How much does a photoshoot cost?

How much does a photoshoot cost is by far the most common question I get asked. Well, here’s the answer…

How much does a photoshoot cost?

This is one of those piece of string questions. Nevertheless, I’m going to attempt to answer it. Hang on tight, we’re going in.

Ultimately it depends on what you want. There is a huge difference between a simple, social media headshot and a high fashion shoot with a full prep team, set and crew. The cost is really dictated by the level of production you want and the amount of time involved in completing the project.

The Social Media Headshot

At the bottom end of the scale is the social media headshot. Photoshoots don’t really come much more basic than this. It’s a simple headshot with a pure white background. On average it’s about 2 hours work for the photography, post production and administration. Nice, clean, simple.

The Model Portfolio

A model portfolio shoot on the other hand is much more produced. Why is it more produced? Well, her/his career will be dictated by the quality of the images in their portfolio. Not completely but it will play a major role.

As a minimum you will need make-up and hair which will mean engaging the services of a prep team. Some make-up artists will also do simple hair styling which will help to keep the cost down but for more ambitious looks you going to need a hair stylist too.

Can you do your own hair and make-up or have a friend do it? Sure, but I’d advise against it. Having seen the results and consistency that a professional team can produce and the speed at which they work it’s definitely money well spent. After all, studio time is at a premium and if it takes you an hour to produce a look that the professionals can conjure up in 30 minutes or less you’ve just paid for half an hour of camera time and half an hour of my time that you’re not going to be able to use.

That brings us nicely onto the studio costs. As I mentioned above, studio time is at a premium. It’s a very scarce resource too. To give you an example of this I’ll use some of the figures I used for a rough plan I put together recently when quoting for a job.

This particular project was to photograph a “lookbook” with 30 outfits against a pure white background as the images were also to be used on the client’s e-commerce site. For a 6 hour studio booking the first hour will be taken up by the prep team producing the look and me lighting the set. We’ll also lose 30 minutes at the end of the day owing to tidy up time. That leaves just 4.5 hours for 30 outfits which works out at 9 minutes per outfit. Allowing 5 minutes for each outfit change and another minute to check and fix hair/make-up we’re left with just 3 minutes of camera time for each outfit. Our 6-hour shoot is really only just 3 minutes x 30 outfits = 90 minutes. (BTW, there is no provision for lunch in that plan!)

The High Fashion Editorial

This is the most highly produced photography that I undertake. As you would expect, it’s not cheap. Unlike the lookbook shoot I described above, this isn’t a production line. This is about telling a story in a single frame. It’s about making the viewer of the finished image linger just a fraction of a second longer as she turns the page of the magazine. That fraction of a second can be worth a lot of money, especially if we’re shooting an advertisement.

So, what’s required for this type of shoot? A lot!!!

We’re going to need a set, whether on location or in the studio. Model(s). Full prep team. Hair. Make-up. Stylist. Assistants. Very often there will be an art director. The team can grow very big, very quickly. This is just on the day of the shoot too. What about pre-production? All the meetings and discussions, story boarding and mood boards to convey the concept of what needs to be done to the team?

Weddings

Wedding are always an interesting case. Mainly I think because people are used to the rapid results offered by modern digital cameras. Most of the time it’s down to a lack of appreciation as to what’s actually involved in photographing a wedding.

On average a wedding takes over 100 hours. Ouch! It’s a lot of time. How is it spent? Well, there is typically 14 hours on the day itself followed by 3 hours to download the images from the flash cards and create two back up copies. Before the wedding we have venue scouting, 4 hours, finalising details 2 hours. Pre-wedding photoshoot and retouch, 7 hours. After the wedding we have sub-editing down to a manageable number, 4 hours. Next comes proof level retouching and creating proof images, 7 hours. Proofing session with the bride and groom, 4 hours. Image retouch, 30 hours. Album design including 2 design changes, 20 hours. DVD cover design 1 hour. Admin 5 hours.

Summary

If we revisit the original question, “how much does a photoshoot cost?” There isn’t really a straigh answer as its wholly dependent on what you want to achieve. Some things to consider when budgeting for a shoot would be…

  • How much production (and pre-production) is required?
  • Will I need a prep team?
  • Who is being photographed? Me? Model?
  • How long will the session be?
  • What will the usage be?
  • What are the resource requirements? Studio? Set? Props? Styling? Location fees?
  • How much post production is needed?
  • Will I need a model/property release to be signed?
  • How will the images be delivered? JPG? Print? Canvas? Album?

Every one of these items will increase the cost. My advice is to consider what you’re likely to need and budget for it.

In writing this post I’ve deliberately avoided giving out prices for two main reasons.

  1. prices will vary a lot depending on who you hire, the usage, where you live etc.
  2. I want this post to be applicable in several Years time. Adding prices today will age it very quickly

Instead I wanted to give an appreciation as to what things one needs to consider when thinking about booking a photo-session.

Digital photography may offer instant gratification but it’s rarely a case of “click and publish.”

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