How Much Does It Cost To Hire a Photographer?


I’m writing this article which offers a few tips by ImageBrief, a stock photo agency that promotes and sells stock imaging created by professional photographers.  Professional photographers must pay an annual or a monthly subscription to be a member of the ImageBrief agency.  As part of the ImageBrief membership,  member photographers receive image criteria for certain types of professional imaging requested by other agencies, corporations, and publishers. The ImageBrief client picks the image(s) and the user pays a fee for the use rights to the member photographer.  The selected image(s) use-term rights are negotiated in the initial payment to the member photographer.  Image pricing can have a broad range of costs to factor in, e.g., image creation difficulty, rarity, demand, publication types, and circulation.  

Too often potential image-buyers wonder, “how much does it cost to hire a photographer?” Even more often, they shoot themselves in the foot before they ever even find out because they think hiring one will be too expensive. Without a comprehensive rate sheet floating around to guide them, clients looking for photographers don’t know where to start their negotiations, and it’s often left to the photographer to be the first one to pop the “what’s your budget?” question to get the ball rolling. Well, I’m here to tell you that hiring a photographer can be more affordable than you might think, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

What buyers sometimes don’t understand is that the cost for a photographer often depends on several factors: travel, day-rate, assistants, equipment, retouching, and, perhaps most important, usage. If a photograph is going to be published in a worldwide print campaign, the negotiation and cost for those rights is likely higher than if the same image were to be used for a one-off social campaign or internal catalog. Keep in mind, all this depends on the scope of the shoot, and of course the photographer.

Examples of photographers hired through ImageBrief offered a bit about each of their shoots to illustrate how hiring a photographer is more affordable than you might think. By no means is this an end-all-be-all guide to pricing, rather it’s meant to show a range of options and what can be involved. When hiring a photographer though, always keep one thing in mind: photographers have spent countless hours, years, and even decades honing their craft. If you’re looking to hire a photographer, you’re not just paying for an image, you’re also investing in the vision and creativity that’s behind the lens. When reaching out to a photographer, remember to be respectful of their abilities.

Half-Day, Quick Turnaround

Budget: Under $1,000
Usage: Internal, promotional
Time: Half-day

Depending on how much prep is involved and what you’re looking to do with the finished product, hiring a photographer for half a day can be within most shoe-string budgets. Standard pricing for a half-day portrait shoot of a popular Canadian Photographer with the rental of a couple of lights, and the usage of four photos for their website and a brochure is normally under $1,000 Canadian.

Big Client, Medium Budget

Budget: ~$1,500
Usage: Social media
Time: Single-day

Even giant brands can do moderately-priced campaigns. When Young & Rubicam was tasked with putting together Land Rover’s #GoSomewhereRare campaign, they needed to come up with 31 images from 31 parks and turned to ImageBrief to find a couple of photographers to add to their arsenal for the campaign. Y&R ended up hiring two ImageBrief photographers, each for a one-day shoot in their park of choice. The photographers were paid $1,000 each (plus expenses) and given a Land Rover for a day along with creative rein to show what it means to #GoSomewhereRare. Rather than a giant television campaign or world-wide print ad, the photos were used for a social media campaign for the brand, and the budget is reflective of that type of licensing.

Multiple Media Means a Budget to Match

Budget: Five-figures, enough to buy a new car
Usage: Worldwide, multiple print campaigns and more
Time: Single-day shoot, several days production

When a large agency came to ImageBrief looking to hire a photographer on a tight deadline, ImageBrief put out an assignment brief for a photographer able to work under a tight deadline. A member photographer put himself forward and was hired for the job, which had him involved with nearly every step of the creative process: location scouting, working with producers on wardrobe and with models, concept, and of course, actually shooting the campaign. Because the job was for such a high-profile client and the process was very involved, it called for a fairly large budget (in the grand scheme of things though, giant brands can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on shoots, but those are pretty rare). When it came time to negotiate the rights for the images Mat shot, this part of the puzzle weighed heavily on the final budget because it was for a print campaign that appeared in several large business magazines with a worldwide circulation.

As you can see, the price for hiring a photographer depends on a range of factors. If you’re looking to hire for a shoot, be honest and up front with the photographer about your budget and the scope of the project and you’ll likely get negotiations off on the right foot.


Contributed by: Martin  Allred,


About chowjudge

Martin Allred is a professional photographer and frequent traveler. His organization Nationwide Photographers provides Professional Photography throughout the USA and Canada. Martin is a native of New Orleans and currently resides in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
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