How much does commercial photography really cost?

How much does commercial photography cost?

The average cost of commercial photography sits between $350 – $500 nationwide. Commercial photography cost is based on a few factors, including the reputation of the photographer, purchasing and maintaining professional photo equipment, studio time, final photos requested, models used, travel expenses, and retouching fees.

Businesses use commercial photography for editorial purposes, print or catalog advertising, online advertising, websites, large displays (for trade shows) and internal business uses.

Many commercial photographers don’t offer a standard pricing menu, and instead, consult with potential clients and then provide a quote based on the requirements, time and labor necessary to complete the project. Working with a commercial photographer will elevate the quality of your photos to professional status. The photographer may also come to the table with some great ideas that you haven’t even thought of! So, what do you need to know before hiring a commercial photographer? Let’s get into it.

What affects commercial photography pricing?
As we mentioned, the cost of commercial photography is based on a few factors, including purchasing and maintaining professional photo equipment, studio time, final photos requested, models used, travel expenses, licensing fees, and post-production retouching fees. Typically, a commercial photography business doesn’t offer a standard pricing menu. Instead, they consult with new clients and then quote a price based on the requirements, time and labor necessary to complete the project to the customer’s satisfaction. Commercial photographers specialize in editorial, print or catalog advertising, online advertising, websites, and large displays, so if you’re looking for event or wedding photography, look elsewhere.

Reputation and experience
Independent commercial photographers with high-profile clients or a long-standing career as well as those who have shot for well-known ad campaigns may charge higher rates than photographers who don’t carry the same caché. Some commercial photographers may even be members of the NPPA, an American professional association made up of still photographers, television videographers, editors, and students in the journalism field. Members of the NPPA abide by a strict code of ethics and professionalism in their field.

Equipment and overhead
The cost of purchasing and maintaining professional photo equipment affects a commercial photographer’s rates. Photographers with the right space, equipment, and experience can deliver a much more polished end product than someone who is just starting out or working with lower quality photography gear. In general, photographers with more equipment or a large studio to manage have more overhead, and overall costs to clients are higher.

For example, Jim Greipp of Pau Hana Productions in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, works out of a 5,000-square-foot studio and shoots with a $20,000 Hasselblad camera. He also carries $2 million in liability insurance and has enough lighting equipment for almost any photography job.

Product Photography Pricing
Expect to pay around $350 to photograph a product in studio, according to Pau Hana Productions in Conshohocken, PA. Straightforward product photography (without complex sets or models) is typically the least expensive type of commercial photography. Photo sessions are generally either held in the product photographer’s studio or at the client’s location. Rates vary widely, depending on the reputation and overhead of the photographer.

Commercial Photography Rates
Some commercial jobs require live models or other elements that typically cost more than basic product photography. The number of final photos requested, models used, travel expenses, retouching fees and specifics all can increase pricing.

For example, here are two professional photography projects with price breakdown from Pau Hana Productions in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania:

Magazine cover
Job Cost
Photography $300
Travel $85
Photo retouching $40
Grand Total $425

Medical device brochure
Job Cost
Photography $1,200
Male and female model $600
Photo retouching $300
Grand Total $2,100

Photographer Day Rates
Some commercial photographers charge half- or full-day rates for their services. This type of pricing model works well for event photography and some product photography services.

For example, WestBoundary Photography in Rio Vista, California, charges the below prices:

$1,000 for a half day (4.5 hours)
$1,500 for a full day (8 hours) plus an hourly rate of$200 for each hour over a full day

The company also adds 20% of the total cost of the session if the photographer is required to file a permit. Many national parks require a permit to shoot commercial photography in the park. These fees can vary based on the logistics and degree of difficulty of the job for WestBoundary Photography.

Minimum rates
Some commercial photographers charge a minimum rate for services, especially for projects on location. This minimum rate covers the labor, equipment and transportation costs of the professional.

For example, WestBoundary Photography charges a minimum rate of $650, which covers two hours of onsite work.

How to hire a commercial photographer
There are a few steps you can take to aid in your decision making and to ensure that you hire a commercial photographer who will be the right fit for you or your business:

Ask for reviews: Reviews from other satisfied clients are crucial in your decision-making process, so seek them out online or ask the commercial photographer for testimonials before doing business with them.

Schedule a consultation: Since many commercial photographers don’t offer a standard rate or pricing menu, they will typically consult with clients and then quote a price based on the requirements, time and labor necessary to complete the session to the customer’s satisfaction.

Determine your budget: Figure out how much you have to spend on a session with a professional photographer and carve it out of your marketing budget. Aligning in the upfront about your budget will save you both time and energy in the long run.

Figure out your needs: What is the subject matter? Will you need to shoot in multiple locations or in-studio? Will you be responsible for paying for any location fees? Whatever the project, knowing exactly what your needs are before scheduling your consultation will help the process go smoothly.

How to Save Money on Commercial Photography
The cost of a commercial photography shoot can add up fast, so here are some helpful tips on how to save a little cash:

Time is money: Train your models or on-camera talent in advance so you don’t waste time with the photographer. Make sure the talent knows their role in the shoot before shooting with the photographer.

Schedule a pre-production meeting: The day before the photo shoot, schedule a pre-production phone call or meeting to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This will ensure that all expectations will be met on both sides of the partnership.

Buy a package: Some commercial photographers may offer package deals to the clients, as it ensures future work for them. Asking if your photographer provides this service to their clients may save you some serious cash!

Shoot locally: To avoid additional travel fees, plan to do some location scouting so you can choose a shooting location within the photographer’s mileage radius.

Benefits of Professional Commercial Photography
Commercial photography is used for sales, branding and marketing purposes. That means that in order to attract more customers to your business, you need professional-quality photos to stand out and market your business. When you hire a commercial photographer, you’re paying for their skill, professional-quality equipment, and their know-how in the industry. A lot of time, equipment and labor goes into producing high-quality commercial photos, and it pays to hire a professional photographer to create the best final product possible for your photography needs.

A commercial photographer is not an event or wedding photographer. A professional commercial photographer will bring years of experience to produce the right photo content for your business needs. A seasoned photographer will also use the right lighting, props, and shooting equipment to ensure that the highest quality photos are produced for you and your business. Yes, professionally-shot photos will be more expensive but the production value of the project will end up exponentially greater. The end goal, of course, is presenting your brand in the ideal light, and professional commercial photographers have years of experience doing just that.

Whether you’re hoping to share your company’s professionally-shot photography for editorial purposes, print or catalog advertising, online advertising, websites, large displays (for trade shows) or internal business uses, you certainly won’t be disappointed with the final product. From real estate photography to retail photography, to even a small business or local newspaper, every business can benefit from working with a professional commercial photographer.

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