Understanding the ins and outs of photography pricing and productions can seem daunting, but don’t stress! With over a decade of experience behind the lens, I’ve crafted this comprehensive guide to simplify understanding our complex ways. Whether you’re a frequent buyer of photography or a first-timer, you should understand these terms included in common pricing structures that drive the industry.

The Top 3

Creative Fee

The creative fee forms the foundation of pricing structures and encompasses various aspects of the photography service. It is usually the bulk of an invoice, but it is the most important fee for everyone involved. It covers pre-production planning, production costs, overhead expenses, and the photographer’s time and expertise. The creative fee is essential for sustaining the photographer’s business and supporting the quality of service provided. Below is a more in-depth breakdown of what it takes to do our job.

    • Pre-production: Planning, Meetings, Scouts, Administrative tasks, etc.

    • Production: The time involved, staff, equipment, insurance, food, travel, and other expenses.

    • Costs of Doing Business: Studio, Phone, Internet, Computers, File Storage, Materials, Marketing, Networking, Taxes, etc.

    • Vision & Experience: Years of education, previous work experiences, networks, resources, problem-solving skills, and most importantly, a creative eye.

In some cases, the Creative Fee also includes standard licensing rights for images purchased from the shoot, which may include usage for editorial, brochures, website, social media, competitions, trade magazines, etc.

In some situations, you may see “Day Rate” as an alternative to a creative fee. This term is misleading and often leads to clients thinking photographers earn thousands for just one day. However, this fee covers more than a day’s work. Contrary to the misconception of high hourly rates, a large percentage of the industry lacks education on how to price themselves and will barely make above minimum wage after expenses—leading to the photographer closing their books and putting the client in the difficult position of having to find a new source for their content creation—one of the many reasons that cheaper isn’t better.

Retouching/Post Production

Retouching/Post-production fees are designed to cover the time, knowledge, and tools to bring together the final images post-shoot. Many hours are spent perfecting each frame, from blemish removal to color correction. Clear communication and agreements regarding post-production services are essential for managing client expectations and delivering high-quality results. It is expected that the post-production work will consume as much time, if not more, than the production itself.

To take this a step further, there is a common misconception that all images captured will be provided to the client. It’s essential to recognize that the photos are our primary “Product.” Each image is carefully crafted and sold as an individual license to use the product. The production and client experience needed to create the final product is our primary “Service.” Some photographers like to include a set number of images within their creative fee, but anything additional will always come at an extra cost. Please review the details closely, as some photographers don’t include pictures in their creative fee. This can make it easier to requote the client or allow them to estimate changes when accommodating their budget.

Image Usage Licensing

Image usage licensing dictates the parameters of how it may be used. Licensing agreements are provided to clarify the uses, such as editorial, commercial, or personal use, and outline any limitations or conditions. Understanding image usage licensing is essential for ensuring compliance with copyright laws and protecting both the photographer’s and the client’s interests.

You might think, “I own the images because I hired the photographer,” but that’s not necessarily true. Misunderstanding this could expose you to the risk of copyright infringement. Consider this scenario: Suppose the photographer you hired didn’t specify anything about licensing in their contracts or invoices. Years later, they decide to enforce licensing terms and contact you to restrict usage or demand extra fees. Without clear documentation of a usage license, the photographer could potentially pursue a copyright infringement claim. While this situation is ethically questionable, I’ve heard of past situations like this, which could result in significant consequences for engaging with an inexperienced photographer.

Here is a more in-depth article that can help you Understand Photo Usage Licensing and Copyright

Additional Terminology

While the above terms are essential, the additional terminology below will equip you with understanding other common line items and contractual terms.


An indispensable and non-negotiable member of the team, the assistant plays a crucial role in ensuring smooth sailing on set. They’re typically found setting up equipment, adjusting lighting, organizing props, ensuring we eat, and so much more. They’re the unsung heroes working behind the scenes. Their expertise and assistance contribute significantly to the success of a shoot and should be treated no less than anyone else on set.


Budgetary provisions for prop rentals, food, refreshments, transportation, and other incidental expenses are essential for keeping a shoot on track, but it is hard to predict the cost. A pre-negotiated budget to streamline reimbursements from the client for miscellaneous expenses incurred throughout the project. This is typically for more significant assignments to ensure that every aspect of the production is accounted for and executed seamlessly.

Buyout (Transfer of Copyright)

A buyout, or transfer of copyright, involves a hefty one-time fee that grants the client full ownership rights to the image. Once purchased, the photographer relinquishes all usage rights, removing any need to seek approval from the original creator. The creator must now seek approval from the new owner for usage. This option provides clients exclusive control over the use and distribution of the image. It is common for clients to think they need a buyout, but you don’t, as there are other generous licensing options available that won’t break the bank and still provide you with a ton of freedom.

Contractor Contractors are extra crew members who are required to get the job done. This may include contracting a makeup artist, stylist, retoucher, camera operator, producer, etc. Contractors are hired for their specialized skills and expertise to enhance the final product, ensuring that every aspect meets the client’s vision and objectives. This is all dependent on the demands of your project. Remember, one person can’t do it all!


Cost-sharing is when multiple contributing parties split the cost of hiring a photographer to capture a project. Whether architects, interior designers, product manufacturers, or other contributors, each party shares in the investment, which is reflected in the collective imagery produced. Cost-sharing fosters collaboration and allows for the creation of high-quality content that benefits all involved. Learn More Here

Copyright & Intellectual Property As defined by the Government of Canada, “Copyright is the exclusive legal right to produce, reproduce, publish or perform an original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work.” The creator of a work is typically the owner unless the creator is an employee under contract or there is another agreement in place to assign ownership of the copyright.

Understanding copyright is essential for ensuring clarity regarding usage and distribution rights, protecting both creators and clients. Clear agreements and contracts outlining copyright ownership and usage rights are crucial for avoiding disputes and legal issues. We are looking to work together, not against each other, which is why contracts should always be read and understood before signing.


Exclusive use grants the client sole rights to the image, prohibiting further distribution or licensing. This ensures exclusivity in branding and marketing efforts, allowing the client to remain unique in their content. Exclusive use agreements typically specify the duration and scope of exclusivity and may not always be indefinite. The photographers’ use would be limited to a portfolio and general marketing material as predetermined in the exclusivity agreement.


Non-exclusive use grants clients usage rights while allowing photographers to license images to other parties. This is the lowest-cost option and is ideal for collaborative projects where multiple stakeholders contribute to the final product. Non-exclusive use agreements typically specify the scope and duration of usage rights granted to the client. The client will not have the right to redistribute or resell the content to any other party. This is the most common license for architecture/interior photography, where multiple parties are involved in creating the final space.

Third-Party Usage

Third-party usage involves employing external images or assets not created expressly for a particular project. This approach enhances visual storytelling while minimizing production costs. Third-party assets may include stock photos, illustrations, graphics, or other creative elements sourced from external providers. Clear agreements regarding third-party usage rights and licensing terms are essential for avoiding copyright infringement and legal issues.

Another thing to consider… Every creator has personal life expenses, which are factored into their pricing. For instance, a photographer living in Toronto or Los Angeles will have an inflated cost of living, resulting in higher rates. However, it’s important to note that higher rates don’t necessarily guarantee a higher quality investment. Instead of solely focusing on pricing, hiring based on the photographer’s style and personality is recommended. In this industry, pricing shouldn’t be the primary variable, as the cost range for these services can sometimes feel like the Wild West.

Photography isn’t just our passion; it’s our livelihood, supporting ourselves and our families. Understanding the financial realities we face both personally and professionally is vital for recognizing the actual value of our work and ensuring our continued ability to create for your business in the future.

Clarity should be your priority as you consider future proposals. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if anything is unclear, and seek clarification on any processes that may seem ambiguous. A fearless and open collaboration between you and the photographer is the cornerstone of crafting an unforgettable visual narrative that will truly captivate and inspire.

Whether you’re curious about our pricing structure or eager to discuss your upcoming project, we’re here to chat. Let’s connect and explore how we can bring your vision to life!