craigslist to see what the market rate is for different types of photography.

      1. Pavel Kounine Avatar
        Pavel Kounine

        Craigslist is not an accurate portrayal of the market. Where I’m from, it seems to cater to bargain hunters and amateurs.

        1. Rob Stathem Avatar
          Rob Stathem

          I absolutely agree with Pavel. Craigslist caters to people who want things for FREE or dirt cheap. I’d stay clear from Craigslist. Also, I’d stay away from freelance sites like Elance and the like. The people on those freelance sites who are seeking services, have no understanding of the value of a service or product.

          1. Charles, PA Avatar
            Charles, PA

            Yes Rob! Craigslist is definitely NOT a place to go to see what the going rate is for Professional Photography! Only a non-professional would even think of such a thing! Craigslist is full of amateurs shooting on AUTO trying to make a quick buck (not to mention criminals as well!). Their market consists of those who don’t recognize the difference in professional work and aren’t willing to pay for it and think using their Cell phones for pics or asking “Uncle Joe” to take snapshots is all they need, so why would they ever pay someone?! If we as a profession do not educate consumers and charge appropriately for our expertise, training, equipment and cost of doing business, how can we expect people to respect us for what we do and value what we offer through our years of training and experience!?

          2. Jeremy Benson Avatar
            Jeremy Benson

            What to do you expect? I love Craigslist, but then I fall into the non-professional market. Then again, who cares? I can hire a professional that I can’t afford for $100 an hour… or … I can hire someone for $100 and get the whole thing done for a bit less, and still have a couple of darn nice photos. With the money the way it is for me there’s not really much choice. I paid a web developer $20 to fix one of my page problems, and he aced it… Why would I pay some pro $200 or more? Even with the fail rate I had, hire one guy, did a bad job, hire another did awesome… I save $160….

            You can argue top dollar and quality all you want, and that’s fine for corporations, and people who can afford your service… but why WOULDN’T I try and find the same thing cheaper? Ie, freelance, Elance, and Craigslist… It’s not stupid, it’s genius, and I for one am glad their service is there.

          3. Joe Avatar

            Charles you’re right on with your comments. Some of the others are clueless when it comes to running a business…

        2. Charles, PA Avatar
          Charles, PA

          Thank you Pavel! I just posted same above prior to reading your post!

      2. Charles, PA Avatar
        Charles, PA

        Craigslist? Sure, that will give you an accurate rate for professional photographers! (NOT!) How sad, clearly you undercut the professional rate for fear of having clients not accept your rate. If you base your rate on those trying to make a buck by posting low rates for sub-par services on Craigslist, you will never be charging the rate of Professional, nor will you be attracting the target market who respects our profession. Try joining Professional Photography organizations that offer accurate representations of rates for various Photographic services.

        1. Deseree Avatar

          I am not a photographer, but have been researching what to take into consideration when deciding what to offer a photographer rate-wise and how long it would take for what I’m asking for (basically one body shot). I just posted on craigslist looking for a photographer and I am offering $50/hour. In my mind that was a decent rate (and all I could afford since I am paying for a model and make up artist, and not to mention that I am a start up), but now I’m second-guessing my rate…. The reality is that I didn’t know where to look, and I do realize that there is other work that most likely will need to be done after the shots are taken. Very challenging, indeed!

    2. Dangerous Avatar

      I agree with your point (that clients don’t care about your finances and only want a good price for the job), but I think you’ve missed the point and audience of the article. It seems that JP is targeting other photographers here and trying to warn about all the things that need to be factored into a professional budget. You don’t have to share it with the clients, but make sure you don’t end up screwed.

      1. sam Avatar

        IS this from the popcorn one? best chef episode ever!

      2. Josh Targownik, Avatar
        Josh Targownik,

        You do have to make sure you don’t end up screwed, but I don’t think about my cell phone bill, insurance, or rent when I put together a quote. I base my rate on the client and the work involved (and maybe a few other factors).

        The problem with basing your rate on your expenses is that you can’t predict how many jobs you will get or how many hours you will work. So all you can really do it try to maximize each job; Charge as high as you can without charging too much. Charging to much will either get you a NO response, or stop that client from coming back for more. It’s a fuzzy line, and part of the game.

        1. Charles, PA Avatar
          Charles, PA

          It’s called “Cost of Doing Business!” And you DO need to include your cell phone, insurance, EQUIPMENT, software, rent, health insurance, travel, etc. etc. Of course your client doesn’t care but you’re not itemizing those expenses for the client, you are giving them the bottom line you need to make a living. Businesses aren’t out there to do volunteer work, or NOT make a profit – you apparently are not a good business man. Do you think when we buy our groceries or anything we purchase whether goods or services, that the business has not built in THEIR COST of DOING BUSINESS, the employees salaries, vacations, benefits, etc., into what we are paying them? Get real!
          This is the problem with photography, too many so called “photographers” out there who have no clue how to run a business and undercut the entire industry making those of us who get it, look like we’re over charging.
          What is difficult for many of us is knowing photography but not knowing business. We should not assume we’re doing things right, if you don’t have an accountant who can steer you in a realistic direction, take a Business Accounting course, get some books, take articles such as this for the value it is worth.
          If your clients are not willing to pay you a realistic rate then it’s time to rethink your target market and go after those that respect your profession and will pay what your are worth – REALITY CHECK!

    3. Rob Stathem Avatar
      Rob Stathem

      Joshua brings up some great points! I would also suggest looking up the Red Book of Advertising. These can be purchased (for a crazy amount of money) or you can find these at your local library and get the info for free. The Red Book gives you a ton of industry specific info (yearly income, total yearly money spent on advertising, size of company, etc, etc..) You can look up restaurants (if you’re a food photographer) and find out the yearly income of a series of restaurant chains and then determine your rate based on those figures.
      I also think it goes without saying that a photographer should charge accordingly based on their experience. If you’re a commercial photographer with over 20 years of experience, than, of course those with more experience should be charging more than photographers with only 3 or 4 years of experience.
      But, I think the best way is to research the market and find out some information about your clients that you’re targeting. The Red Book is an AWESOME tool, I highly recommend it and it’s updated every year!

      1. Jeff Avatar

        I have to slightly disagree with the charging based on experience. I think photographers should charge based on how good/creative/skilled their work is, versus how “experienced” they are. A photographer who has been working 20 years doesn’t necessarily take “great” or “wow factor” pictures, while on the opposite end of that spectrum, a new photographer could have a great eye for taking a creative picture. Get what I mean? One would be worth more to the client and that would be the better PICTURE, not the most experienced photographer. Just my two cents.

    4. Havico Avatar

      Where was this image taken? I am so, in love with this kitchen!

  3. Simon Wells Avatar
    Simon Wells

    That makes perfect sense. I’m just a photog for fun but in my day job the right price is the one that produces the right amount of work. If you’ve got to turn work away you can afford to charge more. If you work on take home as a third of the charged amount 10% extra in the charged amount might put off 1 in 10 but it means your take home goes up by 30%

  4. Chris Cameron Avatar
    Chris Cameron

    I think an hourly rate is absolutely the wrong approach.
    We should be charging for usage plus expenses
    Apart from that the above points are valid, you need to ensure you’re charging enough to survive / prosper.
    You need to calculate what a job is worth to the client then ensure there is enough time and work available to be able to survive working for those clients.
    ie if I am shooting conveyor belt type pack shots for a online catalogue it may only be worth $10 a shot but I may be able to do 1000 a month. But if I am shooting a one off ad for a multinational it may only take a day but I could still make the same $10,000 for the month.

    1. Doug Levy Avatar
      Doug Levy

      Nooooo. Say no to hourly billing and do what chris says

      1. Kara C. Avatar
        Kara C.

        Noo. Pavel isn’t suggesting charging hourly.. he is suggesting creating itemized invoices that don’t lump all categories of service in one fee. You can still do a “package deal” but my suggestion with those would be to itemize everything separately and redline out certain areas you intend on discounting. It will only benefit you the day you choose to increase your pricing, it shows the client your transparency and builds trust. It gives a better understanding of how you created your price and leaves wiggle room for you to be more flexible when making negotiations with clients. Always factor every detail in. Show your worth up front. Come down on price with usage fees as a labeled discount later. Gain leverage and credibility.

    2. Pavel Kounine Avatar
      Pavel Kounine

      Are you basing charges on the type of usage and its reach? If so, you’re almost there, but not quite.

      It’s very common for commercial photographers, which is the category your examples seems to fall under, to charge:
      1. Production fees (i.e., your expenses in delivering the shoot as per request).
      2. Licensing fees. This is where usage of images (and where, and by whom) come into play.
      3. Creative fees. This is your labour, based on whatever formula you use. This is the exclusive topic of the article.

      Your creative fees should generally remain the same. It is your licensing fees that are variable based on a whole slew things. Commercial clients generally want this all broken down in the invoice; you can’t just combine it into one simple number and present it to them as the price all while omitting the details.

  5. Michael Williams Avatar
    Michael Williams

    All the market will bear.

  6. stanleyleary Avatar

    Please don’t propagate an hourly rate. This is like working as a Day Laborer. You don’t won’t to here, “By the way while you are here and I already have you for the hour please shoot ______.”

    You need to know what you need to earn and maybe you do this as an hourly rate. You should charge by the project.

    If you charge hourly rate and you get better and more efficient then you make the same amount later when you are better.

    Let’s say you take an hour and half to do your first few oil changes and then over time are down to about 10 minutes. The shop will charge a flat rate even if you take longer, but when you start to do better you and they can make more money. They can then afford to pay you more per hour because you can change the oil in more cars.

    Avoid quoting hourly or daily rates.

  7. Pascal Avatar

    I think it is a good calculation basis and shows starting photographers what they have to think of. Especially that they work 40hours, but can’t bill 40 hours. To be honest I’m a aprt time photographer based in beautiful Switzerland(Europe) and I bill more than $93. I have calculated a hourly rate of about $110. And I think this is in between what all the professional photographers based in my location bill per hour and what the people are willing to pay.

    It’s a good start, thanks for sharing


  8. Jon Peckham Avatar
    Jon Peckham

    Don’t charge hourly. Charge a flat rate period! Hourly creates too much tension with your clients . .

  9. CYang Avatar

    I think what makes people panic about this article is the term “hourly rate”.

    I think this article makes perfect sense and I am amused by the type of responses it is getting. First of all, the author is using an “ideal” world in the example – this means not all photographers will have the same schedule, same bills to pay etc. Second of all, what the author is saying is when a photographer charges people for their time and service they can’t only consider one factor. They must consider all factors. Sure, there are some jobs that take less time to complete and other that take more but what the author is pointing out is make sure at the end of the year what you earn will cover all the costs that you need to pay. For every job, your billable rate will change, but the rest of the benefits/vacations/overhead etc won’t – therefore your actual hourly rate will change by project (i.e. the $93.60 that he used here isn’t going to apply for all projects – but that’s the average he wants to achieve at the end of the year). Every hour that you spent working on shooting/editing/finishing up a photo contract is an hour spent that you should charge. That’s hourly rate.

    Simple isn’t it?

  10. Stan Rowin Avatar
    Stan Rowin

    Sorry to be so late to this conversation.

    In 2010 I wrote an article for a website which started: “They lost me at the “Cost of Doing Business” calculator. You know, the formula everyone starts you out with: Your overhead expenses + desired salary = your total annual cost ÷ number of billable days = your CODB.No matter how many times I played with it, the number of billable days that I desired was never as high as the number of days I actually worked. My desired salary never approached by my actual salary. So the calculator failed me. Lots of stuff they taught me in those photo business seminars failed me. I had to find a better way to price my work and survive as a new photographer.”

    The full article is currently archived here:

    Photography is a strange product. In some cases you have to price hourly. In some cases you shouldn’t. But many photographers, and their mentors, refuse to believe that in most cases the market sets the fees, not the photographer. The sooner you learn the market’s “rules” the better off you’ll be.

    1. golemB Avatar

      Sure, the market sets the rates. But “the market” means both buyers AND sellers, and if photographers fail to demand high enough rates, the clients will think that unsustainable rates are normal. Also, I think the point of this article is to encourage new or less-business-minded photographers to charge enough so that they (and other photogs) don’t get screwed.

      To those who don’t know much about the costs of running a photo business (even/especially if you’re the only employee), $93.60 may sound high and hard to explain to a client. They need to understand how to set realistic prices so they don’t drag themselves and others out of business.

      1. Stan Rowin Avatar
        Stan Rowin

        GolemB, you’re about a decade too late. The market might be made up of buyers and sellers, but because there are so many photographers chasing so few jobs the clients have the “market force” and too many of the photographers say yes to anything just to pay the rent. You can yell all you want, but this is the way things turned out.

        Then you get to the troublesome fact that no one knows what the “market rates” are and you have innocent photographers low-balling each other because they just don’t know. For instance you say “$93.60 may sound high and hard to explain to a client . . .” If that’s your “hourly rate,” you are lowballing everyone that I know, including my assistant.

        For extra credit reading you can read my decade old article:
        “Photo Darwinism: Things your mother never told you”

        The strongest will survive: Those with the best portfolio, and those who have the lowest overhead choosing to be the cheapest.

        Sorry . . .

        1. Stan Rowin Avatar
          Stan Rowin

          The link to my 5 part article mentioned in my post above apparently no longer works. The publisher is out of business. I uploaded the 5 part post to my blog at:

          I hope this helps. Please remember although it’s dated at this point, some of the concepts still hold.

          1. C R Venzon Avatar
            C R Venzon

            All good. Thanks Stan!

          2. My name here Avatar
            My name here

            You’re most welcome. So a decade after writing all that, has the pro-photo profession gotten more lucrative and better for the photographers?

          3. Stan Rowin Avatar
            Stan Rowin

            You’re most welcome. So, over a decade after I wrote that, is business better and more lucrative for pro-photographers? Has anything changed?

    2. C R Venzon Avatar
      C R Venzon

      You ok to post this again? Your reply intrigues me. Thanks, Charles

  11. Jonny Avatar

    I’d like to reiterate a very important, if not THE most important, point of this article:

    “If you are a recreational photographer and you practice photography purely because you love it and you would do it for free – that is awesome – do us all a favor and just do it for free. Seriously!”

    Say it with me!!
    “If you are a recreational photographer and you practice photography purely because you love it and you would do it for free – that is awesome – do us all a favor and just do it for free. Seriously!”


    1. nienebug Avatar

      I don’t really understand this.

      1. Tom Steenhuysen Avatar
        Tom Steenhuysen

        I think what Jonny is trying to point out is this: When someone charges a ridiculously low fee because they would do (or can afford) to do it for free, they are lowering the perceived value of the professional photographer.
        A professional is a person that charges for their services. So if someone charges a low amount, they are perceived as ‘professional.’

  12. Amoor Avatar

    Great article !

  13. Carl Valle Avatar
    Carl Valle

    it never ceases to amaze me that people like dentists and lawyers think it’s okay to pretend to be photographers and work for free doing that… and then even encourage other nitwits to do the same… bunch of untalented morons shooting weddings with aps cameras and passing it off as professional work… any other profession work so low in quality would get you barred from practice or thrown in jail, but not photography any monkey with a dslr can do a wedding …

    1. Kathy Brown Avatar
      Kathy Brown

      There are plenty of “professional” photographers out there who shouldn’t be charging for their services. I have been working on my photography skills for a number of years now. The fact that my work has been mistaken for a professional’s by people who teach photography speaks volumes. I am now in the beginning stages of starting my own business, specializing in an untapped market. My fees will be based not only on what I think I am worth, but on what the market will bear.

      1. Roberto Leonardo Giovanni Aloi Avatar
        Roberto Leonardo Giovanni Aloi

        Can you share your website?

  14. PixPix Avatar

    I believe that certain types of photography services definitely warrant an hourly breakdown/rate. In circumstances where corporate businesses require a fully broken down invoice, services are required to assign an hourly dollar figure, or specify equipment rental rates etc. Businesses require a thorough breakdown for reasons such as: audits, shifting/sharing expenses between departments, more accurate budget planning/assessment during their reconciliation process. Higher end business clients are not looking for “packages” or “value” (as with wedding photography). They speak dollars and cents, margins and percentages. They want to know EXACTLY how much per hour, the task/rental assigned per hour, and a work-back schedule for when the deliverables will be ready (in line with their carefully thought out product launch, event or marketing campaign.) I have actually LOST business by trying to charge half day or full day rates when clients know it’s “only one product! There’s no way I’m paying a half day rate for 1 hour’s worth of work!” I have to agree with their thinking from a ‘bottom line’ perspective (the main way businesses profit). In conclusion, an hourly breakdown allows clients to see you are being fully open with your rate, that there are no hidden fees or additional time added. I find that in certain circumstances, hourly billing wins me the business. Line items on invoices include: sorting, color enhancing/correction, exporting, site inspection (if necessary), on-site labour, equipment rental (I own my gear and attach a fee to it, as do video camera operators, editors etc.) I found this article very helpful for the appropriate client / environment. Thanks.

  15. Allysha Avatar

    I don’t think that there is a recipe as such for charging, however what I think it does, is really put into perspective just how little some photographers pay themselves

  16. DHoffmann Avatar

    An office job that pays $30 an hour? Seriously? Are they hiring? For that kind of money, I`ll quit photography.

    1. Charles, PA Avatar
      Charles, PA

      Yes, very common in Executive Level Administrative jobs at large companies, especially pharmaceutical, chemical, big industry. (think Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Oil companies. . . ) PLUS BIG BENEFITS – still out there if you can survive the layoffs!

    2. AndyWear Avatar

      30 dollars for an office job isn’t really all that much. That’s still at poverty level in california.

  17. DHoffmann Avatar

    OK. I read the rest of the article and have come to two conclusions – 1) I`ll keep shooting for free and 2) math and money work differently in Canada. These numbers simply don`t make sense in my business model.

  18. Aaron Avatar

    I agree with a lot, but again, you’re taking advantage of working at home and justifying it into raising your rates. I work in an office and have transportation, new computer, internet, phone, etc bills. Claiming that ALL of your transportation costs or any of the other sections is ridiculous. I don’t get to claim my transportation to and from work that adds up to over $500-$1000 a year. Your costs are higher, but accept a baseline as expense you’d have.
    Additionally the computer, if you only use it for work, sure, expense it. But if you use it for home use as well, account for that time. Same with internet, home use, etc. I’d say dropping your expenses by 10%-20% would be more appropriate for billing consideration.

  19. PaulL Avatar

    How much is reliability worth? How much is creativity worth? How much is dealing with someone who is easy to deal with worth?

    Never charge per hour. Be brilliant and charge a lot

  20. Michael Moriarty Avatar
    Michael Moriarty

    Pretty sure this depends on wether you are full time or part time. What are you shooting? Where is the location. Which equipment will be used for the shoot etc. I am a Food Photographer and work for several local restaurants I find it works well to set an hourly rate and I am getting paid wether I am shooting or not so it helps them to be ready on time! I also require 10 minutes a shot. Since I do this part time my rate is $150 per hour and they get the images I am satisfied with a few days later with watermark, it can average around 50-100 images they use for promoting themselves through Social Media. They always have the option to purchase an image for advertising without watermark to be used on website, menu, print, etc. I also take home the food! Win Win! On the other hand I do Social Media for clients and take care of their presence on a monthly rate and include 30 images a month 1 basically for each day. Monthly rate is based on the size of the company and how much work is going to be done. Weddings are an emotional thing that takes a lot of planning, equipment and creativity and maybe a helper or two this is more for your set price and not hourly!

  21. Vandana Avatar

    DO you also charge for the time you spend off the camera for a client .. for example when you edit photos. Thats the time they dont see you working

  22. Daniel A Betts Avatar
    Daniel A Betts

    Nothing. Photographers don’t work “by the hour”. To promote the mindset that we do is to promote the mindset that we can be bought for the amount of time it takes us to create an image. Not the pre-work, the post-processing, etc. It makes us look worthless nearly :|

  23. Erin Curnutte Avatar
    Erin Curnutte

    Could you look at my work and tell me what you think I should charge because I’m lost! I feel like I am working way incredibly too much and way underpaid.

  24. lizette duarte Avatar
    lizette duarte

    hi. im a newbie on this. I just have 1 question to any of you. (Do I have to go to photography school in order to charge or can I charge with out going to school for this? )

  25. John Moses Avatar
    John Moses

    I just shot for free until i was asked to shoot a wedding. I insisted on shooting for free. During the event, the groom (and a friend of mine) put a wad of cash into my camera bag with a note telling me how amazing my work was, and how he wouldn’t accept my art for free. From then on I decided to talk with people and depending on their circumstance, I will shoot for an amount that is worth it for me, though I never take jobs that I don’t WANT. I think a lot of photographers are snobs about money and self worth, and it is a shame. I have shot independant wrestler promotional shots, for them to sell at shows, and to promote them, knowing that they were struggling passionate artists. Since I am a fan of pro wrestling, I give them the pictures for minimal cost, and not with a watermark or any advertising my name, but just because I think they deserve it and I enjoy the reactions when they see themselves in my photos. I would shoot most every job that I take for free honestly, but I have equipment and upkeep, as well as future purchases planned to get better equipment, so I charge those that ask for my services and have the funds to pay.

  26. sharkyjones Avatar

    I think you don’t charge an hourly – but you use it as budgeting tool to work out what your flat rate should be and benchmark against the hourly.

  27. cleos Avatar

    Thanks for the info. It was easy and interesting to put a worksheet together and analyse the dynamic between targeted income and billable hours. This is a great starting point to learn how to build a price. Whether we disclose a flat rate or an amount per hour, it’s important to know where we stand.

  28. Em Camm Avatar
    Em Camm

    So.. I’m starting my own business up but need price ideas.. I was thinking about $60 per session plus like $x per photo depending on size and stuff but is that too high or too low? Thoughts please?

  29. Marcus Avatar

    Use the calculated hourly rate to calculate your flat prices, BOOM! problems solved.

  30. roumelio Avatar

    While you should not charge by the hour, and should have a rough estimate of the total cost of the shoot, of course to negotiate with the client. You should have an idea of what that looks like when it is itemised into units. Whether that’s hours, or some other measurement (per photo, etc) You need to know what that’s going to look like. An itemised invoice shows transparency with your client and shows them you’re not just charging them for fluff. You also need to consider what’s above and beyond and what can’t be charged. It might take you lets say 5 hours to edit photos but you can only really charge for 2 or 3, fairly. You need to consider this. A little bit of experience working previously in sectors based on charge out rates goes a long, long way.

  31. Luke Yancey Avatar
    Luke Yancey

    I agree– if you are a photographer for a living, you should charge a decent amount (the $35 you mentioned was nice). However, if you are just a recreational photographer, you should do it for free! Working for free is a nice opportunity to gain experience. If your photos end up being really good and you want some money, strongly suggest your friends or clients to pay you. If they don’t, take the opportunity anyway!

  32. Philip Sherratt Avatar
    Philip Sherratt

    I have only just read this article a bit but better late than never I’m a recreational Togs and love photographing weddings I have charge for wedding and I feel that I’m devaluing the industry as I can charge lower rate so I have made a decision to try and set my self up has seconded shooter part time biz to help full time Togs and still maintain my love for photography. please let me know what guys value a seconded shooter and what rate I would charge for second shooting.
    please let me know your thoughts

  33. Anthony Ard Avatar
    Anthony Ard

    You forgot taxes :(

  34. bacollins Avatar

    You make a great point. I’ve been a photographer most of my life, but only doing portraits for a few years now (just for friends and family – gratis.) But I’m getting more and more requests and I’ve planned on charging for my services once I like my portfolio. One instinct was to ask for a fairly low rate because I didn’t think my experience translated into going rates for headshots. But underpricing is wrong. I have local friends who have been doing this for a long time. If I were them, I wouldn’t appreciate some newby giving away his services – especially if the photo quality was competitive. Bottom line, people will choose you based on your photos and the experience they have working with you. Under-charging is a crappy thing to do to others in your field. That’s how I feel and this article confirmed it.