How Much Does Commercial Photography Cost?

How Much Does Commercial Photography Cost?

How Much Does Commercial Photography Cost?

Short Answer:

It depends. It really does. Let me explain…

Long Answer:

If you’re new to hiring someone to take pictures for you, it can be confusing and/or frustrating to get told “it depends” when you ask “how much does commercial photography cost?”. This isn’t just a tactic to see how much money a photographer can get out of you. Commercial photography has a lot of variables.

Let’s consider 3 of the biggest variables: 1.) the effort and resources it takes to create the images 2.) post processing and 3.) image licensing (aka what you can do with the images).

Effort and Resources

On a quote this may go by different names. You might see things like Day Rate, Session or Creative Fee, or (our personal favorite) the Photography Fee. They all mean the same basic thing. Whether the job takes an hour or multiple days, the amount of work it takes to capture your images affects how much this portion of the invoice costs.

This component reflects the time and skill it takes to complete the project, including pre-production tasks: client meetings, advance site visits, and other site-specific preparation. It might also include things like equipment rental, hiring assistants, buying props, or feeding people onsite (although some of these things may be itemized separately from the Photography Fee).

Post Processing

Post Processing includes things that happen after the initial shoot. We spend a significant amount of time editing your images to make them perfect. This can include HDR image processing, color correction, retouching, compositing, 360 image stitching, online proofing gallery creation, and things like these. It is not unusual for the Post Production work to consume as much time as the photography, if not more.

Image Licensing (Who Owns The Images?)

What does it mean to license an image? It means that the photographer is giving someone permission to use their image to create a certain number of products during a certain time period and, most importantly, compensate the photographer according to how the image will be used.

But wait, you ask, if I’m hiring you to take pictures for me, aren’t all the images mine to do whatever I wish?

The short answer is no, that isn’t how the laws of copyright work in the USA. This may be different in other countries, but in the USA the one who pushes the shutter button owns the rights of the images they produce. If you wish to use an image that someone else creates to represent your brand, you need to have an image license. An image license is like a lease that spells out what you can and can’t do with an image. 

It's Like Leasing a Car

Architectural Photography of Shaheen Cadillac in Lansing, MI

We can use the analogy of leasing a car. While a car is on lease, you can drive it around, but you can’t sell it to someone else. You also have limited rights to use that car, like how many miles you can drive it. It cost more to lease a vehicle for 30,000 miles a year than it would for 10,000. Image licensing is similar.

You aren’t buying an image, but leasing it. And it costs more to put an image on a billboard than on your internal company newsletter. A company that will use an image in a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign will pay more than a company that will put that same image on 20 t-shirts.

What Can I Do With A Standard Image License?

Our standard licensing includes 10 years (this can be extended for an additional fee) of the following rights: Editorial, Trade Show Display, Corporate Collateral, Website, Social Media (photo credit required), Professional Competitions, Trade Magazines, and Wall Display.

Can I share the images with others to use?

Third-party usage is not included with our standard licensing. Others interested in using the images must obtain appropriate usage license from us in order to avoid infringement. If you’d like others to use the images, send us an email with the details on which images and we’ll send you back an invoice followed by a link to download them.

Can I Buy The Images?

You might ask next: I can buy a car, is it possible to just buy the images? While that is usually an option, the cost can be prohibitive, especially if you only need the image for a limited amount of time on a small scale project. This is known as a Copyright Transfer. If you do that you’re essentially being charged for every conceivable scenario that an image might be used for. That might make an image license 5x or 10x more costly than is necessary. 

So It Depends

So, as you can see, “it depends” is an honest answer to the question of “how much does commercial photography cost?”. A lot goes into answering that question for you. This may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but in the end, you’ll get better images and protection from liability by knowing exactly how all this works.

So Really, How Much Does it cost?