How Much Should You Charge for a Video Shoot?

We’ve all had the question thrust upon us, but it’s worth it to hear what other people are charging.

Caleb Pike sat down with Corbyn Tyson this week to run through how they would price a generic video shoot. While they call it a system, it’s more like an easy to read spreadsheet. This isn’t new, but I like how they account for the profit margins and scalability of a project. Here at Fstoppers, we’ve talked about pricing for a wedding, whether you should rent your equipment to yourself, and everything in between.

I think it’s important for photographers transitioning into video to see how different, and often similar, the latter is. I personally agree that finding somebody to take care of audio is worth its weight in gold – it allows you to really focus on your edit, the client and getting creative. It’s not just covering audio though. Thinking of the different situations you’ll find yourself in between pre and post production, and knowing how to charge for this time, is invaluable.

Arguably the same principles still apply. Photography or videography, you still want the same profit margins, and your wiggle room to negotiate will likely lie in the rentals and post production. Would a client really want those extra motion graphics, or would the prefer a smaller budget?

What do you charge? Would you agree with Pike and Tyson?

Images used with permission of Pixabay.

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7 Comments

$150/hr filming and the same for editing for corporate. But I've been at it for almost 10 years, I wear a lot of hats, and I'm typically heavily involved in the pre-production consultation, which I don't charge for. All the equipment is extra and I own most of it so it can certainly be lucrative if you've got the experience, you find yourself in the right market, and you build good relationships. For indie stuff, it typically depends on the budget and how interesting the project is.

Yeah, my non-photography friends think that I charge too much for portraits/events. They say, “So a one hour session/four hour event costs how much? You own your equipment and computer, you do your own processing, and all from your own home; What are you charging for?”

My answer is, “You just said it. Aside from my time and talent, their is my equipment, computers, mortgage and other overhead costs.”

Then they say, “For a couple hours on a weekend? Really?”

To which I say, “Do you really think that good photographers work only a couple hours on a weekend?”

Their follow up, “At Whats-It-Not Studios℠, they have your digital portraits ready the same day, and prints come a few days later, and they only cost so many dollars.”

“Again,” I ask, “do you really think that good photographers work only a couple hours on a weekend?”

They just don't get it.

David Love's picture

Just ask them how much they would charge you to come mow your lawn, clean your house and wash your car in one day. Those things make people think of physical activity and work. They assume we like standing for long hours carrying heavy equipment around and are having tons of fun on projects we don't care much about. Then we sit for long hours enjoying that air conditioner and carpal tunnel and back problems editing. And all the health pros say sitting for long periods is bad for our health so we are literally selling them days off our lifespan. Put a price on that.

Or when people I shoot with decide they can just do it themselves without any experience and ask what equipment they need to do it. Once I reach 10k in naming stuff they need, they change their minds.

Why do lawyers charge so much? They just hang out in the AC all day and their law knowledge should be free right?

Stephen Kampff's picture

"Such-and-Such Studios℠" – I love this.

Ha, hah. You got me thinking, “Did anyone actually use the term, ‘Such-And-Such’, for their studio? Hmm.” So I used this new thing called, ‘the Internet,’ and sure enough, there in the UK, a photography gallery….

So I edited my post to avoid libel claims. (…And, no, I did not remove the {℠} symbol).

P.s., there is also a US-based company with the same, (Such and Such), but it is a fashion studio.

Pricing by the hour is so limiting. You cannot scale that to make money. Does the client really care how much hours you spend on creating the video ? No. He only cares because he knows it's often linked to price. He just wants a kickass video for his biz.

To add to this paradox, imagine he asks you "I absolutely needs a video in 3 days from now". And you know it's going to be hard because you know it should be a 5 to 6 days work. Will you charge half of the price for that ? No you will work faster and pull strings to do it, but most importantly you should ask your client 50% more on price to get it done on such a short timeframe because it's going to be hard.

Therefore, what I am doing these days is this.

I say to the client for that video, it will cost you X and it's planned over Y days for an ideal situation.
(Maybe I specify X = pre prod + production + post prod + gear + set & props + expenses
Note you should never talk cost/hour of crew members neither number of crew members with your client.
As long as their video is done how they want it, why should they care ?)

Then the only way to cut costs is not by reducing time. It's reducing features of the video (which could reduce time) or find some other kind of agreement to cut costs that would work for you.

And if the shoot has to be more or less that Y days, then it will cost MORE in BOTH cases.
If more days than Y, it costs more because you're using days you cannot do something else.
If it's less than Y days, it costs more because the client requests a feature : quick delivery.

Makes sense, yes, but I did not get the impression that they were billing by the hour, but budgeting based on real costs. The client does not see the spreadsheet. It is for your purposes to help you see what your real costs are, so that you can give a reasonable price for the job, where you actually make money.

I meet amateurs all the time who say things like, “because I have no overhead, and I can get printing done for this much, I can charge this little for head-shots and make a 200% profit which goes back into my photography.”

Then I ask them, “How much do you spend on gas, and other car maintenance? Is your gear insured, and if not, how much do you stand to lose if it gets damaged? Can you afford to replace a vase if you should break one? How much electricity does your computer burn? How much more cooling does your A/C do when your computer is on? When last did you spend money on camera gear, (new purchase, repairs/maintenance, including driving, S&H, research, taxes, service costs), and how much was it? How often do you do that? How much time do you take off of your regular job, (or away from your family), to pursue this ‘money-making hobby’, and what does that equate to in dollars? Since you started this, how much money have you saved up for that new camera?”

Then the entire attitude usually changes. They often become defensive of their pricing choices, and who am I to judge. But the whole point is to get them to judge, not me. I'll even tell them that if someone says that I am too expensive, I'll send them their way, but they will never make a profit at those prices because they are not being realistic about their expenses.

The spreadsheet is simply a tool to help the photographer price himself, not a “per hour” itemisation for the client, and looking at your net profit in terms of making ¤xxx.00 per hour is a visualisation of one's worth.

It can just as easily be done by figuring out one's annual living expenses, then figuring out how many gigs you can depend on per year, (is your particular interests limited or aided by holidays/seasons/fiscal year ends, et al), then figure out how much profit (not revenue) you need to earn on average on those days. That is only making ends meet. Even then, living expenses include everything, such as taking your significant other out, getting the A/C fixed, putting in a new ball cock in your toilet. All of that is paid from your profits of guaranteed work. The rest of the revenue is all of the overhead which many people do not realistically calculate. Hence the spreadsheet. It is an aide. The revenue ought to include costs of regular maintenance/upgrades to gear and other equipment, including software, accessories, batteries, et al. They go bad, they go obsolete.

Anything above the guaranteed work, then becomes your disposable income, to use however “the boss” decides. ;-)