ST84 Photography Blog

Behind the scenes blog of London Commercial Photography

Commercial Photography – What’s Involved In Pricing

When prospective clients enquire about hiring me to work with them to produce commercial photography for their marketing, the requests often fall into one of these 3 forms:

  1. What’s your day rate for commercial photography?
  2. How much would you charge to make portraits of our staff?
  3. How much would it cost for you to photograph X?


Some enquiries come from people who are experienced in buying commercial photography, others come from people who are less experienced.

Buying Commercial Photography

This blog post details the main factors that go into pricing commercial photography (including stock photography), so you can better understand what is included in the next quote you request from a photographer.

There are 3 broad areas of costs involved. They are:

  1. The Licence
  2. Creative fees
  3. Technical fees


I strongly believe that all commercial photographers should supply prospective clients with a detailed breakdown of their pricing when quoting on a job. But, the fact is that many of them don’t. If these items aren’t clearly marked on your quote, you need to be asking that photographer a few questions about where the money for the shoot will be spent.


The Licence

Say you’re a small business needing staff portraits for your website. Compare that to Nike needing a photograph of Cristiano Ronaldo for a global billboard campaign. Both are examples of commercial photography.

But do you think that your small business should pay the same amount for your staff portraits as Nike do for their billboards? No way!

This is where licencing comes in to play. It serves to ensure you only pay for what you need. When you hire creative services, we generally work out part of the cost based on how you’ll be putting our creative services to use in your business. Bigger campaigns cost more than smaller campaigns.

This is also true of stock photography. Go to Alamy and do an image search (pick any term you like). When you look at pricing options, you’ll see that it gives options based on whether the proposed use is advertising or editorial, and options based on where the advert/editorial piece will appear (in print or online, how large the piece will be, which countries it will be displayed, how long the piece will be available for, and so on). Whether commissioned or bought from a picture library, commercial photography involves licencing.

Licencing is a great way to simplify the pricing process for commercial photography. It can also be a great way to help businesses manage risk. For example, you could purchase a licence for a limited use and then, if that use is successful and you want to expand the campaign, you can get an extended licence to cover additional uses. Which is a lot better than paying billboard rates for an image that never appears on one, right?

The thing is, when a client asks photographers what their day rate for commercial photography is, they can end up getting a poor deal if they don’t understand this point enough to get a detailed quote from the photographers they’ve shortlisted.

Photographers who will quote you a “day rate” usually include some form of licence within this price, but the licences they each offer can differ wildly. What seems like the cheapest quote may actually be more expensive once the licences have been compared.

So make sure you understand what form of licence is included in the quote. And, if the cost is too high, consider making changes to the licence to reduce the overall budget for the project.


Creative Fees

In addition to licences, photographers also include creative fees for producing commercial photography. Creative fees will includes separate fees for each creative personel on a shoot – assistants, models, stylists, etc.

Some shoots can be executed by one photographer working alone. Other shoots will require 5 assistants, 3 stylists, and 20 models to realize high quality commercial photography results.

Creative fees cover the time and skill of the people involved in producing the commercial photography you’ve paid for, while the licence reflects the size of the role that the images will play in your marketing campaign.

Benedict Cumberbatch will generally get paid more to be the star of a movie than he would for a supporting role, right? That’s like the licence in photography. But Cumberbatch will get paid more for a supporting role in a movie than a newcomer no one has heard of – and that’s the same as the creative fee in photography.


Technical Fees

Finally, when you ask a commercial photographer for a quote, it will include technical fees. These may be listed separately, or included under the photographer’s Creative Fee.

It requires equipment to produce commercial photography and, while you can reasonably expect a photographer to have their own camera, other costs (props, specialist lighting, specialist lenses, studio/location hire, and so on) should only be charged to the clients who  require those technical items. These items may be rented solely for your project, or items owned by the photographer but not used on most jobs. In both cases, the items will be “rented to you” for the purpose of the shoot.

Some commercial photography shoots require additional equipment or specific locations, and others don’t. As with creative fees and licences, if you get a quote that is beyond your budget, look at the breakdown of costs for the shoot and call the photographer back to discuss whether there are areas where you can cut costs.

It may affect the final image quality, but we love our work so our quote is going to be based on the highest quality result we can achieve for you. If you can’t afford that level of quality, we can work together to find an option that does fit your needs.

If you get 3 quotes and the highest one is out of your budget, that may be the photographer to go with – their quote may show how much they care about the quality of their craft. And that level of care will show through in the images even if they downsize elements of the shoot to fit your budget.


Like this post?

I hope this post has helped you understand commercial photography pricing. If you have any questions about buying photography, send me an email here and I’ll get back to you or make another post answering your question.


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Commercial Photography – What’s Involved In Pricing