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‘What Should I Charge?’ | Joel Grimes

By Kishore Sawh on December 23rd 2014


I tend not to idolize people, or deities, or, anything other than fighter pilots, and perhaps, Richard Branson. If you’ve ever got a few moments to spare (holidays), reading his biography would be a way to spend them well. Richard is compelling, not simply due to his ultimate success, but how he arrived there, how he stays, and all the cool things he does. Alas, he’s someone who probably has a lot of good to say on the topic of businesses large and small, and on theory. He’s been quoted as saying, ‘Successful people start before they’re ready,’ and I think this has broad applications for anyone, and certainly for photographers.

If you’ve come to that hurdle of self-doubt and realization that you’re not exactly the best, or even very good at photography, then crossed it by having faith and determination to get better, you’ll want to start making some money at it. Even if your plan was to just pay for the gear you’ve bought. That will ultimately lead to one very specific question: “What do I charge?”


This is something I have and continue to wrestle with in all aspects of my life, photography being one of them. But really, what do you charge? Do you come up with some arbitrary figure based on what you’ve seen in the market? Pull a number out of a hat? Maybe there’y some algorithm for it? Not quite. Joel Grimes has some good thoughts on the subject to help you figure it out.

Joel’s been shooting for the better part 30 years, and has had much success in the ever competitive and daunting, commercial work. What’s interesting about his approach to pricing though, is his humility, and practicality – his experience just adds credence. Drawing from that experience, and that of his children who also shoot, Grimes gives you, at the very least, a list of things to consider before naming a price; Insurance, value of gear, what your overhead is, if you have studio space, your opportunity, cost, etc. Not all of what he suggests will apply to you, especially if you’re really just starting, and may not even have insurance yet, but, it should help you anyway, and certainly as you grow. He touches on the scenarios you may have not thought of, like loss of gear, lawsuits etcetera, and also what it’s like bartering for a job.

It’s not easy to add to all Joel has said, but if you’ll allow me to be devil’s advocate for a moment, I would say that in photography, like other work, sometimes taking less pay, or working for free in order to secure experience, or a connection etc, can be worth it – just know when you’re being taken for a ride. Also, I know many of you are full time pros, who’ve been making their living from this profession of ours for quite some time, and if you have any words of advice for those looking for a hand in this department, please leave a comment below, especially words of advice and encouragement for those beginning, who will most benefit from this video, and topic.

[REWIND: The Power Of Branding In Photography & How To Brand Yourself | Joel Grimes]

You can find more from Joel on his site and YouTube Channel

Source: YouTube Joel Grimes

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Tosh Cuellar

    Another great article, valuable information. I’ve only shot a few weddings and I’m still working out a pricing strategy, this is very useful stuff, helps to be knowledgable, comfortable, and confident.

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  2. norman tesch

    it took me awhile because i charge what i think my work is worth to me. i have seen allot of people charge allot and their work is garbage. i wanted quality over money.. if you make allot of money good for you. if you put out crap and charge allot shame on you

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  3. Troy Barboza

    Amazing video, I saw the videos in my YouTube subscriptions, and never thought to watch them but these videos from the series that Joel made are awesome, and are really helpful. He goes into important detail and tells you exactly what you need to know. This video in particular is amazing, and would recommend it highly!

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  4. J D

    Good article.

    Locally its a difficult mix of what is your time and work worth vs what people will pay. We have TONS of “$40 for all 100 images from a 20 minute shoot on a CD” types around here and its only recently I have been getting through to some people about why I charge what I charge and getting them to see the value in that.

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  5. David Hall

    I’ve done a lot of free work. This year, I need to set higher expectations of my clients.

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  6. Rafael Steffen

    I love his videos for always teaching us something great!

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  7. Zeb Yap-Chung

    IM from Jamaica, and seing the $50 bill I got excited. Instantly wanted to read this article lol but its good advice

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  8. Andrew Merefield

    Picking up on the idea of working cheaper or free for experience, it can work but people get the wrong idea about it.
    My take you should never work cheap or free but there are lots of time when it makes sense to work for a benefit that is not based on cash but there has to be a valuable benefit for you, not just a benefit for the client. Always base the discount on what you get out of it not what the client wants.

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    • Ian Sanderson

      I offer free or subsidised shoots to local charities etc. They always tend to invite local business people, very good for building connections

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    • Graham Curran

      If only.

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    • Graham Curran

      Sorry, I replied to wrong comment. Working for free or cheap may be a good way to get some experience but I think it is important to stress from the outset that it is limited time offer.

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    • Rafael Steffen

      All of us need to value our work in someway. I have discovered the hard way that people will not value your work if it is free.

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    • Rafael Steffen

      He is a mater of photography. I love every bit of information he shares! Great work!

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  9. Kim Farrelly

    I recently had a client tell me to ‘please charge more’ as he was very happy with the work turned in. I thought I charged him a fair price.
    If only every client was that way, I felt very respected after that conversation I tell ya.

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  10. Steven Pellegrino

    I always learn something from Joel, he offers excellent advice. Understanding your numbers is a key element in sales and is something a lot of sales people overlook. You go into this business to be a photographer, but before you can do that, you are a sales person. Joel really offers a blueprint and you just need to customize it for your business.

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