Costing notes for photographers

1. Photographers should consider the financial viability of shoots before accepting them.

2. In order to assess the financial viability of a shoot photographers need to know the real cost of running their business (the non negotiable costs) and how much they need to charge in order to cover this.

3. The business model that Andrew has put together is a tool that can be used to determine the real cost of running the business.

4. Photographers shooting digitally are carrying approximately three times the equipment overheads of film photographers and need to recoup these costs in order to run a financially viable business.

5. Digital equipment needs to be replaced and / or updated more frequently than film equipment (at least every three years) due to rapid technological advancement and the replacement thereof needs to be costed into shoots.

6. The photographer's fee (Base Usage Rate (BUR)) (the negotiable part) should be recorded in invoices separately to fixed costs such as lighting equipment, studio and consumables (the non negotiables).

7. The method of charging an 'all in' photographer's fee should not be used.

8. The rate per capture of digital images should be the rate per SUPPLIED PROCESSED UN-RETOUCHED image and is NOT charged as the number of times the shutter release button is pressed. The capture rate can realistically be approximately the same as the cost of a roll of film and the processing thereof (with markup).

9. Just as a film photographer would shoot and process film so should a digital photographer shoot and digitally process digital images. A digital photographer should not hand RAW unprocessed images to a client (would you hand exposed unprocessed film to a client?).

10. A film photographer would normally hand processed images to the client (trannies) who would then send the processed images to their repro house who would scan and retouch the images.

11. A digital photographer does not have to retouch their own images and can hand processed images to the client for their repro house to retouch.

12. Should a digital photographer insist on retouching their images then the quality and price of their retouching should AT LEAST be equal to that of the repro house that the client would use.

13. In our opinion the way forward is through unity, good business practice and education.

14. Photographers need to be educated about the real cost of digital photography and how to recoup the costs thereof.

15. Clients need to be educated by photographers about the real cost of digital photography and the difference between capturing and digitally processing an image and the retouching thereof.

16. Photographers need to educate themselves and keep abreast of technological advancement and fair market rates.

17. We would like to suggest that key photographic industry figures develop and present lectures in association with the educational institutions on job costing and determining and recouping the overheads of a photographic business.


The notes and business model referred to are available via e mail from Andrew. Please e mail your request for them to him at

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