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Choosing a Pricing Model for Your Food Photography Business

In a food styling and food photography business, you need to know how to price your day rate and which stock agency is best for your business. In the photographic world, instead of an hourly rate, you’re better off charging a day rate. A day rate is the rate you charge per day for a client. The rate will vary greatly, depending on your experience, your locale, and the current economic climate.

You may choose to tweak your day rate slightly depending on the size of the business. If a great, new, small restaurant is just starting out, you might be a little more lenient on your day rate. Maybe shave off $100 or so to help them out. A little goodwill can go a long way.

If you decide to shoot for stock agencies, you need to think about which model works best with your business. Is it the microstock model, with the rock-bottom prices but potentially higher volume? Or is the traditional stock agency model a better fit for your business?

Figuring out your day rate for photography

There is some good news and some bad news about photography day rates. First, the bad news… Day rates at the present time are lower than the day rates of five years ago. It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but it’s the new normal for most photographers.

The good news is that many clients are still hiring! So you may have to modify your day rate a bit to match the fluctuating market conditions, but much of the work is still out there.

So what should you charge for a day rate? First, consider your experience. If you’re a newbie food photographer just starting out with a good starter portfolio but not much experience, a lower rate is appropriate. It needs to be high enough so you’re taken seriously by your clients but low enough to reflect your newness to the profession.

In some areas, $500 to $600 per day is an appropriate baseline rate for a new photographer. Mid-level photographers with a good level of experience have a day rate of about triple the newbie rate. And the top-of-the-line photographers can command top-of-the-line rates.

Another factor to consider is your market. Are you located in a large city or a small town? Financially, is it a boom time or is it leaning more toward a recession? You may need to adjust your rates as needed for these types of environmental aspects.

Half-day rates aren’t 50 percent of your day rate. Typically, a half-day rate is half of your day rate, plus a smidge. So, for example, if you have a day rate of $1,500, a good half-day rate is $850 or so.

Understanding stock agency prices

Basically, two types of stock agencies exist: traditional agencies and microstock agencies. Decide which model suits you best or use a variety of agencies to market your photos.

  • The microstock model has lower prices and higher volume.

  • The more traditional stock agencies have higher prices but lower sales volume.

Within the current stock agency market, microstock prices typically run under one dollar. Traditional stock agencies pay significantly more than the microstock agencies, depending on the usage needed by the client.

The coolest thing about shooting for stock agencies is the occasional repeat business. If an image is sold in a specific size for a specific usage to a publishing company for use in an English language textbook, that’s great. But several months later, that same image may be relicensed for a run in a translated version of the book. And beyond that, it may be relicensed for subsequent editions or electronic versions of the book. Bonus!

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