Why Do Professional Photographers Charge So Much?

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This question presents itself all the time, and I’d like to try to shed some light on the subject (pun totally intended).

So… let’s begin.

As with any other job, we get paid for our time—but not just the time behind the camera. Truth be told, that’s only a third or so of what we put into a shoot. You have to consider that a shoot of three to four looks can take anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, depending on stylists, makeup artists, travel time to different locations, and so on.

That’s not considering the time we put in before and after the shoot—which we will address in a minute.

Let’s say, for example, you are paying $500 for a shoot where you get four looks, no stylist, no MUA. Just you and what you bring.

Five hundred dollars and 5 hours of shooting (just to keep our math simple), works out to be $100 per hour. Not a bad gig, right? Right—kinda. It would be stellar if our work began and ended with the shoot.

Before the shoot, a photographer may spend 20 minutes planning out locations, or he may spend a couple of hours. If you’ve met with the photographer beforehand to discuss the shoot, factor that in as well. Let’s keep it simple again and say that you and the photographer meet for an hour (in person or on the phone) to discuss outfits and the general plan for what you two will set out to create. You are going to shoot in the studio, so there are no locations to plan out.

Now we’re at six hours of work for a five-hour shoot.

8 hour photo session

This photo was part of an 8 hour session with a makeup artist, hair stylist and wardrobe stylist. After the session another 4 hours were spent in post production to get the image ready for print.

After the session, we have to go through the images and not only select the best out of hundreds of shots, but also edit them.  Editing doesn’t always consist of spot-removing blemishes, often times it is more about alterations in color and exposure of the shot. Those things are vital. I will say things like “basic edits” throughout this article and when I do I’m generally referring to things like proper retouching techniques that preserve image integrity not a system of plugins or actions. Automated systems of image manipulation often leave damage that render the file unusable for high-end commercial work. Proper basic retouching does take longer and there aren’t many good shortcuts. We won’t even address the advanced methods, I don’t believe there is an accurate way to break down the time involved.

That said, I usually spend at least another 4-5 hours selecting and performing basic edits. So again, to keep things simple, let’s say five more hours of work.

Now we are at 11 hours of work for a shoot that took half as long. This brings the rate down to about $45.50 per hour. That is still a nice paycheck but definitely a hefty cut.

Now let’s consider the fee the photographer has to pay for the studio that you get to enjoy the comforts of. For the rent and utilities in a small office, $1,500 per month is a generously low statement. At that rate, in an average month of 30 days, it would cost $50 per 8-hour day just to open the door of the studio. That takes out another $6.25 per hour, putting us at $39.25.

2 hour photo session

This photo was from a 2 hour session. After the session it took an hour to select the best images, and another 30 minutes to retouch this shot.

Basically, the photographer has made $450 and given up 11 hours of his day. But wait, he had to hire an assistant for 5 hours at $10 per hour. Make that $400. If we work that out really quickly, we see that $400 for 11 hours of work drops our rate down to just under $30 per hour. We can plug that into a standard 40-hour workweek over the course of a full year, and it brings us to an annual salary of $62,400.

At first glance, it seems like a lot. Honestly it is… before self-employment tax, health insurance, liability insurance, and equipment insurance. In 2011, the self-employment tax is 13.3%. That instantly takes $62,400 down to $54,100. Nearly a $10,000 hit just for being our own boss!

Taxes and general business expenses are well beyond the intention of this post—so let’s end there with them.

Another 2 hour photo session

This photo was from another 2 hour session. It took at least 4 hours to scout and secure this location before the shoot, and an additional 2 after the shoot to select, retouch and upload to the client.

A lot of photographers will justify the cost of a shoot by the expense of their equipment. I’ve seen comments like this:

“How much a photographer spends on the equipment he or she uses to shoot the model should not affect how much you charge a model. It is not our fault you spend so much on your equipment.”

I guess in a way you are right. However, you are most certainly benefiting from the expenditure. After all, my main camera alone cost near $8,000 without the lenses. Without the camera, we would both just be looking at each other for a few hours. The quality of the equipment with which you are being photographed does matter. If the photographer is shooting you with a 6-year-old base model digital SLR like the Digital Rebel and a kit lens, you are going to get a good photo that will work pretty well for an 8 x 10 or a comp card. But the photographer most likely will not be able to submit your images to any publications, stock agencies, ad agencies, etc. The demand for high-resolution, high-quality images is simply too great today to be able to get away with less.

If the photographer is using a mid- to pro-level camera and top-quality glass, the game changes. Suddenly, that image can go anywhere it needs to, and you don’t need to be concerned about quality or usability in various media.

1 hour photo session

30 minutes to set up the lighting, 15 minutes to get the right shot, 20 minutes for retouching.

Yes, of course, the costs of doing business and the upgraded equipment are all a factor in what the professional photographer will charge. However, what you are really paying for are the years of practice it takes to make the images that you receive possible. Not to mention the sheer talent that many photographers bring to the table. Creativity has value. We are the best at what we do, and we charge what we deserve to make.

Sometimes there are no large expenses on a shoot. Sometimes you don’t use anything but a camera and the sun. No assistants. No stylists. Shoots like that will definitely affect where the photographer allocates funds in their business, but it’s unlikely that it will affect the bottom line. In fact on a commercial invoice those items are usually billed separately from the photographer’s fee.

Now let’s address the amount of photos you get back from the shoot. A 3-to-4-look shoot generally nets about fifteen good photos, five great ones. That really is not many, I know. This is where the model really needs to give up and trust the photographer. People make mistakes. Maybe in one shot the model was not quite right in his pose, or maybe the photographer didn’t get the angle he was looking for. Either way, you are building a portfolio and should include only the best options.

“Why not give me a CD and let me choose the photos I want to use?”

Good question. YOU are the one in the photos, and everyone is overly critical of himself. Often, other people will have an open and unbiased opinion of what looks good and what does not, not to mention the fact that established photographers already know what the agencies are looking for because they have probably worked with them before. The photographer’s choices give you an advantage because now you have the best shots—already geared towards the agencies you are hoping to reach.

3 hour photo session

20 minutes to build the set, 30 minutes to set up the lighting, 1 hour shooting, 1 hour retouching.

“I already paid for the shoot. Now I have to pay for prints?”

Absolutely, unless it was a TFP shoot. Prints cost us to produce, which results in a cost to the model.

“What is TFP?”

I still don’t see what the big mystery is about this. TFP means “time for prints.”  The photographer gets your time, and you get a set number of prints. The photographer’s payment is the fact that you came; your payment is some photos. TFP is usually used only by people just starting out; however, some photographers will consider TFP based on the model’s potential or a concept they want to create and need volunteers for.

Personally, the only time I do TFP is when someone has an idea that inspires me. I do not pay models for their time. They have more to gain than I do at this point. I realize that sounds arrogant, but it is true. An established photographer is already making a living, as is an established model. There has to be a very good reason to give out time for free when I can be paying my bills instead. Generally speaking, the photographers who offer you a CD of your shoot free-of-charge have not been in this business very long. You each need the help of the other party.

10 hour photo session

Not including the flight to California, this shot took 8 hours to scout for before the shoot. 2 hours of shooting and about 30-40 minutes for basic retouching.

Having worked both sides of this industry, I know that sometimes it does not seem to make sense.  Ask yourself this though: If Michelangelo painted a portrait of you, would you question why the price of the piece is so high?  No – because no one else could paint like him, and as the saying goes: “you get what you pay for.” Of course we have expenses and those are often far higher than what people expect. Yes, they do play a role in what we charge, but in the end you are paying the photographer because of their visual style and what they can do for your career.

The images you take for your portfolio are an investment in your future as a model. If you are serious about modeling, then it is time to start looking at it like a business. You are the product, and you need amazing images to sell that product to its fullest potential. The bottom line is that regardless of what we charge, if you don’t have enough faith in yourself to invest in your dream, why would anyone else?

David Bickley

David Bickley is an internationally published photographer specializing in portraiture and fitness photography. He is based in Kansas City, KS and has been shooting professionally for 8 years.

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301 Responses to “Why Do Professional Photographers Charge So Much?”

  1. November 04, 2018 at 8:14 am, Gary Box said:

    The overhead costs here would be a dream low for me. I have a full time studio. This means I pay a building payment, utilities, insurance, employees, taxes, props/backgrounds, equipment depreciation, office expense, advertising and much more. My fixed overhead is $140 an hour. That’s before any lab bills for printing or putting a dime into my personal wallet. It costs me over $1000 to unlock my doors for a day.


  2. November 03, 2018 at 1:01 pm, OtreboR said:

    I think that of the escort is something typical american, I used to be 15 years active fashion photographer and never my model ask me if it was possible to bring an escorte with them even by the first shoot. I think that is who you come over to the model with your introduction meeting, where you explain clearly and transparente how will the shooting find place. As pro photographer you know that during a session wherever in studio or out door, you have to flirt with your model to get the best of them out, woman or man, and if you do it through a natural not pushing way, you will never have problems with your models. Models I work with always want to do I again and refer me to other, who had weird session.


  3. November 03, 2018 at 8:53 am, MindOpener said:

    As an amateur photographer I agree with most of what you say. However retouching is becoming an outsourcing service and is more and more affordable. Some of these retouching services specialize in different area : skin, effects, black & white, color treatments etc …


  4. January 24, 2018 at 1:28 pm, cybercruiser said:

    This article should be required reading by all models on here.

    “No Experience” and “Paid Assignments Only” shouldn’t be a valid combination. Just sayin….


  5. May 31, 2017 at 9:38 am, Allison said:

    Thank you for the informative article. As a model I have some questions though. I understand a studio is not cheap nor is the photographer’s equipment. For a shoot including hair, makeup, wardrobe, and studio, I’m looking around at least $1,000 for a day’s work. I don’t have this kind of money and I feel like I’m stuck never going to be able to afford a portfolio. How many shoots do I need to do to get a well-developed portfolio? How much should I expect to invest in this? Any advice would be appreciated.


  6. May 18, 2017 at 7:18 pm, Vic Stah Milien said:

    Interesting, but I pay my models because they are doing my work for my projects. I would not pay a model to shoot for her portfolio, that makes no sense. I rarely do any TFP work. I make my living on one of prints and have since 2004. Thanks for the article, good read.


  7. May 18, 2017 at 7:08 pm, John Vickery said:

    well done


  8. May 17, 2017 at 6:52 pm, Sastrawan Bali Igp said:

    Let me know for @BaliBoudoir tourist shooting in Bali and beyond island 🙏💐😀


  9. September 09, 2016 at 8:48 am, Bruce Albert said:

    As in any profession the best charges what their market will bare. I started photography with the pre-prep of film choice, lighting, light-modifiers, model’s pose, background, etc. being the base of the iceberg recognized as the “Shoot”. The digital age turned film cameras into rocks so we had to invest in a new technology without conventional benefits, were you one of the first lucky ones to invest In the 1.1Mp Nikon pro DX camera?
    I was a ‘Master Printer’ in the silver and Dektol days, my Omega enlarger with Schneider lenses sits covered as the Epson wines away. In short we have endured a massive financial loss to continue to provide the looks that humanity has cherished regarding the perception of the conditions of life


  10. September 08, 2016 at 8:02 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

    Sorry, but your figures are WAY LOW! I don’t know ANY photographer, with a business and a store front or at least a studio, that will work for even MY LOW $800 “Day Rate”
    [$500 “Half-Day” rate]. And that figure would be MUCH higher if I didn’t have my studio in my home [no extra rent to pay out- neat, huh?]. I have over 40 years professional experience, was initially mentored by a PPA portrait photographer, have several years formal schooling, plus an On-Line seminar in both Portrait AND Wedding photography. With an “On Location” job, I show up with a minimum of $15,000 to $20,000 worth of equipment [and in only ONE med-large, but still capable of being carried, camera case]. Considering I save time on a studio shot, I profit more there. As the article so aptly explained, there was OVER an hour in checking out each piece [I arrive with duplicates of camera bodies, flash units, and close/over lapping lenses]. Then there is the necessity of charging ALL related batteries [NO- it doesn’t require my constant attention, but each camera has TWO batteries in the external base [that’s 4] one flash has an external ‘Super’ battery [now 5], and the back-up flash has 5 AA cells [total of 10]. I usually spend 1½ hours prior to setting out. I actually consider myself UNDER PAID! However, I really enjoy my work- and working. Makes me feel ‘Productive’ . . . plus how many men can say they have pleased over 3500 women? Wedding photos, people!


  11. September 08, 2016 at 2:37 pm, Dinar said:

    First, 99.9% of the models on MM are flakes. And that’s a fact !
    Also, Models in these days think it is obvious the Photographer’s Job must be free (TF). It is very rare that a Model on MM will select a Pro Photographer and actually pay for a photo shoot….


  12. September 08, 2016 at 12:59 pm, Vlad Drac said:

    4 hours to retouch the first shot? lol
    It can’t be the skin, that’s for sure


  13. September 08, 2016 at 12:45 pm, Daniel Bauer said:

    ehm, why do you feel you have to justify your price? Feels kind of strange to me. Does your garage explain you that they need expensive machines, pay taxes and staff to clean the lavatory? So, why do you?

    If you would ask me why I charge you this price, I’d say, because this is my price. As simple as that.


  14. April 28, 2016 at 4:34 pm, lynn bambrough said:

    How did this become a discussions about models bringing escorts? Lol


  15. April 23, 2016 at 7:55 am, Photone Photography said:

    The photographers and the big majority of professional models do know these. You should post that type of articles where you can educate clients. Those are the people that question the pricing. Otherwise, posting on a photographers forum doesn’t take it any further than a consolation.


    • May 13, 2016 at 8:21 am, DavidBickley said:

      ModelMayhem is for more people than just photographers.


  16. April 22, 2016 at 6:39 pm, Al Pike said:

    Regarding TFP shoots. When a non-professional experienced
    photographer (50 years) does a TFP shoot they pay the same for their equipment,
    but cannot write it off as a business expense, when they rent studio time they
    cannot it write off as a business expense, the software they use to process
    images cannot be written off as a business expense, the same for the insurance
    they pay to cover their equipment and mileage traveled for a photo-shoot so models
    be considerate when they do a TFP shoot for you as well.


  17. April 20, 2016 at 5:18 pm, Eddie Cotillon said:

    TOTALLY Agree!!!!!! They want your work but are not willing to pay for it….. Not happening!!
    Lets also add the Years in MAJOR ART Schools and the Tuition and time dedicated to be an established Profession. Also the numerous Pro-Photography Seminars invested into our craft.
    Would you tell a Doctor, Lawyer or any established Business professional that they should not charge them for their services? Sounds Crazy but it’s the same thing when you ask a Professional Photographer who doesn’t TFP.
    I have done numerous trade for publications together with established Model Agencies, Make Up Artists and Stylist’s, knowing that we knew that the images were going to help our business in increasing our current working resume and possible increase in paid leads and projects. But that decision is in the professionals that are involved not the other way around. “GREAT ARTICLE”!!!! Will be quoting some of it’s contents on my next Professional Fashion lecture. 🙂 Thanks for the Share!!!!!


  18. April 20, 2016 at 12:59 pm, Eric Sink said:

    This is perfect. I don’t think a lot of models realize the amount of work a photographer has for each photoshoot they have.


  19. April 20, 2016 at 12:56 pm, Anthony Papagallo said:

    I love the amateur photographer who think models should be grateful to work with him while his portfolio consists of photos of upturned oil drums and squirrels taking a sh+t on a tree trunk, talk about not getting it.


  20. April 20, 2016 at 12:17 pm, Grey Shades said:

    The above estimates relative to photographer prep may be conservative. For example, scouting locations often involves getting permits or permission to use the locations and that can take many, many hours over days or weeks. If the model or client is on a tight budget, expect the results to suffer. Simple economics.


  21. April 20, 2016 at 12:11 pm, nolcon said:

    The thing that bugs me the most is that I’m a professional published many times (even the cover of Penthouse) photographer of 32 years full time photography and some models can’t see the value in a TFCD with me. Some will say, (mostly with less than 5 photo in their port) “I don’t work for free…”. Well Shazamm girl… I don’t either! The good thing is there is always another model who recognizes this value and will work with me.


  22. March 14, 2016 at 5:13 pm, TrushABC said:

    I would really re-examine your photography business. What you are billing, your expenses, and what your margins are. The best photographers.. the ones best at what they do, do much better when it comes to their net rate after expenses. Your margin is very low for the business you are in if that really is your margin.


  23. December 10, 2015 at 11:37 am, Márcio Silva said:

    I have 5 years of experience shooting models, and I know its not much (but then again, I know I’ve had my share of photoshoots). I get a smile on my face when a young model without too much experience says she has a 50 Euro Cachet (thats around 60 $) for a simple photoshoot. I mean, I give them a ride from, and back to her street and am willing to send them the photos (half of the original resolution) with Dropbox or something, and they nag. The good side on this: its a kind of a “filter” to stand clear of such “models”.


  24. December 10, 2015 at 1:58 am, Athletic Imagery said:

    Not all photographers are businessmen. I have been there, scrapeing and taking every job I could to pay the bills. I hated it and lost my love for photography. As an artist, photography is a passion, not a job. I dont want to deal with all the financial bs. I just want to creat art and maybe publish a book or two. And just because I dont make a living with my photography doesn’t make my work any less professional or high quality. Many of the greatest artists in history died unknown and poor only for their geniuse to be discovered centuries later.
    Just because I prefer to pay a model to create the images I imagine and work with realisticly affordable good quality equipment doesn’t tmake me any less a photographer.
    If anything, As a creatively artistic photographer I feel my images are far better than most business photographers who just put out the same old boring glamour shots.
    You want to be a businessman. Awesome, good for you. There is room enough for businessmen as well as artists. But dont think or imply that I or other artists are anything less than professional photographers just because we would rather do TFP or pay a model to create our art.


  25. December 09, 2015 at 1:36 pm, Marc Medios said:

    I charge for both times: shoot and processing. Naturally, in a bundle.


  26. December 31, 2014 at 12:53 pm, Lu said:

    Great post!!!


  27. December 07, 2014 at 8:33 pm, D. Brent Walton said:

    Here’s an excellent tool to calculate your cost-of-doing-business


  28. December 07, 2014 at 8:31 pm, D. Brent Walton said:

    As a professional photographer, I have capital investment, monthly expenses, as well as on-going training. Part of those monthly expenses include insurance and other expenses most models are probably unaware of. As a businessman, I know what my cost-of-doing-business is. When I charge for my work, my goal is to make a profit as well as cover my cost-of-doing-business. Anyone who balks at that can find some guy-with-a-camera who will do it for free.


  29. November 26, 2014 at 10:57 am, MRowlos said:

    all good points but you said nothing about THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON – the photographer’s art and vision – THAT is what you are mainly paying for. And by posting articles like this you are propagating and cultivating the notion that a photographer’s eye and vision is worthless and that it’s only about time and equipment. THE ART IS THE MOST VALUABLE THING. rant over.


    • November 30, 2014 at 3:18 pm, DavidBickley said:

      Thank you for reading the article fully. It seems you missed the key point you are complaining about:

      “Not to mention the sheer talent that many photographers bring to the table. Creativity has value. We are the best at what we do, and we charge what we deserve to make.”


  30. November 26, 2014 at 9:06 am, Hazzard said:

    Here’s a new one for me recently. The model wanted me to give her the RAW files so she can try to edit them in Photoshop and do what I do. I spent years in school and perfecting my art as a Photographer. Mastering light is hard its much more the editing for my work. I told her that’s like me going back to a painter and saying “You know what? It is a beautiful peice of art but I want the canvas to try and make my own like yours”


  31. November 26, 2014 at 4:36 am, Stan Foxworthy said:

    Very well written David! I have been dealing with this for more than a couple of decades. I would like to add that most models (and most people in general) don’t even have a clue about business expenses that are on top of all of what you have already listed. General liability insurance, business license(s), accounting fees and location overhead (where you operate from) are just a few more to consider. I would also add that pressing the shutter button accounts for far less time, more like around 10% if we are lucky (for those of us that function as a business).
    Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving and an enjoyable holiday season!


  32. November 25, 2014 at 10:53 pm, Phil Kaos said:

    Well written. Thanks for posting it.


  33. November 25, 2014 at 10:30 pm, Paul Bellaby said:

    I will admit I am not a pro at photography and I am probably not the one to really comment on high grade work that photographers and pro retouchers can do with all the experience and money under their belt that they have eventually come to get with hard work but this entire article is not seeing the entire picture and its only by reading all your comments you get to understand the problem fully, although people will deny and argue it until its pointless. There is photographers who can take an amazing shot and get lots of praise for his work but makes no money from it, after some time doing that it gets very frustrating and you begin to wonder why go through all that trouble when you not making any money. You then see that a photographer has spent a good 10 years building up his business through hard graft, earned lots of money and can afford to do things that only the smaller frustrated man wishes he could do, too see a no name person earn more money and get more fame in a shorter period of time for doing something that took them half the time. Both these people have something in common, they or victims to the system, a system that has become quite neurotic. I could charge less money to produce some photographs that I think was suitable for any model and I really think the model would like what I produce but if they or not in a agency are have contacts are work with a photographer who has contacts, then those photos you produce for them only end up as just good photos and nothing more. Agencies don’t like outsiders for the very reason many of you have pointed out, they take photos with tablets, phones and then move on to bridge cameras and so on, all while charging much less than the pro photographers (undercutting them) for most part the quality of work shows, lots of noise and poor quality through out and not suitable for printing but for photographers who don’t classify them self as a photographer but more a artist then they really try to hone their talent and want to be seen so that they can improve and create even more but those guys or held back by the agency who often see them as leeches. This is a vicious cycle that goes around and around while we all blame each other and different things for faults that honestly we have no control over. At the end of the day you could be an amazing photographer or model but you will not make it unless you have the money and the network, its really that simple. Its high time the people with the money who have safely stuck to what they know all these years, take a chance on the smaller guys/girls and invest money into smaller places and invest in possible future careers that some people truly need and deserve.


    • November 30, 2014 at 3:20 pm, DavidBickley said:

      Unfortunately MMedu hasn’t given me a way to update this piece with the information that would make my points clearer. As much as I would like to change a few things, I apparently can’t.


  34. November 25, 2014 at 8:38 pm, Tom Caldwell said:

    I am glad to see someone can put it like an accounting equation. Business is business and wannabees need to get commercial as well. Everyone with a camera is a photographer and anyone with good looks is a model. But only the professionally minded are going to survive. If you are a wannabee you have to give something to get started and the only cheap photographers in business are wannabees themselves.


  35. November 25, 2014 at 6:31 pm, Dave S said:

    i always thought is was funny to hear models mention photographers being creepy maybe they need to remember the professional aspect and not do business with the obvious porn photographer. New models making demands are funny they should be humble until they establish themselves


  36. November 25, 2014 at 4:34 pm, Will said:

    Actually, nobody really spends 5 hours on selection and basic edits for a 5 hour shoot, ever

    All the hours have been exaggerated to justify the costs, why not just admit that photographers charge so much simply because they can?

    I am a full time photographer and I shameless say I earn well over $200 per hour. And no, the extra time spent on shoots don’t bring that down to $30.

    It is true photographers charge a lot, and the main reason is that most professional photographers are business owners, and they have to deal with a lot more than a typical 9-5’er, a lot more stress and a lot more is at stake if they screw up. They have mortgages, mouths to feed, and as a small business, the income is usually unstable.

    Therefore, photographers need to overcharge to make up for the weeks that they don’t have any work.

    This is all understandable. And if models or clients don’t want to accept that, feel free to hire part timers whose expenses and costs are even less. I have a friend who shoots weddings for $1500 which is below industry average and gets sprayed by a lot of professionals in the industry, but since he has a day job, he couldn’t care less.

    But all in all, if you are trying to justify your price by breaking down hourly rates rather than the artistic value of your work, then you’re obviously not quite there yet


    • November 30, 2014 at 3:22 pm, DavidBickley said:

      Given the type of work I am paid to do, the hours spent are conservative at best. I explain the cost by the expenses involved solely because those facts are the ONLY aspects of our business that are not subjective.


  37. November 25, 2014 at 3:50 pm, 808independent said:

    You charge what you can get away with. Top-name photographers can charge a lot because you are buying the name, the experience, the look. Does that mean their work is better than a no-name photographer? No, not necessarily. I am sure there are some up and coming photographers that shoot dynamite portraiture, but they don’t have the name or buzz yet, so they charge what they can get away with. It is not about your equipment or time per se; it is about the perception of your abilities and your ability to market yourself. It is no coincidence that many successful photographers are charismatic and have a certain mystique. If Pablo Picasso could rise from the dead and scribble a person’s face on a piece of paper, it could fetch thousands. Not because he is a zombie, but because he is “famous.” Is his drawing better than the one you could make? Probably not, but he is Pablo Picasso and marketing himself and his name as such. You are just you, and unless you’ve built up a name for yourself, you are not going to be able to charge as much.


  38. November 25, 2014 at 2:05 pm, Michael Cashaw said:

    Thank you, thank you.


  39. May 29, 2014 at 11:32 pm, Manual Settings said:

    I have read many of the responses here. The way I sum it all up to a client is, “You’re not paying me for the 2 hours it takes me to shoot. You are paying me for the 20 years it took me to LEARN how to shoot.”


  40. January 04, 2014 at 12:04 pm, Hengyan Chen said:

    can someone answer me this question? i’m new in working for model agency.they asked me to shoot portfolios for their models. they gonna pay me $100 per model. 200-300 raw images. 20 for retouching. includes make-up. does it seem right? i have to pay my MUA $50 per model. shoot about 2 hours on each model. 20 pics gonna cost me at least 1h to retouch. it doesn’t seem right, does it?


  41. June 05, 2013 at 10:20 am, j7apple said:

    Perhaps the writer could tell us why studios feel after all you wrote to still charge $100 for an 8×10 …Trust me, after all the purchases, the photographer is making double or triple everything you just wrote. Spare the pauper type writing..


  42. May 21, 2013 at 11:14 am, robk said:

    In the example you’ve described here who owns the copyrights? (Since you’re analyzing this in terms of the effective hourly wage, it sure sounds like this is a “work for hire” where the client owns the copyrights. Is that the case?)


    • May 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm, DavidBickley said:

      No, handling copyright costs is beyond the scope of this article. We assume here that the photographer retains the rights but licenses to the client on a personal use basis or in the case of publication a limited run (one issue).


      • May 31, 2013 at 1:39 pm, robk said:

        Value received from licensing copyrighted work may be out of scope, but it’s hardly irrelevant (unless you don’t license your photos to 3rd parties). Omitting that part of the equation is a bit intellectually dishonest (imho).


  43. April 13, 2013 at 7:45 am, Matt Dunn said:

    Great article David. It is obvious you understand this biz in a way few do. Too bad many of these kids think who they are or what they look like is so special that you cannot do your concept without them. If they all knew how replaceable they were they would snap to attention and jump to the head of the line. Kudos!!!


  44. April 12, 2013 at 12:37 pm, Jim said:

    David does a good cost description, but doesn’t even touch on the cost of a current computer system and software, constantly needing updating to process the photography. Nor the cost or time to advertise in trade publications or find clients.

    If you work in a major city like Los Angeles, you have thousands of professional photographers competing for just hundreds of clients. You’ll spend a year trying to land a major account, servicing it, then come to find they only do (1) advertising shoot a year, where you’ll never recoup the time you’ve spent to get and service that 1-day shoot, once a year.

    A photographer really needs to find or create and specialize in their own niche market.

    Don’t waste time working with amateur models as a business, its not profitable. If they are attractive enough, they’ll be discovered or can walk into an agency and get signed immediately. Let the agency teach them and tell them what to do, and tell what photographers to contact for test shoots.

    The most fustrating thing for me as a pro photographer booking models on ModelMayhem -I’ve done some 10 years now for tighter budget jobs, or to try and catch an aspiring supermodel on their way up
    • Even if you are contacting a “pro’ models on ModelMayhem for a paid shoot, 80% won’t respond or tell you they are busy.
    • Because they are booking direct, because they are either inexperienced amateurs, or even with a pro model and their agency calls in the meantime to send then on a booking or casting, you can’t count on a Mayhem model showing up for your important job, if they have something else they’d rather do. It doesn’t take more than 1-2 times of a model not showing up while you, your client and makeup artist are left waiting in studio – that you realize if you want to stay in business you need to work with professional agency models and experienced pro models. Agency models who don’t show up for jobs get dropped by their agencies.


  45. April 12, 2013 at 10:50 am, pixeldave said:

    I’ve been a commercial/fashion photographer for my entire professional
    life. Some time back, a client was surprised/unhappy at my price for a
    cover shot image license. He questioned me “How long did it take to make this image?” I answered honestly “36 years.”


  46. April 12, 2013 at 10:28 am, Red Eyed Flies said:

    “If you don’t have enough faith in yourself to invest in your dream, why would anyone else?”

    Thank you so much, this whole article made my month…


  47. March 20, 2013 at 11:23 am, A.J. Scalzitti said:

    I was OK until the part about capital costs and the cost of doing business. Nobody cares what any business spends to be in business. Sure it impacts your costs, but its still the final product that matters end-of-story. All though history we have had products and services that were too expensive to produce, or at least the market for them did not justify the costs.

    Its the same with photography, the market has an amount it is willing to pay based on quality and perceived value. Its your job as a small business owner to control costs and make a profit, you just can’t simply increase prices due to mismanagement.


    • March 23, 2013 at 10:54 am, DavidBickley said:

      The point was to shed light on the “why” because the question comes up all the time from people new to the industry.

      As I said though, what you are ultimately paying for is the photographer’s ability to make a great image. In the end it’s that simple.


  48. March 20, 2013 at 8:24 am, OhMyGorgeous! said:

    LOL .. I don’t charge enough! That will change. 🙂


  49. March 20, 2013 at 8:15 am, Tom Hurlbut said:

    Nice article David. People just don’t realize what it takes to do what we do! Thank you.


  50. March 19, 2013 at 10:06 pm, André said:

    Well, this article did generate a lot of comments!

    While I think this kind of article is good in making understand that there are a lot of costs involved for the photographer and that the actual money the photographer gets is much less than the amount paid, I think it is wrong to base the price on costs.

    The price is based on the market and on the relative value of the photographer in the market. Obviously, the photographer has to take costs into consideration and make sure he does make a profit, but his price should not be based on his costs but on how much others charge and the client’s tolerance. Like in any other business.

    In other words, the photographer should not have to justify his prices based on his expenses but on the quality of his work, the pictures certainly, but also his professionalism and his ability to deliver quality on time. That’s what the author referred to as “visual style and what they can do for your career”. That’s the only thing that should count in the price determination and the angle that should be taken when justifying the price.

    I don’t have a lot of experience doing commercial photography but I do have a lot of business experience. I don’t see how it should be different…


    • March 23, 2013 at 10:53 am, DavidBickley said:

      “However, what you are really paying for are the years of practice it
      takes to make the images that you receive possible. Not to mention the
      sheer talent that many photographers bring to the table. Creativity has
      value. We are the best at what we do, and we charge what we deserve to

      Of course price is determined first by the cost of doing business and then by demand and market tolerance. Unfortunately a proper breakdown of that is too far beyond the simple scope of this article.

      You are absolutely correct though.


  51. March 19, 2013 at 6:06 pm, Mike said:

    Show me any model whose investment of make-up, work-outs and wardrobe comes anywhere close to the photographer’s investment of schooling, workshops, cameras, lenses, lighting, computers, software, pre and post production time, advertising, etc.

    What part of this equation does any model NOT get? (or ask your escort).


  52. March 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm, Cassy Athena said:

    this was a GREAT article. very well said. People really do underestimate the amount of time that goes in pre and post production of a photograph. thanks for posting


  53. March 19, 2013 at 4:59 am, tensilverdollars said:

    Ho Ray! Someone actually said it and MM actually posted it. Finally…..

    And yes people a pro camera costs 3-5+ grand they are the low end pro models not mentioning the 15-40k high end models.
    I must drive slow because it can take 1 or 2 days or even more to find a perfect location.
    Yes my home studio has 5k in lighting.
    Most photographers at your level would not consider $500 dollar headshots.


  54. March 19, 2013 at 12:42 am, Frenchstudio said:

    I do hope that models would understand!!!!


  55. March 18, 2013 at 6:31 pm, Stephen said:

    Efficiency goes a long way. Hearing this same old paradigm about how photography is hard work or a stressful job is getting old. Photography should be kept linear and simple. I shoot weddings as my own boss part time and there is nothing at all to complain about because the pay is fantastic for the amount of time that goes in to it. If “arranging” a photo shoot takes 4 hours, perhaps the photographer should figure out how to be more efficient. If selecting/editing the best photos from a shoot takes more time than the shoot itself… well, perhaps the photographer should figure out how to be more efficient.

    It is an easy and relatively stress free job with a wide range of pay. I can’t understand why so many photographers complain about the “rigors” of their work.


    • March 23, 2013 at 10:47 am, DavidBickley said:

      Weddings and commercial jobs are two different animals. It’s very common to have to run several different versions of the same image for approval from the client. Many times the retouching is completely different for each. That time adds up fast.

      I don’t mean to minimize what you do, that’s not my intent. Just giving some perspective.


  56. March 18, 2013 at 9:37 am, Pakio said:

    A photographer will charge high prices for his photos, because they are good. Period. Who cares how much you spent in your camera or how many hours took you to edit the photos? If they are good, no one should care if your camera cost you 20$ in Ebay, and spent just 5 min editing. If they are bad, they dont worth paying for, and it does not matters if you use a Leica S2 and spent 8 hours in front of the computer.


    • March 23, 2013 at 10:44 am, DavidBickley said:

      Like I said: “What you are really paying for are the years of practice it
      takes to make the images that you receive possible. Not to mention the
      sheer talent that many photographers bring to the table. Creativity has
      value. We are the best at what we do, and we charge what we deserve to
      make.” That is the ultimate point, the rest is just an insight into costs of doing business for perspective’s sake.


  57. March 17, 2013 at 8:33 pm, Ross said:

    The concept is really very simple. If you take a person that works at an office, bar, gym, etc. they are generally not paying for any of their tools for the job, often only offering a service and also do not have to take the time to find their clients, pay for healthcare, insurance, etc. If you were to ask them why they charged people for their time, it would be a simple answer. It’s no different with photography. People often get paid for their time exclusively. Self-employed people have their time and all the other remaining expenses as well. Easy!


  58. March 16, 2013 at 10:28 pm, Oellort said:

    Your points are valid, but only 2 of the pictures you showed looked like they were worth the shoot. The others looked poor. If you’re going to choose the best, CHOOSE THE BEST. If that was the best, sorry…


  59. March 16, 2013 at 2:05 am, Eckered said:

    Do you love the job Miss Model/MUA/Photog/rigger/whatever? Negotiate yourself into a win. Your skill and expertise and other intangibles will get you to the 1/60 of performance. After that, everything is exposed as either worth it or not.


  60. March 15, 2013 at 4:55 pm, Rasa said:

    This article is so informative. Read most of it. Did U mention, I could have missed it – the ARTISTIC TALENT OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER? Put it all aside, if the photographer has great talent, it’s hard to put a price on that. I mean U could be a Van Gogh or a Picasso or a Klimpt. That is a stretch way above basic costs of paint & supplies, time, location. THE TALENT OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER IS BEYOND IMMEDIATE PRICE, HOW DOES ONE RATE IT? But I do have to add here, I do not charge my splendid models to shoot them. I get so much joy out of the work, their presence, & the beauty of the images, no matter how much time, effort & aggravation I put into it, to me, it’s still worth it. I learned by my mistakes of last year – do not buy them tickets or send advances. Lost a lot of money on that. This year I’m doing trade, let’s see if I succeed.


  61. March 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm, vivendi studio said:

    Best post ever, I ran into the same situation with a newbie model who complain that for her to drive in traffic and she get “only” 2 pictures was too much. Why is it that these arrogant people don’t think beyond their self. As a photographer I have to pre-concept, get studio, setup lighting, work with MUA, get wardrobe, drive 1.5 hrs each way to arrive ontime (which she was late for 2 hours), clean up the studio afterward, do the post process and deliver 2 best images of her life within 48 hours. Thanks for explaining it all in details.


  62. March 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm, photofool said:

    Its not just the lighting, its about our post processing and equipment too. I have had bubbly models who want the famous beach sunset shot, the salt air will start to eat at the camera and that is not all, permits to shoot on the beach etc. Its not just the lighting but also color correction after the fact. Studio rental as well as digital correction software. This is not your mom taking photos( which I cannot stand moms who take photos at night with children in front of christmas lights without a flash and not even a night setting) of you outdoors and you are paying for experience as well as post production. Would you ever ask a famous singer artist to give you free tickets to a concert, you can try but I doubt you will get anything free.


  63. March 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm, Anastasios said:

    Well said but at a wrong audience. I am new to MM but I see that 90% consists by amateurs and wannabes who know nothing about the industry but have a critical opinion about everything.
    Great works David, I checked your site!


  64. March 15, 2013 at 7:23 am, Alexey Sky said:

    I love this article and the examples. Too bad David does not have portfolio here!


  65. March 15, 2013 at 2:55 am, Beryl O'Connor said:

    Great info and spot on~


  66. March 14, 2013 at 6:33 pm, Brina said:

    Your box is 8 grand with no glass?
    What are you shooting with???


    • March 23, 2013 at 10:37 am, DavidBickley said:

      I shoot with a Canon 1Ds Mark III and recently added a Hasselblad 40 to the bag.


  67. March 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm, Wes said:

    I like this article for it’s very well written. Aside from the humorous remarks provided below by others (freaking priceless for I’ll agree with them), I appreciate the time you took to project your knowledge to the masses. Although as a college student surviving off a budget and a GPA, I’ll be darned if I have $10,000 away for I look for $10,000 in scholarship money alone.

    Nice article Mr. Bickley


  68. March 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm, Bob Lewis Photo said:

    great article. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I know that time cost money and that’s no joke


  69. February 20, 2013 at 9:50 am, Ronnie Smith said:

    I have to disagree on cameras there. The Canon Rebel series are pretty good and the differences between a t2i and 5d are minimal if any. Getting technical some ad agencies still require film instead of digital in some cases. It all depends on who you go with in my opinion. In the end its really not about the camera, but about the photographer. Getting techy again you can turn a simple crop sensor camera into a high end one by hacking it. What really matters is the glass and the photographer in itself. Crop sensors actually give you more bang for your buck. One you got the extra zoom and two you can put a full frame lens on a crop sensor. Rumor has it too that crop sensors are going to fade out soon though and all become full frame at much reduced prices.


    • March 23, 2013 at 10:39 am, DavidBickley said:

      Of course there are a lot of exceptions to what I said but the point is to address the average operating costs. Ultimately as I stated though “in the end you are paying the photographer because of their visual style and what they can do for your career.”


  70. July 26, 2012 at 5:19 am, Julian said:

    Great Article!!! I agree with your costings David. As the husband of a professional photographer (Rikki HIbbert), I see how all the prep takes up time, not to mention the post production and suppliers. Often it is impossible to tell how many images you will receive after a shoot.


  71. May 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm, Taboomodel said:

    How come no one has seriously factored in financially what the model goes through.  It has been all talk of time and expense of the photographer.  I am a model and a photographer and I know for a fact that it costs just as much for the model as it does the photographer.

    gym membership
    gas mileage
    depreciation of vehicle driving to and from shoots
    expensing a mua if one is not provided

    Unless that spectacular photographer is not only going to give me amazing images that make me money

    The money I spent on the photographer and maintenance/mua for the shoot.

    The model puts out more money then the photographer.

    So, in actuality as a finance person – as a model – unless I get hired by my promotional agency to do gigs – I am out money and have made NO PROFIT.

    So, it’s a catch 22.

    I have scouted areas for shoots- my time, my driving around
    Doesn’t take long, especially if you are driving from somewhere and see a location or think of a place that would be cool to shoot at.
    Equipment – that is photographer personal preference – and the photographer doesn’t necessarily need the top of the line stuff to shoot.
    Editing…depends on artist and how much time or how good they are at their trade.

    Just saying


  72. April 24, 2012 at 7:57 pm, Frank Lee said:

    Ha, everybody wants your money kids, and way more people want to be full-time photographers than can be. Get quotes from as many good ones as possible and then squeeze those balls till you get the best price you can. Let ’em go cry on the internet when you’re done, you don’t have to care.


  73. March 22, 2012 at 3:58 am, Estella Heuslein-Photography said:

    Oh and until I got on MM. I had never heard a model complain about that. For a short time I worked as a photographer and makeup artist at a talent agency. Makes perfect sense to me.


  74. February 17, 2012 at 2:30 am, Agent said:

    You get what you pay for.


  75. January 25, 2012 at 4:42 am, IM JUST SAYING -.- said:

    Can I just say…… anyone who spends more than an hour on a basic image is an idiot?


  76. January 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm, DiscustedPro said:

    Everyone thinks they can get someone to do it for free.
    Pro cameras and Prosumer equipment should only be sold to someone with a college degree in that field. A professional.


  77. November 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm, RWA-real world advise said:

    Simply put….millions upon millions of people own cameras (and cameras sophisticatedly designed to take the best photos with the least amount of technical expertise). Yet only a very small handful of people can consistently take high quality, visually encapsulating photographs. That should tell you something!!!

    If you want a more in depth view on this matter continue reading….

    I didn’t read every post, but I think it’s really funny how no one mentions usage. That is probably the biggest determinant of price in many cases. That’s why someone shooting a catalog that is going out to 100,000 people and is directly responsible for pulling in revenue is making way more money than someone shooting little Johnny’s birthday party.

    Has anyone ever heard of advertising rates?…or Fotoquote for that matter? Not that it is the bible or anything but nowhere in that program is there a determining factor of time to decide price. Each photographer has a different working method and it’s is up to the photog to figure out how much time it will take to capture that image and what his/her time is worth. It may take someone 5 minutes to snap an image that no one will ever identically capture again, hence adding even more value to it. If you can capture that one of a kind, impactful image, it doesn’t matter how long it took, the value is the same as if it took 4 days. Your technical ability may allow you to judge and set-up the necessary factors to take a shot in minutes that someone else may just be waiting for days for the right scenario of factors to come together.

    That is where expenses come in….& yes, expenses/overhead absolutely matters. Have none of you ever seen or produced a commercial invoice? I just watched Dan Salinger speak about how he turns a $500 editorial day rate into $10,000 to cover the costs of his camera, rentals, assistants, insurance, electric bills, etc and have a few dollars for his pocket. We have to pay for the $8000 camera somehow. Plus have a few bucks left over to spend on (amongst other things) insurance, computers, programs, and MARKETING!!

    You may decide (get lucky) to hire a photographer that does an astounding job with very little expenses but that is only because he/she either got very lucky or they have a specific, honed talent and style that allows him/her to do so, which usually takes years of practice and tons of technical expertise. Either way, that person is a bit of an anomaly themselves and most photographers who produce high quality images need high quality equipment, resources, and talent around them. And they need to promote these talents to the right people, which costs A LOT of money!!!

    That’s why you models pay what you pay. If you want good promotion/marketing, you pay for good photographers. That’s why companies spend millions on advertising campaigns…it keeps them successful no matter how bad their products are. Shit, the Prius killed a bunch of people and it still is a highly sought after car. McDonald’s makes people obese and very ill yet they still have billions of dollars in sales every year. Why?…expensive advertising & branding.

    Many of the models on this site need all the help they can get, so paying for quality photography that actually makes you look pretty…or at least kinda pretty… is much more valuable to you then some creep in their mom’s basement with a crappy camera and little understanding of how to use it, or how to light subjects, or what clothing is the most flattering and stylish…and you end up looking like a plump piece of trash with poorly done make-up, bad clothes and mom and dad’s rusty washing machine peeking out in the background…and the only place you can use that photo is on your model mayhem port and the only work it gets you is other creeps asking if you will get naked for tfcd.

    If you have eyes, a half ounce of common sense, and drip of aesthetic you should be able to decipher for yourself why photogs charge what they charge? Granted, there are some very talented photogs and models on this site, there is a TON of absolute crap!!!! Look around this site for a while and then look at a few agency represented photographers and tell me who deserves more money…models do the same. If you can’t figure it out, I strongly suggest ending your modeling or photography “career” now!!!!

    Remember…you are only as good as your worst photograph!



  78. November 29, 2011 at 7:54 pm, ralanscott Mayhem #2125874 said:

    Excellent article

    Really clarifies things


  79. November 26, 2011 at 1:18 am, Turnerphotography said:

    When considering fees, let’s not forget the end use of the photograph(s). When I shoot a comp-card for a model, that model’s agency will use those photos to show talent scouts and other photographers the model’s looks and abilities, hopefully resulting in garnering revenue. When I shoot a wedding, the couple will place images in an album or in frames to preserve the memories of their event for (ideally) a lifetime. When I shoot images for a restaurant’s website, the client’s intent for the images is to entice the viewers to visit their venue. When I shoot a bike on a beach for an ad to be placed in magazines with a circulation of tens of thousands of viewers and billboards with tens of thousands of viewers, the client hopes the ad and image will result in generating considerable revenue. The long and the short of it is that people who hire photographers do so because they believe the end product will result in either sentimental or monetary value; thus, the talent of the photographer as well as the value the client places on the image(s) contribute to the fee the shooter sets.

    I think Mr. Bickley’s article does a good job in illustrating a basic break-down of how a new shooter should begin to approach pricing out shoots. But as that shooter becomes more advanced and gathers a larger and more professional client base, he needs to factor in what he will contribute to the value the client hopes to reap.


  80. November 20, 2011 at 6:33 am, Jerry J. Davis said:

    There are many photographers out there with many different backgrounds. Some are overpriced and some who are talented enough to charge big bucks give their time away for next to nothing. Models should look at portfolios and see if the photographs match what they want for their look and their career, and then choose accordingly.


  81. November 19, 2011 at 10:54 am, Panoman said:

    Hey Markman, I laughed myself off of my chair and was rolling on the floor reading your comments.

    Quoting your first statement “I’ll be honest: I tried giving this article a fair chance.” YOU DID NOT. You are comparing yourself making $33k for doing hardly any work and $25k for doing “hundreds of hours” and after each of these you state “I take the money, put it in the bank and move on the next case” To a photographer charging $100 per hour.

    How many of these $25k and $33k jobs do you take on in a year? 10? More? And how many are multi $100k that you “put it in the bank” that you don’t use in your example?
    I heard of a photographer talking to a lawyer about the lawyer’s daughter’s wedding. Mr. lawyer man asked Mr. photographer how come he charges so much. Mr. photographer takes Mr. lawyer to the window, points to a BMW in the lot and says “See that car?” Mr. lawyer says “Yes, that’s mine.” Mr. photographer says “One day, I would like to own one.”

    The point of the article is that $100 per hour sounds like a lot, but, it isn’t when you consider the real expenses. If, like you, you can make $33k for one hour of work(?), no, you don’t have to analyze a budget. You just get into your BMW, or your Audi, or your Lexus, or your Hummer (you own all four because you mood changes) and drive burning up $4.00 a gallon gas just BECAUSE. The photographer drives his only car, a used KIA with over 100,000 miles, and plans out his trips to minimise the miles he drives because at $100 per hour (sounds like a lot), he barely makes ends meet, has no health insurance, teeth that are falling out because he can’t afford to go to a dentist. But, he charges $100 per hour, that’s so much money.

    Do not hire Markman as your liar, I mean lawyer. It is my experience that anyone who says, “I’ll be honest” he is lying somewhere. Was he lying to you before he said he would be honest, or after. “I’ll be honest” were the very first words. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusion about “Honest” Markman.


  82. November 18, 2011 at 4:08 am, SheenaRose92 said:

    I think this article did a really good job in pointing out why they should get paid. But models don’t just show up at the shoot and take pictures and they’re done. They are also working hours on getting ready for the shoot.


  83. November 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm, Photographer said:

    I wish I could offer a solution to this question but all I have is another opinion.

    Photographers should be no different from any other profession in terms of fees based on experience, knowledge and equipment. We must all value our work. As much as we may believe in our abilities, knowledge, creativity and equipment however, like it or not, we are often bound by client perception in terms of the service we provide and the value placed on that service according to their budgets. Indeed, I’ve seen front cover images on some very well known magazines that made me wonder, what happened here?

    Simply put, some clients understand what one photographer brings to the table compared to another and some clients do not. Unfortunately, this holds especially true of any profession that involves creativity. The fees charged by many other professionals are seldom questioned the way the fee of a photographer is; in most cases the fee is just paid. Try negotiating with your doctor or dentist….or even your neighborhood butcher and see what happens. “I know you’re good doc….I can tell by how many sick people are waiting to see you, but do you think instead of charging me your regular rate, you can do it for half off? I’ll only be with you for five minutes; a quick check up and I’m out of here. What do you say?”.

    While it may sound silly, it’s true. However, because the market has become flooded with relatively inexpensive digital camera equipment that can manage fairly nice images even in the hands of a novice, the perception of the masses has shifted dramatically in terms of what they think is a “fair price” for what they need done. In addition, our culture in general has become conditioned to accept lower quality and consequently, lower prices regarding everything we buy; we almost expect it to require replacement in a short period of time. Unfortunately, when the client looks at the results of the “cheap” photographer, they are disappointed. By then it’s too late and it doesn’t necessarily mean the client will pay a higher price next time. In fact, they may expect an even lower price thinking the results from photographer B are not going to be much better than the results from photographer A.

    What to do? Well, hang in there and believe in your work. If you don’t, who will? There are still a lot of clients out there who know the difference. Best Wishes to all.


  84. November 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm, Josh said:

    Whoa, $8000 for camera. mandatory, for commercial?, yeah if your using a Hassleblad. A Canon 5D Mark II is easily $2,000, and can fill a bill board. Do your homework, author. (Imported Camera’s are expensive, yes.)


    • November 16, 2011 at 2:39 am, Rob said:

      He is most likely using a 1Ds mark 3, Those ran pretty close to that much before the Canon 1Dx came out.


  85. November 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm, Josh said:

    I charge less for headshots (no, it doesn’t cover my gear, but..) , because as an actor I know headshots are like hair cuts. Not to say my clients are getting any less bang for their buck. I’m still a pro.


  86. November 14, 2011 at 10:45 am, Dd said:

    The basics of economics is price is set by supply and demand, not your costs. If it costs you $1,000 to do a shoot and nobody is willing to pay you enough to make a profit, you go out of business.

    Lots of entities are willing to do it cheaper…e.g. Glamour Studios and stock photos. The only way to keep your prices high is to give the cutomer what they demand.


  87. November 14, 2011 at 3:55 am, Dave G. said:

    Talking about the basic costs of doing business seems entirely appropriate for this.

    Granted the reason some photographers can command large day rate/creative/photography fees has more to do with style and reputation but the basic expenses and time involved are perfectly fine rudimentary places to start.


  88. November 14, 2011 at 2:42 am, Shotbybarry said:

    Well done David!


  89. November 14, 2011 at 2:22 am, Covermephotography said:

    This should be on the walls of studios with a chairs facing it.


    • November 14, 2011 at 2:24 am, Covermephotography said:

      “With chairs facing it not a chairs…” Apparently I’m too tired from editing. lol


  90. November 14, 2011 at 1:40 am, Jewellsphotography said:

    I agree totally u hit it right on the nail…


  91. November 14, 2011 at 12:18 am, Hannah said:

    I think you did a good job opening people’s eyes to the concept of how much work goes into a photography shoot, but the prices/ expenses you added are not accurate for the common shoot.

    I don’t know anyone who goes out and shoots for 8 hours a day unless they are shooting a clothes catalog in rapid succession or a wedding.

    Basic portrait shoots last around 1-2 hours, fashion up to 4.

    Most clients will provide their own hair/ makeup and looks.

    All you need to do is have the right location and equipment.

    I know many photographers (I don’t know if you can call them photographers) who will just show up with a camera, no assistant, and no lighting equipment and take photos on location. Then they go home and retouch for a couple hours. Nothing fancy, just straight up profit.

    I know other photographers who will put in so much work into the planning and lighting and equipment and makeup, but they will make the same amount as the person who just brought his camera, took some photos, and Photoshopped the heck out of them.

    The money is all about the rep. If you look highly professional and have a good list of clients/ demand, you can start upping the prices. When you first start out, you will probably work for free or pretty close to it.


  92. November 13, 2011 at 11:17 pm, Joe Plummer said:

    They have to charge a lot because photo equipment is extremely expensive!


    • November 14, 2011 at 12:54 am, Hank said:

      If that was the reason, then I would have been shooting for free since years ago, as all of my equipment is now paid for.


  93. November 13, 2011 at 2:58 am, Business_of_Photography said:

    First off I didn’t read all comments here so … in case the points have been made this is my disclaimer. Tree key points to make here (and I just scanned over the main article).

    1.- One of the biggest problems professional photographers have is costing out their
    work and charging appropriately. Photographers tend to undercharge and in a
    community of “cheapos” like MM it’s an augmented effect. I’ve heard the rational
    behind charging / costing breakdowns from many very successful photographers,
    the key point is Yes, just like any business you need to break down all the charges
    and understand what your costs are and where is your profit margin before you
    bid on a project or give a quote to a customer. So from that view point David
    (author here) is correct and most people in MM should pay attention. This is
    the fundamental reason why photography is underpaid, because it’s not quoted
    appropriately. Think about this: A model on MM wants to charge $50 – $100/hr
    a MUAH wants to charge about $50/hr + Kit and travel. Yet the photographer is
    expected to do a shoot for free or for $125 – $150. Pay for the studio, bring all
    the equipment for the 3 – 4 hr shoot and then spend twice as much time on post.
    So David’s assessment and costing breakdown is what I would consider the barely
    minimum unless you’re an amateur or a fool …. which brings us to point 2

    2.- Mark’s idea of any money is good money. Yes, valid point from the perspective of
    anything > $0 is better than nothing. Yet, we are not taking a 33% of a production
    fee. Also , our customers are not well educated about the cost of photography and
    did I already say “cheap”. So , if you operate out of desperation and agree to make
    some money vs fair or good money. What you do is reduce the value of
    photography. I assume that was a key point that motivated the article. Now, on
    the other side. This business runs on word or mouth, referrals, and networking. So
    I may agree ( as a marketing strategy) to lower my rates or do an UnPaid TEST for
    a potential client. But clearly stating this is the way into a partnership and reoccuring
    fairly paid work. I’ve read and been told by true professionals (people shooting
    for top campaigns, editorials, commercial work we would all recognize) that it’s
    more difficult, yet more valuable to understand and learn to say ” NO ” to a
    customer and pass up even a fairly paid job … that to just take anything that comes

    3.- Final point, address to the brief scan I did on Phillipe’s comment. Very valid point,
    yet not applicable to all. You can not limit your rate schedule to a breakdown of
    time, materials, number of prints , number and time of assistants, etc. This
    strategy works for the working photographer. I mean the family, wedding, seniors,
    model port, product photographer …. The guy that works for himself but is still
    trading time for money, looking for an up-sell on the prints, wedding book, or
    extra look … For someone who has transcended that stage or taken the hard road
    to developing a style at the cost of a wider audience … then yes Phillipe is absolutely
    right. You are selling yourself. You are selling your stile, weather it takes 5 minutes
    to nail the shot, or 5 hrs it’s secondary …. the end result is a recognizable identifiable
    “Look” the client is paying for. Or it’s a name … Why does Mario Testino get paid
    $100,000 to do a personal portrait … because it’s the name, the style , the Brand.
    As I said this doesn’t apply to all …

    The conclusion is that weather it’s by the numbers and the business formula, or by a “rough estimate” of quoting and costing, of by Style / Brand based charge … even if many consider it to be overcharged. All photographers, should value their hard work and not under-price it and give it away for free. Those who do it, are harming us all
    and the killing the Professional photographer. Making photography the low end of
    the list of talents on a call sheet because any weekend amateur that can afford a good
    enough camera that will do the hard work on Program mode will sell away a $1200 job for a tenth of the value …

    This is all written within the limit of the MM community which is really not a professional photographers community. So more important than price per 5×7 prints, is addressing licensing fees . A real professional photographer has an agent , that agent has a staff that costs out all the details David talked about in relation and scale to the project, really basics of time and materials, but then negotiates the usage fees which is where the real money is. That is the equivalent of David’s cost per print.


  94. November 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm, Clyph said:

    Crap… mangled that.

    Anyway, in response to Markman, that kind of accounting practice is why so many small businesses and freelancers fail and go bankrupt.

    While it’s true that putting money in the bank is the goal, you’re much more successful at that goal if you know how much time you spend getting work versus doing work, and what your return on investment for different kind of jobs is.

    I’ve been an independent software consultant for years. I used to run my business like Markman: jsut taking whatever jobs I could find and banking the results. Once I started tracking my time and effort, I learned what jobs to take and what jobs to turn down. The result: 50% increase to my bottom line and nearly a 100% increase in my effective hourly rate. It’s also a huge boon to your negotiating and estimating strategy if you know your costs. The key to success is to work smarter, not harder.


  95. November 12, 2011 at 5:35 pm, Clyph said:

    The bottom line: any day I can put money into the bank is a good day. If you want to analyze each individual fee – you’ll reach no logical conclusion nor establish any beneficial formula for which cases to take and which cases not to take. The goal is to put money in the bank. If I wanted to figure out how much money I make per hour, I wouldn’t be self-employed. I’d get a job that pays an hourly salary.


  96. November 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm, UrbanDecayChris said:



  97. November 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm, GW said:

    If you have to explain why you charge so much you probably arent worth what you are charging in the first place….just sayin!


  98. November 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm, Sfglamgirls said:

    This article does a good job of pointing out that there are quite a few more considerations for a photographer to contend with than simply the hours of actual shoot time, many of which some models may be unaware of.

    However, it does a shockingly poor job of explaining exactly how expensive a shoot can be for a photographer, and how much overhead a photographer must account for in his/her fee. It speaks of a shoot and the work it entails only in terms of time spent, without speaking of actual expense of running a business, and puts forth a frankly disastrous business model for a self-employed photographer. Pricing on time alone is an extremely dangerous pricing model because it fails to take into account your real overhead (i.e. equipment costs, rentals, location/studio fees, hiring staff, insurance, etc). If you shoot 15 hours a week, 52 weeks a year (an unlikely scenario), at $100/hr you’d gross $78000 pre-tax. Now, let’s say you own your own studio. Depending where you live, rent on that alone can be $500 a month or $3000 a month — or higher. So right away you’ve cut earning down from $78000 to somewhere between $42000 and $72000. Then there is photographic equipment. Even the most basic equipment setup — one body, 3 high quality lenses, studio lights and stands — would cost a minimum of $6000-$7000. Most pro photographers have closer to $20,000 worth of equipment. They don’t replace it all yearly, but even on a 3 year depreciation schedule, you’re looking at anywhere between $2000 and $7000 a year in photographic equipment costs. And that doesn’t even take into account computers and software, which could easily add another $1000-$3000 per year to the depreciation schedule. So now, after overhead, that $78000 a year has been chipped away to between $32000 and $69000. That’s a HUGE variance to be charging a fee based on time alone. In this scenario, the photographer with the more expensive setup isn’t bringing in enough money or business at $100/hr to actually make a living in a major U.S. metropolitan area. And we still haven’t gotten to paying for MUAs, wardrobe, studio assistants, health insurance for self-employed, equipment insurance, taxes and various other expenses in running a photographic studio.

    One can easily see from this example that even at $100/hr, many photographers would simply be undercharging and pricing themselves out of any reasonable profit. Worse yet, they bring down the perceived value of professional photographic services for ALL photographers, making it harder for professional photographers to price their services at a rate that reflects their true expenses and allows them to make a real living.

    The better model would be to account for ALL expenses in running one’s business (be it large or small), including a modest base salary and divide that by the number of shoots per year one shoots on average. This would be one’s base fee for a shoot. To this a subjective “creative fee” can be added, to account for what you feel is your particular vision/talent/uniqueness etc. In this way, you account for all expenses, salaries, etc. and are also charging for your unique artistic vision.

    This is obviously a problematic formula for a person just starting a business, because you don’t have previous business from which to arrive at an average number of shoots per year, and you haven’t established yourself enough to be able to claim much for your artistic talents. In this case, you set the numbers where you reasonably want them, and build your business slowly to meet those goals. Most likely, this means operating at a loss the first two or three years, but most businesses operate at a loss at the beginning anyway. In the long run, you’ll be a better photographer due to your hard work, and you’ll make more profits in the long run because you’ve taken account of your real expenses.


    • November 23, 2011 at 6:03 pm, David Bickley said:

      While I agree completely I opted to omit those factors due to the wide range of expenses. The costs of equipment rental, studio rental, wages for assistants, etc… will fluctuate to a massive degree based on location alone (even within the same city). Bottom line being that when a client (the intended audience) who may or may not know/care about your overhead wants to know why the rate is higher than they would expect…the easiest breakdown is based on time. It is that way because it is the most commonly misunderstood aspect of our career.

      The average person doesn’t know that we don’t just press the shutter a few times and go home to bathe in money.


  99. November 12, 2011 at 1:16 pm, Timbeckett said:

    There seems to be a lot of criticism for this article, however in life it’s far to easy to complain.

    I think it is a useful feature, but perhaps not for the purposes that it was intended, for someone new to photography or looking to quit their day job in order to follow a full time career in the business it gives some useful reminders as to the costs involved.

    My day job is in Investment banking, and I can assure you that when you work out my hourly rate it has nothing to do with the cost of my Armani suit or expense of the car to work 😉 You charge what you do because people are prepared to pay for it. My value is based on demand for my skills, experience, education, communication ability, likability etc etc. The same is true of my photography, if people like it more than the competition they’ll pay more and if not they wont.

    But as pointed out below the details above basically help someone looking to make the switch work out how much profit they will make.

    I think what it does tell the model is that if you choose someone who’s chosen to mortgage their house in order to secure the mountain of gadgets and high end location think carefully. They’ll at least be charging to cover these costs and is the quality of their photos really worth it…..

    I’m going to end my discussion with a story of working with one of the most talented photographers I’ve ever met, Luis Rafael. It took place at a time when I was still relatively new to photography, having been shooting for less than a year. I arrived with my 3 assistants, mountain of lighting equipment all packaged in my black label luggage and stored on a ‘tour bus’ I’d hired. Luis arrived with an old Mark II and a single lense that was not behaving itself. We shot all day and at the end we looked at the photos, it is a humbling experience but let me tell you his were the more valuable…. it really has nothing to do with the overheads but the skill involved.


  100. November 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm, Musings said:

    Thanks for this. I am going to re-read this and quote it when someone asks. Usually they are slow paying though. That’s my main problem and I just DON’T charge enough.


  101. November 12, 2011 at 11:39 am, Insideyourhead said:

    Let’s for a moment ignore everything that Mr. Lawyer here wrote, clearly he just wanted us to know how much money he makes.
    If photographers made that much on a shoot I bet we wouldn’t care how much what costs and what gear we buy.
    On the other hand I have never had a fixed price on what I shoot…it all depended on a person I was shooting and what I got out of it. Let me explain…A model comes to me and wants a portfolio, I look at her, I like what I see and I know she has a great potential and that agencies will love her (I make a quick test shot and send it to my friend who is a scout and she tells me if agencies would be interested). So I sit down with her and get to know her…build a bond, if you like, and sort of become friends. Most likely I do her shoot for free but we stay friends afterwards.
    This in turn brings me whole a lot more business because she will recommend me to all her friends who think are also going to be models, yet have no hope in hell, to shoot their portfolios. this is where I make money.
    Also this friendship last after she makes it in the fashion world and your name gets around. Doing things like this is as much of an investment as buying a new camera or lights or a computer. It also introduces you to people from the industry and potential clients.
    So my advice is, play it by ear and look for an opportunity in everything (and I don’t mean of sexual kind cause that’s just wrong…here is enough perverts out there posing as photographers to get laid)
    This is a bit of an old principal…you scratch my back and I will scratch yours.


    • November 12, 2011 at 2:40 pm, Markman said:

      I’m sorry. Do you, somehow, think you have ANY clue what my income is -from two hypothetical examples I used in my post? I used the numbers that I used because they were easily divisible by 3 (i.e. “one third”) – not, in any fashion, to share with YOU or anyone else what my income is.

      The fact that you and the author seem to be overlooking is that, in the arts, value has little to do with fixed overhead.

      Let me offer a different example:

      -Two painters, each with a $1000/month studio, who each spend $500/month on canvases and paints are sitting down to decide how much to charge for portrait work.

      The first guy, Joseph Schmoe, decides that –because of the number of paintings he can produce in a given month and given his fixed overhead– he needs to charge $3,000 for the portrait.

      The second guy, whose name is Pablo Picasso, turns to Joe Schmoe and says: “That’s cool but if it’s alright with you, I think I’ll charge $2.3 million for my portraits.”

      Other than that, your post really seems to agree with mine more than the author’s.

      Fees for services for self-employed people, are generally based on far more than the individual person’s overhead costs. There are MANY, MANY factors that go into setting fees. Attempting to break your fee down to an “hourly” compensation package is, contrary to the point made in this article, a silly way to set rates.

      The reason that David LaChapelle gets paid more than I, for his photos, has very VERY little to do with a calculation of hourly rates and even less to do with our respective overhead costs.


      • November 15, 2011 at 8:58 am, Transoptic said:

        What you’re failing to realize is that this is essentially an article to break down basic CODB considerations from a photographer’s perspective.

        Your DEMAND as a photographer, or painter, or sculptor, is what justifies raising your MARKUP, but you first have to consider overhead. In your Picasso example, his fame and stature as an artist doesn’t negate the fact that of that $2.3M portrait, he still pays $500 in materials. If he can’t even cover that, how will he become the Picasso he so desires to one day be?

        The main point of this article was to show it’s not about how GOOD or FAMOUS you are, but about basic costs, because most people reading this article need to understand the fundamentals first. The author didn’t overlook it, he just didn’t mention it, because it’s just not the point.


  102. November 12, 2011 at 10:38 am, Hank said:

    The real answer to “Why do professional photographers charge so much?” is: Because that’s what other people will pay us to shoot, and if you can’t pay us enough that we feel the job is “worth it”, then we don’t want to shoot for you.

    The fuzzy part is “worth it”. If I’m in the middle of a busy streak, I’ll charge more, if I’m slow or bored I’ll take a lower paying gig, but only if I won’t feel like I was taken advantage of.

    Of course you have to pay your bills and then some, but I can usually survive the year after my first few months of jobs. Everything else is for profit, and at that point, I simply charge at least what I need to make the job feel like it was worth it. I don’t want to do any job that I can’t smile through, regardless of how much work or how many hours it takes.

    Good photographers who are also good businessmen should be getting compensated well for their time. If a new client wants us to work for them, they are probably going to have to pay us enough to dedicate some of our market-determined valuable time to them.

    There’s nothing more valuable in life than our time, and I want to spend it doing things I enjoy. And I feel comfortable charging high prices to work, because I am confident that I can get it, if not from this client, then from the next.

    You can break down the job’s pay into hours of work, but I have developed a subjective sense of the amount of effort a job will require, and with that, a feeling that my compensation is adequate.

    In the end, I guess maybe the real answer to the question of why we charge so much is not because of hours spent or equipment bought, but simply because we can. Maybe that makes us a$$holes, but it also means that I can live comfortably on 80 working days a year.


  103. November 12, 2011 at 8:46 am, Star said:

    sometimes I wish people would just understand that there is a real cost of living, that there is retirement, health insurance, student loans. Is my roughly 15,000 hours of experience really worth less than the cost of maintaining my own studio?

    And if we mention equipment, I own one lens and one body. I have amazing gallery 27×40 images, one of which is in a museum, that were shot with a rebel xti and the kit lens. I am happy now to have a 5d mkI and a tamron lens. Makes me feel all fancy.


  104. November 12, 2011 at 2:43 am, Surinder Singh said:

    It’s not the question of just time, as the photographer spend tripple amount of time ( pre-production, shooting & post-production) compare to other professionals as Models, Make-Up Artists, Stylists and to care about two sets of equipments say ( 1. Photographic Equipments – Cameras & Lights and 2. IT Equipments – Computers & Software ) which both are far expensive as compare to equipment used by other professionals in the same field.

    Above all Photography is Art which depends on eye behind the camera.

    An Artist is not paid for his labor but for his vission.
    – James Wistler


  105. November 12, 2011 at 2:34 am, Greg Cobb said:

    I like a lot of this. Some of it is generalizing but I think we still get the picture. Philipe also makes some good points.


  106. November 12, 2011 at 1:53 am, mumeena said:

    Yes, I totally agree…
    People don’t understand. Not everyone who has a camera can claim they are photographers.


  107. November 12, 2011 at 1:31 am, Markman said:

    I’ll be honest: I tried giving this article a fair chance. I think I might have been annoyed, right from the beginning, when MM introduced the author as a member of their “expert community” (I’d not seen that title in previous EDU articles) but was still willing to read through to see what this expert had to say.

    Perhaps I simply have a different outlook because of my day job – but I’ll share my view on the whole “total fee vs. hours worked” thing:

    Some of you may know that I’m an attorney. I occasionally take contingency fee cases. What this means is that I don’t get paid up front and only get paid if the client recovers money (via judgment or settlement.)

    If I go into Court and settle a case, pre-trial, for $100,000, my fee is $33,333.33. If I do that, I take the money, put it in the bank and move on the next case. I don’t stop to figure out how many hours I put into the case. I don’t stop to apportion my office overhead; i.e. to figure out how much of my phone bill, office rent, copier lease, payroll, taxes, insurance, office supplies, utilities . . .etc. went into that fee.

    The next week, I may have to actually go to trial. I can put hundreds of hours into the case and may wind up settling, before verdict, for $75,000.00, out of which, my attorneys fee is $25,000.00.

    That’s a smaller fee for more hours.

    Do I stop and do and figure out my hours vs. expenses on the second case? Nope. Ya know what I do? I put the $25,000 in the bank and gear up for the next case.

    The bottom line: any day I can put money into the bank is a good day. If you want to analyze each individual fee – you’ll reach no logical conclusion nor establish any beneficial formula for which cases to take and which cases not to take. The goal is to put money in the bank. If I wanted to figure out how much money I make per hour, I wouldn’t be self-employed. I’d get a job that pays an hourly salary.

    The author’s business model does not really work for someone who is self-employed. The only thing that’s relevant is how much, at the end of the year, your business is making more money than it’s spending. And, if it’s not making more than it’s costing, then it’s time to find a different business.

    I’ll end my lecture there – other than to point out that the “expert” apparently owes the government a lot of money. He is apparently operating under the mistaken impression that self-employment tax is 13.3% This is something he may want to keep to himself; lest the Federal Government comes calling for its additional 2%.

    This is also the type of blatant misstatement of fact (or violation of law) that the site should probably monitor before presenting these articles to us as “Expert”


    • November 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm, John said:

      I tend to agree with this comment. Rather than evaluating each individual job’s profit margin, I find it better to evaluate all jobs as a whole for the year. Do I have more money this year than I did last year, for example.

      I find this allows me to spend more time making money than figuring out how much I made.


    • November 12, 2011 at 8:17 pm, Dre said:

      Apparently you have no clue how to account for anything and you may already be out of business.

      Regardless, your comment is one of the dumbest things I read in a long time. With the caveat that you many only have yourself and live in your moms basement, then I suppose your comment may have some validity. However, if you have a staff, and office, utility payments, and during the course of business, you are putting 25K in the bank and don’t pay your staff, and other bills, then you probably run a crappy practice.

      Not knowing if you’re earning enough to cover the cost of having said expenses, you’re more then likely doing it wrong. I agree with you on the ‘keeping the 13.3% thing to himself’, however you are completely wrong about the additional 2%. There is no real actual tax percentage that you can say a person or entity must pay without looking at the complete tax situation. One for-profit entity grossing 100K can pay 25% while another for-profit entity grossing the same amount may not have any tax liability will equals 0%.

      Your statement really is one of the absolute dumbest things I read and is the type of blatant evidence proving that an educated person clearly does not indicate intelligence.

      I’ll end my lecture with this – the post was intended to explain to photographers, models, and clients why it cost so much to get photos taken. And lightly touches on some of the expenses involved in running a photography business and why the client has to pay “so much”. It does not cover guys with a camera looking for girls to meet and shoot girls naked because he’s an schmuck attorney with a few extra dollars to foolishly spend. Get a life and get off MM, this is a professional site for professional people. It’s losers like you that make this profession bad for professionals like me.


      • April 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm, ArtfulEric said:

        Uh, hello, self-employment tax is 14% no matter how much you earn, because that’s what the IRS says you must pay. If you work for someone else, you pay 7% and your employer pays 7%; this covers Social Security and Medicare. And I’d presume that a lawyer who makes $25K per case is at least earning more than he can possibly pay for his expenses, unless he only gets a few cases a year. So you just shut it, Dre.


    • November 12, 2011 at 8:43 pm, YouHaveNoClue said:

      I have to agree with Dre… you must be living for free… I have had to hire a lawyer and everything they do is billable even a copy for a piece of paper.. lucky you have a day job and doing photography on a hobbyist basis…


    • November 13, 2011 at 8:46 am, Anonymous said:

      @Markman: Regardless of what you charge, there is still a minimal operations cost. The point of the article was an attempt to explain why a professional photographer charges the rate s/he does. In your rebuttal, you fail to answer the question even for your own profession.

      As for your opinion, regarding the use of the word ‘expert’, that it is a blatant misstatement of fact (or violation of law), is unwarranted. First, let us bring the use into context. The author is introduced as “a member of our expert community” and not merely an expert. Of course you may argue, it is implied; which brings me to my second point. Second, in context, the word ‘expert’ and it’s use here is ambiguous. It is never specified what type of expert the author is. Third, the word expert is defined as, “a person who has comprehensive and authoritative (able to be trusted as being accurate and true) knowledge of or skill in a particular area. Looking at Mr. Bickley’s portfolio, I would say he has comprehensive knowledge of and/or skill in photography which could be trusted; therefore, qualifying him as an expert. I could probably even safely assume he probably even possesses knowledge of and/or skill on what works best for running his business.

      Therefore, before making assertions such as, “that is a blatant misstatement of fact (or violation of law), consider ALL the evidence first. As such statements could potentially be construed as a false spoken statement damaging to the site’s reputation.


    • November 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm, Andrew said:

      Dear Markman,

      You can’t possibly be for real. Far too many fakes on MM. You’re one of them.


    • November 13, 2011 at 10:55 pm, said:

      I like what you are saying here but I understand how he is trying to break down the business for people to understand. He is trying to relate things to the average person. LOL I learned to stop doing such unless I am getting paid to relay such info.
      I run a small business and know if I worried about hourly that I would go insane. You look at overall expense sheet and profit margins end of year. You tweek what you can from year to year and trim what is wasteful.
      Its great to see intelligent conversations regardless


    • November 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm, Ajscalzitti said:

      Well its great that you never figured out the cost of doing business but that is no reason the rest of us should not. I am not saying the article is perfect, but knowing how much you spend to produce is part of running your own business. Otherwise how can you be profitable, just flying by the seat of your pants is not a plan


      • November 15, 2011 at 2:15 am, James said:

        you know time costs you nothing and really isnt that valuble as your trying to make it. In your concepts, as a customer I would outsource all of these duties and only pay you for the product you produce; because you have forced me the customer into that position. I wouldnt care how much time I spent outsourcing you because it would still save me money and my time costs me nothing.

        I just had a situation with a atist I hired to draw a picture. I didnt like it, didnt buy it, and she tried to invoice me a bill for the time she spent. It was a unproffesional drawing and she wanted to charge me by the hour for it. Why would I buy a drawing by the hour? Artists should sell their products and not their “time spent”.


    • November 15, 2011 at 2:08 am, Bubba said:

      I really agree with Markman in his comments. The time for money case really made my stomach churn. The real reason I think has nothing to do with time. Images are valuble and all photographers are not equal. The editing, setting up a shot location, and time behind a camera anyone can do and everyone shouldnt be charging professionals fees for. What a photographer gets paid so well for is his skill, talent, and ability to capture a image.


      • November 15, 2011 at 7:40 am, Transoptic said:

        What you fail to realize is that given ALL variables in shooting fees (equipment, expenses, talent, vision, experience, etc) the ONE constant from photographer to photographer is TIME. However, one pro photographer may be faster and more efficient than another. Even though that equals less time, wouldn’t you agree that’s a valuable asset to charge for?? If one photographer can edit your shoot and deliver photos in half the time as another, which would you consider shooting with?

        Where Markman’s scenario breaks down is, personally I’d rather pay an attorney MORE for having the skill to settle pre-trial than for dragging a case out in court, which requires way too much of my time, nevermind stress management.


        • April 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm, ArtfulEric said:

          But TIME is irrelevant in several areas: the quality of the results, the talent of the shooter, and the importance to the client. Why charge an hourly rate when you can charge based on the importance of the project and the benefit to the client? The hourly rate locks you in, the value-based fee lets you earn what the job and your skill is really worth.


    • November 15, 2011 at 3:49 am, Leosimages said:

      I know a little about the law; including the tremendous amount of time one spends in school and the cost of that schooling; which, in part “justifies” the fee you, et al charge. However, I wouldn’t insult you, et al by getting into a discussion with a group of attorneys about why they charge what they do-as I am not an attorney.

      Now you may own a camera; but keep in mind; Owning one and using in now and then does not a photographer make. Same goes for a hammer and carpenter.

      What I didn’t see argued here (which you can relate to) is the schooling/training a REAL photographer goes through/pays for before reaching a level where he is recognized as a Professional.

      Personally, I began my training in junior high, through Art school- internships, countless hours of “self school,” assisting many skilled professionals, seminars, work groups,professional classes, etc.

      I had to pay and and “pay” for all of that-just like one pays for medical or law school.

      Furthermore, the article was a break-down of WHY he chargers what he does, not a random statement.

      And, as one who knows a little about law, I can say this, what a professional artist/photographer does to prep for a shoot-does during and post session is more work then what an attorney does (on average).

      About 70% of the legal cases handled by attorneys I know, are “the same old thing,” only the names are different. After the initial consultation, their staff does most of the work, the attorney talks to the client/plaintiff/defendant on the phone a few times, signs a few forms, and once in blue moon, actually gets off their ass and goes to court. And for this, they/you charge ridicules fees….Why?

      How do you justify your fees? How do you sleep at night?

      I know when it comes to criminal cases, “you” charge what you do because your client will do anything/spend any amount to stay out of jail, and “you” take advantage of that.

      Professional Artist/Photographers don’t take advantage of models/actors, we give them a quality product/Art-with a style they can’t get elsewhere-which they will use to get paid employment (sort of like going to school to get educated/training so they can use that to get paid employment).

      So one way models should look at justifying the cost of a quality photographer is to see those shots as their “diploma.”

      In closing, if you “don’t stop to figure out how many hours I put into the case” and or, more importantly, your bills, I wouldn’t run around town bragging about that-it makes you sound like a guy who has no idea how to run a business.

      And you’ve certainly proven you have no idea how to work in the photography field.


    • January 27, 2012 at 3:37 pm, Markman's an idiot said:

      @ Markman I read your replay again and I really can’t believe how stupid you are. You are a moron. Don’t have any kids; you’re stupid. REALLY STUPID! You know nothing about anything that has anything to do with anything written in the original article. You especially know nothing about tax law. Grab your mom and the both of you, play in traffic.


      • April 19, 2012 at 8:57 am, Anon said:



    • November 18, 2012 at 9:22 pm, Another photographer... said:

      You seem to try to make a point that the author of the article is figuring out his profit in an unintelligent way that is bad for business, but the thing is the author is NOT doing this for his own benefit in this article, as he most likely doesn’t do this on each job. I highly doubt this is a major part of his “business model.” He is creating an article to combat the constant comments of “you charge THAT much?” and “that’s a outrageous fee!” and “but you’re making $(fill in the amount)$ dollars an hour doing what I do for fun at my friends birthday parties!” I’m sure there are clients who complain when their attorney earns $25,000 for working only what seemed to them like a couple phone calls and a two hour meeting. Even though, typically, you simply deposit your pay check and work hard to look for the next case (not worrying about the dollars and cents at this point), it may be beneficial to explain to the general public (if it became a constant complaint) that you do not pocket all that money.


    • March 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm, Jeff said:

      Excellent point. As you said, put it in the bank and move on to the next job with your services.

      This notion that I have to recognize my expensive camera and lights, which in accounting terms is a Fixed cost is not a basis for the fee per se, because after X number of shoots, this is paid for, so in theory, if this is your basis, then your fee should drop, but I doubt it does. Also, if this is the basis for the fee, do you discount the model the depreciation you are claiming on the equipment? A model does not pay for your expensive lens, they pay for your service. You having the glass is your ticket to charge your fee to the paying customer.

      A principle rule of business, is do the most with the least…do you really need an $8000 camera or F1.4 $1200 lens, perhaps, but I would surmise that most photographers on here don’t.


    • November 25, 2014 at 5:39 pm, Graham Martin said:

      Very interesting feature and as a pro tog one I can ID with. For me it’s about the motivation for the shoot and what the individual wants to get out of it. We all need to eat!

      So for example I often have one model with three outcomes.

      One, a new model comes to me for a portfolio shoot. I quite rightly charge him for the shoot. At this stage I have little to gain.
      Two, I love working with the model and create a shoot around him and shoot on a TFP basis. We both get something for our portfolio out of it.
      Three, a client loves the works we hvae been doing and asks me to create some fine art using the same model. I then pay the model for his time and experience. I also get paid by the client so it’s good all round!

      All scenarios are good but different.


  108. October 13, 2011 at 11:09 am, Amaresh said:

    great article!! many also dont realise that pro photographers turn up to a shoot with some $40,000 worth of gear to do it all proper.. for most its hard earned bucks through blood, sweat and tears.. over and above the years of going through and working things out to get the experience and abilities… there are hobby guys with a camera [GWC’s] out there with their 550D cam’s posing to be photographers. They may shoot for free or cheap.. but good photographers charge good money.. its also good to charge as it helps those wanting to be models to take it seriously and be something and go somewhere if they pay. Really grat article and rationale DB.


  109. October 10, 2011 at 5:49 am, Daniel Wysocki said:

    I agree 100%.


  110. October 09, 2011 at 10:19 pm, WForrest Photography said:

    Starting rates for commercial half day – full day, Casting handled by respective agency. Im the shooter first and foremost, then any editing they can hire me for that as well other wise its shot and handed over to them. My first goal is to shoot so that Min to Nil post production is needed. Im in shoot and out HOWEVER aval for an additional cost to cast any position needed such as the Talent that may be needed if a model is casted. Im not about to wash and polish a Car to shoot unless they hire me to do that too 🙂 Either way the process first is hire me to shoot it. After that the cost increases. So as u see no matter what the situation is the shooter gets the paid rate of their worth THEN adapts to each case as it need be…Easy math it is. Its easier to do flat rates based on the Half and Full day this way.
    4-6hrs on Post Production? Sorry I have better things to do with my life than sit for that long and do such a silly thing. 4-6 Minutes and Im board with it and consider it a lost shot if I have to do that much to it….


    • November 12, 2011 at 5:15 am, ALEX said:

      you are truly a fucking shooter..i am a model and i really dont want 8 hour retouched photos(by a shooter) hell is this shooter or retoucher?) lol..cuz it aint gonna look like me in the end=THIS IS INSANE) how do casting agents do it-then when i get to a audition they say “wow! you look like your comp card”…Duhhhhhhh! or are they getting dumber…)…thats right you are a shooter first- so shoot that shit and shoot it well and i will be the model to do what i need to do to look my best before and in front of the camera..flat rates yes i do understand them…and you are right a touch ‘up’ here or there for size..but you are not trying to create a new image…GOOD REPLY!


  111. October 09, 2011 at 5:42 pm, kibblesnbits said:

    i think its funny that half the photographers that are bitching probably are just as, “amateur” as the ones they are criticizing for doing tfp. You will be hard pressed to find an actually good photographer complain about it because their work speaks for itself and they are very well connected in the industry. Instead of all the “self proclaimed” photographers that enjoy playing dress up and whining quit living in denial. You are posting on model mayhem one of the grimiest and sketchy places in existence i know my way around quite well and its very hard to find any “real” photographer that uses this site seriously almost anyone can take a picture now. and a good model shit half of the real idea of the shoot comes from a good collab with the photographer and the model… half of these so called, “photographers” tell the model to do something and have no vision and you can get the same shit with a completely new person with a half decent camera… get a fucking life seriouisly.


  112. October 09, 2011 at 3:42 pm, Kenneth Aston Jr said:

    Here is another post why PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS cost so much, not charge. There are a lot of expenses that have to be paid for and when you are contracting your services you, as a professional photographer, need to be aware of that.


  113. October 08, 2011 at 2:46 am, Info said:

    Finally! Great Article. If more photographers would value you their work and the whole photography community in general. They would clearly understand that buying a cheap camera and shooting for free is beyond disrespectful to any real photographer out there. And models who expect shoots or free well we already know how that story goes.

    Great post!


  114. October 07, 2011 at 8:35 pm, Rhomsy said:

    I love the newbie model that refuses to do TF and her portfolio consists of cell phone photos that she took of herself in the mirror. Talk about not getting it.


    • November 12, 2011 at 2:59 am, Mzre yuen said:

      Omg I totally agree lol Or the infamous holding the camera out and taking their own pics. lmao how can someone claim to be a model if they have never been professionally photographed. Then they are too good to do tf when they clearly need it to build their port


      • November 15, 2011 at 3:10 am, Leosimages said:

        …And, they have the nerve to say they “have been modeling for X number of years,” and to TELL photographers that that WILL bring an escort. Sweetheart, your portfolio says it all-look at your “bathroom-mirror” shots and shut up!


        • March 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm, Marc J. said:

          I’ve never once had a problem with a model bringing an escort – it’s peace of mind on both ends really, you never know when you’re going to deal with creepy photographer or a crazy model. A third party is never a bad idea. And if the escort is a pain in the add, end the shoot – the model will learn quickly. Lol


          • March 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm, photofool said:

            I had a female escort steal something out of my studio, and if you are a professional then you have more money in your camera then they have in their wallet, especially if they whine about paying you for a shoot. If you cannot trust me to be professional and you cannot tell from my photography that I know what I am doing, then you have no business trying to be a model. Photographers are connected to big money people and you as a model need that connection. Its all passe to me and I am an artist in which you are the canvas. Professionals are connected with other professionals.

          • November 25, 2014 at 5:47 pm, Leslie Savage said:

            I use to allow escorts, and still do in some cases, but I have had them walk in front of the camera, interrupt, make demands on the “model,” make remarks under their breath and break things. Why do I need to put up with this, when she is too insecure to come to work as a model?

            The “creep photographers” often have photos that look like snap shots, and the professional models know this and avoid them.

          • November 25, 2014 at 7:31 pm, David Meyer said:

            The problem is that there are girls out there who are not professional and experienced models. Who can’t assess the photographer’s portfolio properly and can’t tell if the portfolio is OK or not (as it’s anyway better than anything they have in theirs). And yes, they may not have a huge chance to ever become a professional model. But this doesn’t mean they should compromise their safety.

          • November 26, 2014 at 7:25 am, Alfonso Vidal-Quadras said:

            Some professional photographers are creeps as well and models need references anyway.
            I barely had escorts in my +10yrs experience. I don’t mind them as long as they don’t steal my stuff and don’t distract me or the model.

          • April 20, 2016 at 12:41 pm, Steve Osmond said:

            I put the escorts to work most times. Either sweeping up the studio or if they are keen, helping me with moving things, “shopping” loose hairs so I don’t need to touch the model, etc. Last time the boyfriend was so helpful I am actually considering having him help at more. I muttered quietly “this would look so much better nude” and he heard me, agreed and the next thing you know he convinced her. The shots were fantastic.

          • September 08, 2016 at 8:10 pm, Hugh McCullough said:


          • January 24, 2018 at 2:45 pm, Ray Akey said:

            I do the same. Even with clients who bring escorts. I put the escort to work as a HLS or arranging props, etc. Any that look like they might have issue are informed that they can stay but will not interfere with our pre-arranged session details or they will be shown the door. Only ever had one problem with an escort/boyfriend who came along. He didn’t bother the shoot itself and left for a bit so his girl would be more comfortable doing boudoir. He did have an issue with the release because the images were boudoir (but no nudes/implied). I simply informed them both that no images would be posted or otherwise released without a model release. Met the model the next day for her release and we have collaborated together a couple times since and the boyfriend came as well. The boyfriend and I have talked and he seems to have resolved his prior issue, whatever it was. Most times the boyfriends are into it and if they have exhibitionist mentality, it actually makes their shots more sensual. One of my other model’s boyfriends actually points out angles that I miss so that we get good coverage. lmao

          • November 26, 2014 at 11:32 am, nordicwinds1969 said:

            If I were to encounter a escort that interfered or attempted to direct my shoot, there would be one warning. Second time would be the shoot being shut done and contract null and void with the exceptions of any money that might have been paid for me for travel expenses, I would retain that to cover my losses.

          • May 21, 2017 at 6:50 am, Marc Lajeunesse said:

            I totally agree with you an escort is more like a distraction. It is hard to connect with the model when she is more interested to look at her friend, boyfriend or husband than to connect with the camera. My reputation is based on my work ethics not on some “creep photographers”. If she can’t trust I’m pretty sure the session will be a lost of time. And if she want to work as model she need to be able to work on her own and not always have someone holding her hand.

          • March 16, 2013 at 1:25 am, Matthew Versluis said:

            The second and third model i worked with brought escorts (mother and husband) respectively. I have no issue with escorts so long as they keep their shadow out of my shots. That said of course….I totally need more experience.

          • November 25, 2014 at 7:24 pm, David Meyer said:

            Exactly. I always suggest the model to have somebody nearby, especially if I didn’t work with her before. In my opinion, in today’s world this should be a completely standard procedure. I don’t really see why anyone would have an issue with the model coming over with somebody who’s not interrupting. And, on the bright side, you may get a light / reflector stand on two legs.

          • September 08, 2016 at 8:14 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

            Plus, if the ‘escort’ is female . . . and attractive . . . you might get another model in the future. Many times, when the model has been an amateur and ask if she could “Bring a friend”, I have always been 100% truthful and said, “Sure, if SHE’S pretty”. You’d be surprised how well that works.

          • November 26, 2014 at 11:29 am, nordicwinds1969 said:

            I have had two escorts come along, one on each occasion and it worked out well because part of the shoot included their pet and so they also doubled as the pet handler. I keep all my gear near me in a shoot. I do my shoots outdoors too. Down side to that is if it rains and the shoot is not versatile enough for us to go with the rain.

            We have many areas that it may be in the best interest to have an escort. I have recently taken on an apprentices. She is there for two reasons, to learn and be my look out or I would be hers during a shoot.

          • September 08, 2016 at 8:08 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

            I’ve never had a problem with an escort, either. However, the ‘Escort’ [especially if a Husband, BF, or Father] is told, up front, the ‘shoot’ is “PRIVATE”. I do NOT allow ‘kibitzing’ by any escort. But, I do agree with Marc; an escort could save a photographer’s ass.

        • April 12, 2013 at 9:34 am, Mark Dub said:

          In my 6 years of at least 300+ escorts.. I only had issues with one. Another female (who was a friend of the model and a photographer herself) harping on me why I charge so much, as well as directing the model instead of letting me do that. I can handle the “cost” questions, but when she started directing the model, I asked her nicely to stop and she did.


        • September 08, 2016 at 8:04 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

          To: Rhomsy, Mzre Yuen, & Leosimages: They’re NOT “Models”; they’re “Wanna-bees”.


      • March 16, 2013 at 6:31 pm, Tiffany Katz said:

        Yes, and as a former freelance model, I never did that. Also, the best photos in my port were the ones from which the photographer was paid because I loved their work so much. “You get what you pay for” indeed.


        • September 08, 2016 at 8:16 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

          Thank you, Tif . . . I like your attitude.
          MODELS! TAKE NOTE!


    • July 26, 2012 at 1:41 pm, Stephanie said:

      I semi disagree–in the sense that I have seen many models take awesome pictures of themselves where you don’t see them holding a camera or anything. I guess your goal should be to work with other photographers but some self-shots you would never even guess they did it all themselves.


      • April 12, 2013 at 8:28 pm, Harry Samuel said:

        your kidding right. cell phone photos, you better be kidding.


        • November 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm, nordicwinds1969 said:

          Yes, they use cell phones and the only time I may think that might be appropriate is in place of the old Polaroid and that is still pushing it, but it works for some.

          I did photos for a young lady and we did really well. My daughter came along and did one half of the shoot and I did the other half, her grandmother was along too and snapped a few for fun. She has not gone overboard with thinking the more the better and posts some that I would burn them so well that the beginning of creation would feel the fires!

          But that just warns you of who you want to work with. You do not want your name tagged to someone who is not going to be serious about it.

          I do photography for other than models for fun and that is where I find who might want to get serious. But that is what I like to do.
          I have some that are serious but live is making them be serious elsewhere for the time being. But the cell phone models, maybe there will be a genre for them some day…just not today…they play in the selfie market for now.


        • September 08, 2016 at 8:22 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

          Nope! Didn’t you know- women use cell phones for EVERYTHING except making phone calls!


      • November 25, 2014 at 5:56 pm, Leslie Savage said:

        I have seen this done with only 2 models, but this is so rare that it isn’t even worth mentioning.

        They used a tripod and a real camera, but the quality isn’t as good as a photographer, which both of them sort out to add to their portfolios.


        • November 26, 2014 at 2:18 pm, teila said:

          Stephanie is 100% correct. Models taking their own self-portraits isn’t new, nor “rare” and has been going on for decades- long before digital photography. College girls who had a cursory command of shutter speed, aperture and iso, would take photographs of themselves using a 35mm or Medium Format slr on a tripod using timer/cable release; they would make copies and or enlargements, (often in the college dark room) and sell them through ads in the back of Popular Science and other magazines. The pay was considerably better/consistent, than typical modeling. Today, it’s common for models in the glamour and nude industries to photograph and even video themselves with professional equipment. It isn’t rocket science.

          Digital photography+internet burst the overall photography bubble because supply was higher than demand; over night photographs of models in swim suits, or birthday suits could be had for free. Stock photography as income to photographers as a whole, has also been gutted.

          “Good enough” gets a bad rap. I always ask photographers who get on the “people just want good enough” bandwagon, what kind of car they drive. Basically my point is that most people drive a car, eat food, and live in a home that’s “good enough” for them even though “much better quality” is available. (smell the hypocrisy yet?)

          If you drive a $30k car, why not drive a $110,000 car that offers comparable gas mileage, but increased safety and better quality workmanship and materials?

          If you live in a $225k home, why not spend $2.8mil to live in a home of comparable size, but of much better quality, in an area with far less crime, the best schools for your children, and better career contacts & opportunities?

          If you’re a professional photographer, why not spend $40,000 for a medium format camera that offers higher sync speeds and much better quality for your clients, and more cropping room and that holds up better to processing over a $2,000 camera? If you need a fast raw shooter, then why not use the top-of-the-line Nikon/Canon in addition to the MF camera? What about lighting? Why not pay $10,000 for a Broncolor Scoro pack and several thousand dollars per light in order to have much better colour control when compared to cheaper lighting systems? What… you don’t want the best for your clients? Is “good enough” good enough that you don’t run out and get a loan for $100k worth of photo equipment? Of course it is, depending on what you’re trying to do and depending on the client/photographer’s need, etc..

          If I had a quarter for every photographer that I’ve heard hypocritically talk bad about “good enough”, when the lack of understanding about “good enough” is what put many out of business.

          When I’m looking at property to purchase, as a prospective client, I don’t need the property to be shot by a professional photographer- I just need to see “good enough” photographs that allow me to reasonably get an idea of what the property looks like. I don’t need awesome; just functional! The real estate agents who get that, take their own photographs which are many times better than Joe photographer’s work who uses horrible HDR software, thinking that me, as a prospective buyer wants to see glowing furniture and horribly synthetic coloured interiors. I don’t. I loathe it.

          Today, many models across various industries are taking photos of themselves and cutting out the middle man (or, ah, woman) because technology has made it reasonably practical for many areas of modeling. Industry is also doing a lot of their own photography. I don’t get upset, it’s just the reality of technology marching forward and making it easier for everyone to take advantage of photography- that’s not a bad thing. Things have just changed. The milk delivery guy shouldn’t whine because the refrigerator became a household reality; nor should today’s professional photographer.

          I used to fly the aircraft while another photographer did the aerial shots or vice versa (we’re both licensed pilots); today, you can get better shots with far less expense by using a $1,500 RC aircraft. I think the technology improving is great, and as far as I’m concerned it can’t move forward fast enough. When people need quality, then they should expect to pay for it, but for those who don’t need it, they shouldn’t waste their money paying for quality that they don’t need…. you know, like the same reason that most of you aren’t driving your kids to school in a Bentley Continental GT Speed, or Porsche Cayenne Turbo, as opposed to whatever it is you drive. Good enough right?

          Professional video is next on the chopping block. Editing tools are getting better, at much lower cost; what used to cost $250,000 in equipment can now be had for under $10k with better results and a quicker workflow.

          Answer this question: Do **MOST** paying modeling jobs require a portfolio that a model with decent understanding of photography can’t take herself? That answer is no. Most paid work isn’t of the VS or V magazine variety and a simple portfolio will do. But that’s a reality for most local business fielding a model as opposed to an industry falsehood. 😉


          • September 08, 2016 at 10:30 pm, Leslie Savage said:

            You can argue this all day long, but the results is only as good as the person behind the camera, because the equipment only makes it easier, not better.

          • September 08, 2016 at 10:42 pm, teila said:

            (chuckle) That’s why people go through 10 times the work, and trouble to shoot large format; because it makes things “easier” and not better right? It’s more work, and the results look considerably better than 35mm film. We all know that. Don’t be ridiculous.

            You push film to 51200 ISO and then take a shot at the same ISO using the latest CMOS MF sensor, and see which one most people think looks “better”. Furthermore, tech doesn’t just make things “easier”, it makes a lot of shots *possible*. You parroting the old adage “it’s about the person behind the camera and not the equipment” is like someone saying, “It’s not about the ingredients, it’s about who’s cooking”…. as if there’s no difference between a chuck roast and a filet mignon.

          • September 09, 2016 at 2:27 am, Leslie Savage said:

            Now you’re going too far the other way with your ridiculous example of sensor size, because we both know it depends on how big we blow up the photo when it comes to resolution. It sounds like all you want to do is argue. Your own example of using a plane illustrated my point very well. You said it now could be done with RC aircraft, and now you blow the other way, which is defying the law of contradiction. Learn how to debate and carry on a decent conversation.

          • September 09, 2016 at 7:40 am, teila said:

            (1) Leslie: “but the results is only as good as the person behind the camera”. We know that that’s a false statement.

            (2) Leslie: “because the equipment only makes it easier, not better.”
            That is also a very false statement.

            (3) Leslie: “because we both know it depends on how big we blow up the photo when it comes to resolution”

            No, actually it seems only one of us understands that visible differences can be easily gained when using a larger sensor/more resolution in many situations (e.g. noise at high ISO, etc.) even without blowing up the photo. Positive differences and the perception of additional sharpness can be gleaned in sizes as small as 8x10in.

            I haven’t made one contradiction. I just state the facts and haven’t uttered something that isn’t irrefutable fact.

          • September 09, 2016 at 9:14 am, Hugh McCullough said:

            Teila – You’re wasting your time explaining anything to Leslie Savage since he obviously doesn’t understand the concept of Resolution. If, as he ridiculously stated, “. . . the results is only as good as the person behind the camera, because the equipment only makes it easier, not better”, were true, why did 99% of all Pro Wedding photographers move to ‘medium format’ in lieu of 35mm? He would argue that Ansel Adam’s images of Yosemite would have been just as good if he had used a cell phone instead of 11X14 film. DUH! What a dummy.

          • September 09, 2016 at 3:27 pm, teila said:

            Agreed. There’s a reason why professional sport shooters in the 1980’s jumped on autowinding – auto film advancing, high frame rate grips and fast (for then) auto focus… IF equipment didn’t make a *huge* difference, sport photographers would’ve stuck to advancing film *manually* frame-by-frame while trying to land the ‘decisive moment’; also manually winding the film at the end of the roll…

            Most of us know from experience that when you’re trying to get paid, equipment (including software), whether you shoot film or digital, matters a lot.

            Have a great weekend Hugh!

          • September 09, 2016 at 5:11 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

            Thanks; you too.

          • September 09, 2016 at 7:12 pm, Leslie Savage said:

            You said, “DUH! What a dummy.” Coward! Can’t even say it to my face.

            Do you know what a full frame camera is? A full frame is the same size sensor as a 35 mm camera film. Do you know how big you can blow up a 24MP cropped sensor? Probably not, since you are spouting such ridiculous nonsense about resolution.

            The 35mm has a higher resolution than a 24 mp digital camera, but a 24 MP cropped sensor (smaller than the 35mm film) can be enlarged to well over 5 feet on one side. I know this, and apparently you don’t, because I have done it on more than one occasion and you haven’t. The photo is so good that a single hair can be seen at normal viewing distance, and you can tell she needs to do her nails, in one of the photos I enlarged to 5 feet tall. That is almost life like, but you obviously never done that, which is why you speak such nonsense about the concept of resolution.

            They moved to larger formats, because it makes it easier, like I explained above to Telia. I photograph eagles, and sell the photos for well over $100 each, and my clients can’t tell which were done with a 24 MP or the 36 MP camera, but I can. I can tell when I use the cameras to do the eagles in flight, but not in print. In print you can’t see the difference, which means using a larger sensor or film makes the taking of the photo of a subject in motion or in a dark environment much easier.

            That is why a larger sensor or film is easier to use in a wedding. It is like bringing in more light, but it doesn’t improve anything the photographer brings to the photo, because a photographer could have done the same thing by adding a flash. The photographer’s composition or skill with the camera isn’t improved. What is improved is the ease of use.

            To put words in my mouth about cell phone cameras is misrepresenting me, and just down right ridiculous as an example. Bringing in Ansel Adam is unrealistic, because you site no reasonable examples why I could be wrong, and didn’t quote Ansel Adam to show he would disagree with me. For all we know he might agree with me, but too bad we can’t ask him.

            Most people using cell phones will post online, and a photo from a 24 mp cameras will not look any better at that size, which means your concept of resolution is misguided here as well.

            I was out photographing eagles, when a guy stopped to photograph his car with his cell phone. I had a few minutes so I showed him how to frame his photo better. He tried it, and was amazed at the results, which shows it is the nut behind the camera that made the difference and not the equipment.

            “DUH! What a dummy.” Next time back up your beliefs with some real world examples.

          • September 10, 2016 at 9:51 am, Leslie Savage said:

            Next time quote your source.

            “I am sure the next step will be the electronic image, and I
            hope I shall live to see it. I trust that the creative eye will continue to
            function, whatever technological innovations may develop.” – Ansel Adams

            “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God
            made in establishing tonal relationships”..”– Ansel Adams

            “The single most important component of a camera is the
            twelve inches behind it!” Ansel Adams

            “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good
            crop.” – Ansel Adams

            Ansel Adams emphasized the photographer, and not the equipment, which has been my stance all along!

          • September 09, 2016 at 6:24 pm, Leslie Savage said:

            Sure you did contradict yourself, because you compared the price of flying a photographer to an RC plane. You sited it was lower, but it is lower, because, no matter how you slice it, it is easier to do. That is a contradiction, because the quality in both aircraft can be and considering the time frame of both would be the same.

            Your resolution example is very unrealistic to say the least. No serious, at the present, would be using a 10 MP camera unless he forgot his at home. He would be using at least a 20 MP camera, which can produce a photo at 5 feet high with the resolution to see a human hair across a woman’s have; I have one in my studio as an example of what I can do! Using a 100 MP wouldn’t make a difference, because printers today can’t take advantage of the difference between the two resolution sizes.

            So what is the advantage? Lets speak real world. You mentioned photographing bees, which I have done in flight. Sitting around on a branch is just too boring. The advantage of a higher MP such as a 36 compared to a 24 is the use of a higher ISO with the same results of a lower resolution on the 24. This means that the photo can be taken in lower light and / or with a wider range on the aperture and faster shutter speed. Does this make for a better composition? Does it improve the white balance settings, which are often off? The answer is no to both, because these things are controlled by the nut behind the camera!

            Again you said, “There’s a reason why professional sport shooters in the 1980’s jumped on
            autowinding – auto film advancing, high frame rate grips and fast (for
            then) auto focus…” So your saying that advancing the film faster makes for a better photo? In who’s world does that work? All you are doing is taking more photos in hope you get a better one, because your thumb can’t advance the film as fast as “autowinding.” It is not better, but easier to use the “autowinding” over the right thumb on the camera film advance.

            I am not saying equipment doesn’t matter, but if you don’t have the skill, the equipment doesn’t matter at all. Both of you are saying the opposite with very unrealistic examples that don’t even prove your point.

          • March 13, 2017 at 11:42 am, Brandon Woodard said:

            Just want to touch on one thing: the differences in 8×10…? Really?

            I work for a studio in which we do themed family photography. We use dye sub printing and 30×40 canvases. We use crop sensor cameras…and one of our backup cameras is a T3i (our “best” camera is a 7D mk ii).

            Our guests who pay very well in the hundreds would not believe if we told them we used a camera that’s 6 years old. It’s been beaten up, dropped, the LCD has lines running through the display and the door pops off, the rubber is coming apart…but I still use it because of it’s extreme light weight.

            The differences you state could be easily gleaned from 8x10s or 30×40 canvases are non-existent. We don’t print them on magazines, no…this is true (we simply don’t need to).

            There /is/ a different in quality…but it is not a difference that perceivably matters for us /nor/ our guests. If the photo is good, it’s good.

            Just my thoughts.

          • March 13, 2017 at 4:07 pm, teila said:

            That’s an important aspect of the *business* of photography Brandon, and it’s something that a lot of photographers don’t think about. You have to know your target market and strike a balance between what makes it easy on you as a photographer and what brings more sales.

            You’re correct; most of the general public isn’t going to discern (or care) whether you’re using an original 7D2, T3i or a 5Dsr. What would be evident is if you take your work to a show and displaying your prints from files shot at 3200 iso, and a 50% crop of something or due to a customer liking an alternate composition. The 5Dsr reduced to an 8×10 will results in an obviously different quality print than a print made from the other two cameras any time there’s high iso and judicious cropping involved.

            By the same token, much of the general public doesn’t caere if a model is shot by a professional or otherwise in many situations.

            We also have some digital cameras in use that are over 10 years old. The age of the camera, like a computer, doesn’t matter much when you’re *using equipment within an appropriate context*.

            Best in photography and business to you Brandon

          • March 13, 2017 at 11:21 pm, Brandon Woodard said:

            Thanks. Since we work in a “semi” high volume setting, we make our system as easy as possible for the sets and poses we choose. For example, we try to stick to ISO 800 (although “some” of us will drop ISO for special shots or poses, mostly when utilizing lots of shadows) and of course, generally use 1/200s shutter speed since it is flash photography after all.

            Anyways thanks for your kind words and understanding as well, pretty nice to have a good discussion here as I’m new to the site and all.

            BTW for my outdoor work at home I use the Nikon D200 for a long time, but soon moving up to the D7000 or D600 series model. Actually wish to move to Pentax if I go full-frame, but we shall see!

        • September 08, 2016 at 8:31 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

          With MUCH thought, it can be done. Just to see if I could do it, I made a series of double exposures of me fighting with myself. The room was completely dark; the camera & flash were on a very sturdy tripod, the background was a 105″ black paper. So’s NOT to see a radio trigger in my hand, the self timer was set on 20 seconds. I would ‘trigger’, move into position, the camera/flash would fire= image #1. I changed clothes [just pants & pull over shirt], then ‘trigger’, moved into position #2, camera fired. I did this about 20 times and got around a dozen good photos [positioning is everything]. Try it; it’s fun.


          • September 08, 2016 at 10:25 pm, Leslie Savage said:

            With little thought can do double exposures, and I know of at least 2 models who have done selfies, which was my point. I wasn’t talking about doing double exposures, but the need for a professional to do your photos.

            Try doing double exposures with a camera not capable of doing double exposures, which I have done, and then it requires just a little more thought.

            The quality is better with somebody that knows a little more than a cursory command of shutter speed, aperture ISO, white balance (often done wrong) and composition (which often is missing), which was also my point. I wasn’t saying it couldn’t be or wasn’t done, but that a professional can do it better, which is why professionals should and do charge more.

            The models who do take awesome pictures of themselves are very rare, and the rest just think they are good, because they compare themselves with themselves. Like I said in all of MM, I have only seen 2 models who can take decent photos of themselves; the rest make themselves look worst than they deserve.

            You get what you pay for, so get a professional, and make yourself marketable.

            Good Luck


          • September 09, 2016 at 5:57 pm, Leslie Savage said:

            I have.

            We need more people like you to experiment with the things we love, which in this case is photography.

      • November 26, 2014 at 11:44 am, nordicwinds1969 said:

        I have a friend who is a Professional Photographer and is locally in demand. When it came to her engagement photos, she knew what she wanted and so guess what! She took them herself. She set up the pose and the checked the camera got back to where she needed to be and then had a remote and shot her photos. They came out great!

        I have also known people who are great with cameras that do their own photos and not with a camera phone. So, it can be done with a Professional and with a professional touch, all on your own.

        With technology going in the direction that it is, more and more people have the ability to be both photographer and model on some of the easier photos. But the downside is that they lose reality of just how much work goes into a real photo shoot that is needed to build up the portfolio that will get you taken seriously if you want to make it in the modeling world.


        • December 01, 2014 at 10:53 am, tomaish said:

          Better yet, why need models? – CGI models ! Whallah!


          • September 08, 2016 at 8:24 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

            No! The realism may be there, but the “Life” will NOT!

          • September 08, 2016 at 10:49 pm, teila said:

            That’s actually being done today, and many of the products you’ve seen for years being advertised are actually computer generated.

      • September 08, 2016 at 8:21 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

        I would. A very famous model turned photographer started photographing herself because she got several complaints about ‘her smile looking the same in every photo’. She later became even more famous as the photographer that brought a Nude model to Fame. The Model turned photographer: Bunny Yeager. The Model she made famous: Betty Page.


        • September 09, 2016 at 2:29 am, Leslie Savage said:

          My point exactly, but also very rare!!!


    • March 15, 2013 at 11:16 am, schlomo said:

      Why the hell leave out taxes? Federal, state, property, sales….take out at least another 40% when it’s all done.


      • April 12, 2013 at 11:25 am, Bud said:

        and SALES tax on your expensive equipment.


    • March 16, 2013 at 6:27 pm, Tiffany Katz said:

      Thank you.


    • November 25, 2014 at 2:35 pm, Abrimaal said:

      Yes, she falls in love when she sees her first photos, even without any post-processing.


  115. October 07, 2011 at 5:54 pm, Clp40e said:

    I agree with what you wrote, I know no kidding you’re right.

    The comment below doesn’t make any sense about no expense on equipment. What about up dating computer systems all the time.

    I just updated my camera and now I have to up date photo shop again for the third time, not to mention another computer to deal with the new program etc. etc. etc.

    Also if anyone thinks you’re wrong they are a fool and are not paying real bills as you mentioned.

    Below the person said the desert shots was only the camera and equipment doesn’t mean anything unless the shot looks good.

    Well you explained about that. I mean I have been shooting professionally for 18 years started in film. My bottom pro camera, Nikon would shoot just as good as the Nikon top of the line, it just didn’t have all the extras on it. I didn’t need it for what I shot, but the lenses were the same hence same quality.

    But this digital age isn’t the same, I noticed not only the way my new camera works making it easier to change settings during a shoot but the quality of the images are better. Again no kidding, but I can see it in the back of the camera. Hence you are spending money up dating all the time.

    Like your article it’s about time someone explained the real side of costs.


  116. October 07, 2011 at 12:42 pm, Tjphoto said:

    I find it amazing that most people SAY they got into photography because they love taking photos etc. But the reality is vastly different. Most photographers and models are nothing but walking arrogant people who wish to show off. AND charge a fortune.


  117. October 07, 2011 at 9:27 am, Nico Simon Princely said:

    I agree with most of what you said but I also agree with Philipe about “In reality, models want to pay for your look and style.” And also your name if you are well known.

    A lot of models on here (generally the less experienced ones) seem to think it’s all about them they want to live in the fantasy of being the star that someone just has to shoot.

    I have endless TF offers from models and often they get offended if I say I’m not doing TF right now or I’m only doing a certain type and I’m going to charge them if we shoot. They think they are bringing everything to the table but the truth is we put in much more time and effort on a shoot and with very few exceptions they are the easiest to replace of all people involved. And TF does not pay the bills unless it’s something you can recoup your costs on by selling the image later.

    They will probably never understand that until the get behind the camera themselves. Don’t get me wrong I highly value models but I also expect to be highly valued myself.


    • November 25, 2014 at 5:15 pm, Dr. Ron Thomas, Jr. said:

      There’s also the matter of supply-and-demand, ECON 101. I live in Daytona Beach and work in Orlando. I can’t buy gas without seeing a pretty girl. Nothing against any other part of the country but if you are in an area where you can shake models out of every tree AND you have plenty of paying work as it is, then I expect you will want to get paid to do anything you didn’t initiate yourself.


  118. October 07, 2011 at 4:53 am, Dolsen4fashion said:

    Nice! Accurate description of the current newbie mindset. The one I love is, “just give me the files and I can print them at home. I have a new inkjet” or, “It’s only $2.99 at [BigBoxStore]”, or “I just got photoshop, I can retouch them myself”. Like we are monkeys who just push buttons and we should be grateful that they dropped by the cage.

    Not so long ago, the agent made the call, and the model didn’t worry about the cost because she knew it would be great. They came to us because of our style.

    It’s the Age of Entitlement, everything for free and instant gratification…. -But I still love what I do, even after a thirty-year shift from 4×5 Sinar P’s to a sweet chip in a 35.


  119. October 07, 2011 at 1:48 am, Superkgggg said:

    This all depends on what type of photographer you are. Your typically getting paid for your time and creativity in my field.

    1. post production takes time.
    2. shooting takes time
    3. your ideas take time to create

    That didn’t account for the amenities:
    Equipment isn’t cheap
    Electricity isn’t cheap

    Come on people! You get what you pay for.


  120. October 06, 2011 at 9:47 pm, Anonymous said:

    Thank you for a great article! It was very insightful and I love the way you wrote it in a patient manner not only meant for photographers. Hopefully articles like yours will help others to understand the value of a good photographer.


  121. October 06, 2011 at 7:11 pm, Info said:

    Good job David and thank you for taking time to post this. One thing I disagree with is having prices based on price of equipment used. As you know the better quality studio lights you use is better color and also can be lighting you get out of it. I have used from cheap $200 to $2,000 strobes. All things set the same and the quality of the photos can easily be noticed by any person for which photo with the more expensive strobe. Even when it comes to cameras as I multiple cameras. So if a person is on a budget and can’t afford to pay to where would be worth using the updated camera I use my old camera.

    One thing as we all photographers probably agree is as you mentioned there is more to the models then there is the photographers in the shoots. It is a lot easier for a model to invest in the photos then it is photographers who already have a portfolio.

    I wish every classified site made it mandatory for people to read your post before posting the need for a photographer.


  122. October 06, 2011 at 6:54 pm, Rudy Liverpool said:

    Hey everybody point was well said. @ June Snow: I agree with Ur comment, models building their port should pay. If I’m goin to use Ur picture to make money, U as the model will get compensation. But if it’s jus a portfolio builder then we but should jus shoot and help each other. Overall it’s was a nice topic. Thanks David Bickley.


  123. October 06, 2011 at 4:56 pm, Klixbykelly said:

    Very good explanation…… I hope EVERYONE reads this!


  124. October 06, 2011 at 4:21 pm, Andrew said:

    Yeah….but there are so many new ways of making $ with photography and modeling.

    Perhaps this has been the standard, but I’ve never gotten paid by a model to shoot her, and I’ve always paid models to shoot them, and I’ve always made money with my work.

    The people who refuse to understand the “real” costs of shooting photos, which this article was written for, are the same as those who refuse to understand that there are more than a couple ways to make an income shooting photos.


  125. October 06, 2011 at 3:54 pm, David said:

    this is possibly one of the most ridiculous amateur pieces of fripery I have ever read.

    Right from the start the title is silly. What is the deinition of “so much’? In the past couple years, I have made as much as $25,000 in fees for a single day shoot and as little as $500 for a 3 day shoot (wanna send me to the Greek islands, and let me stay an extra 3 weeks traveling around at your expense, my fee goes way way down.) Funny thing is that when all was said and done and I sold stock shots from my vacation, I problably made a decent day rate for the entire trip. It is the usage fees that drives everything.

    I get paid for my knowledge and experiece, nothing else. It does not matter if a shoot takes 10 more minutes more or less for scouting or post production or anything else. I am paid a USAGE fee, all the other expenses (stylist, location scout, post production, etc) are just that expenses that are charges to the client. The equipment is a minimal cost.

    If we are talking about MM, look around, I am sure it will be quite obvious that you get what you pay for. You want to spend $100/day for your modeling portfolio, you are going to get $100 looking photos. (Yeah, if you happen to be the next supermodel of the world and get lucky finding a great photographer who will work with you, you may get great images for nothing. There are rare exception – I and every other photogrpaher will work for very little. Again, wanna send me to the islands for a couple weeks and make me only shoot a couple shots, lets talk.)

    It is YOUR time and EXPERIENCE! Stop undervalueing yourselves photographers.


  126. October 06, 2011 at 12:06 pm, Mr Doug said:

    well written and applies to just about any self-employed endeavor.


  127. October 06, 2011 at 11:22 am, smc photographer said:

    We indeed I dont get into the cost justification discussion as i feel that my work is worth paying for. I have no problem with people bartering or asking for discounts (they might not gey them) but i don have a problem with people asking me to justify my cost. When I started in photography (profeshionally) i was always getting into long winded arguments with people over this but my usual response now is.
    If you go to the super market and pick up a tin of beans at £1.25 you dont take it to the cheak out and say “how come you charge £1.25 for these beans surly they cost you pense” you buy the beans because you want beans. In the same way people who want to work with you and see your work as profeshional will not question the price.

    You get what you pay for!
    If they question the price then they dont believe i your work and if you question your price you dont believe in yourself.

    I believe in charging fairly and that means sometimes you dont get the booking.
    which would you rather?
    10 jobs @ £1000
    or 100 jobs @£10???



    • October 08, 2011 at 8:51 pm, B said:

      Excellent justification, lol. Loved it and May have to use something along those lines.


  128. October 06, 2011 at 10:51 am, David Wilson said:

    Very Very true David. Thank you!


  129. October 06, 2011 at 7:54 am, R Bishop said:

    As a makeup artist who tries to work with the best, I agree with this article. Even with models or photographers who have no problem doing time for print I STILL PAY. of course everyone doesn’t turn it down because it’s more then they ask… But I feel like it’s the right thing to do ESPECIALLY since I’m NOT a Model nor a photographer, and I’m not gonna be all 3 !


  130. October 06, 2011 at 3:43 am, Dave said:

    many thanks for sharing a very well thought out post.


  131. October 06, 2011 at 3:17 am, Jamaal E. said:

    None photographers have no idea the work a photographer does. a photographer is the one responsiblr for getting the permits to shoot locations, hire make up artist, wardrobe if the actres/model doesn’t provid their own, hireing a crew to assist a with equipment, doing the post shoot work, printing out these photos, buying all those ink cartiges (do you know how much ink a pro level printer cost? or how frequent you have to buy new ink?). Photographing is like 5% of what a photographer actually does. Hours and hours of prep work, hours of shooting, and hours and hours and hours of post shoot work. You guys really have NO idea.


  132. October 06, 2011 at 1:17 am, Brooklyn Hill said:

    This is a good breakdown of the value of good/great/amazing photographers. You really do “get what you pay for” and while a solid port can be built on TF*, a great port can be achieved in half the time by paying great photographers. You get out what you put in.


  133. October 06, 2011 at 12:46 am, David Bickley said:

    The article has been revised to expand on a few things that were slightly miscommunicated in the original.

    First was the fact that I refer to “basic edits” which are not actually so basic. Commercial level editing is far more involved than your general spot-healing and curve tweaks. There is also a piece of that where I’m playing with different variations on an image to see which result works the best overall. Sometimes these edits can take 10 minutes, sometimes hours. I refer to them as basic because they are simple fundamentals.

    Second was that some seemed to think that I intended to justify pricing based solely on expenses which is a very retail way of looking at things and one that I am generally very against using as a means of explanation. I do think it’s important that people realize that being a photographer is actually pretty expensive and that we do have costs to take care of. However the biggest point to be made is that an artist charges what their talent is worth.

    Hopefully the edits address those points better now.

    Thank you all for the feedback!



    • October 13, 2011 at 7:59 pm, Jacqueline Agentis said:

      Your article was great and will share… At first, time relative to expense is most likely the first thing that crosses a model’s mind. Knowing the work that culminates into a fantastic finished piece helps. Not only does a photographer need to be technically and creatively talented (with the camera, composition, and with lighting; which is hard enough to get in one person) but also talented in post processing. …and if you’re lucky, an inspiring vision.

      If one performs true High Glamour high-end non-destructive post, it will take hours. You would always use hi res raw files (never jpg), and would not apply quickee techniques like gaussian blur, plugins, presets, etc. It is an art form I think, and does take hours. Talent in all these areas is special and has worth!

      Jacqueline C Agentis
      Lehigh Valley Headshots


  134. October 06, 2011 at 12:18 am, firetiger said:

    “After all, my main camera alone cost near $8,000 without the lenses. Without the camera, we would both just be looking at each other for a few hours. ”

    this made me chuckle… now i have chocolate milk on my monitor. thanks!

    +1 with Christophe Vivant


  135. October 06, 2011 at 12:18 am, Seroti said:

    The best blog I have seen on MM so far!
    Thanks for sharing. It is very comprehensive and educational.


  136. October 05, 2011 at 11:17 pm, Tommy said:

    The time or the “shoot” is only a small part of the time it takes to produce the finished project. The model has gone home with nothing else to do, while the photographer is faced with hours of work to finish the “shoot”.


  137. October 05, 2011 at 11:15 pm, Andy Pearlman said:

    Philipe wrote “… So what did the client pay for?
    They paid for his expertise, professional look and style of the photo.
    Thats the only thing the client or anyone should pay for….”

    Actually I’ll bet a big part of that $10k fee was for usage. In that realm, the clients are paying for the photographer’s vision, sometimes his reputation, but also (and probably mostly) usage. Philipe didn’t say what the photos were used for, but I doubt it was editorial pr a portfolio, most likely some kind of advertising – magazine, posters, billboards, etc. That is where you get into those kinds of fees, which, and here’s where I agree with Philipe, have nothing to do with equipment or watching the clock.


  138. October 05, 2011 at 10:47 pm, David Bickley said:

    Thank you everyone for the feedback, the article will be edited to reflect some oversights in my explanations that have been pointed out.



  139. October 05, 2011 at 9:10 pm, Zokrx2 said:

    This is great I’m so glad you put this up. I have been saying this for the long time now . Glad to see someone else is on the same page . Thanks


  140. October 05, 2011 at 8:36 pm, Anthony Neste said:

    I like the break down …but i also agree with Philipe some…The Model want’s your talent and style ,that’s why she came to you in the first place…The whole break down you display is perfect for the inexperienced model the one that thinks she’s shopping at Target , getting the best deal not the best Images. And if you get ur basic retouching skills more fine tuned there is no way any Image with basic work should take more than 15 min tops.


  141. October 05, 2011 at 8:20 pm, Miss Adventure Photography said:

    I think if, as stated by another photographer, a model cannot tell the difference between an amateur and a pro, then that REALLY says a LOT about why models don’t want to pay. Why would I pay (as a model) $100/hr on some guy that spends 4 hours retouching a single photo? Retouching is not the models fault, if you can’t get the photo right, and you need to mess around for that long, maybe a career change is in order. :-s

    I’m a photographer, and yeah I have rates like everyone else, but i sure as hell don’t ever need to spend that kind of time retouching a photo, unless im ripping it apart and building an entirely new photo in CS5.


    • October 06, 2011 at 3:42 pm, Captured Impulse said:

      Retouching is not the model’s “fault?”

      You’re kidding, right? I don’t like to use the word “fault,” but as far as I know, no one retouches many sets or locations. Almost everyone I know retouches skin, eyes, noses, hair, lips, ponches, fat folds, scars, zits, moles, birthmarks, tats, jawlines, abs, boobs, butts, cellulite, smile lines, the droopy “dead eye,” elastic “digs” into the skin, etc, etc, etc…

      …because glam is not real.

      It never has been, it was never intended to be, and it never will be.


      • October 18, 2011 at 1:55 am, Anonymous said:

        i have some pretty strict regulations for my models, if i want a model with no ponch, i HIRE a model with no ponch. There are many times I hold off on a shoot till i find the right model. Zits,tatts and moles.. a good makeup artist can fix that 🙂

        I also don’t shoot glam i shoot natural, and the photos above are definitely not glam either.

        Just sayin 🙂


  142. October 05, 2011 at 8:03 pm, Philipe said:

    I don’t agree with that. Your breaking down with hours and expenses.
    In reality, models want to pay for your look and style.
    I did an editorial shoot for a magazine with natural lighting, hair make up did took about an hour, the actual shoot was about an hour and a half. So the shoot was about three hours with arriving setting up my camera etc.. It did not cost me really anything. (the make up was basic)
    Photographers try to justify it by saying they have expenses.
    We all have expenses. But so does the model, with travel, clothing, getting a stylist and sometime turning down paid work to shoot.

    I have a friend who did a shoot for 10,000.
    With natural light. He shot near the desert.
    No make up not hair, just a spray bottle with water and baby oil and suntan lotion.
    The expenses, almost nothing, he shot alone with no help (with me watching and helping the model get ready)and for the client (three of them) The shoot lasted around 4 hours. No retouching, everything natural.
    So how do you justify expenses? Assistants? Touching up hours?
    The client brought food, water and a tent and my friend made $10,000.00

    So what did the client pay for?
    They paid for his expertise, professional look and style of the photo.
    Thats the only thing the client or anyone should pay for.
    Expenses, time, equipment etc… Don’t mean jack if the photos are not good.
    The photography charged what he did because he can.

    I never once told a model “I charge this much because I have bills or expenses”
    I do tell them I charge what I do. Because its what I charge (I also do hair and make up too) which means a little more…

    But a model never hired me because of the type of lights I use or camera.
    Its because how I use it and in some cases, use no lights, just natural lighting.


    • October 07, 2011 at 2:08 pm, Christophe Vivant said:

      Part of a truth.
      How many professionnal photographer did you know or did you think they are ?
      How many persons, photographer, by the world can descently ask 10 000$ a shoot ?

      So, how many $ may I ask for a 4 hours shoot and how much David LaChapelle should ?


    • October 23, 2011 at 9:28 pm, John McDuffie said:

      Who is this friend that commands a $10k shoot? I don’t care who does what or how basic it is. I charge for my time. It takes time to set up a set. It takes time to do the shoot. Then there is post processing that takes even more time. Every minute I spend on setup, shooting and processing is a minute I am not earning money someplace else.
      So excuse me if I find your comments lacking credibility. You also posted anonymously which lends even less to us finding truth in your comments. “But a model never hired me because of the type of lights I use or camera.” – POS camera? 1999 Minolta?


      • November 13, 2011 at 11:01 pm, said:

        apparently you haven’t seen or know the amazing stuff High end editorial fashion photographers churn out. What they can command. You make real money when you have CLIENTS. A client is usually a publication or corporation.


      • April 13, 2013 at 6:53 am, LifeStoryImages said:

        There is a “base” cost a professional (in ANY profession) must charge, if they want to stay in business. = Expenses + their salary. That’s different for each profession and each person.

        From there, it goes both ways. If you suck and/or can’t market, people won’t pay that much, and you’re out. If you’re a rockstar and great marketer, sky’s the limit.

        Lookup who Phillipe is before questioning cred. I’m sure his “friend” is his equal.

        1999 Minoltas were quite excellent.


    • November 13, 2011 at 11:06 pm, said:

      I agree. You figure out what feels comfortable for you to charge and justify it. When it rocks you only get better and deserve better.

      Still you will do tf. Still you will hook up people.
      When money is made, you share the profit accordingly.

      If I have a more monied client that can afford to pay 100 an hour I give them what I think they want. If I work with someone who pays 0 an hour I give them what I think they want. What they both have in common- they both come for interpretations and vision. Some get more than they expected.


    • November 16, 2011 at 4:48 am, Miguel A. Ramos said:

      That’s awesome your friend has the God given ability and talent to pull off shoots like that. However, you can’t take this one example as the standard for all shoots and how to price them. Sometimes you have to charge gigs on a case by case basis. I’m positive your friend is super talented, and I’m sure he did not always have the great camera he must have now, and at some point he started off on a lower quality camera. While it’s true that your talent should be your biggest selling and marketing point, do you think he could get away with shooting with a camera with lesser than 10 mega pixels and still make $10,000 off that same shoot? I have some excellent photos that I made when I first picked up a digital camera. My first cam was a Canon Powershot S2 IS. I knew how to shoot with that cam and had a way of editing the photos to push the quality to its furthest limit. But still, I couldn’t market myself as a professional photographer. I had to get something better, I had to appear as a professional as much as develop my skill and learn my craft. I eventually moved up to the cam. I have now, and my equipment and skill are at the least equally respectable.

      My point is, as much talent as one may have with their photography, you eventually reach the quality limit of your equipment or get beat out by the next guy who has the latest and greatest piece of equipment. Equipment is expensive and to stay afloat, photographers have to be able to sustain their business as if it was another person, as well as make a living, by changing with the times and obtaining better stuff.

      Let me ask you this, as a make up artist, would you walk into a professional gig with dollar store make up and expect people to take you seriously, or would you go out and purchase the more expensive quality make up that you can rely on and is a better product for your client? You’d still have the talent and ability you have today, but your “equipment” will limit you.

      It’s this reason why photographers charge more for the better, more reliable, higher quality, more expensive, better trusted, durable, highly prized, equipment. Better quality equipment (that must be paid and compensated for) in turn gives the customer a better product.

      Last example and I’m done:
      A Kia and a Mercedes will both get you to your destination…. but we all know which one is the better quality car.


      • March 18, 2013 at 1:42 pm, firewalker said:

        Actually, make up artists DO use dollar store makeup… especially thinks like mascara, which have to be thrown out after the shoot. I’ve seen this on professional feature film sets.


        • November 25, 2014 at 3:52 pm, Bastet said:

          Blinc mascara, for example, is not cheap but it dries well, doesn’t clump and doesn’t smudge. There are also these things called disposable wands. If you’re working with a makeup artist who doesn’t know how to follow basic occupational health and safety without destroying products and can’t tell the difference between professional quality and cheap brands that won’t do the job to a high professional standard, then you need to be far more picky about who you hire. A good makeup artist won’t skimp on costs, will protect the health and well-being of their models, actors, performers and will treat their products with respect. They’ll have a wide range of brands for different skin types and know which products work for camera and which will flare under it. A good makeup artist will also meet with the model, pre-shoot, to do colour matching and write formula’s for exact match; prepare face charts for a few different looks and then discuss options with the paying party to ensure the goal is met at the highest accuracy and quality.


    • November 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm, Marcelo said:

      I think the more obvious point is simply, you do not see that the real time you are paying for is not the time spent on the shoot or retouching or setting up, people pay the big money for the time a professional has spent learning his trade. Giving you the benefit of the doubt and saying this is all true (i doubt it all) the client is always paying for time, the time it took to develop the style and learn the expertise.


    • March 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm, Andrew said:

      LOL @ travel expenses, clothing, and stylist. That is NOTHING compared to what a pro photographer spends on their equipment. That amount that “model” spends on clothes probably doesn’t equate to one professional lens. What are you talking about?


      • March 16, 2013 at 8:22 am, Bethan said:

        Being a make up artist, I agree with this. Obviously, make up doesn’t last forever and needs to be replaced – which ain’t cheap!


      • November 25, 2014 at 4:40 pm, Will said:

        Equipment is nothing, and it should not be part of the equation

        It’s like saying a model should charge more because she had breast implants, which probably cost more than every single equipment you own.

        Or like a guy having a sex change to become a female model, and he/she makes every one of her clients pay for the surgery.

        You can’t even be a photographer without equipment, so it’s not part of CODB.


    • March 14, 2013 at 3:42 pm, Diane Lynn said:

      What Expenses? Gas to get there, Memory Cards, Replacing the shutter or battery if need be. The Disc or flash drive, Taxes, Overhead? You must not have any of these to say that it doesnt cost a photographer anything.


      • March 16, 2013 at 1:28 am, Matthew Versluis said:

        heh.. I’m cheap partly because I’m new. at most i’ll charge a tank of gas plus 20-40….which is at most 80 bucks for me.Again, newbie here.


        • November 25, 2014 at 5:10 pm, Dr. Ron Thomas, Jr. said:

          Part of doing my taxes every year is itemization which is why I keep a separate log for each vehicle, any meal I eat away from home while on business travel, and anything else that was consumed or expended on the job. Either I add it to my invoice or deduct it as a business expense at the end of the year. Subscribing to this website is also a deductible business expense. Even if I am not doing “cost recovery” as part of my estimate or bid, I at least know what I have put in to the activity. This also lets me calculate what my break-even points and profit margins need to be, job-by-job. I can charge less for rookie models if I know I have enough corporate and magazine jobs booked or billed already. I think part of what has happened is that digital tech, as opposed to film, has made entry into shooting cheaper and more accessible. I suggest that anyone wanting to do this as a business, even a side business, go take a little course in business finance. Many community colleges offer these free as non-credit small business consulting. Just buying a camera isn’t the end of it; that’s capital equipment that you can take depreciation on so that you can afford to upgrade every three or four years.


    • March 14, 2013 at 9:52 pm, Chris Flanagan said:

      How do I find your portfolio so I can see this “amazing” photography that justifies you charging what you do? I charge what I do because of my skill as well. I obtained that skill by attending school…which, guess what…costs money! Your friend didn’t get paid $10,000 because he’s a super photographer that doesn’t do post production. He got paid $10,000 because he, like the rest of us, is a salesman. We can use whatever reasoning we want to sell ourselves, but that’s still all it is, selling ourselves. Now, if your friend was a self taught, prodigy that turns everything he touches into gold, why the f**k would he not have an assistant helping him instead of his friend? I think it’s pretty safe to assume that your buddy has enough skill to back up his pricing, and accompanies that skill with the ability to talk his ass off to companies that have a $250,000 photo budget. So, hat’s off to him for being a marketing badass with the ability to speak with enough balls to get his point across, and be paid handsomely for his efforts. Go him. He’s got a good head on his shoulders… unlike his friend.


    • March 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm, Amanda Blair Webber said:

      I agree. You pay a lawyer because you trust they know more about the law then your mother and you pay a doctor because you trust they know more about fixing your medical issue than your friend and you pay your mechanic because you wouldn’t want just anyone messing around with your engine. Non of these professionals defend themselves with a breakdown of bills. I am also a photographer and my own cousin made the comment about why I charge so much for weddings when I do not have a studio. In a nutshell because I am awesome at what I do.

      I guess I have never looked but I doubt there is a lengthy discussion arguing the reasons why or why not a lawyers charges what they do……


    • April 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm, ArtfulEric said:

      Actually Philipe is right. The old paradigm of costing out your time/expenses/etc. to figure your rate is now considered a trap that keeps you from making money. You should really sell yourself with the position that you are helping either the client or the model increase their value substantially and that your cost is a negligable factor in that improvement. And the funny thing is…this approach works with clients. Once they see you are solving a problem and making them money, it’s in the bag.

      What if you would charge $200 for a 2-hour shoot and say, that’s what my time and expenses require, versus charging $2,000 and saying look how this will help you solve your image problem and make you desirable? The latter is the way to go, people. You shouldn’t charge based on your cost; you should charge based on the difference your work makes in the value of your client’s business. And that number can be anything you think it should be.


      • November 26, 2014 at 10:25 am, captaindash said:

        The whole “expenses are irrelevant” argument drives me nuts. MRI’s take less than a 1/2hr so they should only charge $40. What?

        Expenses etc aren’t the total picture, as you point out, but the whole expenses/time equation is very valuable. That’s your starting point. Anything below that amount and you actually lose money. It gives you an idea of where you start. Any good businessman/woman/human/alien always knows their exact expenses. How else can you know your profit? Lots of people undercharge because they aren’t honest with themselves about the grand total of their expenses. You don’t tell clients that stuff, but you damn well better use it in your own calculations instead of just a pie in the sky number you pull out of your ego.


        • November 27, 2014 at 3:34 pm, ArtfulEric said:

          No, you don’t get it. Your time and expenses ARE irrelevant. All that matters is what your service will do for the client. Once you divorce yourself from the idea that your time + expenses equal a target price, you can charge whatever the market will bear. You need to figure out not what will cover your overhead, but how much your product will benefit your client. And, yeah, that’s harder, but it also works very well.

          So you may want to pay yourself $150/hour and you have a 4-hour job with $100 of expenses. That’s only $700. Well, what if you think the project could make your client $50,000? Or your wedding images are priceless? You could charge 5% of the expected profit, or $2,500 maybe, or 10%, or who knows.

          Point is, you are the guy selling POTENTIAL, not covering your costs. That’s how to make money in today’s value-added service world.


    • November 25, 2014 at 7:57 pm, David Meyer said:

      True. I have never been asked even once in the last 5 years, what camera or lens or light I use. Clients are interested in what the images look like and if they work for them and that’s what they are paying for.
      However, summing up the stuff mentioned in the article makes sense when it comes to the book-keeping. Still, the numbers behind my business are not my client’s business. I wouldn’t use that to justify my fees.


  143. October 05, 2011 at 6:15 pm, Christophe Vivant said:

    Good job David, in fatc you didn’t mension the whole producing machine.
    What about computers, software, calibrating devices, sorting database software … profiling knowledge and so …
    This also cost a lot.


  144. October 05, 2011 at 1:38 am, Ddpphotographynyc said:

    David, this was the BEST explanation regarding what we do that I have seen to date. I join the rest of the professional photographers here to say “Thank You”!! You get, I get it, Professional Photographer’s get it, but the wanna be Models do not.


  145. October 04, 2011 at 5:17 pm, OldsPhotography said:

    Funny how it’s all photographers reading and commenting on this. I still don’t think models on here get it. I doubt internet models will ever get it. Plus there are way too many ok amateur photographers still doing the work for free and many models can’t tell the difference in the photos. It’s so frustrating having to justify charging for portfolio shoots.


    • November 13, 2011 at 10:57 pm, said:

      Stop justifying. Let the work speak for it’s self. The GOOD models will understand.


      • March 22, 2012 at 3:56 am, Estella Heuslein-Photography said:

        I think thats funny. I read a thread earlier and the photographer said asking me to pay you for a shoot is like going to starbucks and expecting a free cup of coffee or going to the movie and expecting to get in for free. If you want something worth while you have to pay for it. Just like we have to pay for our equipment and our studio etc to pursue our passion in art. I do some trade because I am young and I am still learning, but I refuse to pay a model. For that I am sorry, but it is the way of the world.


        • March 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm, Tovah said:

          I model on an amateur basis. My career as a Massage Therapist is my income. Modeling is just a hobby for me. But even as a hobby, I take my modeling seriously. Since everyone is talking about the photographer side, I want to put in my two cents as a model. Now I agree there are a lot of crappy models out there who think that just having a pretty face is enough. I am not one of those models. I enjoy doing themed shoots, and I want them to look good. So I spend many hours researching the looks I want to achieve, posing in the mirror until I can get the right look, practicing my makeup and hair to get the right look, etc, etc. I buy my own clothing for the shoots, and do my own make up and hair. I spend hours and lots of money buying books and watching videos to prepare for a shoot. Afterall, half of the job is the photographer, the other half is the model. A shoot provides much more quality photos when the model is experienced and so is the photographer. But then again, I dislike half-assing anything. I feel a job worth doing is a job worth doing right. I can look back at my portfolio and see how much I have developed as a model over the years. I can see the experience come through in the pictures. I do TFP work, and some paid work, but again, it’s a hobby for me, not a career. I find it fun to dress up and pose for the camera, creating a character and letting that character come through in the images. I consider it like acting. I do get paid as a model, but my main photographer works for a stock company and makes money on my images. So I believe it’s fair to pay your model if you are going to make an income on their likeness. (Model releases signed, of course).

          I do agree that there are a lot of models out there that don’t get it. But I wanted to speak up and tell you that there are also models who DO get it. I don’t pay for photoshoots, but again, it’s just a hobby for me. I volunteer my time for concepts, or just to help out a photographer who is looking to expand into a different area. But as I mentioned, I do a lot of prep-work too, and the outfits for something like a Steampunk shoot, or a pin-up shoot are costly, as well as the research involved to make the images as perfect as possible. A great photographer is a must, but you must also have a good dynamic and be comfortable with each other, in order to have the best pictures possible. Just my two cents. 🙂


          • March 15, 2013 at 8:19 pm, Nico Aguilar said:

            Haha you just sold yourself well. I’ll be contacting you soon.

          • April 12, 2013 at 10:18 am, Ron Smith said:

            Tovah – don’t know where you’re located, can’t find your MM profile but if you’re ever in NY please let me know! Would love to work with someone with such a good head on their shoulders!

          • November 26, 2014 at 11:54 am, Tovah said:

            Thanks guys! I’m currently 7 months pregnant, so my look is different, but for anyone interested, I do have a MM profile. You can find it at the following link:

          • March 16, 2013 at 2:00 am, Eckered said:

            Tovah is a perfect answer to the OP. We all want to do the best and we all want to show the best. There are lots of ways to horsetrade talent, but bringing talent and energy puts karma or bucks in the bank, whichever side of the camera you are on. (also applies to everyone on the team)

          • November 25, 2014 at 7:49 pm, David Meyer said:

            Totally agree. I feel like many times photographers believe their role is far superior to anybody else’s on the set. And they are supposed to glue the team together, and it’s important. But for me as a photographer it’s important to be fair with the people I work with. If we are doing a concept for our own pleasure, something that adds to our portfolios, then TFP is fair. But if it’s a commercial job, I try to make sure I work with models who are being paid. And if it’s stock / agency shot I’m being paid for, I pay the model. And it’s not even just because I’m such a nice guy (I usually am a nice and polite person, just for the record) but also because of legal implications. I don’t want to have a situation like Doisneau had at the end of his life…

          • November 26, 2014 at 12:24 pm, Tovah said:

            I had an incident with a photographer I worked with in Jamaica. I was there for my wedding, and the photographer and I had made a side deal for a separate TFP shoot on a different day than my wedding. He was my wedding photographer provided by the resort we were booked at. All of his portfolio work was typical resort wedding photography, meaning he had never worked with anyone who was a professional model. We agreed to go into some areas in Jamaica that were off the resort. I did hair and makeup, and even provided him with some ideas that I thought might work with the gorgeous caribbean sea.

            He was not at all prepared when we arrived at the market place he wanted to shoot at. I asked him to give me some direction as to what he hoped to get in the shoot, and he just kept telling me to “just do what comes natural”, even as I asked him to give me some kind of direction. I felt very uncomfortable, and had a hard time loosening up, as I had no idea what he was trying to get.

            We went to a second location on a large rock and alcove along the ocean. I had brought some props to use to get a more “floaty” look, with the ocean and horizon as a background. Instead of using proper settings on his camera, he behaved like a complete amateur. He asked me to jump off the rock into the ocean, but instead of shooting continuously on a sports setting (to capture the complete movement and choose the best image) he counted to 3 and took like 2 shots! WtF?? Then as I used light floaty fabric to catch the wind, he did the same thing, and took only a couple of shots. The entire time he had me facing into the sun, which caused me to squint in every photo. I asked him to let me know if he needed me to adjust my positioning, since I can’t see what he’s seeing. He never did.

            He wanted to end the session, but I requested that we do a few shots under a small tree, which would provide interesting lighting, as well as allow me to stop squinting, and open my eyes fully (I know they are my best feature). And wouldn’t you know it, the only good photos from the shoot came from those photos. When he finally listened to my ideas and stopped acting like he was the only person there!

            After I got back to Canada, I asked him how I would get a copy of the pictures, and he totally reneged on our deal. He claimed he’s been a professional photographer for 10 years and doesn’t do TFP. He claimed he wasted 4 hours of his time and if I wanted copies of the pictures I was to pay him for his time! I countered that I have been a model for 7 years, and we had originally agreed to do TFP, and that if he didn’t honour our agreement, I would refuse to give him rights to use my likeness in any of his printed work. He said he wouldn’t because he feels I took advantage of him. WHAT???

            I did purchase 1 photo from the group (it took 1 photo out of my choices for my wedding photography). But I would NEVER work with someone like that again. Lesson learned, I will always have everything in writing from now on.

            What is the point to that story? Just calling yourself a photographer, having an expensive camera, and years of experience, does not mean you are actually great at your job. Nor does it give you the right to act like you are the only professional on set. Your model may have years of experience as well, and can make your job easier or harder, depending on how well they take direction, and how much they are willing to contribute to the overall shoot.

            *Can you tell I’m still mad about that shoot? LOL! It was 7 months ago, and I’m still pissed that I got taken advantage of! Plus I had to retouch all of my wedding pictures in Lightroom, because his editing was terrible!! (Not that my photos need much retouching, but his choices of presets were atrocious!)

          • November 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm, nordicwinds1969 said:

            I am that kind of photographer in some ways but I do not charge the big money. I am who you want to come to when you are starting out and see if you can be comfortable in front of the camera. I believe my photos are good and I can do great photos. However, I like to be natural and relaxed and I tell people that upfront and more over, it means that they know that they are in charge of their ideas too. It really turns out to be a lot of fun. This means that I rarely do wedding photography because that is not the kind of photography shoot that I do. I know other photographers who do and I will refer that kind of work out to them. Honestly.
            I really wish the photographer you ended up working with had been more open and honest with you. Clearly you had some ideas of your own too and I would have had so much fun with that.

            This is where it is very important to talk to your photographer BEFORE YOUR SHOOT! Ask for samples of their work and so forth. You would not buy a car if you did not get to at least see it in action!

            I am sorry you had that experience. I am getting a little more into the taking control but I have loved what has come out of my relaxed shoots. You did not sound like he put you at ease at all!

            Best wishes in the future!


          • September 08, 2016 at 1:01 pm, Allen Freeman said:

            Definitely sounds like he had no clue what he was doing. I’ve been a full time professional photographer for over 11 years not including using a camera for commercial/media design work for 30 years before that. Everything you mentioned sounded like he was just someone paid to shoot weddings based on what they charged for it and not based on their work or experience. That side shoot sounded like it was his very first model shoot, plus not knowing how to use his camera (you sounded like you knew way more about it that him!) he couldn’t of had much experience at all before shooting you unless it was with the same setting with flash for the wedding shots. I have been to weddings as a guest and shocked to see the supplied photographer with just one camera, flash on camera, and never even moving around to get the best angles. There are probably a million of these guys out there. Most have no knowledge of editing the images either. They were working in a department store one day, shooting weddings the next…it’s just something to make minimum wage to them. They are not artists.

          • November 26, 2014 at 10:52 am, Gerard Menos said:

            Your two cents are worth more than a dollar!

    • March 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm, Daniel said:

      Everyone thinks they’re a model. You aren’t a professional model unless you live in NYC/LA/Miami/SF/London/Paris/Milan/Rome/Sydney/Singapore/Tokyo/Beijing, AND you’re under contract with an agency AND actively working.

      Until then, you’re just a pretty person who wants to get paid for their looks.


      • March 19, 2013 at 1:34 am, Emerson said:

        That’s a pretty arrogant remark don’t you think? There are a plenty of freelance models who are able to do anything an agency model can and sometimes better. And no, you don’t have to live in any of the places you so confidently pointed out, perhaps it helps, but it most certainly isn’t a requirement to be considered a proffesional model.


        • November 25, 2014 at 6:19 pm, Rob Mueller said:

          Couldn’t agree more Emerson….Daniel’s a tad bit pretentious it sounds like….


        • September 08, 2016 at 8:34 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

          It does help, but only with distribution.


      • November 26, 2014 at 9:58 am, captaindash said:

        You’ve confused “AND” with “or”. If posing (runway, or for a photog, or for a billionaires front window) pays your bills, you are a professional. Agency/under-contract not necessary. If you make a living doing it, you’re a professional. It’s not a grey area.


    • March 16, 2013 at 6:46 pm, Tiffany Katz said:

      Yes, it seems that when it comes their portfolios, most models would rather shoot with the photographer who is just “good enough” rather than to spend a dollar on photos that are actually worth printing.


      • November 25, 2014 at 7:41 pm, David Meyer said:

        It doesn’t only apply to the models, but clients in general. There are plenty of people who are happy with “good enough” images and usually they never go beyond them. I wouldn’t worry about such people too much, because there is always somebody who wants “good enough” and there is always somebody who will take “good enough” photos. It’s much better to focus on finding the clients who appreciate what you do and commit your time to what you’re doing for such people. Competing with “good enough” doesn’t take one anywhere.


        • November 26, 2014 at 3:56 pm, nordicwinds1969 said:

          I disagree, where is it that ones wants to be? My photos may never be featured on some top model magazine, I would fall over if it did. But at the same time, I do not stick with one kind of subject. During racing season I am out at our local track and dealing with the cold one moment and the heat the next. I love getting some of the better action shots from turn four in the grand stand at the very top corner and some of the shots I get! They slay me!
          Then there are the senior photos around here. I do not do the same senior photo twice and I really sit and talk to the person so I get to know them and then I walk around the area that we will be shooting while she/he gets the finishing touched completed and our adventure begins. I have yet to hear any real complains and the two or three that expressed that they wished we could have done something different, we do! Beyond modeling, these are memories.

          You have to love what you are doing, no matter the shoot, if you do not love it, maybe you should not be the photographer, or be one at all.

          Do not lose your love for this. It is what will give you that upper hand in these projects that you get to intermingle with the person who is just across from you to make a person with clothing on and a bit of surrounding into art and make that art come alive and talk to those who are drawn into that moment that you and that fantastic person first shared and are now sharing with the world.
          Love what you do, get the support that you need while doing what you love and keep that heart-felt perspective. Love!


      • November 26, 2014 at 10:11 am, captaindash said:

        Not restricted to modelling. Real estate agents won’t invest anything to try and sell a $1,000,000 house in my area. No, I’m not giving you lit interiors and a 360 QTVR for $75, Jackass, the Pano tripod head alone is $750. Weddings go to the Craigslist guy for $400. It’s why I dropped the studio and stopped being a pro photog a few years back. It’s frustrating and I hated having to ‘justify’ things. You came to me because you saw my portfolio, remember? You came to me. Don’t go to a Lexus dealership and ask for a $20,000 car.

        TBH, the constant hustle ruined it for me. Now I mostly just shoot fine art for myself and I’m having a blast. I’d never have gotten a body converted to IR before when all I was worrying about was paying the bills. Focus stacking snowflakes at 2-3x magnification? Way more fun than dealing with art directors, haha.


        • September 08, 2016 at 8:46 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

          I feel your pain. I quit shooting weddings for that very reason:
          TOO LITTLE MONEY. But, I’m partially lying as I did a $5,000 wedding August 2013.


      • September 08, 2016 at 8:43 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

        That’s pretty much a “TODAY” thing. It definitely was NOT that way back in the ’70’s & ’80’s. An even bigger change [because of Creep Photographers] is getting a non-professional model to model Nude. Back then, I had them ‘coming outa the woodwork’. My GF [who I lived with because she had a better house], used to joke that she had the ONLY BF that had a string of Naked girls from her front door, down the street, and around the corner. Of course, she exaggerated; they weren’t naked until they got inside! She also acted as the ‘Escort’ . . . and frequently assisted.


      • September 09, 2016 at 9:36 am, Hugh McCullough said:

        Hey Tif – That is, unfortunately, true; but, it’s NOT just models. Everyone [most anyway] will ‘Cheap Out’ to save a buck. What they don’t realize is, that while a Cadillac for $45,000 at one dealer is the SAME Cadillac at a dealer selling it for $52,000, when it comes to SERVICE, price only has a little to do with it. The smart person gets the best quality that he/she can afford. If one is getting married and can only afford $500 for photos rather than the $5,000 I received a couple years ago, they simply can’t help it. But, they usually understand the difference; it’s the cheap-skate dummy that thinks they should get the same quality for 1/10th the price. I charge much more than an amateur or student; but, I also do TFP a lot. I never lower my price; but, sometimes I ‘Give it away’. The price I charge is NOT predicated on my Greed; it is simply set according to my experience and ability to what I think is “reasonable remuneration” commensurate to the work done. But, the quality in my work is for me.


    • November 26, 2014 at 3:40 pm, nordicwinds1969 said:

      Do you want a model to understand? Make them follow you and mentor you for a shoot or too. Get one of your toughest clients and have them understand that you have a trainee but you will be doing most of the photos. Then the model will be able to review the trainee photos and ask all the questions about when will they be do and can you change the light in this one and so forth so they can see what we go through. They also have to edit their own photos according to what the shoot was supposed to be about. It is really interesting to see the attitude change.

      You cannot do this with each one but it has really mellowed one of my girls that I worked with because another photographer friend and I will be doing her photos for her wedding.


    • September 08, 2016 at 8:33 pm, Hugh McCullough said:

      AMEN! But, keep your prices UP THERE, based upon “Integrity” rather than Greed!


  146. October 03, 2011 at 5:55 am, June Snow said:

    I agree completely. I believe models should be paying to build their ports for their careers in modeling. They should be paid by companies that want to use their images for promotional (fashion, advertising, etc.) purposes. Most of the time, the company will see the model’s port and choose them out of a batch of applicants – in which case the company will most likely have a photographer on contract that they use to photograph the model. That is when he/she will be paid for his/her time.

    Promotions aside, if a model is simply building his/her portfolio, he/she should pay for services rendered.

    In order to choose which photographer to use, he/she will sort through a batch of photographer portfolios. This is when the photographer will opt for TFP – when their portfolio is lacking.

    The general practice is this:

    -Model pays Photographer when: building Model portfolio and wishes to include high quality/experienced photos.
    -Photographer pays Model when: requiring a specific shoot to be included in Photographer portfolio (for example: nudes) or chooses to use a popular model.
    -TFP when: building a port or excited about a particular model/photographer/shoot idea. (So, basically, when the scenario inspires a free shoot!)

    I modeled for a little while for fun & just got into photography.. but I’ve worked with some great photographers & models and they’ve taught me so much. I understand more than I ever thought I would about this business & I love it! It’s all completely fair practice and I am so glad that I’ve been on both sides of the camera. I can truly appreciate how much harder and more stressful being the photographer is!! But everyone’s a winner in my book.

    Go team!



  147. October 02, 2011 at 7:54 pm, Juliarabkinphotography said:

    perfect. thank you.


    • November 12, 2011 at 5:05 am, Alex said:

      all i know is when i am getting paid for a professional photo shoot for an ad campaign/etc. -where i am making the money-they sure don’t wanna keep you any longer than need be.-so that shooter better hurry up and get the money shot(lol)… and on the same flp side if i am paying a shooter i am going to be as tidy,quick and organized as i can (with storyboard for my shoot if it saves time/effort)

      .on the ‘other’ flip side some shooters take more time than others to ‘get that shot’ others dont…some models pay alot for images by some of the better shooters and get nothing-where some models get the best shots of their life….you do want to find an experienced shooter no doubt…but the higher the price the nicer the nice-does not always apply…some shooters retouch some don’t do it at all- some only a tad for minor things(which i find is best)..


      • November 12, 2011 at 5:43 am, Ken Marcus said:

        Only us ‘old guys’ would know this, but . . . are you aware that most rates for photographers haven’t increased since the early 1970’s ??

        You used to be able to get a professional photographer to come out to a location and photograph something for a client and deliver a professional looking result that could be used for a variety of uses for about $400.

        It seems to be about the same rate today, except that costs have skyrocketed and profits have diminished greatly.

        Gas was about 25 cents a gallon in those days, and you could rent a large studio for about $800.oo a month. You can’t get anywhere near that today, yet the pay is the same.

        There could be a lot of reasons for this, including the fact that most photographers are horrible at business and don’t know what their services are worth or what they should charge to break even (let alone make a profit)

        True, there are still some top professionals that make a good living and get paid top dollar . . . but they are few and far between.

        The unfortunate fact of all this is that as long as photographers continue to think that they should be paid by how much time was involved, rather than what the usage fee should be, then photography will remain one of the most underpaid, exploited industries in the country.

        Ken Marcus


        • November 12, 2011 at 8:05 pm, C Drzymalski said:

          Why do professional photographers charge so much’

          Because the client/adv agency/design know they are going to get results of a consistent standard.
          The photographer is answering the given brief. A professional understands how to capture images that are right for a client’s business and convey the message required


        • November 15, 2011 at 3:59 am, Leosimages said:

          You are So right. I strongly believe one reason for this is (especially today) that EVERYONE who spends more $400 on a camera calls himself “A photographer,” and works for little to nothing. these guys/gals have destroyed the business.
          aside from a few talented ones, these “GWC” are the reason brides and grooms look for photographers who will accept $300 to shoot thir wedding.

          How can a guy like you (me) charge $1,500?
          I trained under one of the country’s best wedding photographers (Bart Stevens) and couples forked over thousands of dollars every week-for many years to have him capture their “special day.”

          And those images still do, and will forever, stand the test of time. They will hold their own for as long as humans are on this planet-and beyond.

          Where will the images shot by “The nephew of the girl who works with my maid of honor,” stand in time???

          Good luck,


  148. September 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm, Keriphotography said:

    Very professionally explained and illustrated. Thank you!


  149. September 27, 2011 at 11:26 pm, Michael said:

    Well done. A good exposition. If I may add some comments, I feel you can’t “plug the rate into a 40 hour week” as you will only be working for clients for half the time, the other half will be marketing yourself unless you are at the top of your game with a waiting list of clients. You may well be doing 40 hours of paid work – if you’re very lucky – but your working week will probably be 60 to 80 hours. Either way the annual salary starts to look very inadequate. As to studios, if you are hiring one for the shoot the cost will be added on, and you have to factor in the replacement cost of equipment to remain competitive, a write down over 3 years would be sensible, or you can hire cameras and lenses as needed. Either way that’s also expensive. Frightening isn’t it!


    • November 12, 2011 at 10:12 am, Hank said:

      Sorry, but if you’re working 60-80 hours a week, or even 40, I feel like you must be doing something wrong.

      I became a freelancer to have more time and freedom. If I start getting too busy, I raise my rates, and make the same money for less work. I had 91 days of work so far in 2011. The rest of the time I have been traveling and enjoying life. But if you enjoy all 80 hours, then keep going.


  150. September 27, 2011 at 11:25 pm, Trying2 said:

    Thanks for telling this.


  151. September 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm, Lesuememoriephotography said:

    Thank you so much for this informative information! I’m a new photographer and hate to say it but most people don’t get it like you do! I’m going to share this! Thanks! Nancy Le sue Memorie Photography (Detroit, MI)


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