Pricing Your Photos in 2021 – Everything you need to know!

Practical Advice for Pricing Your Photos in 2021

Pricing your photography is probably the number one source of anxiety for emerging and established professionals. Year after year, you make some changes to your pricing, hope no one challenges you on it…and if you’re really lucky, maybe you’ll make some more money this year.

Sound familiar?


Luckily for portrait, wedding and commercial photographers, Pixel Cents has simplified the way photographers price their work – so that it’s the same pricing method across the industry.

The new contemporary (and proposed industry standard!) way of pricing your photography includes 3 main factors:

    • Your time
    • Intellectual property
  • Cost of goods sold

We can’t tell you exactly what to charge (numburu can!) But we can tell you how to figure it out. The formula looks like this:

Price = Time (if applicable) + Intellectual Property + Cost of Goods Sold (if applicable)

You will use different variations of the formula depending on the job – but the one constant will always be your intellectual property.

The Formula for Pricing a Commercial Job

How to price a commercial job

If you are quoting on a commercial assignment then there may not be any cost of goods sold (COGS) – unless you have assignment related costs (ex. Makeup Artist, Location rental fees etc.) so the formula would look like this:

Price = Time + Intellectual Property 

(Read our in depth article about pricing a commercial job)

The Formula for Pricing Stock Photo Use

If you are quoting on stock photo use (someone wants to use photos you have already created) then you most likely have already been compensated for your time.  There are no cost of goods sold (COGS), so the formula would look like this:

Price = Intellectual Property

The Formula for Pricing Wedding Photography

If you are quoting a wedding:

Price = Time  + Intellectual Property + Cost of Goods Sold 

If you are quoting a wedding with digitals only:

Price = Time  + Intellectual Property 

The Formula for Pricing Portrait Photography

If you are quoting a portrait session + products:

Price = Time  + Intellectual Property + Cost of Goods Sold 

If you are quoting a portrait session with digitals only:

Price = Time  + Intellectual Property 

I’m sure you’re catching on. Okay – so how do you figure out what to charge for each of the three factors?

Well, your time is based on your hourly billing rate which is derived from your Cost of Doing Business, the hours you put in a year and multiplied by a factor including your non-billable hours (Most photographers forget this!) . Your cost of goods sold are your hard costs (album, print cost, employee time to create product). Your intellectual property is calculated using the Pixel Cents formula.

What is the Pixel Cents formula? We’re glad you asked!

The Pixel Cents formula is a formula created by National Award-Winning Photographer Melissa Welsh. After years of struggling with pricing digital files for her portrait & wedding clients, she created the formula so that she had a consistent, reliable method for valuing her digital files. (Rather watch a quick video? Check out this quick 10-minute presentation on how the formula works)

The Pixel Cents Formula for Pricing Your Photos

$=Px x CPPx

Where Px is the length of the print or file in pixels


CPPx is the Cents Per Pixel rate you assign to the image.

Now the old way of doing things was that you would take your cost-of-goods-sold and multiply them by 2 or 3 or 4. But when the photography industry was presented with a new product (the digital file) we ran into a lot of trouble.

Do you know why?

Well, a digital file doesn’t have any COST OF GOODS SOLD associated with it. So if you use that old formula:


what is 0 x 4?

Any mathematicians out there?

It’s zero!


No wonder photographers are making less money today then they were 20 years ago!

So, this is why the Pixel Cents formula makes so much sense for pricing your photos. Because the individual photographer is being compensated based on the quality of their work and their experience in the industry. Not an arbitrary number based on the cost of the vendor’s product. If you’d like to do some more reading on why the old formula needs to be retired…check out The Future of Pricing Photography)

So back to the formula:

$=Px x CPPx

The Px (pixel-length) part is easy:

If it’s for personal use, then you as the photographer will dictate the size of file you are releasing. For example:

social media (1080px)

print-ready 4×6 @300ppi (1800px)

If it’s for commercial use, usually the client will request a certain image size (they need it for their website hero image 1800px or a magazine ad 3000px)

Cents Per Pixel Rate

But how do you figure out the Cents Per Pixel rate? Where do you get that from?

Good question. The answer is, it depends on the type of image use.

There are two main categories of image use. Personal and Commercial.

If you need to price a photo for personal use, then you would identify with one of three photographer types and look at the CPPx range suggested.

The three types of photographers are:

Emerging Pro: Typically 5 years or less experience in the industry. Still working on developing their style and finding their niche. 1 to 4 cents per pixel

Established Pro: 5 years+ experience in the industry, part-time or full-time business with overhead costs (insurance, association dues etc.) 5 to 10 cents per pixel

Specialist: Recognized as an expert in their field of work. 11 cents per pixel +

So,  how about we do the math quickly for you and give you the Intellectual Property Price Range for that social media file (1080px) that everyone wants these days:

Emerging Pro: $10.80 to $43.20

Established Pro: $54 to $108

Specialist: $118.80 +

So that’s how it works for Personal use. You pick a CPPx rate that makes sense for where you are in your career. If someone wants to buy your photos, and you have no idea where to start…you start at 1 cent per pixel and go up from there. As you develop craft and get more experience your rates will increase.

Make sense? Awesome.

Pricing your Photos for Commercial Use

So for pricing your photos for commercial use, it’s only a little bit different. At Pixel Cents, we compiled pricing data from all around the world to give photographers a low, high and average price for the different types of photo use. You can get these rates in our Pixel Cents e-Book or you can grab our free web app the “Price-a-Photo” calculator (so you don’t have to do the math). How cool is that?

So to recap, the three main factors you need to calculate when pricing your photography (whether it is an individual image or an assignment) is

Time (hourly billing rate) + Intellectual Property (Pixel Cents Formula) + Cost of Goods Sold (from your vendor price list)

Simple as that!


We knew someone would think about that. Well, a day rate or creative fee are just terms for communicating costs/value/services to a client on a quote. Whether or not you choose to charge a day rate or an hourly rate – you still need to understand the true value of your time…either way!

The cool thing about the Pixel Cents software is that once you’ve dialed in your numbers and set your intentions for how much you want to be working and how many sessions you want to be shooting (high volume/low volume business model) – you can actually see how some jobs aren’t actually worth your time or don’t align with your business goals.

Now if we can help you further with some business strategy ideas – download our latest resource: 3 Business Strategies you can implement right now to help you make more money!

Pixel Cents has started a PRICING REVOLUTION.

*This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.


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