Questions to Ask when Pricing Photography for an Estimate

Pricing photography is a challenge for all photographers. It's difficult to know where to get started. Do you charge by the hour? Do you charge by images you're delivering? There are various strategies, but ultimately how much you should charge should be informed by a few key factors.

In this article, we'll cover the most important aspects of what to charge for, and in turn the questions to ask so you can start to make an informed estimate.

Questions to ask clients for photography estimates

In pricing photography in general, the use dictates the price to a large degree. Some general questions I generally like to ask when pricing photography:

Who is the Client?

  • Is it an individual or a brand?
  • Are there 3rd parties involved?

A photography job may involve the same amount of work photographing for an individual for personal use and a brand for commercial use, but the pricing should be dramatically difference due to the use and value you're bringing to each client.

What's the work?

  • How long will the job take?
  • Does the job require special experience or technical skills?
  • Are the images rare in the access required or historical value?
  • Is transportation or travel required?
  • What expenses will the client cover?
  • Will the job require specialized photography equipment?
  • Will the job require a studio?

While charging only for your time should be avoided, the details of the shoot itself should and will factor into your final price. The other aspects of a job and all the expenses of photography should also be carefully considered, even if you're not charging for them as individual line items.

When licensing images, also consider the rarity of the images or their uniqueness. Images of a specific event that only you photographed are much more valuable than images that are generic or easily recreated, for example.

What pre-production work is needed?

  • Who is in charge of production and what/how much is required?
    • Location scouting
    • Meetings
    • Art direction
    • Talent sourcing
    • Securing wardrobe/hair and make up (HMU)
  • Who is handling locations/studio/etc?

The scope and depth of pre-production needed for a photoshoot should be considered. This is not only the time needed to plan, secure locations, etc — but also the value you're bringing to the project if you're handing these aspects.

What's the licensing or usage required?

  • How will the images be used?
    • Where will the images appear?
    • How large will the images be reproduced?
  • What specific rights are needed?
    • Is the use editorial, promotional or commercial in nature?
    • What is the duration of the license?
    • Are exclusive rights needed?
    • Is buyout needed?
  • What are the terms of renewing the license?
  • What other rights are needed?

The use of the image is of the highest importance in pricing photography, whether it's creating original images or licensing existing images to a potential client. The more rights the client needs, the more expensive the images should cost.

What's the scope or deliverables?

  • How many final images are required by the client?
  • Do they need to review all images or just photographer selects?
  • Do they need the RAW files or selects only?
  • What resolution and format is needed for final delivery?

The scope and specific deliverables can be related to the use, but pertains here to what you need to send the client. Again, the more they require, the more expensive the cost should be.

What post-production is needed?

  • Is retouching required?
  • If so, is the client handling that or is that on the photographer?
  • How many rounds of edits are required?

An extension of the deliverables, carefully consider identifying what's needed after the images are created. Limit rounds of revision to agree on time boundaries.

Image Delivery

  • What's method of image delivery is needed?
    • Hard drive or electronic delivery?
  • What's the turn around time of image delivery?
  • What costs are associated with image delivery, if any?

Image delivery timelines and methods should inform cost. Rush delivery should cost more, as should the expense of delivering a hard drive vs electronic transfer with Dropbox or a download link.

What is the budget?

Last but not least, you should always ask the budget. Whenever you're trying to determine what the price of a job/licensing estimate should be, it never hurts to simply ask for the project budget.

End notes on questions to ask for pricing photography

These are just a start, but as you can see, there are some themes that develop that indicate some of the main factors in determining the price of the image.

Naturally, the above are a huge volume of questions. Getting all the answer may require some tact and determination, while others may be made obvious without needing to be asked.

In a separate article, we'll dive more into the details and implications of what these questions mean. I hope that these rough and general questions give you a reference for how to start thinking about pricing photography. The answer to these questions all matter in some way, whether that means the overall use is large or small.