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Show Me the Money!

Category: Business, Video
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Aug 23

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Today we are answering a great question from a Phlearnaholic named Sue. We were talking about money for photography and how to know what you are worth. She is in a situation where her clients don’t want to pay a lot for what she considers is a lot of work. She also wants to know if she should have the party sign a contract. In this extended episode of Phlearn I share my thoughts on these matters, answer some questions from Amelia, and ask for your input to help the community.

Let us know how you would answer these questions in a comment.

Your input will help Phlearn, the community, others on the internet and yourself.

I am Pheaturing the video talking about happiness, the wine analogy and other things, it is a great watch!

Here is the link to the sample wedding contract. If you are doing work that is not in the wedding category, you could still look at this and take notes as to what should be covered in a contract. I pulled this from a google search, and I am sure there are more specific examples if you need one.

  • Anonymous

    Love this story

  • Jeremy Cupp

    Yessir. I think the last video really sparked something. F*ck yeah! ;)

  • Anonymous


  • Travis Ilapit

     i completely agree with aaron. I have tons of family and they all want discounted/free shoot. They feel that it’s something that i love to do so why do they need to pay me full price or pay me at all for that matter. But i just tell them these are my prices and then work something out with them from there if it is something that i dont mind doing. A lot of people dont realize how much time and money you’ve put into perfecting this skill. here is a good article i’ve read a couple times now and im actually going to link it on my website so i dont have to explain it to them every time someone say HOW MUCH!? 

  • Alex Kemsley

    Thank you so much. Honestly, I’ve been looking for an answer like this for 10 months or so.
    It seems that because our work is something so special to us individually, the pricing is always something that is ambiguous and personal. But for beginners like me, we do need guidelines when it comes to starting to charge for our work. So thanks for this video! Really helpful :D Also, thanks for the Phlearn Pro gift from this week! It was brilliant!! For anyone reading this who hasn’t yet purchased a Phlearn Pro, I highly recommend it! The prices are extremely good, and the amount of skills covered in one episode is amazing :)

  • Jeremy Cupp

    $50? That is hardly gas money. Just editing time should be worth a lot more than that. There is a lot of money to be made in wedding photography. I haven’t know anyone that got married that paid under $1500. It scares me though because it’s a lot of pressure and you have to please a ton of people. 

  • Jeremy Cupp

    That seems to be the logic with anything you do. Somebody always wants the hookup and they don’t realize how much money in gear and time you have invested in this. Ask them how much mechanics charge for labor. Your services shouldn’t be any different. 

  • Cesar

    (-) FIXED COST
        Rent – Marketing – Web Expense – Telephone – Car – Clothing – Memberships – Training
    (-) DEPRECIATION OF EQUIPMENT (based on 5 year amortization)
        Camera – Lenses – Computer – Software
    (-) COGS (cost of goods used)
         Any supplies used for the gig such as batteries
         Assistant (if any)
         Gas-Auto-Parking wear and tear
    (-) Labor at a fixed rate.
        Pre session
        Sales Session
    (-) Lab Cost
    (-) Archival storage (hard drive)
    (-) Taxes
    (-) Commissions (if any)
    (-) Add yours

    Your net income has to be more or less 35% of your expenses. Do not degrade the profession by charging next to nothing. It is better to do it for free than cheap. Because next time you do it they are going to look for you for being cheap and not necessarily good.

    The more expensive the equipment used, the more expensive you become due to your equipment depreciation. I am leaving more stuff out but if you control these you will know what a professional and “PROFITABLE” photographer needs to do to make a living.

    CV – MBA


  • Leslie Moroney

    Hi Aaron. This was so informative and insiteful. My question is what if its not really a photoshoot for a wedding or senior pictures. What if its one of a kind digital art picture? How much should you charge for that? Does this all apply for that? I have people asking me can I do a pictures for them and I want to know what I should be asking for….Thanks

  • Shane S

    I normally charge a $50 setting fee and charge $5/pic that they are wanting to keep so i don’t really know if this is a good way to do business or not whats your advise for me?

  • William Drago

    I sent an article to a photography magazine that I buy every month, because I worked as a photographer on cruise ships and I wanted to share how was the work with the beginners who read the magazine.
    But they didn’t publish and didn’t answer my e-mail. I went to an event other day and they were there, so I ask what happened  and if I had to pay anything to get it published.
    She said: of course you don’t have to pay…  But I heard some people do pay.
    Just re-sent the article and they said they are going to check if it’s good enough to be written by one of their journalists.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Leslie,
    I understand what you mean. The amount I would charge for such projects depends on 2 things: time (preparing, shooting & editing) and usage. You might also apply a ‘base charge’ (listed as ‘service charge’) and then build upon this depending on the project.

    Hope that helps!

  • Petter Haugen

    So glad for you that the community is about to really blossom!! Must be inspiring with all the comments!

  • ROBatGraveShift

    BOOOOOIIINNNNGGGGG!!!!!  Dude please keep that sound effect!!!  Sweet Jesus keep it!!!

  • ROBatGraveShift

    I’ve heard this one before.  I use to be notorious for having long signatures in my email, and this story was one of em!

  • Barrett S.

    This was my favorite phlearn so far! I think I can really relate to it! I am a 15 year old highschool student and have been doing photography for about 2 years, paid shoots. I shoot with a Canon 7D and a 24-70 2.8 L, which I bought my self. I charge about $50 a shoot, then you pay for prints. 8×10 around $10 and other prints sizes are either less or more depending on the size. So I am wondering is this ok? Should I charge more? Thanks!

    PS. My website is

  • Elisa Copeland

    It seems like a lot of the comments have been about pricing.  Here is something I used that was extremely helpful when I was structuring my prices.  Hope it helps you too!

  • Steve

    I find your censorship sound effect, more offensive then a real cuss word!  lol
    Swear you’re ass off, Aaron, my good man! : )

  • Anan Adnan

    great epiesode it really helped me to see my job in a different way but if you can talk about printing the size and the quality of paper ! that will be so helpful thaaanks Aaron for every thing this is a really an awesome community love you all guys :)  

  • Steve

    One of my old university friends asked me to film his wedding (for free), since I was going to be a guest there anyway.

    I really didn’t want to do it. Not because I was supposed to be a guest, but because I had never done one before, and never wanted to.  I hated every minute of it. 

    When I got home, I realised all my ’10 second’ shots were ’1 second’ shots.  I basically fucked the video up (in my eyes). I was so embarraced, I never managed to give them a complete video. I put my head in the sand, and I haven’t spoken to them or my other university friends, who also attended since. 

    I’m never filming a wedding again :0/

  • Jeremy Cupp

    Nice Elisa. I will for sure check it out. Thanks.

  • Steve

    I can relate to that.  I was working in-house to a new start up company. I didn’t want to work in-house, I prefered to work in my own office/home, so they didn’t see how the ‘magic’ happens.

    They were all business-heads. I was the only ‘creative’ there. Sometimes, while my mac was rendering, I’d get up and have a cup of tea. They would see me not working… to them it looked like I was doing nothing. They thought my work was easy.

    Later on, they hired a young reporter who had 2 years media experience vs my 10 years.  He whispers in the bosses ear (my client), that he could do my job cheaper.

    So the questions would start coming in. Steve could ‘New Guy’ use your camera to go filming a small something.  “NO”, I said. That’s MY gear and only I am insured to use it.

    They didn’t like that answer.

    There used to be talk of them renewing my contract after the 6-month period. But now ‘New Guy’ had persuaded them to let me go so he could do the work for half the price.

    After I left, ‘New Guy’ would call me up asking how did I do this, and that…
    He couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t tell them the simplest instructions.

    You get what you pay for : )

  • Perry Gerenday

    I can identify with those who say they feel uncomfortable about charging a higher
    price for their photography work then they perceive themselves to be worth. I
    used to have this problem. I think this could be in part because we are used to
    viewing the value of our work to be equal to the dollar amount we are paid by
    our employer. In fact an employee’s hourly wage is not the full amount that is
    charged to the customer. Our employer charges the customer a much higher dollar
    amount for an hour of our work than we actually get paid. The price to the
    customer reflects not only our hourly wage but also all the other expenses
    incurred by our employer.

    To help me determine what I should charge my customers, I like to look at what I’m charged by some
    other company for a service I think is equal in value to the service I provide
    as a photographer. So take for instance my auto mechanic. He changes me $80.00
    per hour for auto repair work. I don’t question that rate because I know that’s
    the going rate for auto repair, and I expect I’ll get the proper service my car
    needs. I am certain he does not pay his employees the full $80.00 per hour that
    he charges me. He pays them their hourly rate, then applies the rest to the other
    costs required to run a business including his own salary.

    I view my skills as a photographer to be roughly equal to those of a certified mechanic, so I
    charge my customers the same rate that my auto repair shop charges me for an
    hour of work and feel pretty comfortable about that.

  • Edward Frazier

    Well put episode!!!!..Thanks for the congrats and doing the engagement photos for us…they were freaking Awesome..we both loved them!  See you soon!

  • Keith Crusher

    I’m going to suggest 2 things – first is a great lens. You want tack sharp photos – get a lens that’s capable of it and then make sure you’re shooting at the f-stop that gives the sharpest detail (it can vary from lens to lens). You need to start with a sharp photo to keep it sharp after processing.

    Second – get the book ‘Skin’ by Lee Varis. It contains just about everything you need to know to shoot, light and post-process to get the best skin look and detail. Worth every penny. It also covers fundamentals and techniques so you understand which process is best for the particular photo you’re processing. Each situation, in my experience, is slightly different – one process will work great for a particular photo, but look terrible on another photo.

    Scott’s technique is a great one and works well for a lot of photos – but, if you want to go ‘one further’, the info I posted should get you there..

  • Stan_kudrna

    Hello Phlearners
    Here is one more link  ,about how to price your photography.
    its dated few years back ,but it did not change that much.

    I cant share with you my pricing strategy ,as I did not have any paying clients yet.
    (still learning and I’m not comfortable to enter to real world yet-simple -I’m still chicken  :)
    Just did some TFPs to learn how to shoot and build my portfolio-so even I did not get paid ,both parties get something in return.


  • Daryl Charles

    Aaron…this was an awesome episode…Really good…..I think Photographers and artist generally have problems determining costing. I don’t believe you mentioned it, and i’m not sure if anyone has mentioned it as yet, but from a Business point of view, yes you have “worth” but you also have to check on the market. I consider myself a good photographer, but if I tell you guys how much I do weddings down here in Grenada ( you’d say I’m crazy. Hourly rate I charge $300EC, which is roughly $120US, per hour. Now for those of you that are wedding photographers, you know that that’s ridiculously low. But guess what, I’m still one of the most expensive guys out there. The market (at least the local) isn’t willing to pay more than that for a photographer. That’s just how it is sometimes. I have a friend in Anguilla ( who starts his hourly rate from about 650-700 USD – it’s a different market.

    Being an artist/photographer is hard work, and you have to pick your markets wisely. In many cases you may have to create the demand for your product. As Aaron rightly underscored in a previous episode, being a professional photographer, it’s more business than actually being a photographer.

    NB. Don’t charge under 10US please….that wouldn’t even buy you enough gas to get to your shoot….

  • Matt Devlin Check this site out for help with pricing… fantastic!

  • Leslie Moroney

    thanks malcolm,
    that does help.

  • Matt Devlin is a really good site for pricing and the business side of photography, simply fantastic, open and honest.

  • Wesley Ford

    Here’s my two cents from a conversation I had with Aaron this morning. Don’t price yourself based on an hourly rate. If you have to do this in your head for your computations, that’s fine, but don’t share hours with clients. You can say “I’ll shoot your wedding, the most memorable and precious moment in your life for $XXXXX. This will get you X hours at the brides home, plus”….. and spell everything out that you would put in the contract (always good to spend a little money to have an attorney create or at least look at your contract. But never say, “I’ll shoot your wedding for $XXX and it gets you five hours of my time.” If you do, you just became a commodity. You want to sell or position yourself to sell value. Sell how the images you create will make your client “feel.” If you sell on price per hour, you become a commodity…a derivative of the word “common.” You are all artists and artists are not common.

    Sell the value you, your expertise, and your creativity bring to your clients.

    Now as a side note…since we’re talking about making money. You also need to learn to think in revenue streams or how many different ways can you make money from the same shoot. More to follow on this, I don’t want to take up to much space.

  • Daryl Charles

    I like what you’re saying Wesley. I’m actually in the process of restructuring my prices. Where I’m form no one does it that way, but im going to try it. As i noted in my earlier post, the market where I am is very funny…

  • tk

    yes, let’s not forget – insurance for weddings.. i’ve shot only one wedding (with no insurance), but fortunately, it was more of a favor and the client was happy with my work, but the liability issues keep me from coming back.. any advice, esp for us newbs?  thanks.

  • Tavis

    That’s awesome!! 

  • Tavis

    My secrets to Black and White photos: I use gradient mapping and adjust/add the gray-white-or black sliders. I save them as new gradients so I can easily flick through them and find the one that best fits the lighting of the image. Recently I discovered Silver Efex Pro 2…this software plug in BLOWS ME AWAY!! I edited the attached picture with it. You can pinpoint areas that you need to adjust…it is so amazing! Try a free sample, just google it :)
    So, since we are on the topic of sharing, hehe, uhhh, I am going about photography as a studio would. I’m charging a session fee, and then charging for prints. Is this a bad idea?? Will anyone please look at my price list and give me your thoughts on it. I would really appreciate any feedback. Here is the link:

  • Tavis

    I submitted to Digital Photo Magazine one time. They have a page in their magazine that explains how to submit, and all the details you need. I sent them through the email with the proper information, and about 5 months later they contacted me and used one of my images…even paid me and sent a free magazine! Check them out, maybe rummage through photo magazines for submission info…I think a lot of them accept photos. Hope this helps everyone :)

  • @FotobyDemetrius

    1.  Know and understand your market for the type of photography you do.
    2.  Figure out what you want to offer.  (services, style, differentiation, etc.)
    3.  Know what your competition is doing..  NOTE:  Not every photographer in your community is your competition..
    4.  Define your market/demographic and be willing to not accept clients and/or work that don’t fit what you offer.
    5.  Create policies and put them in writing so your clients know how you work and what to expect.

    Story:  I had a client call “I love your work and I want you to photography my son..  Oh, how much for the shoot and to get a CD of the images right after the shoot?”  My response, which was likely harsh, “If you are looking for a shoot & burn photographer, that unfortunately is not my business model.  I hand edit all of my images that are either shown publicly or that clients purchase as wall art for their home..”  I was prepared to let this client go elsewhere, but she ended up booking and spent $2k+ on a mix of digital images and prints.This is a very tough business and economy, but don’t make it even more difficult by trying to be everything to everybody…

  • Svetlana

    Thank you for the tip about the plugin, Tavis. Hope, it will be a great help for me with b/w images.

  • tk

    excellent post, and thanks to everyone for responding.. i’ll add that even if you’re shooting for trade, i’d still write up a contract, complete with shoot and trade details.. at least that’s what i do, and i email the other party a copy before i actually meet them/they sign.. contracts show the people you want to work with that you’re serious about working with them, lets the other party know what to expect, establishes your professionalism.. in case of models, they better sign a model release.. even if they’re family members, i still get them to sign the release.. not that i don’t trust them, but still i need to protect myself.. wouldn’t want their friends or their friends’ friends/acquaintances using my pics.

  • Al Ebnereza

    Aaaarrron! Thanks for the props brother! I’m glad I could help :)

    Now on the trend of being helpful to the community, may I suggest “The Cost-of-doing-business calculator”; this is used by a lot of pros who have to make a living from photography. It was created for the very purpose that you discussed in this (GREAT) video. It is hosted on the National Press Photographers Association site, and here is the address for everyone:

    Maybe give it out again somewhere else, since people don’t tend to read these comments once they get long in the tail. There are a lot of factors to consider if you REALLY REALLY want to make a living from photography. Those who feel like they already have the formula down for themselves may still find something useful out of this calculator. It is crude and doesn’t look sexy or anything, but it gets to the core of things and serves its’ purpose. 

    I was very glad that you did this episode. This is what clearly many were waiting for. I have noticed a huge missing bit of “Business Mentorship” when it comes to Photography on the net. These are the kind of nitty gritty things people who want to make this a career really have a hard time finding. I am certainly in that very shoe myself! 

    Anyways, checkout the CDB and I’m sure it will bring to light even more things most forget to consider when pricing ones’ work and worth :)

  •ðisá/1592784472 Andri Gerðisá

    Just the episode I needed!! I was just in a situation where a person did´t wanna pay what I wanted, and then THIS episode came, and I was like, “I am more worth, so show me the money!!!” she was like okey, you get your money.. And it was Awesome!!!

  • Robert Lewandowski

    I know a great Dutch photographer who once told a story about “managing this issue”.
    He charges a lot and delivers great work. His clients often expect to see something fancy on the set.
    If he would use a simple 1 or 2 light setup, the client would look at it, and think: hey, that looks really easy…

    So his solution is:
    Create a complicated setup, with many strobes, that are often at it’s lowest power so they don’t come up in the image, for no other purpose, but to make it look complicated so he can avoid this kind of discussion…

  • Aaron Bennett

    Hi Aaron. I total agree with you about the studio space it just feel sometimes that no matter how good your work is especially where i live in south England. You are deemed to be taken more seriously be new customers if you have a studio. I’m looking to a small office space at moment to do the meets and greets and after sales. I want to shoot more fine art conceptual work but i have now found out that it makes me no money from paying the bills. I’m a bit stuck at the mo on direction bu tI’ll get it right inn the end :-)
    :-) Azzer

  • Wesley Ford

    Let me know if you need any assistance. I have an MBA and have done business consulting in the past. 

  • Daryl Charles
  • Mya

    Aaron, can you show us how to bring the rule of thirds line when you crop ? Thanks :)  

  • Mark

    Every photographer should have a copy of this book. 
    Best Business Practices for Photographers, Second Edition , John Harrington
    It will probably be one of the best investments you can make.

  • Chrstph Ekkobelli Meyer

    Haha, great story!!

    I actually work in audio post production and there’s a many similar great stories, My favourite is this:

    In the early 90′s, an A&R from a well known record company comes to the (music) studio of the band recording their latest effort. During the tracking and in early mixing stages the A&R would constantly ask the engineer what he was doing and if he could just add a little more “magic” to the vocals and give the drums more “crunchness” and free the guitars of their “cuffs” and weird stuff like that. So the engi tried to do what this guy wanted and corrected here and there and did everything. To his ears, the mix was good, but the A&R obviously didn’t know what he was talking about but didn’t mind to do so anyway.
    After this went on for an uncomfortable long time, the engineer went outside the control room, leaving the A&R sitting there, came back with five old broken unusable compressors, EQ’s etc. and mounted them into the racks, didn’t wire anything up but patched the power chords in, put tape on their (disfunct) knobs and wrote on that, giving them labels such as “crunch”, “glisten”, “voodoo”, “funk”, “clarity”, “hell” and heaven, stuff like that. 
    “Here, you can have a go yourself!” He told the A&R and let him play with the tools that wouldn’t change a bit in the sound at all, but they had shiny lights on them and moving needles and so. So, after 30 Minutes of adjusting the “sound” meticulously with his experienced ears and great feeling, the A&R was happy and, with a wide fledged smile, said: “NOW I think we got it!”

    Life’s what you make it!

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