Lisa Talks Photographers Day Rates / Creative Review Money Issue / Uncut Version

Cover_resized 'How much do you earn? It's not a question many of us feel comfortable answering?...' begins the introduction in this months Creative Review.  A supreme attempt to tackle the thorny question on everyone's minds, the 'Money Issue' features interviews and articles by industry experts on topics such as average salaries, billing rates, start up costs and outgoings in the creative industries and includes a piece by Lisa on photographers day rates. Grab a copy while you still can!

Here's the full uncut version.

'Usually if an email pops through from the editor of Creative Review asking for some advice I’d be only too happy to help. But when the question was about photographers day rates, I wasn’t quite sure what to do.

It’s not that it’s an unusual question, I get asked it almost everyday, and it's not like it's some big secret. The problem is, a photographers day rate totally depends on what the images are going to be used for and this of course varies wildly in the commercial world.

One day a photographer might be shooting a poster campaign for a high street chain, the next they might be shooting for a specialist audience or a charity. Basically the more commercial exposure and potential return on investment (ROI) for the client, the higher the fee.

_MOR0416© Nick David. Morrisons. Billington Cartmell. 

It occurred to me that there really is scant information available on this subject. The little that there is, is heavily biased to only one small sector of the creative industry, namely consumer above the line advertising, even though there are multiple other pockets of the industry too - annual reporting, packaging, business to business, recruitment and healthcare to name but a few.

Here’s some key things you need to know about how photographers value their pictures:

• When you commission photography, you buy a usage licence to reproduce the photography in a specific and restricted way. ( see chart below)

• The photographer retains the copyright which means they own the right to authorise others to reproduce the images. A photographer should never sell copyright. I have yet to come across a commercial client who actually wants the copyright- i.e the authority to allow others to use the image.

• The extent of the usage required is reflected in the day rate.

• Usage is quantified by four factors.

Factors Definitions Examples
Media Where will the images be seen? ie the form of communication Outdoor billboard, website, packaging
Time How long will the image be in circulation? One year, five years, in perpetuity
Territory Which countries or regional areas will the work appear in? UK, Worldwide, Cardiff
Audience Who will see the images? Consumer: the general publicTrade/Business to Business(B2B): other businesses in the same industry.Specialist: eg recruitment, healthcare, government.Corporate: employees or stakeholdersCharity, Education


•  The photographers day rate is accumulative. Increasing with each additional factor, for example five years rather than one, six forms of communication rather than two.

• The percentage increases are not necessarily equally incremental in all industries and certain things need to be taken into consideration- eg in the world of corporate communications, annual reports are by their very nature often intended for a global audience, albeit just employees of the company or stakeholders, so not on the same scale as a global audience for a consumer advertising campaign.

• Different rates apply to different audiences. Generally consumer is the highest, then B2B and specialist, then corporate then charity and education.

• Once at a certain level , ie the level when a photographer is a serious contender to be commissioned by advertising and design agencies, experience and the amount of awards a photographer has won has a surprisingly negligible affect on the day rate. The industry dictates the rate according to the project and there are very few ‘star’ photographers in a position to name their price. What might happen however is that more established  photographers will work more days in a year as they are more prolific.

In fact it’s quite strange, sometimes the more awards a photographer wins the the more ‘charity’ or ‘low budget but highly creative and potentially award winning ‘ jobs they get offered. At the other end of the scale I represent up and coming talent, in my division LPA Futures, who have been commissioned to work for higher fees than some of my more established photographers on occasion because the budget is appropriate for the usage of the particular job.

RF_Steamer_MASTER© Rowan Fee. John Lewis. Kitcatt Nohr Digitas. 

• To calculate a day rate based on usages , work out a base rate for the relevant audience then increase incrementally according to the required factors. ( see chart below)

And now the bit you’ve all been waiting for, some numbers. What can a photographer earn in a day?

Here is a very broad guide, the figures are as variable as the usage factors cited above. High should not be interpreted as expensive, rates are high when the usage factors are high - a global, high profile, in perpetuity campaign for example. By the same token, low should not be interpreted as cheap, again, certain factors influence this: maybe the shoot was for a small, regional not for profit organisation.

Believe_Acheive© Nick David. Aasha Gang Mediation Project.

Photographers Day Rate Guide (* see disclaimer below )

Industry Low Medium High
Consumer ≤ 1500 1500-6000 ≥ 6000
Trade/specialist ≤ 1500 1500-4000 ≥ 4000
Corporate ≤ 1200 1200-1800 ≥ 1800
Charity/education /tests ≤  800 800-1800 ≥ 1800

≤ = Less than or equal to

≥ = More than or equal to

Figures are in GBP Pounds

Before you start thinking, you’re in the wrong game, photographers day rates aren’t bad! Don’t forget a photographer doesn’t work five days a week forty odd weeks a year. Commercial photographers are doing well if they work five days a month. A lot of their time is spent creating the opportunities to be commissioned in the first place, marketing and shooting personal projects, not to mention the other production days around a shoot, the casting, location scouting, post production.

This brings me on to my final point. There’s little point in comparing day rates like for like when gathering quotes. A photographer who quotes a lower day rate might charge more for other shoot elements like digital capture or post production. Or they might approach the shoot production differently which adds to the costs , perhaps they don’t ‘shop around' as much to get good rates from the models or the location scout so don’t maximise your budget.

When working out your photography budgets you need to look at the shoot production as a whole, sometimes a photographers fee can appear almost inconsequential compared to the total shoot costs. Take two shoots, the fees might be identical if the usage is the same, but the production costs might vary from £500 to £150,000. Anyway that's a whole different subject which I'll save for another blog post.

Hopefully this has thrown a bit of light on the often complex subject of photographer day rates. If I’ve just confused you further, I know a very helpful photographers agent that can help!

* Disclaimer: Please note the commissions and images seen in this article are simply to give an idea of different usages fees. The fees and production costs given as examples do not relate to these shoots directly. The figures quoted in this article are a guide only and the personal opinion of Lisa Pritchard, they are not meant to be an attempt at price fixing and should not be used as a rate card. All figures are based on GBP Pounds.