Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I know as I say this I am speaking for approximately 95% of all professional photographers. Not part-time photographers, not hobbyist who take good pictures and certainly not passionate GWCs (guys/girls with cameras). I am speaking about professional photographers who are serious and passionate about their craft and artistry.

If we all had our choice, we would shoot everything and everyone until our heart's content and at the end of the day, most of us do not make a lot of money in this profession. We do it because we love it. However, there comes a time in our career that we will have to charge for our services. If you want quality images, shots from a quality photographer, be willing to invest in your career.

I was recently asked about a rate for a shoot. And I will give a hypothetical break down.

Rate: $700
Wardrobe: 3 looks. Hair/Makeup/Styling provided.
Location: Studio in Williamsburg Brooklyn, and other surrounding locations.
Final Product:
Proof: You will have 40-50 edited images to select from
Retouch: You will select 10 images for retouching.
Turn Around: Average one week
Additional looks - $100

This is a basic breakdown that I may charge a model. First words out of their mouth? Damn, why so much? I don't walk away with the entire $700.00 in my pocket. I wish I did.

So from that shoot of 700.00 guess what? I have a crew that has to be paid:

Hair/Makeup: (If I am lucky to get a two-for-one) 150.00 (and this is my crew cutting their rates for me)
Stylist: 150.00
Studio Rental: 100.00
Assistant: 50.00
Catering Service: 50.00 (the crew has GOT to be fed)
Total: 450.00
Balance Remaining: 250.00 (that is what I walk away with, if I am lucky)

Here is my hourly rate:

Shooting time: Approximately 4 hours (this is setting up lights, hair makeup and shooting time and break down)
Retouching time for 10 images: Approximately 10 hours.
Total amount of time: 14 hours
Hourly rate: 250.00 divided by 14 hours. Approximately 17.50 an hour.

This is why/how photographers make their money. We also have to invest in ourselves. Every single camera does the same thing (from the iPhone to the Hassleblad). The better the equipment, the better the image. So what do we do as photographers? We invest in our business. I recently purchased a new camera (Canon 5D Mark II). It is an amazing piece of machinery. Guess what it cost me? $4250.00

Camera: $2,700.00
Insurance: $300.00
Battery grip: $300.00
Software upgrade: $250.00
Memory card upgrade: $400.00
Tax: $300.00

Our equipment does not come to us for free, nor is it cheap. You come to us because we were able to produce images of the highest quality. If we are lucky, we may get images for our book. Most often we are approached by models who are less-than-worthy quality, however, with our hocus-pocus of special lighting, superb makeup/hair/styling and retouching skills, we can transform some people into superstars.

Now ask me why I charge what I charge. Or why any photographer charges what they charge. Invest in your careers models, we do.


  1. Dallas, thank you for taking the time to explain the calcualtion and method behind a photographers rate.

    Because I am familiar with your work, I can say -- without a doubt -- that a $700 charge for your photography is an AMAZING deal!(that I know you extend because you love what you do)

    The one thing I tell models, actors and artists when seeking a photographer is to carefully make your selection and understand that a great photo will pay for itself over time. I completely agree with you, Dallas -- you must invest in yourself!... and you'll get what you pay for ;)

    -Shae Fontaine
    Photographer (DJL University Alumni)

  2. This was such a well written blog post.

    Your rates are completely justified and as a model and makeup artist for almost thirty years I can attest to the fact that most actors and models spend far too much money for services they could get at half the price if they only did their homework.

    Unfortunately, too many aspiring models are all about themselves and their egos and they do not take the proper time to investigate their options and prepare. Part of learning the business is understanding where your money is invested and what is going to get you the best results for your investment.

    What they don't understand is there are photographers that really love what they do and they are willing to work for little or nothing to get the perfect results.

    Most of the money goes into hair/makeup and styling. Those elements can really make or break a photo. And usually, these creative artists are working well below their usual rates for advertising and professional work.

    As a model, I went to one well known "glamour photographer" who is currently getting quite a bit of fame for his work. I paid a large sum of money only to get horrible results. I wanted a new look for my model presentation. He put no effort into shooting me and the results proved my point. I couldn't use any of the photos he took.

    Everyone who picks up a camera is not an artist and they just not going to understand or see your look. It is important for a young model to create a rapport with a photographer that makes them look good, feel comfortable and confident in front of the lens.

    Having worked with you before, I can personally attest to how much effort you put into a shoot. I was really pleased with the results and I have gotten nothing but positive feedback from my session.

  3. Great post, I should convert it to Swedish rates and currency and send it to all those inquring me about my services. All too often there is someone cheaper that gets the job, but most of the time I am quite happy with it. Who wants to work for cheapskates, if you can afford to choose?

    And I'm not that expensive, maybe just a bit more realistic in my calculations (like you).

    Great site and Flickr-pages as well.

    /Stefan Tell, Stockholm, Sweden

  4. AMEN AMEN AMEN... you should hear the stuff I get in VA. People always want to beat you in the head.

    I say I am not cheap do you want your images to look cheap. There ya go.. WORK BOY WORK.

  5. Dallas I am your newest fan! You are the real thing. Great post. -Felix from Felino Studio