How do I calculate my daily rate as a photographer?

This question comes up again and again when I speak to people who would like to turn their hobby, their dream into a profession. This is why I want to show you my daily rates here and, as well some suggestions and tools to calculate your own daily rate

But first to the general situation.

The prices on the market are incredibly different and it is hardly possible to get an overview, since many photographers do not want to give out what their daily rates look like. You rarely find prices on the website and if you ask, you only get vague answers.

If you want to make a living from your work as a photographer, this question is essential!

Many - especially new - photographers find it really difficult to make this calculation and use the average prices that are visible to them. You realize (supposedly) quickly that you can hardly live from working as a photographer. But is that true?

Sure, the daily rates from the 90s or 00s, in which this was a very lucrative business, are utopian today. But does that also mean that you can no longer live life as a photographer? I do not think so! This is still possible today.

Ich glaube sogar, dass die Geheimniskrämerei vieler Fotografen dazu führt, dass Diskontpreise begünstigt werden. Damit graben sie sich eigentlich selbst das Wasser ab. Warum? Wenn man sich selbstständig machen möchte und seine Preise kalkulieren muss, liegt es nahe, dass man sich im näheren Umfeld schlau macht. Einen erfolgreichen Profi kann man ja aus genannten Gründen selten fragen. Die anderen Hobbyfotografen und jene die sich erst kürzlich selbstständig gemacht haben leiden unter dem selben Problem und so ergeben sich Preise, die weit unter dem Wert der Arbeit liegen und dazu führen, dass man kaum davon leben kann. Profis müssen  dann mit Dumpingpreisen konkurieren. Und da schliesst sich der Kreis. Der Marktwert der Fotografie sinkt immer weiter.

Price calculation, business plan, product design, target group analysis and marketing strategy are a rather dry affair for creative people like photographers. But urgently necessary! If I want to make a living from it, then I have to be clear about the organization and cost of my company.

A sample calculation for photographers

The calculation is actually relatively simple. You don't need a business consultant for whom the money is not available in most cases.

Basically, you only have to do one thing. Write down everything you have to spend, so that you can live from your work. And by that I mean - EVERYTHING!

Everything you need to live privately and everything the company needs to survive, you will have to earn from your customers in the future. Otherwise, it is not a company, but a hobby that may be self-financing but not more.

And there comes the "aha" moment for many! They realize that you cannot survive with small prices.

But now to the case of price calculation

For simplicity, I use euros, but at the moment EUR / CHF and USD are almost 1:1 anyway

An example beforehand. You paid about 2,000 euros for your camera. Technical development requires buying a new camera every 4 years. So I have to put back 500 euros per year that I can regularly renew my camera. And that's just part of the equipment. At some point you need a new strobe, new reflectors, a new lens. And also in the infrastructure you need a new Mac / PC, etc.

The more you come up with, the fewer surprises you have in the end.

Dann rechnest Du mal aus: Wieviele Arbeitstage habe ich denn zur Verfügung? Das Jahr hat 365 Tage. Ich kann aber aus eigener Erfahrung davon abraten, auch so viele Arbeitstage einzuplanen. Grundsätzlich sollte man ja mit einem “normalen” Arbeitspensum durchs Jahr kommen. Du arbeitest in Deinem anderen Job ja auch nicht das ganze Jahr und bekommst einen Gehalt, mit dem Du leben kannst.

The following considerations:

The year has 365 days from which we have to subtract the following:
The national average of ill days (in Switzerland this is 10-13), the statutory minimum leave for employees (CH = 20). As an employee you have it too. And how you deal with it, you can decide for yourself, but you should calculate it. After all, you want to go back on vacation at some point, even if that won't be the case in the first few years of your self-employment. Then the year has holidays. In Switzerland this is +/- 8 depending on where you are in Switzerland. Weekends must also be taken into account. The photographer usually works on weekends, but that doesn't mean that a recovery phase is not necessary. You would have to plan that on other days. The year has 52 weeks, that is 104 weekend days.

So we calculate:

365 days / year
- 10 sick days
- 20 days of vacation
- 8 public holidays
- 104 weekend days
that gives us a total of 223 working days.

If you want to earn 25,000 euros a year, you also have to pay taxes and social security In Switzerland we can roughly calculate about 20% for both, in Austria 30%. Please don't pin me down there, a tax advisor / trustee can provide you with exact informations.

This means. For a net wage of 25,000 euros, a turnover of 32,500 (for 30% see above) must be generated. If we assume that the company will still cost 25,000 a year - and believe me, this has been calculated carefully - then you have to make 57,500 sales so that you have a net wage of 25,000 euros, which is about 12 x 2100 Euro equals! If you are subject to VAT, then there is an additional 8% in Switzerland or 20% in AT. In AT that is already 69,000 euros in sales so that you still get your 25,000 / year salary.

Of course, this is just a rough estimate.

80% of all self-employed photographers fail in the first 5 years!
And like in many other industries, most fail not because of their technical skills, but because of their economic ones.

Wasn't it about a photographer's daily rate?

Exactly! We have now staked out the sales you need. What does that mean for the daily rate?

We had calculated 223 working days. Every working day has 8 hours. Of course, the self-employed works more in the first few years, but including this in the calculation inevitably leads to self-exploitation.

With 79,000 target sales, that's around 355 euros / day, or 45 euros per hour.

Not much? This is where the biggest mistake comes into play!

This is not the hourly rate that you can charge your customers, but the hourly rate that every hour that you invest in your company costs. That means, also time in which you take care of your marketing, which also costs money again. Even the time you read this article is actually part of it! Time that you invest in training, customer appointments, talks, maintain your social media channels, do your accounting, etc.

Realistically, it is assumed that photography per se only makes up around 15% of the photographer's work.

Now you are no longer “just” a photographer, but a business man!

How much time do I need for a client order? If you take pictures on location for 1 day, then you also have about 2 days more to work. On the order, but also on your company. It basically starts with customer acquisition, customer talk, calculating the offer, developing images, writing invoices, following up, providing downloads, correspondence, accounting, etc.

So you have to calculate about 3 days of your time for 1 day that you photograph for your customer so that your company can generate a target turnover of 79,000 euros over the year.

That means: The daily rate for you as a photographer is about 1065 euros! In other words, your hourly rate as a photographer is around 133 euros.

If you think that this is a lot, it is only because you have assumed much lower prices so far and may have calculated the whole thing as a hobby.

Living from a job means a lot more than earning a few euros on the side, if your main job already covers all costs. Now you have to bear all your costs through your work as a photographer.

And believe me - because I know it - in the long run you cannot work 7 days a week with 16 hours! But that's exactly what happens when you calculate too cheap.

As a photographer, you live from passion for what you do and your own creativity!

But creativity does not arise with the pressure on the back of your neck that tomorrow you will not know how to pay for your pizza. Creativity needs space to develop.

Big mistake!

As a hobby photographer I can also live at 40 euros an hour and if I then start my own business ...

But when I'm cheap, it's easier for me to get customers.

No! You are just acquiring customers who are not willing to pay more than 40 euros an hour! If you then become more expensive because you are self-employed, then your performance as a photographer will not change and the customer will not see why he now has to pay three times the price for the same. So you are at the beginning again, or continue to work at prices that you cannot live on. Neither is an option!

Being a professional photographer is more than taking great pictures. It means thinking as an entrepreneur!

So have the courage not to sell your performance below value! That will neither benefit you nor the others! And dumping prices only destroy the market. With this you cut the ground from under your own feet for your future if you want to be self-employed as a photographer.

There is a reward for everyone who made it this far.

Sample calculation for download.

My sample calculation for Excel / Numbers, which you can use to get some clarity, about your necessary daily rate.

To be clear: About me

Honestly! I don't get rich with anything I do. As an art director and agency owner, I had more salary than today. But I was able to turn my passion into a job and that is priceless.

One should also not forget that the popularity in the industry means that I can offer workshops all over Europe, which is totally fun, but not really lucrative. But - this does not help for the acquisition of business customers.

What do I earn as a photographer?

My daily rate is CHF 1600.- Completely normal in Switzerland, I would say, in my experience, a little lower than average. Realistically, I am booked as a photographer about 3 - 4 days a month, the rest I do with workshops (where the daily rate is significantly lower) and from time to time coaching (which I offer for 970 per day, but also include preparation and aftercare) . Also through my online shop, which makes around CHF 1,600 in sales per month, but that also includes marketing costs, production costs and my time as a layout designer, graphic artist and photographer. Not a lucrative business, but just what I enjoy doing. Overall, I work more 7 days a week, but take the liberty of going to the lake on a Tuesday afternoon when the weather is good and work permits.

The bottom line is that my monthly turnover is around 6,000 - 8,000 Swiss Francs. After deducting all costs, that's still around 3,500 to 4,000 per month, which I can pay out as a salary. For comparison: A graphic designer employee earns around 6,000 a month here and, according to www.Lohnanalyse.ch, a retail salesperson earns an average of 4,000 a month.

But, I only do what I enjoy! 🙂