Deciding how to price your food photography is challenging for many bloggers, but it's a key part of a successful blog monetization strategy. Blogger-turned-professional-photographer Darina Kopčok guides you through the pricing your food photos so you'll be prepared the next time somebody asks you "how much do you charge?"
One of the biggest challenges that food photographers face is determining what to charge for their services. There’s no standard hourly or daily rate; rather, there’s a range within which most clients are willing to pay. This greatly depends on the quality and reputation of your work, what your competitors are charging, and the perceived value of your work in the marketplace.
As a blogger who may be approached to provide food photography for brands, it’s important to understand how much to charge for your work so you’re not underpaid for your efforts. Also, when bloggers and photographers charge too little for their services, it undermines the industry as a whole, lowering the value of photography and making it a commodity.
You deserve to be adequately compensated for your skills, effort and time.
Photography equipment is very expensive and creating beautiful food photography takes a lot of time and comes with a huge learning curve. You deserve to be adequately compensated for your skills, effort and time.
The Creative Fee
I don’t recommend charging an hourly rate, but rather, a creative fee that covers not only your shooting, food styling and editing services, but also any expenses you undertake, such as groceries and props. This is the number you present to the client.
However, you should go in with a clear idea of how much you need to make an hour to cover your costs and make a profit. Multiply this by the number of hours you think it will take to complete the project from start to finish. This should be what you charge your client. (Need help with that? Check out our two part series on pricing your work as a freelancer)
My personal suggestion is that you aim to make $60.00 to $100.00 an hour as a new photographer. Where you fall on this spectrum will be determined by the area where you live, your cost of doing business, and the types of clients you’re working with. One of the reasons many brands work with bloggers is because they charge less than professional photographers, and have a variety of valuable skills.
Working with brands that have smaller budgets can be a great way of breaking in, but again, you don’t want to undervalue yourself.
Your Cost of Doing Business
Your cost of doing business is a very important consideration. Once I had my camera gear and lights and a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, I figured I was set and my cost of business would be low. However, this isn’t so.
As a food photographer, you have to pay for web hosting costs, equipment and liability insurance, workers compensation insurance, business licenses, and accounting software. You also have to pay to maintain and regularly upgrade your equipment, which means you have to factor these costs into your monthly expenses over the course of a year. This means it can easily cost you $1000.00 a month plus, just to run your business, without the overhead of a studio. Can you afford to charge that client three hundred bucks for ten images with those kinds of expenses? It’s highly unlikely.
Make sure the number you set for your annual income is enough to meet your financial needs, cost of doing business, with enough left over for savings to help you through lulls in business. In the beginning, you may not be able to justify very high rates, but you still need a number that you’re comfortable with and reflects your value. Much of your business could end up coming from regular clients. It can be difficult to suddenly make significant increases to your price list without alienating regular repeat business. Ordinarily, a 5 to 10 percent increase is acceptable, in keeping with inflation.
Track Your Time
If you’re new to freelancing, you may find that you continually underestimate how long it’ll take to complete a project. Failure to determine the exact scope of a project beforehand can lead to earning less than you should, or paying for things with your time and money that are the client’s responsibility.
Track your time on each project to get an understanding of how many hours it typically takes to complete the work you do. Every minute of your time should be considered. Not only the food styling, shooting and post-processing, but also the time you spent driving to the grocery store and picking out the ingredients, the time you spent resizing and backing up the files, and the planning you did on the pre-production side of things.
It's better to overestimate than underestimate, as projects often take longer than we assume they will.
Eventually, you’ll be able to more accurately gauge the time involved when presented with the scope of a project. When in doubt, it’s better to overestimate than underestimate, as projects often take longer than we assume they will. In the first year of my business, I found that I consistently underestimated my time by about 25 to 30 percent.
Come Up with Packages
One of the best ways to approach recipe and restaurant photography is to come up with packages at different price points, with variable deliverables (e.g., a 5-image deal, 10-image deal, etc.).
Take variables such as props, surfaces and backgrounds into consideration. For example, sometimes a restaurant will ask me to bring in my own lighting, dishes and backgrounds because they’re trying to achieve a certain look or mood. In that case, I’ll charge more for 10 images than if I were going into the restaurant and shooting 10 images on their own dishes in natural light. Consider the various scenarios and uses and price accordingly.
Don't Forget Income Tax
Freelancers need to pay income tax directly to the government, so this needs to be taken into consideration when coming up with a final rate. Always put aside money to pay your tax bill when you complete each project, preferably in a separate account. (Editor's note - we recommend consulting with an accountant in your province to get an idea of what your tax bill will be - this will vary greatly depending on your personal situation. An hour consult with an accountant will be worth it - we promise!)
Finally, keep in mind that if you are just starting out, you may not land your optimal rate, but as you build a body of work and client list you’ll have more leverage to demand higher rates. In the meantime, value your work and don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve. You just might get it!
- User and Licensing Agreements For Food Photography
- Saying Yes to Less: When It's Ok To Work For Less Money
- Creating Income Opportunities Through Niche Blogging
How to Price Your Photographic Services was written by Darina Kopčok, a blogger turned professional photographer based in Vancouver, BC. She has shot campaigns for nationally recognized brands such as Hardbite Chips and Wild Coast Fruit Co., as well as worked with international organizations based in Europe and the UK. She's also an experienced writer and educator, working with bloggers and aspiring photographers to elevate their skill set and navigate the business side of the photographic industry. Darina blogs at gastrostoria.com.