We don’t publish hourly rates. That’s mostly because we charge by the project, not by the hour.
We’ll give you a quoted price for your project before we begin, and the price remains firm regardless of the time it takes to complete the defined scope of work. In other words, you pay for defined results, not a potentially variable number of hours.
We do things this way because there are significant problems with pricing photography services based on an hourly rate.
- A photographer and client may agree on an hourly rate, but have very different expectations of how long the project will take and thus what the final cost will be.
- Hourly billing creates an incentive for the photographer to take as much time as possible in order to increase total billing for the project. Knowing this, the client feels compelled to monitor and micro-manage the photographer in order to reduce costs. As a result, conflict is built into the relationship and quality can suffer. Removing the relentless “time is money” pressure makes it easier to concentrate on producing quality work.
- The time spent with camera in hand shooting photographs is just the “tip of the iceburg”. Producing quality images requires a significant amount of time spent processing image files and other behind-the-scenes tasks that are invisible to the client. Billing for this hidden time is problematic. If the photographer charges only for shooting time, the rate must be inflated to compensate for the other, un-billed time spent on the project, but when the client only sees the shooting time, they often feel like they are being grossly overcharged for something that didn’t appear to take very long. If the photographer bills separately for shooting and processing time, that can give the client a better sense of the total time spent, but they may be feel suspicious about whether they are getting a fair accounting for the invisible time that they can’t observe directly. Charging a fixed amount for clearly defined results instead of time-based billing helps everyone to feel like they got a fair deal without obsessing over watching the clock.
- Clients often use hourly rate for “comparison shopping” in an effort to ensure that they are getting the best value. It might work if all photographers were similarly skilled and productive, but that’s not the case. A $50-per-hour photographer might look like a better value than a $100-per-hour photographer, but not if the photographer with the lower rate takes four times longer to get the job done. (That’s not an unrealistically exaggerated example. We’ve seen far more extreme examples.) Value is in the total cost for the project, not the lowest hourly rate.
- Clients sometimes use a photographer’s hourly rate as a measure of quality, but that doesn’t really work either. It’s true that an unusually low hourly rate is often a “red flag” indicating an inexperienced beginner photographer who may be unable to reliably deliver quality images, but there are exceptions to the “low price = low quality” general rule. Conversely, a much higher-than-normal hourly rate doesn’t necessarily guarantee correspondingly higher quality images. There may be some validity to the presumption that a high-priced photographer “must be doing something right” to be able to command a premium hourly rate, but that “something” may have more to do with their sales and marketing skills than their photographic talents. If you want to compare the quality of different photographers, look at their portfolio images, not their rates.