Learning how to price your work is important. As a creative freelancer, it can be easy to fall into the trap of undervaluing your work or underestimating the amount of time and money you put into your photography. Plus if your image is used without authorization and your images are available online for a low price, it can be difficult to argue for compensation.
We’ve put together this handy guide to pricing your photography online, so you can earn a living whilst ensuring you get fair recompense in the case of copyright infringement.
1. Calculate your costs
Your costs include all materials as well as overheads and labor. There are many moving parts and for freelancers they often intersect with daily life, making it easy to miss things when calculating costs. Remember to take into account:
- Your camera, lighting, lenses and any other equipment, including maintenance costs.
- Digital equipment including laptop, storage, software, web hosting, and so on.
- The cost of the space you use to work, even if it’s part of your own home.
- The amount you spend on marketing, building and maintaining your website, etc.
- General business expenses such as tax advice, accountant, shipping and postage. Plus any travel expenses, location or equipment rental, and hiring an assistant.
- Time: This one is important. Include the time you spend emailing with clients, traveling to meetings, setting up your studio, attending events, and processing images. Decide on an hourly rate that accurately reflects your expertise.
- Tax. Don’t forget to include any taxes you will need to pay, so they don’t end up coming out of your own pocket when it’s time to file your return.
2. Add your profit margin
Calculating costs is in some ways the easy part: You at least have some figures to work with. Choosing your profit margin is trickier in the sense that it’s more arbitrary, requiring you to reflect as objectively as possible on the quality of your own work, and how it is valued and perceived by potential clients. This will depend on factors such as your experience, your portfolio, and how established you are.
The beauty of freelancing is that your profit margin needn’t be fixed. It can vary depending on the project or the client. Resist the temptation, however, to quote low to clients with whom you really want to work, just to secure the job. Even if it does lead to more work, it becomes much more difficult to raise your rates down the line, and you could end up working at a loss.
3. Decide on your business model
Whether you charge by the hour, by the image, or a flat fee will ultimately depend on the type of photography you’re doing. For example, image-based rates are most suited to things like product photography, interiors and architecture, and corporate portraits.
Don’t just set a catch-all fee. First, find out what the image will be used for: If it’s a for a high-profile campaign (billboard, TV ad, etc.), for example, it should be sold at a premium price to reflect the profits it is expected to generate other stakeholders. The Association of Photographers has this handy calculator to help you figure out how much to charge per image.
When photographing events — weddings, birthdays, reunions, etc. — it makes sense to charge either by the hour or set a flat fee that takes into account all the work involved and all the time you’ll spend planning, corresponding, traveling, processing, and sharing images, as well as your time at the event itself.
4. Do a competitor analysis
Do some research and find out who your competitors are — both locally and within your niche. What are they offering and how much are they charging? Whether you decide to price yourself competitively or try to disrupt the existing business model, it pays to be fully aware of what you’re up against. It’s also worth familiarizing yourself with how much photographers charge on average for various types of work and in different locations.
5. Don’t devalue yourself
There’s one final but important point to consider when deciding how to price your photography online: Copyright infringement. Having your images used without authorization is an ever-present threat to the livelihoods of photographers whose work appears online. Services like Pixsy offer an effective way to monitor the web for unauthorized use and submit claims for reimbursement. However, if your images are listed online at low cost, it’s extremely difficult to build a successful case. Valuing your work properly and setting your prices appropriately is the best way to avoid this feedback loop of potential lost earnings.