Photography Tips

How to Actually Calculate Your Rates as a Photographer

February 25, 2022

If you’re ready to set your rates well, here are 3 tips to keep in mind.

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I'm a photographer, educator and weekly podcaster. I left teaching in a First Grade classroom to build a thriving photography business, and inspire and teach other like-minded women how to build, scale, and create a photo business. I am so excited to meet you!

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I’ll never forget how scary it was to share my rates with those first few clients. Let’s get real: there just aren’t many good resources out there for us self-employed gals. I had noooo idea if I was charging too much compared to my competition – or worse, not enough to cover expenses I hadn’t even thought about!

Here’s what I know: you’re a photographer because you love capturing magic. And since you’re here, reading about setting rates, I know you’re a dreamer, too. You don’t want to just capture magic for your clients, you want to create it for yourself. You want to build the business of your dreams so that YOU can thrive. I hear you, mama, and I believe it’s absolutely possible! 

If you’re ready to set your rates well, here are 3 tips to keep in mind. 

How to actually set your rates as a photographer in Jillian Goulding's photography business resource and education blog for photogerphers.

01. Get to know your world. 

If you’ve been here for a while, you’ve definitely heard me talk about finding your dream client. It’s soooo important to know who your ideal customers are, because they’re the first step in getting to know your photography world. What in the heck do I mean by “world”? I’m talking about your dream clients, your competitors, your market, and even your own goals! The better you know your world, the more effectively you’ll be able to price yourself within it.

Your dream client is a major key in setting your pricing, because, duh – they’ll be the ones paying you! What kind of photos are they looking for? A family looking for a quick 30 minute shoot for Christmas card photos is going to be seeking out a tooootally different price point than, say, a brand looking for a major editorial shoot or an influencer who needs a half-day shoot, complete with 4 outfit changes.

Hear me: ALL of these clients are perfect if they’re perfect for you. You just have to figure out which people you want to create your personal kind of magic for. I’m a firm believer in knowing your lane and sticking with it!

Now, let’s talk about your competition. “Competition” feels like a bad word sometimes, right? I mean, I run a business that empowers female photographers everywhere to succeed in their businesses! I definitely believe there’s always room at the table – but let’s face it, there are other people in your city offering photography services, and you do need to know the rates for at least a few of them. Knowledge is power, girl, and knowing about your fellow photographers will help you set your rates well. 

Okay, enough about everyone else. We gotta bring it back home to YOU with this next point. 

02. Solidify your services. 

As I just mentioned, I’m a big believer in finding your lane and sticking with it. Does that mean you can’t get creative? Never! But it’s great to offer consistent packages at consistent pricing so that you and your clients all know what to expect at a shoot. You can structure your packages however you’d like, but I always recommend including:

  • length of the session
  • number of edited images clients will receive
  • any necessary pre-shoot deposit (if you decide to have one)

It seems easy peasy because it is! Just create some packages and get ready to sell ‘em. I’m here to make sure you DO sell ‘em – this is your time to shine!

03. Break out the calculator. 

I know, I know – doing math isn’t the fun part of dreaming for most of us, but you’ll have to crunch some numbers if you want your business to shine, instead of you shining from the nervous sweating you’ll be doing if you’re under too much financial stress. Too gross? Moving on. 

Of course, you want to price yourself competitively as you get started. But you also want to make a profit! And trust me, making bank is possible, even in the early days! It just requires that aforementioned calculator. Here’s the equation you’ll need to keep in mind. It might seem backwards at first, but stick with me! 

Start with your TOTAL. How much do you want to make? This can be a monthly, quarterly, or even yearly goal (although I’m a fan of starting small so you can track what works and what doesn’t).

Now, start hitting that SUBTRACT button. You’ll need to factor in some expenses! Some tried-and-true things you should designate some dollars going to: 

  • Equipment. From DSLRs to lenses to tripods, it all adds up!
  • Software. Think about everything from editing to accounting to IG content scheduling. 
  • Travel. This is especially true if you’ll be traveling long distances or staying overnight for wedding weekends, but even gas money adds up. Aaaand… 
  • Taxes. Uncle Sam is a mean, mean man. I’m kidding. But definitely budget for this, or it will HURT at the end of the year! 

Next, how many HOURS do you want to work? Is this going to be your full-time gig, or are you sticking with a photography side hustle for now? No shame in your game either way! It’s just an important piece of the puzzle to consider. 

Once you have all those numbers, you’re ready to hit those calculator keys. Knowing your total revenue goal helps you determine what pricing will help you get there (and in a number of hours that work for your actual life and schedule), and charting out expected expenses ahead of time saves you from a ton of headaches and scary surprises.

Do you feel prepared to get out there and set those rates? This is the unglamorous part of business – market research and number crunching and sifting through those nitty gritty details. But I hope this equips you with a game plan, so that you can get back to that behind-the-camera magic. You’ve got this!

Photographer and educator Jillian Goulding holds a camera as she poses for a self portrait and shares how to actually set your rates as a photographer in her photography business blog.

Ready to build the photography career of your dreams? 

My online course for photographers, Art & Heart Photography Academy covers soooo much more than just rates. It’s a game plan for building a business you truly love. 

Get on the waitlist 

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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