Digital Photography Standards and Practices Project:

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Example 1 My own pricing structure

Example 2 Location Portrait Photographer (Magazine/Corporate) NEW

Example 3 Studio Photographer, Low Volume NEW

Example 2: Studio Photographer, High Volume (Coming Soon)

An Article I wrote for the ASMP Bulletin, breaking out the economic reasoning behind my pricing structure

Example 2 Location Photographer

Background: This experienced corporate/editorial shooter makes high-quality portraits for magazines, brochures, and annual reports. He added digital as a capability of his business in the summer of 2002.


Capture: In this case, the photographer rolls up all of the shoot/archive/edit/delivery charges into a Capture Charge of $2/image. This includes shooting, archiving, and preparing for client edit. The edit form may be web gallery or contact sheet.

Minimum Charge: His standard Minimum Charge for capture is $250.

Finished Files: This photographer will then charge for Finished Files accompanied by a Guide Print. He charges $75 per image to prepare an RGB file and an Epson 870 print. He indicated that he would give a volume discount for file prep if enough were ordered at the same time.

Retouching: He charges $125/hr to retouch files with Photoshop.

Client Acceptance: Up to this point, he has had no difficulty with client acceptance of his prices. In his first eight months since buying a digital camera, he has billed $23, 888 in digital production charges. The most he had ever billed for film, processing and polaroids in one entire year was $24, 613. His equipment and software costs for going digital were about $13,000.

Example 3 Studio Photographer, Low Volume

Background: This photographer has been shooting digital for more that a decade, developing a sophisticated advertising style. These images can command a premium in the marketplace because they are unique and really good. The photographer uses many techhniques in the creative process, and digital capture and manipulation are but two tools in the box.

Value Added Pricing: No, this is not WalMart, this is value as in high-value. The photographer recognizes that what the studio offers is unique, and a premium can be added to the charges based on what it is worth to the buyer, not based on what it costs to produce.

Voodoo Pricing: Well, not exactly, but that is kind of what the client sees. The quote comes wrapped up as one figure, with all fees and most production costs included. In the background, a calculation is made as follows: The MINIMUM price for the job is based on the time it takes to create the photograph, with no distinction made between camera time and computer time. Added to that minimum, might be a fee based on usage. On top of that is a premium that comes straight form the law of supply and demand.

If the image would be easy to get made elsewhere, the premium is low. But if the client is looking for a style that is unique to their studio - even if that style is not time consuming to produce - then the price goes up accordingly

Price Premiums are based on:
  Difficulty of the assignment (Time and Skill involved)
  PIA (Pain In the Neck factor of the client: larger jobs= larger pain)
  Style Value (What the Photographer's individual style is worth)
  Competitive Edge (A gut feeling of client dynamics)

A note about pricing by the hour ( A little Capitalist Theory Here). This photographer has spent more than a decade learning digital manipulation and delivery, and took exception with a part of my pricing strategy. It was pointed out that if you charged by time only, then you would limit your ability to use greater productivity to generate greater profit.

If production charges were set strictly according to the time it takes to produce the work- and decreased as the photographer was able to do the work more quickly- then any investment in training and equipment would be a losing proposition. You buy a computer that's twice as fast and then you have to LOWER your rates?

Resistance to downward pressure on prices increases profitability, and increases the incentive for photographers to upgrade equipment and training. The classic capitalist model supports a higer profit for those who take the initiative to invest in training and equipment. Ultimately this investment benefits both client and supplier alike, or at least that's what Adam Smith said.

While it is inevitable that technological development will reduce some components of the cost of production, it is the lag time in the Photographer's price drop that offers the photographer an opportunity to recoup the investment costs. And in an industry with a reputation for slim profit margins and high investment costs, the profitable business will be the one that takes advantage of trend-induced opportunities.

Additional Production Charges. While this photographer does roll up Fee, Capture, and Master File Preparation into a single estimate, that does not mean that all production charges are included. For this studio, additional charges typically fall under the following categories:

File Prep:
$65 Standard CMYK Conversion
$55 Greyscale Conversion
$75 Greyscale and CMYK Conversion
$25 Web only (Small File)
$70 Web and CMYK
$15 Guide Print (Epson 1280 custom profiled print)
$25 CD Burn

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All Text © Peter Krogh