How to Guide for Commercial Photography Pricing

Apr 11, 2024

Unlike personal portrait or retail photography, commercial photography should be approached differently.  Deciding what to charge and a quote for a commercial job can be stressful and overwhelming.  

This article is to help guide you through creating the best quote possible. Keep in mind while going through the steps that each job, market, and factor will be different.


What is the job?

Knowing all aspects of the job will help create an appropriate quote.  Commercial jobs can include headshots, environmental office photographs, and product photography.

Before a quote is provided to the inquiring company or client, information needs to be gathered to ensure the quoted rate is beneficial for the photographer and competitive for the local market.

Questions include:

  • where will the job occur?
  • what is the intended setup?
  • what is the intended use of the photographs?
  • what or who will be included?
  • what is the main goal of the photographs?


What is your cost of doing business?

Your costs of doing business (also referred to as CODB or COB) are all of the expenses that need to be covered for you to break even.  Having this minimum amount provides a baseline for all pricing, portrait, and commercial.

These expenses include overhead costs such as the following:

  • domain
  • hosting
  • utilities
  • business debts
  • rent
  • insurance
  • professional fees
  • cost of goods

The list of costs for every photography business will vary depending on the business plan, geographic location, and niche of photography.  These costs will help to formulate the creative fee for the job and will be included in the quote with the license of use fees.


What is your license of use fee?

Now that the CODB and creative fee have been established, just to get in the door for shooting, the use license for the photographs needs to be evaluated.

Unlike in personal or retail photography, commercial photography licenses demand a higher rate as the images are not being used for personal enjoyment, but rather, they are being used commercially.

Questions to determine license rate:

  • type of usage
  • file adjustments
  • processing requests
  • length of use
  • location of use

License rates can be provided as one rate per image or one rate per license of use for the image.

For example:

Photographer A intends to photograph headshots for a local law firm.  These are quotes for either of these two methods.

Per Image= $250 per image

Per Use: $250 per license use on the image.

If the Client wants to use Image A, the licenses could be broken into billboard ($500), social media ($250), and print use ($250).   Therefore, Image A would cost the Client $1000 for one image with these three license uses.

These numbers are merely for example and will vary depending upon the outcome of the job.

Whichever license rate is chosen, this amount can be folded into a project job rate and provided to the client. It is best practice to break out the rates on any invoices and outline them within the legal contract accompanying the transaction. See more below on legal documents.


What costs does the job incur?

The costs of the job are beyond that of a minimum and creative fee.  These costs are specific to the individual client and are unable to be translated across all clients.

Costs could include:

  • materials needed to fulfill the job outside of existing equipment and materials
  • travel to location
  • request for specific image processing

Identification of these extra costs should be made before submission of the quote and acceptance by the client; however, one can include in legal documents a provision accounting for increased fees and/or reimbursement to the photographer for any extra expenses incurred in the course of the job.  This provision should have an approval process between the Photographer and the client.

Always have a local attorney review and/or draft any specific provisions you intend to include in your legal documents.


Example of a Final Commercial Quote

Job: 12 head shots plus 10 environmental shots at a law firm 14 miles from the Photographer’s Studio.   The intended use of images is for website and print use. Standard processing for the high-resolution files that will be delivered electronically via download.  The time for the shoot will not exceed two hours.  If it exceeds the two-hour mark, a $250 fee per hour will be invoiced.

Creative Fee: $500

License of Use by Image  $250 each

Extra Costs: None

Final Quote:  $6000

Numbers are not a true indication of what should be quoted. Engage in the specific calculations per job.


What legal documents or contracts do I need?

Every photography relationship should be governed by legal documentation and thorough discussion between the parties.  Commercial photography demands the use of legal documents as the price and stakes are higher.

The following is a list of legal commercial photography contracts needed:


What if the client wants copyright?

The request for copyright transfer from Photographer to client can seem absurd to many photographers, but this is not an uncommon request in the commercial photography field.

If the decision to transfer the copyright is made, it may be accompanied by an agreement licensing the Photographer the right to use for marketing purposes such as use in a portfolio for obtaining future commercial jobs.


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