From Free to Fee: Transforming Your Photography Career

May 29, 2024

In this blog post, I’ll explain how you can transition from working for free to charging hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a shoot.



This post is broken down into two sections. The first section covers five pricing models, and the second section covers three steps you can follow to start charging over $100 an hour.


Five Popular Pricing Models

  1. Hourly Pricing

    • You charge an hourly rate and keep track of how much time the project takes. If your rate is $100 an hour and you work for four hours, you charge $400. Simple and straightforward.
  2. Daily Pricing

    • You charge a flat fee for a full day or half-day of work. For example, you might charge $1000 a day for up to ten hours of work – even if it takes less time, you still get paid the full amount.
  3. Fixed Pricing

    • You charge a flat fee for the project. For instance, if you’re asked to shoot a wedding, you assess the scope and work involved, and quote a price, say $3000. The client can accept or decline.
  4. Value-Based Pricing

    • You charge based on the project’s value to the client. For example, if one of your pictures is significantly more popular than others, you might charge more for it due to its perceived value.
  5. Retainers

    • You charge upfront for future work. For example, if you regularly shoot for a specific client, you could arrange to be paid $1000 at the start of every month at a rate of $100 an hour. Adjustments are made if you work more or fewer hours than agreed upon.


Choosing the Right Pricing Model

Fixed Pricing vs. Hourly Pricing

In my opinion, fixed pricing is often the best choice, especially in a creative industry like photography where your cost is open to interpretation. Fixed pricing places value on your work – not on your time. As you become a better and more efficient photographer, you’ll be able to finish projects quickly while still being paid the same amount.

Hourly pricing can be problematic because it opens the door for clients to nitpick. By setting a fixed price, you avoid these issues and ensure that you’re paid fairly for your work. From a psychological perspective, it’s easier to tell someone you charge $1000 than it is to explain you charge $100/h for ten hours of work.


Key Considerations for Fixed Pricing

  1. Get a Deposit

    • Ensure you receive a deposit to secure some payment even if the project falls apart.
  2. Rock-Solid Contract

    • Have a contract that clearly defines the project scope to protect yourself from scope changes.
  3. Avoid Asking for More Money

    • Stick to the agreed price, even if the project takes longer than expected. This maintains your professional reputation.


When to Use Daily Pricing and Retainers

Daily pricing and retainers are beneficial for repeat clients where you’re doing similar work repeatedly. Just be clear about the terms to avoid misunderstandings, such as defining a full day’s work as up to ten hours, not twenty-four.


Value-Based Pricing Insights

Value is relative, and you need to research average costs in your area before adjusting your prices. Track how sales are affected by price changes, and find a balance between charging a premium and fair pricing.


Three Steps to Start Charging Over $100 an Hour

  1. Psychology of Pricing and Self-Confidence

    • Overcome the ‘pricing cycle’ where lack of confidence leads to lower pricing and lower quality work. Develop self-confidence by recognizing your skills and charging accordingly.
  2. Understanding Client Expectations

    • Familiarize yourself with the ‘iron triangle’ of good, fast, and cheap. Position yourself as ‘good and fast’ to justify higher rates.
  3. Structuring Your Costs

    • Quote on a project-by-project basis or offer simple packages. Use the three-tier pricing structure to leverage the anchoring effect, ensuring your desired option is seen as the best value.



Transitioning from free to fee is a journey that involves understanding different pricing models, developing self-confidence, managing client expectations, and structuring your costs effectively. By following these steps, you can transform your photography career and start earning what you deserve. If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out – and happy shooting!

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