Determining how much to charge your clients for photography is challenging in and of itself. The internal debate probably goes a little something like this:
- How long will it take me to do this work?
- How big do I think their budget is?
- Am I overpricing? Underpricing?
- Am I going to lose this client if I charge too much?
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And the debacle becomes further complicated as you grow your business and begin to outsource photo-editing work.
Even though outsourcing tasks can save you time and help you earn more money, you still need to ensure you’re charging your clients enough to cover those additional fees — and make it worth your while.
Here are some considerations when you’re figuring out what to charge and how to communicate it to your clients.
In this article
- Pricing structure
- Cost of services
- The costs of photo editing
- Time spent
- Your client's budget
- Potential additional charges for photo editing
- How to broach the subject with your client
- Turnaround time
- Account for rounds of revision
Professional commercial photographers all charge differently. You might charge by the hour, by the day, by the image, by the product — or by something else entirely. Photo editors also have varied pricing structures.
Because of the variations in pricing structures, the way you charge for outsourced tasks varies as well.
If you charge clients by the hour, determine an hourly rate that will accommodate for the extra photo editing. Let’s say you charge $125/hour USD. Determine an average number of photos that you can expect to capture in each hour, and then calculate the cost of photo editing for those images.
In some cases, the photo-editing expense may be so minimal that you don’t need to add it to your rate. In others, the photo-editing costs could be more substantial. If the former, you likely won’t need to charge clients separately. If anything, you can increase your hourly rate to $130–$150 USD.
If you charge by the day (or half-day), the approach is similar to that of an hourly photographer. Think about how many photos you’ll shoot within that time period, and then add the rates and time for the photo-editing work.
The photos themselves could be a flat rate, while the editing would be a flat rate per image. You could either bake this in at the forefront, or provide your client with two rates: one for raw images, one for edited images.
Charging a rate per product can get a bit tricky, but some photographers do it. Again, estimate the number of shots you’ll have that need to be edited, and then go from there.
Cost of services
Now that you know how to approach the outsourced photo-editing charges, you need to consider how much you’re paying for the outsourced photo-editing work.
Understanding your incremental costs — the increase in total costs for your business as a result from an increase in production — will help you determine if the amount you’re paying for outsourced photo-editing work is benefitting your company’s growth.
For example, if your total costs for one month were $500 USD and the following month was $700 USD due to additional outsourced photo editing, the incremental cost is $200 USD for those images.
Included in the rate
Using this same example, the next step is to ensure that the extra costs for outsourcing are included in the rate to your client so you can continue to turn a profit.
So, first: break down the incremental cost of $200 USD. Let’s say this came from one hour of photo editing for four clients each. That’s $50 USD per client.
Next, use your profit margin to determine if the amount you’re paying for outsourced photo-editing work is worthwhile. In this case, you could consider including $70–$100 USD in your rate for the outsourced photo-editing work, which can yield a profit of $80–$200 USD.
The costs of photo editing
The exact price of the photo-editing services you use can vary greatly, depending on the vendor/contractor, complexity of the image editing, volume of images and how quickly you need the edited photos back.
It’s always best to shop around and get a few quotes from trusted photo editors. Knowing the price ranges from different sources can help you make sure you’re getting the best deal and the best quality.
Here’s an example of how it works with Clipping Path India:
If you need high-quality background removal with hand-drawn clipping path, our prices range from $0.39 USD to $10 USD per image, with a 24-hour turnaround time.
Products that are simple in shape, such as a beach ball, would fall toward the lower end of the price scale, whereas more complicated shapes hit closer to the $10 USD mark (products such as bicycles or complex jewelry).
Most of our customers end up paying between $1 USD and $3 USD per image for their photo-editing needs.
Think about the amount of time it takes you to coordinate outsourced photo-editing work. If you’re new to outsourcing your photo-editing tasks, it could take months to find someone you trust. In this case, it might be beneficial to assume these editing tasks while researching potential candidates to ensure your time spent isn’t money lost.
In the meantime, determine your process. Will you send all photos over for editing or pick out your favorites upfront? Will you crop the photos yourself before sending them off for editing?
If you’re not new to outsourcing and are still spending a lot of time coordinating your photo-editing tasks, it might be time to take a step back. Reassess your processes to ensure you’re not losing money for coordinating outsourcing with a photo editor who may not be able to deliver what you need and in the time you need it.
Your client’s budget
There’s a lot of buzz about whether to ask your client for their budget. Everyone’s opinion is different, but there are a couple of important takeaways if you are curious about the client’s budget:
- Ask for a ballpark range before releasing your rate
- Wait to mention the budget until the end of your first meeting
If you ask the client about their budget after releasing your rate, you might insinuate to them that you can work on their terms — and, that you might not know how much you’re actually worth. But knowing the budget before releasing your rate gives you time to determine if you can go higher or lower, and help you retain your client.
You’ll likely need to position the question as, “What kind of budget are we dealing with for this project?” Then, you can determine if your rate, including your outsourced photo-editing work, is worth your time.
Potential additional charges for photo editing
Are there additional charges for the outsourcing that you need to consider? Some photo editors might charge more if specific edits need to be made, like color correction, sharpening or resizing.
If you ask about these additional charges upfront, it could save you money and provide a quick turnaround. Consider the following to determine if you could do any of these tasks before sending the images out for editing:
- How are you sending the files? Are they easily organized for the photo editor?
- How many are you sending? Do you need all edited, or should you select your favorites before sending?
- Can you do the cropping and resizing upfront? Does each image need more than one size?
Ultimately, you want to consider doing some of the heavy lifting, like organizing and ensuring effectiveness, before sending your photos off for editing so you won’t be charged extra. Because if your editor assumes more time spent to sort through your images, they might consider increasing their rate.
If your schedule doesn’t allow the time you need to do the resizing upfront — or if different sizes are needed per image — this will easily increase your outsourced photo-editing rate. In this case, determine the rate with your photo editor before setting your rate with your client to ensure that you won’t lose money.
How to broach the subject with your client
If you assume additional charges from outsourcing your photo-editing tasks after setting your rate with the client, you’ll most likely find yourself wanting to communicate this to the client so you don’t lose money. However, discussing a rate change really depends on your relationship with the client and if it’s worth it to bring up.
In most cases, it’s easier to keep the internal processes to yourself and avoid complicating matters with your clients. If you go this route, you’ll need to determine how you can make up for the lost money elsewhere.
Ask your client what their timeframe is for the specific project, as it will impact how much you’re spending for outsourcing photo-editing work and the rate you’re giving your client.
If your client is giving you a short turnaround time, you’ll want to consider increasing the overall rate to ensure you’re meeting your profit margin. Usually, clients will understand a higher rate if they’re giving you less time to complete a project.
Account for rounds of revisions
When you work with a client, sometimes the rounds of revisions can get out of control depending on how many people are looking at the images and/or if their expectations begin to shift during the process.
So in order to protect yourself from spending countless hours revising work that might not have been accounted for in the initial scope of work, set a number of revisions that are included in your rate. For many creative, this number ranges from two to three. And, ensure that the client knows if they go over that number, they’ll incur additional costs.
To determine the cost for additional revisions, it’s best to use a per-hour rate.