How to Price Your Work and Charge Usage

Pricing your work is an incredibly tricky game. In this video, I go over how I price my work, how I progressed to that point as well as the calculator that I use to work out my usage license fees.

Being British, talking about money is something that makes us/me incredibly uncomfortable. But as I couldn't find anyone else openly talking about what they charge and how they got to that point on any free websites, I thought I would bare all and give it a go. And yes, it made me feel incredibly awkward. 

My rates are neither the highest nor the lowest out there, but they allow me to live a lifestyle that I enjoy with a really good balance of work that I do for the money, work that I create for fun and general free time to be creative in. Which, after all, is why most of us are in this.

I have been working as a photographer for about a decade now. When I first set off I wanted to be a music/documentary photographer and I ended up shooting weddings, as most of us do. Over the next 5 years, I developed a love for food photography and lighting.  I then slowly began to realize that what I wanted to do was work with food. Creating scenes that evoke memories and shooting extremely technical images for composite work. From charging £100 a day to assist at weddings right through to my current day rate where I work alongside an agent, working out my fees has always been challenging. 

When I finally stumbled across usage fees about 5 years ago, I was completely lost. Thankfully there is a great site at the AOP which offers a rough guidance calculator that most agents and photographers out there use.

Hopefully, the information in this video is of use to others to help guide them on their pricing journey and work out if they are in approximately the right area. 

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10 Comments

Jason Pietroski's picture

I think this was one of the best, most concise explanations of how to price usage. Loving your recent series of posts. I've scoured everywhere for a good explanation and usage calculator and this one is great. Keep up the amazing articles!

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks Jason.

I had the same issues when I was trying to find the info.

Scott Choucino's picture

Yes the calc certainly isn’t the last word in prices, but for those new to this world I think it’s a great starting point.

Having an agent is great, I couldn’t work without one, but again, not everyone has that luxury.

Most conversations I think start with budget talks. But cross referencing them to the calc helps you work out where you are.

Scott Choucino's picture

Not sure where you are based, but in the UK, at least in the food market it doesn't work like that. So maybe in the states it is different. Here we go agent, art buyer, agency or more recently a lot of clients have the agency as a department in their company to save costs on certain parts of the marketing campaigns.

I get a lot of work from word of mouth and also through art buyers and creative directors changing agencies.

It's always appreciated when anybody decides to take this topic on, if for no other reason than to start a discussion where others share their experiences too.

A couple of questions regarding your explanation though...

1) There doesn't appear to be any mention about # of images in this particular calculator... do you have a set # that you include in your day rate (BUR) and then all are covered by the license fee calculated here? I don't think I've ever seen one of these calculators operate completely free of that variable. Are we always assuming a single image?

2) According to the text included with the calculator, it would seem that your explanation is a little off from what they're suggesting. From the site:

"The original negotiated fee would normally include the following as industry-standard practice"

... and then it mentions a year or so of usage with some media already included. That would seem to imply that the calculator is actually used to determine *additional* usage, not primary, as long as primary falls within their definition of "standard practice". Can you clarify how you would quote this?

Thanks!

Scott Choucino's picture

Hey.

Thanks I’ll try to answer those.

1) I use it as a single image or campaign. But the campaign may be 10 images sometimes, which is include as a single job. If we shot two very different campaigns in a day I’d charge separately

2) I include website usage in my day rate as unlimited, but web advertising as a license.

Thanks so much for the response. I feel like everybody has a slightly different approach when it comes to licensing; sometimes it's hard to gauge what they're doing even after the initial explanation.

So would you consider your day rate to be pretty much fixed for anything between 1 and 10 images? While I expect this could make sense as long as there aren't significant changes to the setup between shots, the difference between post processing between 1 and 10 images seems like it would be quite significant when shooting at the scale you're describing. Do you include that in the fixed rate as well?

When you include website usage as unlimited, are you telling them "you can use these images on your brand's own domain forever at no extra cost, but it'll be extra for a single social media post"?

Not that I'm disagreeing or saying your approach is wrong, it just seems unbalanced. I could see something like, "social media for 1 year is included, or website for 1 year, or maybe both for 1 year but everything else is extra and additional years for website & social is extra". I guess I'm just trying to understand your particular thought process when using the calculator.

Thanks again!

Scott Choucino's picture

No worries.

Not specifically 1-10 shots, its hard to gauge and there are a lot of factors. I sometimes charge extra for retouching if it is required at an intense level.

You could certainly charge as you are suggesting. I am not sure what the rational of my agent is for doing it the way he does, but I know a few others in the UK do the same.

Hope that helps

Tony Clark's picture

A very good post, I think that most freelancers of a certain level have struggeld with pricing. My mentor didn't really share much information on the business end of photography and feel as though I've read everything on the subject.

My best reference has been Pricing Photography but Heron and MacTavish, it has you calculate your CODB which gives you a base rate and then ranges for categories of projects. As stated previously, these numbers are subject to negotiation and you've got to figure out if the other party is experienced or if their budget is established by some beancounter who doesn't understand the quality that you bring to the project.

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks,

CODB is great to understand, but I think you should charge what your work is worth and then work out the cost of doing that business to make a big enough profit margin. A lot of photographers fall down by buying all the gear, working out how much to charge and then realising that not many are willing to pay this fee. One of the reasons I stuck with the 5dmk2 for a decade before upgrading.