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How Should Beginner Photographers Set Their Rates

How Should Beginner Photographers Set Their Rates


Beginning photographers often have trouble calculating rates for their clients, especially if they don’t have the confidence to demand adequate prices to cover all their startup costs and the price for their talent. This guide will break down how beginner photographers should set their rates when establishing a new client base or negotiating prices for a new job.

Calculate Prices by Adding Costs Plus Profits

For starters, make sure that you calculate your rates by adding the costs for your business in addition to leaving some space for profits.

Let’s break down a simple example with basic math for ease of understanding. Say that it costs you $500 to complete a project for a client. The $500 costs come from:

  • Transportation fees
  • Time spent preparing for the job
  • The costs for materials, such as purchasing a special lens for the client
  • Aftereffects or other post-photo work, including the software required to complete the job
  • And more

If you charge $500 for that job, you’ll end up making zero dollars in profit overall. That’s no way to pay the bills and it’s no way to grow your business.

Therefore, every job rate you set should also be enough that you can save the extra or put it toward your business for further growth.

Specify Your Rates Clearly in Written Contracts

It’s also a good idea to make sure that you specify all of your photo project rates in a written contract for photography. Written contracts provide legal protection in case a client tries to accuse you of scamming them or promising work that you didn’t mention whatsoever.

Furthermore, it leaves no room for interpretation on the part of your client. They have no excuse if they try to underpay you for your work. Set your rate in a written contract and stick with it instead of leaving yourself open to endless verbal negotiations.

 How Should Beginner Photographers Set Their Rates

Choose to Charge By the Hour or By the Project

You should decide at the beginning of your business whether you want to charge by the hour or by the project. Both methods have their pros and cons.

When charging by the hour:

  • You can factor in the hours it takes for transportation, as well as preparing and ending the contract, not just the time it takes you to snap your photos
  • It allows you to be flexible with how much you charge a client, which can be helpful if they demand extra work near the end of a job

When charging by the project:

  • Your clients will be less likely to be surprised by your costs
  • Your job rates will be less negotiable

The key point here is to choose one or the other early so you can stick with the pricing method in the long run and grow a reputation in the process. Plus, it’ll help your rates be easier to understand on job boards like Freelance.com.

Always Factor in the Cost of Labor

Never forget to factor in the cost of your labor when pricing your photography work. Basically, don’t charge clients based on how much it costs to develop film. Furthermore, don’t let clients haggle you down to rock-bottom rates just because their job took you a single afternoon.

It took you years to develop your photography skills to the level that they are now in demand by your clients. That time is what your clients are paying for after the fact. Furthermore, as a freelancer, your clients must pay for your transportation and the other labor inherent in running a freelance business, such as acquiring new clients, closing out contracts, and purchasing supplies.

Don’t Forget Overhead Costs!

Speaking of supplies, don’t forget to calculate overhead costs and add those to your pricing rates every time. Overhead costs are anything from the price of your camera to the costs for repairs to the prices for software and more.

As you can see, pricing as a freelance photographer can be a little complex. But you should follow these rules to the letter to ensure you get paid fairly for your work and can pay your bills on time.