“How much?!” A guide to photography rates.

Welcome to my blog-type thing, I’m glad you could make it.

Having convinced you in my previous blog of the terrors and pitfalls of using micro-payment stock photography for your corporate website and brochure (in short, every time you use istockphoto, a fairy dies), this time around I was going to lay out what level of investment is required to hire a real photographer to take genuine photos that will make your business stand out from the generic stock crowd.

Unfortunately it’s nigh on impossible to condense all possible fee structures into a single blog article, so I’ve come up with a much better answer.

Basically, what you need to pay for photography falls somewhere between you being embarrassed at expecting so much for so little money, and the photographer being embarrassed at charging so much for something they’re professional enough to make look easy.

There, I think that covers all the bases.

Well ok, there’s a bit more to it than that, so I will try to guide you and leave you better equipped to work out what your budget should be.

The first considerations are the quality, style, creativity and experience of the photographer you’re looking to hire. Also, what the photos are to be used for and for how long. These elements will almost certainly be the most influential in setting costs.

Many photographers will quote a time rate, but others like myself will work out a project rate based on the brief and what the pictures are to be used for. This tends to reflect the true value of the work produced, while also avoiding sneakybeaky add-on charges that can crop up when a project is priced on a menu basis.

One element which is often overlooked by clients is the post production time. Post production is what gets a digital camera file into shape ready for either electronic or print use. The file straight from the camera is no use for either, so the photographer has to spend time after the shoot preparing the files for publication, including adjusting colour, exposure, resolution and many other time-consuming and rather dull tasks.

As a guide, a day’s shoot can easily equate to a half day’s post production, though this also varies from project to project. Again, in my case I’ll generally include a certain amount of post production so there are no nasty surprises later.

Ok, so you really want some hard figures? Speaking for myself a project can be as little as £190 for a locally shot PR event with a limited shelf life. At the other end of the spectrum, I have charged £1,500 per picture for complicated national projects with multiple, ongoing uses, vast coverage and a lot of planning involved.

lloyds tsb cheque presentation to housing association © Tim Gander

Good PR shots get good publicity. © Tim Gander

In that first example, the client might be slightly abashed to know that I’ve brought 20 years’ experience, £20,000 worth of equipment and free exposure in local newspapers for less than it would cost to hire a plasterer for half a day. In the latter case, I felt suitably scared of screwing up the client’s expensive campaign that I made damn sure the results exceeded their wildest expectations.

When considering the budget, try to take into account the financial return you hope to get from the exercise. If you want a good return, you’ll need top-notch pictures. Rather than trying to find the lowest talent that will do the job for your budget, it might be better to spend extra so that your project punches above its weight. Better to spend a little more and find you’ve got pictures that really project your message than find you’ve spent too little and the project fails. Ha’peth of tar anyone?

For further guidance on typical prevailing fees, see:

“NUJ Freelance Fees Guide”

barbary lion

Barbary Lion © Tim Gander

Finally, if you like this lion photo I have a free A4 digital print I will send to the first UK-based reader of my blog to email me their name and address.

Until my next blog, when I’ll help you through the process of choosing a photographer, take care, and I wish you all the best with your business.

“Tim Gander is a press, PR and commercial photographer based in Somerset, who likes to talk about himself in the third person”

Article and photos © Tim Gander. All rights reserved 2009

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