How to Price Commercial Photography

Questions about commercial photography pricing show up almost daily on facebook:

“I’ve been asked to shoot ‘some-type-of-commercial-job’ – what should I charge?”

Commercial Photography Pricing Guide

“Spray it, Don’t Say it” – Won the 2016 Best Industrial Photography in Canada – Professional Photographers of Canada

We could probably spend all day answering questions like “How does commercial photography pricing work?” and “why do I need an image license anyway?” on facebook…but writing this blog post and then sharing it makes more sense!

So here it is – your commercial photography pricing guide!

The first thing that you need to understand is the difference between a portrait photograph and a commercial photograph. Family portraits or wedding photographs are created to keep/inspire memories whereas commercial photos are created to make your client money!

So whether it is an editorial photo for a magazine (without content, magazines can’t sell ads), a business portrait (using their own likeness to attract new clients) or a group portrait of a company (used to build corporate culture, strengthen brand etc.) – these are all examples of commercial use where the value of those images is higher than what you would charge for personal use. Make sense?

On to the quote…

So, there are three components of commercial photography pricing you should consider before you build a quote. The first is your time, the second is the number of photographs requested and the third is the intellectual property value on those photographs.

Pricing Your Time for Commercial Photography:

Regardless of whether you are a baby photographer, a pet photographer or a product photographer – you should know exactly what your time is worth per hour. Not what you think you should get paid or what your competition charges. You should know exactly what your hourly billing rate is. This rate is the same no matter what the subject is.

The Number of Photographs:

This is an important detail to get your client to articulate. You can’t accurately quote a job if they just tell you they want you to “come to their office and take some photos for the website”. You need to know exactly how many photos they need created – so you know how long it will take you and how many photos to bill them for.

Now with a lot of clients, for general marketing photographs, they often don’t know how many they need. Or they think they need a ridiculous amount – like 80! But when you take the time to explain that less is more…in other words, a well thought out photograph created for a specific purpose will be much more valuable to them, then just a bunch of random photographs – they understand and will thank you! This will also help you avoid wasting time on a quote of 80 photographs for a client who only has a budget of $1000! (Don’t write them off – just educate them that less is more!)

Intellectual Property

You can easily figure out your intellectual property value using the FREE price-a-photo app. Ask your client for the exact size of the file they request or the longest length of the file in pixels. Here’s some examples:

Editorial Magazine: 5×8 @300 dpi,

Local Newspaper: 4×6 @240 dpi, Website Banner: 1800px)

Website Banner: 1800px)

If you’re inexperienced with commercial photography pricing and are unsure how to value your photos, here’s a method that might help you in determining exactly where in the range your photo should be priced. You can start with the average price in the app then move up or down in the range depending on how you answer the following questions (they won’t all be applicable to each scenario):

    • Circulation (how many copies will be distributed?)
    • Distribution/geographical area covered by publication/advertisement
    • Quality of publication (whether print or online – Ex. Small independent local rag vs. national geographic)
    • First time client or long time client?
    • How original is the photograph? (Erupting volcano or deer in the backyard?) (Lens, angle, light etc.)
    • Small local business or National Corporation?
    • Is the client purchasing one file or multiple files?
  • How long does the client want to use the file? (one time, one month, three months, six months, one year, 5 years)

Does that help a bit?

Now, let’s work through an example.

How to price a business portrait

You get a call to price out an in-studio business portrait. They need a 2”x3” (5cm x 7.5cm) @ 300dpi file for their website and brochure use.

You know that your hourly billing rate is $134 (because you’ve figured out how to value your time using numburu!) – which covers the client in the studio for 35 minutes, plus the set up/break down time. So 1 hour total.

That part is easy.

For the intellectual property (IP) value of the file, we’ll use the Pixel Cents Formula.

If we choose the average corporate headshot rate in the app of .08 cents a pixel, the price would be:

= $72

Now, it’s important to remember that this price is just the value of the image. You need to incorporate your time for any post-production – which would be a minimum of a basic file-handling fee (15 minutes?) but more than likely, you would be offering some sort of file optimization and retouching – so let’s say 30 minutes of post-production at $134 an hour would be: $67

Okay – so here’s where we’re at:

1 hour studio business portrait session: $134

1 Digital file sized at 2×3 @300dpi : $72 (IP) + $67 (post-production) = $139

So – our total would be:

$134 + $139=


And there you have it.

An extra little upsell tip – for executives – you can recommend one expression for “internal communications” and one expression for “external communications. And because that makes total sense for the type of job they have – they almost always buy the extra file. Hurray!


Yes, we know. You’re probably not going to charge out per image when you’re creating 50 photographs an hour.

With event coverage, photographers are typically recording moments as opposed to actually building, lighting and directing a photograph – so this requires a slightly different approach.

Now your time is exactly the same ($134/hr) but the rate per image will most likely be discounted.

When you get inquiries for events, you can have an hourly rate to quote over the phone to give them a ball-park. However, in the written quote or invoice, you can make sure to add in more details about what they’re paying for. You can also charge a file handling/delivery fee that includes a bulk optimization of the files – but do not do any retouching unless requested. Retouching would be billed out on a separate invoice after the job.

Event Photography Pricing

So an example might look like:

$134 (hourly billing) + $900 (50 files @$18 ea)

= $1034 per hour for event coverage + $33.50 (file handling – 15 minutes)

Now, we know what you’re thinking: “You’re crazy! No one is going to pay me $1034 per hour for event coverage”.

Well, you’re probably right…and admittedly – we’re just trying to make a point. We didn’t add in the bulk discount yet.

We wanted to get you thinking…

You see from a client perspective – if they don’t see the value of those digital files ($18 per digital photograph isn’t really that unreasonable!) – they don’t know what they’re worth and if they never see a value for a digital file…they eventually may think they’re worth nothing.


Yikes! We have conditioned a good portion of the general public to think that our digital files aren’t worth anything – because we haven’t been treating them as a proper product. You would never throw in a handful of 60 inch prints and not let your client know exactly what they’re worth – right?

So here’s our ask of you:

Whether you’re selling digital files for personal or commercial use – regardless of how much your client is paying for them – please, please, please (for the sake of the industry) – include the “value” of those files on your quotes and invoices so that professional photography can continue to be a be a viable way to make a living.

(stepping down from soap box…)

So there you go! A basic outline on how to price a commercial photography job. And hey, just in case you could use an extra hand – we put together 7 questions to ask commercial clients before preparing a quote for them – You can grab those here!


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