Many event and reportage photographers as well as other specialists face the dilemma of how to price event photos? On the one hand, we want to encourage customers to use our services, and at the same time we want to be fairly rewarded for their work. One could say that every photographer faces such a dilemma. Having worked in sales, marketing or looking at other industries, this is a difficult task for everyone. I see how the same mistakes permeate every industry and I will tell you what conclusions I have drawn from it and I will cite some examples that will show the errors of some assumptions.
How much does a photographer cost for an event?
Most people who start working as an event photographer think only about taking pictures. However, there are rarely such situations that our work boils down only to the photograph itself. Photos still need to be ripped, selected and processed (I’ve heard of those who think that good photos can be taken straight, from the camera, because once there was no Photoshop and Lightroom. I recommend that they familiarize themselves with the work of photographers from analog times, who really had to combine in the darkroom to properly expose the material in the darkroom.).
Photography is not only about photos
At the stage of photography, selection and processing, many photographers finish their calculations and I have the impression that these are not only amateurs who earn money somewhere on bacon, but also people who run a business. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg, where the client usually sees only the first stage – photography. We forget about the costs associated with photography and running a business.
It can be said that the criterion of the price of event photography is how much the customer is able to pay for the photos. There is some reason for this, but many people take their valuations out of a hat or look for hints in Google by searching for phrases “event photography price list” in search of a pattern. I must admit that this is also how I started my career, but I changed this approach a long time ago.
Count your business – how much does event photography cost?
The first thing to start any business is a business plan. Let’s assume that we have and know how to hold a camera, take pictures and we know that we want to photograph events, then you have to count it all. If we run a legal photography business, then we must take into account such things as:
- costs of doing business
- costs of creating and running a website (hosting, domain, content creation)
- marketing and advertising
- clouds and on-line galleries
- purchase of photographic equipment and its servicing and moderation
- purchase of computer equipment
- equipment insurance
- purchase of software and licenses
- car (fees, fuel, service)
- workshops, courses, trainings
- show albums, prints and products for customers
- internet and telephone
- time needed for the whole process
Make your expense list
Of course, this is my list of things that I take into account and it may look different for someone else. Sometimes it is longer or shorter, but certainly many of these positions will be repeated quite often.
Some things someone may not include as costs, but this is often a misconception. Because if we already have a camera and a computer before opening a photographic business, then it is equipment that, like everyone else, wears out, and at work even more. Some things, such as creating a website, we can do ourselves, but always remember that “time is money” and that’s why I also wrote it at the end.
I create my own website and content and treat it as an investment in my own business. I could outsource it to someone else and pay for it, but I like to do it. After all, when I’m overwhelmed with work, the dilemma arises whether to outsource it to someone else. I could look for an agency that will take care of it and it would cost me, for example, PLN 150 / h. By doing it myself, not only can I save, but I have more control over what is created here, although I could take pictures for myself or the client at the same time.
What are your cost of living?
Of course, it’s not about photographing and going to zero. It is worth counting your costs of housing, food, bills, trips and entertainment (cinema, billiards, etc.) Because if event photography is to be your main source of income, then you have to support yourself and sometimes your family.
How much do you want to save?
As you know. Already, pensions from ZUS do not look stunning, and it may only be worse, or there may be a situation that the pension system will be insolvent. That is why I am one of those people who take matters into their own hands and do not count on state aid. Part of the expenses should be postponed, whether for old age or simply for worse times, so as not to fall into debt in the event of financial problems. A good starting point is to postpone approx. 10% of our earnings, and in the case of an improvement in our income, immediately start spending some of them on savings, instead of consuming everything.
If we make such a list, it is worth entering it into Excel or writing it down on a piece of paper. I do not want to give a ready-made pattern here, because I do not feel like an outstanding mathematician and in part I rely on my own intuition. However, the point is to add up all the monthly costs of our activity on an annual basis, or even longer, and count how much it all costs us over a period of, for example, 5 years, a year or a month. It all depends on how much we want to work per month and how many days off we want to have.
Look a little wider – the perspective of 5 years
5 years is a good example here, because it is for me such an average period for changing a camera, computer or phone, which generate a large cost at one time, which we forget. Of course, this cost will be higher at the beginning if we buy new equipment for the needs of the business. Later it may fall, because a used computer or camera can be sold for some profit. Buying two cameras, three lenses, lamps, accessories and a computer for processing for 5 years, we can, for example, and to put it very simply, spend about 40,000. zlotys, every month we will get a satanic 666 zł. And this is just equipment.
To further emphasize this example and show me in which direction I am going, let’s take the so-called photoziuk, who bought this equipment for 40,000 zlotys and makes himself a “session” for PLN 200 every other day – one day for a session, and the other for processing. It will take 1 year to pay off the equipment. After a year, it will come out at zero. And we are not talking about other costs, which I have listed the whole list. I mean, we might have the impression that we’ve made a lot of money at the end of the year. There are many photographers who do this and instead of taking weekends for wedding photos for PLN 1,000 (outside of full-time) they could spend this time with their family or on vacation, losing little on it. Of course, you can also talk about the passion for photography, but why instead of doing your own projects, an unprofitable business is assumed?
All this checks us to the pattern
REVENUE – COSTS = INCOME
What do photographers forget when pricing?
As we want to count all this, so that it is fastened, it is enough to set the price for the service. It is best to do it from an annual perspective, then determine how many orders we will have. On this basis, set some price ceiling that will provide us with financial liquidity.
Some people approach it more for a meeting. You could say that photography is worth as much as the customer is able to pay for it, but this leads to two problems:
- We will price ourselves too low, because if photography for some is just “snapping photos”, we will do at a cost to attract as many customers as possible. Sometimes we also look at the competition, which is cheaper than us.
- We copy the price list of another photographer who can work longer/shorter than us, have different experience, costs and many other price lists, or come up with prices as in the third point.
- We invent and raise prices according to our whim. What I often meet among novice wedding photographers who go to the pages of their idols and think that wedding photography is a golden hen and give the same high prices from the beginning. In this case, their price level may not be adequate to the level of skills and photos they offer. Sometimes they will even catch customers who mistakenly confuse high prices with quality, but then they can be severely disappointed.
How much does it cost us to “snap”?
The worst thing that happens to a photographer is to reduce his work to just snapping photos. Not to mention how he came to it, to do it well and what he does to get beautiful event photos out of this snapping. Leaving aside the issues of soft skills that we acquire and use, it is necessary to take into account that the equipment wears out.
How much will the camera and lens serve you?
If we bought a camera and several lenses, then while the lenses can work for years you do not have to change them, the technology is moving forward, and even the most modern equipment wears out over time. There is no formula for this, but it is better to overestimate than to count too little.
How much does one photo from a SLR camera cost?
Buying a good SLR camera or mirrorless camera, we can spend about PLN 8,000. I assume that such equipment will work flawlessly for about 500,000 shutter flaps, which gives us approx. PLN 0.016 for “snapshot slap” so take about 400 photos for hours, it costs us PLN 6.4, but if we have a full-day event and we take 5000 photos, it is already a cost of PLN 80. Be it a lot or a little. I also do not take into account the fact that we can sell such equipment and recover some of the money, or replace the shutter itself. After all, “snapping” either by an amateur or a professional costs money.
How long will it take us to select photos?
Once we take pictures, you have to choose them, which can sometimes take a lot of time. If we photograph events, the photos to be selected go into hundreds, and sometimes thousands of photos, from which we have to choose 5-10% of the photos that will go to the client. This is a big part of our work on photos that customers often forget.
Every reportage, to a greater or lesser extent, should be processed. The more difficult the shooting conditions, the more work due to the changing light and the scatter the photos. We need to prepare wide shots, details and photos of the participants in a large number of photos, in a coherent and at the same time interesting way. It is not such a processing as retouching the portrait of the face itself photographed in the studio, but we usually make up for it here with the number of photos, and despite everything, we will get photos that you also need to retouch and devote a little more time to them.
Getting to the customer
The cost of travel is not only fuel, because at the same time we can do other things. If we work in one city, it will not take us much time to get there, but nevertheless to think about it. It may happen that we sometimes spend more time commuting than photographing. I myself had a situation once, when photographing one of the awards before the event of a company that changed its headquarters and instead of driving “on the way” on my route, I had to go to the other end of the city, where just looking for a parking space can take a while, and this is only for a few photos. If it wasn’t for a bigger event for this client, I would have gone to zero for these few photos.
Knowledge and experience are the greatest treasure
I have the impression that the most difficult thing to value for novice photographers is to assess the value of their skills. Often you can find advertisements that prey on it and someone is constantly looking for a “passionate” photographer who already has some skills that he has acquired for some period of time. Sometimes he also participated in courses or trainings for which he devoted time and money, and then he works for half-free, or for photos for the portfolio. This is not why event companies and marketing agencies hire professional photographers to have someone hold their camera. After all, they could buy professional equipment once, or rent it for the needs of their events and give it to the first free assistant, who after all takes a lot of photos with his iPhone, so he knows photography? Well, it is not so easy and you can gain experience for years and still learn new techniques and skills.
How to price the work of an event photographer?
Okay, once we see how much all this can cost us and what value it has, we have to determine some way of valuation that will suit our needs.
Event photography – price packages
In the case of wedding photographers, it is quite simple, because we are dealing with a similar scheme and expectations. We can settle according to ready-made packages, based on the number of photos, working time and additions, which makes it easier to compare photographers’ offers with each other. However, in event photography, it is difficult to determine packages for every occasion, because these are orders from several hours to several days, and sometimes cyclical orders. They also differ in the type of event, its character and dynamics. Under the concept of an event, there may be a press meeting for 5-10 people, the same as a conference or fair for 50-100 people.
Packages in event photography can only work in selected situations, such as birthday photos for a certain number of hours. You can also prepare several options for clients with whom we work and do similar to each other to the event.
Event photography – hourly rate
In the case of events, in my opinion, the best form of valuation is an hourly rate, but taking into account several factors, so I have not had my own price table page for some time. Instead, I put a form that contains all the information they need to give customers a specific quote, and if necessary, I can already specify some details by e-mail.
Hourly rates may vary depending on the hours, day of the week and place of the event, or additional customer expectations such as same-day processing, or for the next, transfer of property rights to photos (possibility of further resale). In this way, more crowded weekends and parties in the late hours with artificial light, which is more difficult to photograph, I value higher than an outdoor event during the day.
I used to even have such an offer with hourly rates depending on the day of the week and time. I also added information about the price of the first hour, because it takes into account all logistics and organizational costs, the cost of the online gallery, etc. However, there are also other aspects that must be taken into account, which is why I have created an on-line event photography valuation form that allows me to quickly assess the cost of a given order.
Price for one event photo?
The valuation for one photo is good for portrait photos, packshots and other orders that require a lot of processing and retouching. Then, after the initial selection, the client selects the photos to be processed and gets only those shots that exactly he wanted.
Unfortunately, in event photography it rarely works, because the client does not have time to select photos. Among other things, that’s why he hires a professional photographer who will take care of everything from beginning to end. I also can’t imagine setting rates for one photo, because how to approach it? 5zł for a photo? The customer can choose 10 photos for PLN 50. 50zł per photo? Similarly, but the client can choose 5 photos, and in fact we made the material, where we have 150 good shots that will go to the trash. You can do some limits and thresholds, but I would not go this way.
Some photographers may also be tempted to add unnecessary photos to increase their earnings. On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier. The customer can give up many shots, just to save a little. In this way, instead of becoming a service provider, we make ourselves a product by weight. In this way, wedding photographers, who in this way accounted for photos in the times of film, disappeared from the market and today they only take photos for documents in their salons, where they sell us prints and albums for art.
Construction of the event photography offer
In my opinion, the most important thing is that our offer is simple and understandable for the average customer. Just as you go to the Apple.com website and choose the model, color and capacity of the iPhone, you can immediately see how much it will cost and when it will come, so in event photography the offer should be transparent. Most wedding photographers are limited to 3 wedding packages – cool! In event photography, you can propose a specific package or prepare a quick and clear quote for its needs, so that he knows immediately what he will get. Hardly anyone wants to read 100 variants or combine all the elements themselves to calculate the cost of your service. Keep it simple!
Time is of the essence in event photography
In event photography, time is of the essence for many clients , because some projects are implemented in a hurry and expect a quick valuation, which they will include in the valuation for the client, or will fit into the previously assumed ranges.
You have to know what to do
Very often there is no time to drink coffee and discuss conditions and expectations. A good event photographer should know what to do, even without a precise agenda. Of course, if there is such a possibility, I always ask for the agenda of the event information about surprises for guests or possible suggestions. The client does not have time to explain to us what and how to photograph, because the event is a complicated machine that the photographer has to capture while working. If you can not photograph in an interesting way from general to detail, branding, details, catering, people, speeches, and at the same time catch some flavors and tell an interesting story and show the atmosphere of the event, then maybe event photography is not for you.
The valuation should be fast, specific, without hidden costs. Without playing with additional photo packages to buy. I always define a minimum that I predict based on my experience, but that’s not a determinant. If the event is interesting, I will sometimes give 2x more photos than I assumed.
Better to surprise than to promise
Sometimes it will take me more time to cut the material with an axe to go down to a specific number of photos than to prepare an interesting collection of photos. An exception may be when the customer asks for a specific number of photos for some reason. Even if I arrange 3-5 photos after the event and I have doubts which photo will be more useful for my clients quickly, I prefer to give them 8 if I already have them ready. This is not a huge amount to view, and sometimes an additional shot will be better suited to a post or graphic. Customers are rather positively surprised if they get more photos than they assumed.