One of the most challenging aspects of new and emerging photographers is getting paid. As you establish your value and starting to build up new and returning clients, it's important to understand not only what to charge, but specifically what to charge for as a photographer.
If you're starting to take on paid work as a photographer (and in particular commercial work), here are common fees and expenses that you should consider in your estimates and invoices.
Fees vs Expenses
There will be two main costs for a photographer's budget: fees and expenses. Fees may be flexible and are dependent on the nature of the shoot that are directly dictated by the photographer and are under their control. Expenses, on the other hand, are often hard costs that are not under the control of the photographer and would be accounted for by receipts.
Typical Types of Photographer Fees
Day Rate One's day rate is compensation for the time spent photographing for the day of the shoot itself. One might describe a day rate as 8 hours of work and charge for some increment of that day, such as a half day rate. If working beyond an established period of time, one may have a different or proportionate rate for that time.
While it's very common for a potential client to ask your rate or day rate, it's very important to understand that this fee is only one part of what you can and should be compensated for.
Creative Fee A creative fee can be used to encompass a day rate as above (or multiple days of photography), but may extend to be an umbrella term for all creative work. It may broaden to cover creative concepts, direction, production tasks and other work, if you choose not to break these out into separate line items. It's also common to combine a creative fee and a licensing fee into a single fee.
Licensing Fee A licensing fee is separate from the day rate or the creative fee in the fact that it is based solely on the usage of the end images, as opposed to being based on how they were created. Often, one may choose to roll a licensing fee into a creative fee and include it as a single line item.
A licensing fee may be rolled into a day rate if the photography role is very specific. For example, a photojournalist may have a single day rate that includes editorial usage of images.
The licensing for the images itself should clearly outline the type of use (promotional, commercial, etc), duration of the license (1 year, 5 years, in perpetuity) and what is being delivered that is subject to these specifications. The deliverables of how many final images, their format and any other details should all be made as clear as possible in addition to the rate for their use.
Preproduction Preproduction fees may include any work that is done in preparation for a photoshoot. This might include scouting, meetings, or other types of coordination that happens before a shoot. It's most common to charge for preproduction days if you are not charging a general creative fee (which may include/cover these tasks), but it can also be broken out separately.
Travel Days A travel day is charged for time spent traveling if a photo job is not local, and particularly if one travel on days that are not included as the shoot days. The rationale for this fee is to compensate for the time spent traveling for a job, as they cannot be earning money otherwise during this time. Travel days may often be billed as half or other fraction of a traditional day rate, but the fee may depend on the time spent traveling and other factors of the job.
Photo Assistants Assistants are a common expense. One might have various kinds of assistants, from lighting or technical assistants to those who are acting as second shooters, but for this case all assistants are grouped under this term.
Hair and Makeup/Wardrobe HMU and/or wardrobe stylists may be another common expense if required by the client/job.
Equipment Equipment expenses may include gear rentals or rates for one's own photography gear, lighting equipment, grip and so forth. Gear expenses may be charged at a per day rate.
Editing and Post-Processing If you're delivering photographer selects, processing files, color correcting or performing retouching on images, this work should be considered as an expense as it all takes time and effort (either your own or someone else's).
Location/Studio Expenses This expense is for the location used for a shoot, whether that's a location rental, location permits or the expense of one's own studio space or a rental.
Travel Travel expenses include the raw cost of travel if applicable, including air travel or ground transportation such as taxis, car rental, Uber, etc.
Digital Tech On commercial jobs, a digital technician is responsible for the real-time downloading, editing and/or processing of images for client review, among other things. This is especially common among commercial shoots where an client or art director may want to view images as they are produced while a photographer is shooting tethered to a computer set up for client review.
Image Delivery Image delivery may include the time spent preparing files for delivery as well as the method of delivery itself, such as harddrive costs, shipping or other hard costs, depending on client preferences.
Milage and Gas If using your own vehicle, you may charge for milage covering its use, as well as fuel costs incurred for the job.
Meals and Incidentals You may charge for meals and incidental costs while on a photography job. This may be quoted as a per diem that's charged by day, or it may be invoiced for as a separate bill of expenses.
Lodging If traveling for a job, you may include lodging as part of the expenses, whether it's a hotel or a room share like Air BnB.
If you’re just starting out in charging for your work or your time, that’s a very important first step and that alone deserves celebration. As you progress, it’s important to consider estimating and invoicing for the hard expenses you’re incurring as a photographer as well as those things that take up your time (behind just making the images).
The above is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully this is gives you consideration of the different ways you can outline the value you’re providing for your paying photography clients. Every genre of photography is different and may have different kinds of work that will dictate the items that appear on an estimate or invoice.
Many photographers may combine one or multiple of the items above to simplify their estimates and invoices. Regardless, even if they are not itemized, you should consider charging for these items if you’re not already, because they’re already taking your time and resources whether not you’re being compensated for them.
My Camera DSLR and Lenses for Concert Photography
Nikon Z 7: I use two Nikon Z 7 for my live music photography. A true do-it-all mirrorless camera with amazing AF, great speed and fantastic resolution.
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8S: The 24-70mm is my go-to lens. The range is ideal for stage front photography and the image quality is superb.
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