Learn how much to charge for freelance photography jobs and projects.
What's my rate?
Working as a freelance photographer certainly has its perks and provides the freedom to plan your own hours as well as the ability to choose the types of jobs you’d like to take. However, it can be difficult when the comfort of a salary is not there and you are the one who has to decide how much to charge as a photographer. Depending on which type of photography you offer, it is important to understand how much you should charge as a photographer and what to consider when deciding your photography pricing. When you work as a freelancer, a photographer’s hourly rates is often unpredictable or nonexistent, leading to confusion around how much you should be making monthly, yearly and from each job or project.
Freelance photographer rates vary. They are often decided and negotiated between the client and the photographer on each individual project.
So how much should you charge as a photographer?
The short answer is, it depends on a lot of variable factors and rarely will two freelance photographers earn the same amount for the same job. To give you a loose idea, here is what an average photographer earns in the UK. Determining how much to charge as a photographer can be helped by becoming familiar with the average photography salary. In the UK, 15% of freelance photographers earn between £20,000 and £30,000 a year, however, most freelance photographers earn less than this. On average, freelance photographers earn around £18,821 annually, with starting salaries thought to be as low as £12,000. Hourly, freelance photographer rates come in at around £25.62 per hour on average.
However, these figures are skewed by the number of new freelance photographers joining the industry with the average rate for a working photographer with over a year’s experience a lot higher. Here is a breakdown of the types of photography as well as what to consider when naming your price.
1. Photography Pricing From the Clients Perspective
When working as a freelance photographer, it is important to develop a knack for finding clients, developing a working relationship, and eventually keeping them as a constant source of income. When starting out as a freelance photographer with no contacts, any leads you can dig up are gold dust. Leads can come from an array of places. Post on your Facebook page, go through your LinkedIn contacts, if you made any leads during your education or course, now is the time to contact them. Often it’s friends and family that give freelance photographers their first job. Be thankful for the work, these early clients form the backbone for your freelance career. Through networking, word of mouth and personal recommendations freelance photographers can find their first few paid jobs quite easily. Building from this and sustaining a business is the difficult part.
These methods listed above are much more personal than unsolicited emails and will allow clients to gauge your character and form an impression of you, a much more valuable way for them to decide who they would like to work with. So, when you do start securing clients, it is important to think about things from their point of view when deciding how much to charge as a photographer.
Note: new freelance photographers often offer their service for ‘experience’. We would strongly recommend against this as it devalues your skill and undermines the industry. If you’re good enough, you should be paid. If you’re starting out and feel you’re still learning then lower your rate but don’t give it away for free.
It’s understandable if you want to keep your 9 to 5 a secret, in fear that it will make you look unprofessional, but it is always vital to be upfront with clients about what position you are currently in as it affects the amount of work you can take on and how long it will take you to do it.
Particularly in the corporate world, part-time photographers will be less appealing, but the underlying point is that your work, and how you approach promoting your work, should be the most important thing, regardless of what else you do to pay the bills or fill your time.
Even small one-off jobs are more secure with contracts. They add a formality that will work as a positive asset in your professional life. Essentially, they decrease the risk of working with new and established clients by clearly outlining what the relationship is between you and your client and what is expected of both parties.
Many new photographers shy away from using contracts, particularly for small jobs, as they perceive them as an extravagance that a client will balk at, however, contracts not only add a level of professionalism, they set a president for a new client and can help get photographers paid on time.
2. Photography Pricing in a Niche Market or Multiple Sectors?
A fashion photographer will work closely with fashion designers, retailers, brands and models to create a specific look that follows the brands’ particular aesthetic and shows off their products and styles. ‘Fashion Photographer’ is a broad title as the term can refer to fashion shoots that take place in a studio, others on location with large fashion teams whilst a photographer who shoots fashion shows will often classify themselves as a ‘Fashion Photographer’ albeit the role is more akin to events photography.
The fashion sector is a highly competitive market and is one that falls victim to exploitative brands who ask photographers to work in return for credits, experience, exposure or prestige. This has resulted in an extreme pricing range with very little mid-range pricing. New photographers are undercutting the competition whilst top level photographers who can offer exceptional results are seeing a higher return than in the past due to their demand.
Fashion photographers, more so than most other sectors in the photography market, tend to price based on the specific brand. Prestigious brands attract most applicants who like the idea of adding big names to their portfolio.
The other major factor is kit. A fashion photographer with a studio will have higher overheads such as studio rent, lighting upkeep and staff. Such expenses must be factored in when setting an hourly or daily rate for the business to show a profit.
Pricing up a fashion shoot ranges from £20 - £40 per hour for most new photographers (without a studio) whilst established photographers can command rates between £40 - £80 per hour. Top tier, agency represented photographers, can earn substantially more, however, finding representation generally requires years of experience and an exceptional portfolio.
Predominantly taking photographs at sports events, sports photographers must now how to perfectly capture the action of the moment. They will work with sports writers and publications to ensure that the teams are shown in the best way.
The speed in which a sports photographer can turn around a shoot is vital. We work in near real-time capacity now and online publications often require images as they happen. The average yearly salary for a sports photographer is £19,000.
Event photographers work at a wide range of occasions including corporate events, birthdays, baby showers, club nights, concerts and festivals. They often do not have a particular niche to begin with and instead work for those wishing to have their event photographed be it businesses or individuals.
Over time, event photographers tend to specialise in certain sectors and often price their service based on that sector. Private clients (eg: birthday parties or baby showers) tends to pay a modest rate and the work can be seasonal whilst corporate event photography pays well and comes with more additional add-ons such as retouching and occasionally artwork / Photoshop / graphic design work. On average freelance event photographers earn £190 to £320 per job.
Wedding photographers work for couples who wish to have their wedding day recorded. The photographer must artistically direct the couples’ special day by capturing memories and telling the story of their relationship and wedding day.
It is important that the photographer has an eye for capturing and displaying emotion and they will work closely with the newly married couple when choosing and editing the final images. Some wedding jobs require the photographer to scout the location before the wedding, travel to exotic locations and capture thousands of images that will later be whittled down to a handful of keepers.
In the UK, the average yearly salary for wedding photographers is £19,136.
Photojournalists work for the press and the media. They tell visual stories and are recruited to provide a vital element to news articles that a journalist cannot do alone. The primary focus of a photojournalist is to capture the image that best tells the story.
However, with online content becoming a major outlet and more media sites utilising ‘real’ images, photojournalists are currently in a state of flux. Budgets for print has dropped and work is less stable.
For photojournalists, the average starting salary ranges from £12,000 to £16,000, this can raise to between £18,000 to £22,000 with more experience and then anywhere between £25,000 to £60,000 when the photojournalist becomes very experienced.
Portrait photographers can work from their own studios or travel to others. They stage the set and surroundings to complement their subjects and their clients, who include babies, school children, pets, families, headshots, actors, business people and individuals.
We’re seeing a spike in portrait photography for professionals looking to invest in their personal brand. Profile images and professional shots for use in press are becoming more and more in demand. Pricing for portrait photography is often based on studio time and post-production. Due to higher overheads, portrait photographers often have to set higher rates to cover additional costs. The average salary for a portrait photographer is £107 to £128 per job.
Travel photographers are paid to seek out the most unique, tranquil and exotic locations all over the world. They have a keen eye for architecture, destinations and nature and the job is based around where you are.
Travel photographers find work with a variety of clients including location specific brands such as airlines or tourist offices. Travel photography requires a lot of time, well, travelling! The cost of which should be factored into your rates. Freelance travel photographers often use travelling time to edit images, do their admin or seek out the next job. The average yearly salary for a freelance travel photographer is £22,000.
Advertisement photographers create images that can be used as part of the marketing visuals for various businesses. They will usually work to a brief with clients and will focus on showcasing the clients vision.
Most large brands will use an agency to source a photographer for their advertising campaign. Smaller brands prefer to source photographers directly to cut out the middleman and save on costs. The average yearly salary for a freelance advertisement photographer is £22,000.
Stock photographers take photographs of everyday objects, landscapes, and made up scenarios, all to be used online in the public domain. Stock photography agencies are the middlemen between photographers and photo buyers, they host photos and pay the photographer commission on a regular basis.
Rates will be set by the Stock site. On average stock photographs generate £1 per photo.
A wildlife photographer takes photographs of animals and various environments in their natural habitats. The job role requires a lot of travel and time in exotic places. Most wildlife photographs are published in wildlife publications. The average salary for a wildlife photographer is £16,900.
3. What to Consider When Setting Photography Pricing
- Studio Hire
- Photographic Paper
- Post Production Costs
- Website Creation
- Networking Events
- Business Cards
- Online Portfolio
- Offline Portfolio
- Advertising expenses
- Stands at expos
4. Freelance Photography Pricing Fee Guide
Freelance photographer rates and the photography hourly rate can change depending on where your work is ultimately going and what type of platform it will be published on. When it comes to how much to charge as a photographer, the basic photographer rates for varying media sectors according to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are:
Magazine shoot rates vary greatly with the key influencing factor usually being the size of the publication and the scale of its reach. For commissions, photographers can earn up to £800 a day for large magazines and up to £300 for smaller publications. For stock pictures the rate can go up to £480 for a cover in a large – circulation magazine or £250 for a smaller magazine.
Most photography jobs in PR go on for the whole day as the industry rarely accepts a half day job. For commissions, photographers can earn up to £480 for a day if the budget is high if the budget is on the lower end of the scale, photographers can earn up to £310 for a day’s work. For stock pictures that have a high budget, you can earn up to £550 for a cover, for low budgets, this number is £350.
For photography in the corporate sector, companies will require you to take photographs that promote their organisation or as part of an advertising campaign. For commissions, you can expect to earn up to £1500 for a high-budget project or up to £800 for a low budget project.
Some of the lowest photography rates come from national newspapers and although not recommended by the NUJ, some of these publications charge around £250 for a day’s photography work. The average day-rate is £200. For stock pictures, a photographer can earn from £65 to £210 depending on the size of the images and how much of the page they are covering.
Regional newspapers typically offer quite low rates and for commissions, the day rate ranges from £100 to £120. For stock images, the rate ranges from £60 to £100, depending on the size of the images.
Videography shoots usually last a day or two, but the post-production process adds up to two extra days. A day’s shoot for a commission pays up to £500. TV news footage ranges from £250 to £300 depending on the video length.
Photographs used in television broadcasts pay a varying amount depending on the length of time the image is broadcasted for. For commissions, you should earn at least £275, but this rate can rise to £435. Stock pictures can range from £85 to £110.
Commission rates for books vary from £300 to over £500. If the book can be marketed across a range of categories, the fee increases. Stock pictures that are used in UK books have a rate ranging from £60 to £480, the rate varies depending on which countries the book will be sold in.
Online use of photos
For the online use of photographs, the rate depends on the size of the images. For advertorial and newspapers, the rate ranges from £150 to £625, the rate increases the longer that the images are online. For commercial and business uses, the fee ranges from £110 to £850 and for editorial uses, it ranges from £65 to £425.
4. Photography Pricing Summary
Freelance photography is not a venture for everyone; it’s time-consuming and requires a lot of knowledge on the inner workings of the industry, but if carried out correctly it can be an extremely rewarding career choice.
There is rarely a fixed fee to any project so it is important to have negotiation skills as well as being competent at money management, as it will be a constant part of your job and livelihood. Use this guide to analyse how much you need to make yearly from photography and what vital factors you need to consider when negotiating a fee. It will be useful to keep coming back to this guide to remind yourself of the average fees for each sector and types of photography and how to approach setting a final price.
Freelance photography is a wonderful sector with endless possibilities. From shooting abroad to collaborating on exciting projects, photographers can gain huge job satisfaction, earn a decent living and have a great work/life balance. If you're not yet a Freelancer Club member, click here to claim your freelance profile and get started.