The Big Photography Mistake

Photographers opt for the simple hourly wage, and while it's better than working for free, I still think it's bad for the long-run. I can only imagine the comment section from hourly photographers at the bottom of this blog post! 

It's important to note that you'll book higher rates if the client feels they're paying for an experience. Package rates can be an experience without really defining your hourly value. The video on this blog post aims to give you more insight behind hourly photography rates versus package rates. Watch the video in full and see when I feel it's ok to charge hourly. Here are three reasons why charging hourly is bad for business:

  • Perceived value is key: Clients often pay based on the perceived value of any product. If you position yourself as a cheaper product, you'll warrant low rates. You will fill the void but not really be an experience for them. Generally speaking, the lower budget clients tend to bring the biggest headaches too. Clients that have bigger budgets will often pay more for an experience. It’s difficult to get that from an hourly photographer or videographer. 
  • Charging by the hour corners you into a rate: Once the photo client has your hourly wage, it’s difficult to raise it. In fact, they’ll often be offended if you raise your fees because they will do the math for you. The other downfall of charging by the hour is that you can easily become a minutely photographer. 
  • If you are charging $50 dollars per hour, then we'd like to book you for only one hour. Clients will sometimes find a photographer in need and suggest 30 minutes instead. Once you've detailed your per hour cost, they'll start slicing and dicing your rate up any which way. Of course, you can reject this offer, but many photographers are afraid to lose the client and will reluctantly accept the terrible offer.
  • Charging by the hour kills the client experience: Clients will often pay for the experience. They want the experience of photographing with a particular photographer without staring at the clock. I mentioned this earlier and they’ll pay substantially more for a great experience. Try to have a good experience charging by the hour, watching the clock and cutting off the creativity once the time is up.
Walid Azami's picture

Walid Azami is a Photographer/Director and creative consultant from Los Angeles. He got his start working with Madonna + Co by contributing to her many projects. It was then he realized his place in the creative world & began teaching himself photography. He has since shot Kanye, Mariah Carey, Usher, Bernie Sanders, JLO, amongst others

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Again, one single pricing model is guaranteed to leave more money out. Hourly is totally fine depending on what you sell. Charge hourly plus your package as services and you can make more than a locked package. Are package bad, not more than hourly, depends on what you sell and your clientele type. There are no single solution, offer what is best for you and the client. You can charge hourly, package, day or half day rate, they are all good solutions. Walid did not mention the type of photography he is referring to, I have not clue what type of photography is he talking about. I never had a client looking for "experience", results yes. To me, running a business based on client "experience for the price" is not a business model where you can count on repeat income.

I disagree. However, if you have a successful fulltime photography business and you are making enough money to cover everything + savings, then I am happy. Looks like you take great photos of cars, congrats on that.

Cars are more for experiment/hobby. I've made a living from photography since 1993 and today I only shoot product/advertising.

I saw a YouTube channel where one female wedding photographer said she charges a flat fee for a minimum number of hours which cover most of the day. She said if she charged by the hour, potential clients would try to book her for as few hours as possible to keep the costs down and would make it impossible for her to have enough time to get all the shots she needs. She also said often in that scenario the photographer would be encouraged to stay a bit longer, therefore actually working some of the day for free.

Exactly, when the preset time runs out, one side will have to give up something. If this is not agreed to before the shoot, there will be confusion and reputation can possibly be challenged, resulting in a loss of future income by not producing positive referrals.
The hourly model is not for everyone but can really work well in some cases. That’s how I got involved here. There are no generic type of billing just like there is definitely not one single type of photography in this world. It’s like saying you can hire one single lawyer for any situation.
Billing by the hour is more like an open tab, so if no trust can be established it shouldn't be considered. Lawyers charge that way, plumbers and many other type of services including car shops also do, so it’s still fairly universal. I have a large client that I bill that way for over 17 years. Hourly is just for the time of actual photography and for me it starts when I arrive at the location until I am done packing. After that, what ever the client need is charged at a different rate by the hour and if there are proofs needed they get charged for that too. I am not an every client is billed by the hour type. I use a wide variety of approaches. With me, decisions on what billing approach to take are made after evaluating the clients’ needs. It doesn’t mean getting cheap to make a client happy. Often, you can structure the billing so the client can look at it on a yearly basis and that can be more valuable to the client than the cost.

To charge pr hour gives a hourly rate income. To have a fixed price leaves room for a substantial profit in addition. Sometimes it may also result a little loss but it obvious that a fixed price is how you can make money. I think that goes for a lot of different work. Cleaning services, construction services and so on.