Just Start Charging for Your Photography: My $25 Rule

Why do you feel it's OK to work without pay? Other occupations charge, and they charge handsomely for their expertise, but photographers are seemingly shy when it comes to money. Knowing this crowd, I'll need an obligatory qualifier: Not all photographers are shy, but a lot of them are.

Maybe photographers feel guilty about charging because there's a false belief we must suffer at work and that it ought to be unenjoyable. What if we have fun doing it? Perhaps some have no idea how much to charge, where to start, and then build up from?

That's why I created the $25 Rule for photographers, a solid starting point to build up from. For many photographers that I mentor, the hardest obstacle was getting to the pro part of the equation. How much you charge as a professional and the incremental increases are easier. If you have a formula that functions well, keep that! This article and video are for the photographer who is afraid to start, the one who has no idea how much to charge and what to bill for. If you're that photographer, watch this video!

Is it Bad to Shoot for Free?

Everyone has their own answer to this question. My personal rule is that the photographer should always benefit the most. The idea for the free project should come from the photographer first. If it came from another person, it's likely to help them more. If you want to build a portfolio, I stick with the rule of three. Three "test shoots" or free shoots are enough to give the potential clients an idea of your abilities. Three people are enough to show some variety but not enough to spread the word about you being the town's freebie. 

Why Is the $25 Rule Important?

Start at $25, as it is a nominal amount, and it's a great qualifier. If a potential client cannot afford that cost, it's likely they'll never be a paying client. They could be the most incredible humans, but not for your bank account. $25 is a solid number to start at, and the vast majority of the clients you want will be able to afford that.

Starting at $25 is not that much higher than what some politicians want the new minimum wage to be. Remember that for many businesses, this is a tax deduction. 

While there are numerous other benefits to the $25 Rule, one would be training your clients and community that you are now a functioning business. You are no longer a free photographer, and they need to start seeing you this way. You're affordable to most, and where you go from there depends on your market or clientele. Sometimes, we must train others to treat us as professionals.

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16 Comments

vik .'s picture

I've never rotated a photo in my life.

Tony Northrup's picture

Weird flex but OK

Joseph Ting's picture

If only I could both rotate and flex a photo at the same time. There must be an App for that.😣

derek j's picture

ive never rotated a tire in my life

paul aparycki's picture

you think $25 is not working for free?

I hope mommy or daddy is still paying for your food, rent, toilet paper, sanitizer, electricity, shoes, socks, underwear, medical, toothpaste, comb(s), bus fare, car fare, eyeglasses, . . . just the tip of the iceberg, . . . oooh!!! let's not forget camera, lens, batteries, etc, etc and whilst Amazon does offer incredible deals . . . $25 will buy you spit.

Charles J's picture

It's $25 per hour.

Deleted Account's picture

That's still pretty cheap if you consider your costs.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

No plumber, electrician or even a tow truck will come help you for $25/hour.

sam dasso's picture

Unlike photographers plumbers, electricians and tow truck drivers are licensed professionals. Photographers are businessmen selling photos or themselves. Rate they charge entirely depends on how well they can convince a client that they can push the shutter button better than a next guy. Therefore any number between $0 and $1000 per hour is justified. Having said that, I don't like $25 per hour. Any personal business does not provide consistent 40 hours per week workload. And if you working even 50% of the time and make $25 per hour, you might as well get minimum wage job. I think that absolute minimum that photographer should ask is equivalent of $100 per hour or do it for free and keep it as a hobby.

Deleted Account's picture

True, but plumbers, electricians, and tow truck drivers actually need licenses so you can't compare that to a photographer.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

That's because they don't do creative. They just duplicate the work they were trained and license to do.

Deleted Account's picture

"My personal rule is that the photographer should always benefit the most."

Or we can benefit equally?

Dan Donovan's picture

So glad I watched the entire video. Initially I thought it was $25 for an entire shoot! Walid, great job of explaining all of the time involved before, during and after a shoot. The message is good: photographers need to value their time AND expertise.

Another thing to keep in mind is that our photos help commercial clients make money. As a result, most businesses EXPECT to pay for photography! Large companies are used to paying tens of thousands of dollars a day for major shoots. On the flip-side, local businesses do not have a huge budget for photography. So, as you move along in your career, keep in mind that the price you charge should partially be based on how many people will be seeing the photos. You don't charge the same amount for a family shoot as you would for an international company like Coca-Cola. Many more people will be seeing the Coke photos...and Coke will be making a lot of money from them.

Good luck to everyone as you progress in your careers!

Brigham Brown's picture

Yes, it is bad to shoot for free. Especially so with "non-profits". You charge, get paid and then can donate the money if you want. Also - shooting for "free" tells people the value of your images, your time and you.

Timothy Gasper's picture

My girlfriend rotated on me, but other than that.....no...I have not rotated a photo.

Rex Larsen's picture

Another rule for Fstoppers to consider:
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