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How Much Money do Photographers Make?

By Michelle Ecker on December 21, 2017

How Much Money do Photographers Make?

Are you an aspiring photographer hoping to start your own legitimate, profitable business someday? If you’re new to the industry entirely, it can be uncomfortable to determine how much money you should start charging clients as you begin booking your first handful of serious shoots. Getting started, here’s a short list to help you determine what you should expect to be paid based on your level of education, experience and expertise:

Hobbyist: Free (or under $100). There are many people who love photography and simply like to practice their passion for fun, offering to do shoots for relatives and friends for free or way below market price. For an aspiring photographer, offering free shoots as a way to portfolio-build or develop a name for your brand can be a tempting notion. However, it’s important to remember what professional goals you have in mind, and act accordingly. If photography is genuinely nothing more than a hobby for you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with booking some fun shoots with friends, free of charge. But if you’re working for free as a way to gain experience, you might be making a mistake. Even if you’re new, that doesn’t mean your time and effort have no value. Do entry-level employees in other professional fields work completely for free when they’re first hired? Absolutely not. See below to determine what might be more appropriate.

Amateur: $25 - $75 per hour. If you’re just getting started within the photography industry but have ambitions to launch your own studio someday, it’s important to charge your first clients for shoots. Many beginners, even though they’ve been formally trained, wind up working for free when they’re just getting started because they’re eager to build a portfolio. We advise against this- your work is valuable. If you’re truly new to the field and feel inappropriate charging more, stick within the $25- $75 range.

How much money should you charge clients for your professional photography?

Note: Different pricing models are appropriate for different genres of photography. Event photography is generally based on an hourly or day rate, for example, while amateur commercial photographers might charge on a per-image or per-project basis.

Student: $50-100 per hour or $25-100 per image. As with all types of photography, the student rate varies, depending on the artist's skill level and years of experience. Some advanced students do – and absolutely should – charge as much as professionals.

Do you want to go to photography school?

Semi-Pro: $50–$150 per hour / $50-125 per image. These are likely photography school graduates who have completed formal training and have some professional experience. While they might not yet own their own studio, these are not beginners and therefore charge a slightly higher rate.

Professional: $75-$250 per hour / $75-$250 per image. This photographer is an industry professional, has a respectable level of experience, and possibly owns his or her own reputable studio.

Top Professional: $200-$500+ per hour / $250-$1,500 per image. In any industry, there will always be an elite, highly competitive group of in-demand pros. In the case of photographers, some of the top professionals in today's industry charge over $10,000 per day, or $1,500 per image.