pricing photography

One of the questions I get a lot from people about commercial photography is about pricing photography. Today I am breaking down the difference between usage rights and what’s called a creative fee (or a day rate,) and when to charge for each.

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Photography pricing and estimating for commercial shoots is an art form unto itself, but if you want a ready-made estimating template with all of the line-items I use, go ahead and download my free estimating template so you can just input the numbers in and let the formulas take care of the rest. Scroll down to read the rest of the post.

This topic is a bit tricky and there is some debate about when to charge for one or the other or both. I’m going to give you my take, and also show you how you can differentiate between the two.

USAGE RIGHTS are fees associated with a clients usage on a per image basis for a designated period of time. Usually this would appear on the estimate as $____ per image and the time-frame would be outlined in the terms… ie. for a 1 year term. The price per image is probably going to vary on a job by job basis as the terms of the shoot are going to vary job to job and it also very much depends on the client. A small mom and pop price per image is going to look very different than a large brand with a huge following. You would also want to outline what the per image fees to renew for another term would be, so that they know that if they want to use the images after the term is up, they would have to pay X amount.

CREATIVE FEES are the fees associated with your time and creative talent for the job. This is usually based on a per day basis and is roughly the same from job to job… although again, this might look different if you are quoting on a small or large job.

Now we know the terms… but when do you use each of them? Some people will separate them into two line items, and others will put them together as one fee. In my opinion, they should separated as they serve very different purposes. Your creative fee is essentially the same as a line item for a crew member. You wouldn’t not pay your crew, so why would you not pay yourself. The photography usage fee on the other hand is for using the images themselves. If you wrap the creative and the usage into one lump sum, it doesn’t educate the client on the differences of these two line items and it doesn’t show the value they are getting. 

If you are just starting out, this can seem like a lot, but if you set the standard early on, your clients will get used to it and when you raise your photography prices, it will be clearer. It is also helpful to see the image usage numbers, so the client knows what they are getting, and what they will need to pay to renew. It might also be helpful to really get the full picture of the difference between commercial photography and service based photography to have a good understanding of where to start.

If you want more on getting ready to tackle commercial photography, be sure to visit my post on creating a commercial photography portfolio, and download my free portfolio creation checklist. If you need even more help with this, I am available for personal consults and full portfolio creation.

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Tell me in the comments below what your biggest issue with pricing photography is.

I hope you found this helpful. To get a clearer picture, and to have a photography pricing template to start from, be sure to download my ready-made photography pricing estimate. You can just input your numbers, add your branding and tweak any particular line-items that you may need and send off to your client.



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