Very nice… How much?! Daily Rates in Commercial Photography – PetaPixel | Ad On Picture

It is common practice for commercial photo clients to ask photographers for their “daily rate”. Most estimates that photographers provide start with a daily rate before moving on to production costs and expenses.

I used to think I could just take it for granted that anyone working in the industry would realize that this isn’t exactly what a photographer – or an independent creative professional – working on a short-term project deserves for every single day of the year.

I’ve found that the world of photography is so fluid that this isn’t a safe assumption, and I now prefer to list a price for each job. My reasons are best illustrated with an example.

Here’s a fictitious estimate I made using random numbers, although its structure is one I could actually use for a similar medium-complexity branding photography shoot.

Yes there are numbers but stick with me and hopefully our eyes don’t glaze over:

Based on the above, what is my daily rate?

Is it £10,000 / 3 days = £3,333 (~$4,400)? Does that mean that in a year of 250 working days I could make £3,333 x 250 = £833,250 (~$1.1M)?

Or is it a third of the Creative Fees component ie £3,500 / 3 days = £1,167? That means I could collect £291,750 a year?

Or is it somewhere in between?

The real answer is that my effective daily rate is just below that here £400 per dayand that still doesn’t equal £400 x 250 = £100,000 (~$133,000) per year.

Please allow me to explain.

From the end customer’s perspective, this estimate equates to a total price of £286 ($380) per image (admittedly before some other costs such as model fees in this example) for 35 commercial images produced specifically for his brand, I would say is an excellent one Value for money, especially given the generous usage license that’s on offer.

For comparison purposes, this is a small fraction of Getty Images’ quoted royalties for a similar use of unstoryboarded images produced specifically for the end client’s brand.

From the photographer’s point of view, the fee (ie excluding all costs owed to third parties) consists of three components in this example:

Creative and Royalty Fees: £3,500
recce fees: £1,200
retouching: £1,225

That’s £5,925 for 15 days of work. Wait a minute, how did we go from a 3 day shoot to 15 days? Let’s see how many days the photographer could spend on this:

pre-production: 2 days
Recce: 3 days
Travel: 1 day (excluding places within 2-3 hours driving time)
shoot: 3 days
Post production + review: 3 days (larger selection of images prepared for review)
retouching: 2 days (assuming about 30 min per final selected image)
communication about project: 1 day (cumulative)

Only some of these days are billed directly. Note that 15 working days means three calendar weeks.

£5,925 for 15 working days equals £5,925 / 15 = £395 ($525) per day, which should be pretty good, right?

Except this isn’t the photographer’s net income; this is still gross profit, ie what remains after direct production costs have been deducted from the total invoiced, but not operating costs.

Let’s say the cost of running a photography shop as a fairly tight ship is around £2,000 a month, or £24,000 a year. This includes a number of components including marketing costs, office space, depreciation and replacement costs for photography and IT equipment, vehicles and transportation, training, insurance, etc.

£24,000 per year / 250 working days equals £96 ($128) per working day.

If we subtract this from the above £395 per day, we end up with £395 – £96 = £299 ($397), which is the photographer’s ‘salary’ for each working day of this assignment.

Now £299 per day worked should translate into an annual income of £299 x 250 days = £74,750 ($99,250), which isn’t bad for a seasoned professional living his dream, even in one of the most expensive cities in the world. is it?

Maybe, but that assumes the photographer can consistently fill their diary with similar sequential tasks for 49 workweeks a year, and find extra time in the evenings and weekends to complete the hundreds of other tasks required to run their own business , including carrying multiple roles ranging from web designer to finance director.

The reality of photographic work availability (and client budgets) is much, much lumpier than that. It’s all less rock ‘n’ roll, more fast-on-the-dole.

As said, the numbers in the example above are quite arbitrary and involve some rounding. Some of you reading this may find them overly optimistic or naively modest, but they’re not miles away from real commercial photographer jobs at all.

On the other hand, the same hypothetical client could also likely seek estimates from other photographers, who quote a flat daily rate of £300 ($400) for the project excluding other line items.

What would their take-home pay look like? And can a commercial customer afford to put their brand in their hands?

I can’t answer that question for anyone, but I hope that with this post I’ve managed to shed some light on why I don’t really use the term “daily rate” myself.


About the author: Shariq Siddiqui is a London-based portrait and lifestyle photographer for advertising, commercial, corporate and editorial clients. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To see more of his work, visit his website or follow him on Instagram. Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. This post was also published here.


Photo credit: Header rendering based on photo by rawpixel

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