Commercial photography cost guide

Commercial photographers are experts who take pictures for a wide range of projects: from lookbooks for designers to menus for restaurants. They operate in almost every industry and can have a narrow specialization, such as food photography or headshots photography. All commercial photographers have their unique style and trademark in the pictures, and so can be chosen perfectly to represent a particular product or service in the market.

Here you will learn about:

Commercial photographers work in all possible fields of life and business. The umbrella term includes product photographers as well as fashion or advertising photographers. All experts in the commercial field work for the purpose of selling their images. Most often they make and sell images to leaflets, magazines, newspapers, restaurants and cafes, and any other parties interested in their work. Commercial photographers cost varies significantly; it depends on the field a particular expert works in. The lowest price in the industry is $150-$200/hour while the top end cost can reach $6,000/day.

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Commercial photography types and cost

Product photographers

Product photographers focus on a particular product and take pictures for the purpose of its further selling. They either focus upon the product’s design or upon the use of the product. Product photographers can charge either by the hour or by the day. The prices vary between $150-$200/hour or $1,200-$1,600/day. The flat rate is often offered to customers willing to photograph no more than 2-3 products, while for multiple products hourly rate is more common. By-the-product cost is about $30/product and this cost is available for projects with 200 products or less; this leads to the total estimated cost of the whole shooting of $6,000.

Advertising photographers

Advertising photographers create promotional photos for large banners, leaflets, business cards, magazines (including covers), etc. Advertising photography doesn’t have the differentiation between the studio and outside shooting sets because every scenery is matched to a particular product or service advertised; this saying the cost won’t depend on the setting. The cost of advertising photography is about $300-$500/hour at the lowest end. The top-notch professionals usually charge on a daily basis (however, the day, in this case, means 5-6 hours of shooting); and the cost begins at $3,500.

Be ready that when you hire an advertising photographer, the contract will state the “usage” percentage that a photographer expects to receive from every print and reuse of the image.

Food photographs

Food photographers work for restaurants to take photos for the menu, for special categories in magazines, for catalogs, and for flight press. Food photography is generally performed in studios where the proper light can be chosen for the images. The average cost of food photographers is based on the flat rate of $200-$300 for up to 4 hours of shooting. The range depends on where the restaurant is located. The most experienced food photographers may require about $800 for the same 4 hours of shooting and a day rate of $1,300 for up to 8 hours of shooting on location.

Fashion photography

Fashion photographers work for fashion magazines, with professional models for lookbooks of famous designers, during the runway shows, and anything else related to the fashion industry. The skill of expert photographers, in this case, ranges from commercial fashion photography for catalog photographs to editorial shots aiming to use the clothes in unusual and dynamic ways.

Fashion photographers charge on a daily basis only. The lowest cost of such an expert is $1,000 per 6-8 hours of work. The average cost is almost impossible to calculate because it ranges from $2,500 to $10,000 per day or even several hours of shooting and depends heavily on the skill and fame of a particular photographer. Well-known photographers may charge as much as $150,000 for a single shooting day.

Portrait photography

Portrait photography can include family portraits, professional headshots, portraits for lookbooks, and portraits for any other purpose. Portrait photographers always have a busy schedule exactly because they work with almost every field of photography. The average cost of portrait photographers varies between $170 and $300 but can go significantly higher depending on the purpose of the images.

Cost-related questions

What services are included in the price?

The great variety of photographers that fall under the “commercial photography” category cannot encompass the complete list of services every type offers. The general ones include:

  • actual photo shooting between 2 and 6 hours on average (about 1-1.5 for portrait photographers and up to 8 for fashion photographers)
  • setting of the shooting location (whether studio or outdoor)
  • images (the number heavily depends on the photographer’s category)

Apart from these services, some photographers provide MUAH service while others offer even a fashion stylist on set. Product photographers will ensure that the product advertised looks perfect on every shot (this frequently means that the actual product is substituted with some substances to look better in the picture). Prints are also a possible service, yet the cost depends on the industry (from $30/photo for product photos and up to $1,000 for fashion shot).

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How many photos do I get?

The number of photos depends on the industry and qualification of every commercial photographer. For instance, in the fashion industry or after a headshot session you can receive 2-3 of the best-edited images. Family portrait photographers usually provide about 15-25 of edited images. For food, advertising, and product photography the average number of edited images is about 30 or it equals the number of products ordered. In commercial photography experts rarely provide raw images to the clients, unless it is a specific request stated in the contract.

Do I pay for the travel expenses?

Yes, all commercial photographers require additional coverage of travel expenses if they travel further than the city line. On average, the cost is $.50-$.70/mile if the photographer travels on his or her own. Some photographers in the advertising and fashion industries will require a transfer organized by the client.

Other frequently asked questions

Who owns the copyright of the images?

In the field of commercial photography, copyright always remains with the photographer. In this way, commercial photographers earn their living charging for the “usage” of their works of art. Every photographer in the contract outlines the rights a client has toward the images. Most commercial photographers will grant you the right of using their images in any possible way, however, will include a special fee on every publication or print. Some photographers may limit copyright for you only within the set field, such as use for website only or for a professional profile, for example. All copyright issues should be discussed with every commercial photographer you consider for cooperation before signing the contract. Ensure that you receive all rights for your purposes otherwise, you risk paying lots of money later on.

Do I need to provide props for the photo shoot?

Every commercial photographer has required equipment and props to make the photo look incredible and usually they don’t request additional props from their clients. In case you already have a clear vision of how your product or service should be represented in the picture and you have all equipment to do so, then, of course, you can explain the chosen photographer your idea and offer the props.

Bottom line

Commercial photographers are professionals who operate in a wide range of industries and take photos for the purpose of selling them. Their work is used to sell products or services promoted by the client. Commercial photographers cost varies depending on the photographers type and field of specialization. The lower end equals $150-$200/hour while the top end price can be $6,000/project.

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