How to charge for your photography?

By Davorr | Photography by Davor | 5 Mar 2022

Unlike the first article about photography, this one is a product of MANY questions of new photographers about how to charge for their photography. Often they are shy or just don't value their work enough and often undermine themselves. So, in order to reduce the shy factor I have played with some mathematical formulas for you. Please be considerate, I am not a math genius and actually went to law school in order to get away from it.

If you are an emerging photographer and you are just starting to charge for your photography there are a couple of how-to’s. The good thing is, you are thinking about it and you should be paid because you are providing service as anyone else.

Breaking it down

If photography is your hobby-turned-job, which would say your second job or your family member is supporting it by having a job too and you’re home-based without a studio – well, you already have it much easier.

In the beginning you will probably be working for free while building a portfolio, doing charity or meeting people you know have connections and can recommend you. Those are the only situations you can work for free on occasion. And always be holding on to one thought: „Work for free or for full price, but never for cheap“ by Paul Scriven.

To straighten out a few things… You need to define your success. How many weddings a year (if you are a wedding photographer, if not, then insert your field) would you be satisfied with? Always have „or more“. 10 or more. 20 or more. 50 or more.

How to charge for your photography formula

First of all, when it comes to how to charge for your photography formula you have to know that there are no magic numbers and nobody can tell you to charge a certain amount for your work. Even though we run from math and formulas, there is actually a formula to how to charge for your photography and it is quite simple. OK, there isn’t really, this is my formula for pricing your photography. The formula is this:

• How well-known photographer are you – recognition/reputation – R.
• Based on your reputation level you will also be deciding how much you charge for the clients you had to decline to work with. At level 1 it will be 0 because you are able to get to all the clients, at level 2 it’s 5% and at level 5 it’s 20% maximum. Multiply with, as goes, 1; 1.05; 1.10; 1.15; 1.20. Don’t go over the top with it. Declined clients – d.
Your pay – Y – Y=w*t
• How long does it take – time – t
• Determine how much you ask for an hour of your time and how much would you ask for a half-day and full day. Your initial hourly price will follow you to level 3, then you can adjust it on level 4 and 5. How much is your time worth – worth – w
• Even if the cameras aren’t getting any smaller by using them the more we shoot, they are consumables. The manufacturers usually say you need to service your shutter once every 200.000 photographs. If you shoot 1.000 photographs that’s 0.5%. In my inquiry that is around $300. So you can charge 5% of that for every shoot. – Consumables – c
• You also could and should copyright your photographs. There is a website you can register a batch of photographs, no matter is it 10 or 10.000 – the fee is around $30-$35 per batch. I believe the website is copyright.gov. This is one of the greatest investments, as you will have much less to deal with if your photographs get stolen. – Copyright – C
• How much are your expenses for props for THAT shoot, not the ones you already have. If you have no expenses for props, then you charge $1. – props – P
• How much are you paying for renting gear. If you have no expenses for renting gear then you charge $1. – renting gear – g
• How much are the costs of getting to the location. If you have no expenses for travel, then you charge $1. – travel to location – s
• How much you are paying for the assistant. If you have no assistant, then you charge $1. – paying the assistant – a – a=Y/2 (if he is a second shooter) or a=Y/3 (if he is only learning and helping you with gear) (you will have to agree on rates, this is only so you can get a feel for the formula)
• Is it for personal use or for something a client is intending to be making money on – usage – u
• Some suggest you multiply your expenses by at least 2 so you can be making some money and not going back to 0. We will be using percentage. Doubling that amount might be just too much and when you reach higher reputation levels you will have a higher multiplier anyway, which gives you more incentive to be better. – multiplier – m (this is how much you profit)
• Define your regular gear. I like to call this a variable constant. Your regular gear can be 1 body, 2 lenses, 2 strobes, battery, memory cards, reflector. Your essentials. Everyone’s essentials can be different. For every other group of essentials you will be adding one more. So… Regular gear (r) = 1. If you’re carrying lightstands, battery packs add +1. If there are some other things (a group of those) add 1.
• Product you are offering. This is albums, CDs, prints, etc. – product – p

When determining the numbers take into consideration national average pay or hourly rate. Also, more often than not, take into consideration your environment. Sometimes, in some places you can charge more than others, somewhere it’s less.

Back to the how to charge for your photography formula now… Just for easier calculation let’s say your hourly rate is $5 and you’re working 8 hours, including the post-production.


To put the formula to use, let’s say you just finished your portfolio building and your rep is only 1.
Your hourly rate is 5 and you’re working for 8 hours.
You are paying your assistant half of that.
You had to buy $25 of props.
You had $30 costs of getting to the location, getting food and water.
You want to earn 20% (profit).
You’re charging 5% of servicing your camera shutter – $15.
You’re paying $30 for registering the copyright.
And you rented $300 worth of gear.
And $50 worth of products.

I’m intentionally forgetting the usage. You will be adding a certain percentage to those if the client is intending to make money with your work. Say 25%, more or less, all up to you. You will need to take care when doing this, because even if some paper is doing something on a bigger scale, they may have a budget and if you don’t do it for X amount of dollars, someone else will and it may be even worse than what you are doing.

With numbers it looks like this:


If you had more reputation, you would be earning $1094,4 or more, depending on the level of reputation. The reputation is something you can’t learn, you will be rising in reputation by working and delivering quality. You could say that reputation/recognition = demand. If demand for your services is high and you need to choose only 1 client you will be charging the client you have taken for the ones you could have while working with him. You’re not charging 5 times more if five more people want you, but you charge some compensation.

And then add +25% if the photographs aren’t for personal use, but for commercial.


You won’t be holding onto this how to charge for your photography formula as set in stone either. There might be some negotiation needed to get the job and the price everyone is satisfied with – the client and you. When doing negotiations always have in mind the client's budget you asked prior to it. When a client tells you the budget you usually match it, never go below. But when a client asks you if you can lower your price, you usually accept, but always ask for something in return. Usually what you ask is for your name and/or logo to be on the image they will be using. It most likely will not be getting you any new clients and money, but it is one way of giving in to the client by not letting them know that. So when lowering the price always ask for credit.

Fine art

If you’re selling your fine art you can partially use the how to charge for your photography formula, but also take into consideration the dimensions of your photograph (which would be falling into the product part of the formula), how many of the same photograph are you selling. If it’s only one you price it accordingly. But you don’t sell any more of those. If it’s more than one, then you price it lower, but you sell it more than once.


If you own a studio, then that formula could be a little bit wider and that includes looking into all your expenses and taking all of them into consideration, so if you want to you can tweak it to your needs. So you will need to know what is your cost of doing business.


That would be my how to charge for your photography formula and most of the calculating part. That is, the way I saw it when I was writing this article. The great part of this is that even if you don't agree with what I did here, I still think that it can be helpful by providing you with inspiration for ideas how to charge for your photography. If you happen to refine this formula, I would love to hear from you and see what you did.

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Photography by Davor
Photography by Davor

A blog about a few things close to my heart - my profession, my hobby, and some things I care about.

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