The necessary complication of pricing commercial photography

The necessary complication of pricing commercial photography


Experience, Scale and Usage

Pricing commercial photography is a complicated process. ‘How do you price things’ is the number one question from students/graduates/other photographers. Photography is a weird one. Read slowly this might get complicated. 

For a Me-Client shoot I would charge for the following:


This is what you pay for my expertise/experience/style/quality. This is a fluid rate personal to each photographer. It needs to be judged and positioned appropriately based on these factors.

1st Assitant
Per day. 

*2nd Assitant
Per day.

*Lighting Tech
Per day.

Per day.

Per day.

Per day.

Per day. 

*Specialist kit hire
Per day. 

Inc. Car hire, flights
and per diems. 


Post production
First edit for client review
Selects retouched (price per image)

Obviously the above is not always necessary, sometimes all you need is a photographer and kit.

*for big shoots

License Rights

This is where it gets a little complicated. This fee is calculated on the value of the image. Who it is for, where it will be used, and where it will be seen. A lot of people don’t understand photographic rights or why it is in addition to the photographer’s production fee. 

If you consider a digital image more like a song. The artist is paid to make the song and is then paid a royalty fee each time the song is played. Same here, only we can’t chase up each time it’s being played so we estimate. 

Understanding the media it will be used in, digital, social, online, print, point of sale, editorial etc

Which territory it will be used in, locally, nationally, just in Asia, world wide etc.

The period of time it will be used over, 1 year, 5 years in perpetuity etc

These factors give us our estimate. This is then multiplied by the BUR. The base use rate. The BUR is flexible and the BUR is the value of the image. This value is what the image is worth to the client.

Take an identical portrait. one client is a small local magazine and the other is Red bull. The value of this image is very different to the small magazine who will use it once in a region of the UK, it might be seen by 200 people.

Red bull might use the image world wide for 5 years across all print and digital media being seen by tens of thousands of people.

A quality portrait will encourage people to buy the magazine again increasing the revenue of the magazine but only over that 200 people say £10 x 200 = £2000

The same image for Red bull is a representation of the brand a quality portrait seen by tens of thousands, their product also has a higher value so the results for the could be worth  £450×10000 = 4,500,000

so the BUR for the magazine might be £250 (generally the same as the photographers day rate for the style of shoot, in this case very small editorial) reflecting the value of the image and the BUR for Red bull might be £2000 (generally the same as the photographers day rate for the style of shoot, in this case advertising)

“when pricing commercial photography it is suggested that the BUR should never be less than the negotiated daily shoot-fee or day-rate, and should be pitched according to the expertise of the photographer and the amount of input and involvement required on the shoot from the photographer.”

Are you still with me?

Pricing commercial photography with these two examples the usage fees calculate to;

Magazine £437.50 – UK – 1 year – press

Red bull £11,5500 – Worldwide – 5years – all media

The AOP Rights calculator is one of the few industry standards for photography here in the UK. It’s worth using.

For a shoot the scale of this full list you would generally have a producer onboard and they would take over a lot of negotiation and logistics.

Pricing commercial photography is a complicated business but in my mind the more open we are about the processes and structures the more likely a client will make their hire decisions based on the quality of work, rather than budget, and that can only be a good thing for us, the industry and our clients.

If you have any questions I will do my best to answer them.

This isn’t a commercial photography pricing guide, it isn’t gospel, it’s how I work.

You do you.

The necessary complication of project pricing commercial photography
Contact Jo Hanley

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