How Much Does Commercial Photography Cost?

Posted on March 28, 2017

commercial photography

Ask three commercial photographers to quote on the same job and you could receive three different prices. Why is that?

Commercial Photography typically isn’t a la carte where you pick a package. Instead services are custom priced for your individual and unique requirements. This can be frustrating for clients looking to commission photography for their first time. But there is good news – read on!

Why a La Carte Can Be Wrong
Having a menu of service options would make commissioning photography much easier. However it doesn’t allow for what you and your business needs. When a CPA is asked to manage your accounts costs will depend on your business structure (sole trader, partnership, company or LLC), turnover, whether you have employees and how much staff time is required.

Going off-menu when ordering a la carte will cost more. When ordering from a franchise pizzeria and asking for no olives it may cost you more to have less on the pizza.

A la carte photography would be like purchasing microstock, royalty-free images. Yes you know the flat fee but the image is by its very nature generic and not about your business. And your competitors can use the exact same image!

So How Is Commercial Photography Priced?
Sticking with the stock photo analogy, photographers charge a usage fee for commercial photography, similar to licensing a rights-managed image. There is a vast difference in fees for the same image being used by the local hairdresser in their salon than a multinational company for an international advertising campaign. The value of the photo is far greater the wider it is used. Sally’s Hair Salon will pay less than Revlon. Again you risk a stock image being used by a competitor whereas commissioned photography is custom made for your business.

Commercial Photography licensing fees are based on:

  • Creative fee (10, 20 or more years experience and the creative execution)
  • Usage (where the image is used, for how long and in what area)
  • Pre & Post Production (organising the photo shoot and processing images)
  • Special equipment & Permits (studio or location hire, parking, etc,)

A photography quote will include these points along with an outline of the creative “treatment” which helps you compare different approaches to your request.

When commissioning a freelance photographer they own the copyright to images they create. Copyright has a commercial value, people wouldn’t be fighting over it in court if it didn’t. Some companies believe they need to own copyright when in fact they might be asking for control of the images. Copyright buyout is very expensive, typically 3 – 5 times the normal usage rate. Licensing usage will serve the same purpose at perhaps one fifth the cost. Note if images contain models their agreement might only be for 12 – 24 months, making a 2 year photography usage license more relevant and far more cost effective for your business.

Photography Brief
Providing a brief to photographers when seeking quotes helps eliminate variances in photographers estimates. A brief can include:

  • Example images you like the look and feel of
  • The purpose of the images (what you want to achieve with the images)
  • List of images needed
  • Where they will used (your website, billboard ads, PR)
  • Expected timing and dates for shoot
  • Your deadline for image delivery

The Good News
Over time clients and photographers establish a business relationship where similar services are requested. For example, updating staff headshots on a regular basis. It’s known quantity so fees, service and the images can be consistent. As a client that makes your life much easier!

Prints Will Last Longer Than JPEG

Posted on February 28, 2017

Chances are images that you make today won’t last as long as those made by your parents. That’s because our parents used technology that hadn’t changed much in 150 years. As recently as 15 years ago taking photos typically resulted in a handful of 4×6 inch “postcard” prints. They were put in a photo album or a shoe box and inherited by succeeding generations.

Now smartphones are the de facto family camera capturing digital images that are rarely if ever made into prints. Instead they end up on social media or remain dormant on smartphones never to be seen again.

Digital images are more fragile than prints. Due to their storage medium digital images can be easily deleted, lost, stolen and forgotten. Unlike a high quality print there is no file format that can be guaranteed to be viewable in 100 years. Images on your phone, social media account and in the cloud won’t be easy to access after you’ve gone.

Cameras including those in our smartphones capture photos as JPEG images. When images are created by professional photographers or keen amateurs they are captured in a proprietary camera raw format, later processed and converted on computers to JPEG or TIFF. Whilst raw camera formats are the highest quality they are even more fragile than JPEG due to their rarity and proprietary nature. That’s one reason when archiving images cultural institutions prefer prints or TIFFs over raw files.

Rascals, Stephen Dupont

Artists including documentary photographers are drawn to the idea of having their life’s work collected by cultural institutions. As outlined in an interview with the ABC (Australia) Sunday Arts program photographer Stephen Dupont is concerned that the message he creates as a journalist will disappear if left solely to fickleness of the news media. Dupont makes prints and photo books that are included in museum collections such as the New York Public Library.

In a PDN article Wilhelm Imaging Research suggest specific colour inkjet prints can last up to 200 years and 400 years for black and white. When a museum creates archival quality inkjet prints of historic paintings it’s likely that those prints will outlast some of the original artworks themselves.

The takeaway here is make it a habit to create prints of images that are important to you. Photographer and writer Derek Story suggests that every December make six archival images of the year. That way, if all else fails, at least you leave an easily accessible legacy of images for future generations.

Confidence of Film – Strength of Digital

Posted on January 28, 2017

Confidence of Film - Strength of Digital

Confidence of Film

When I began in commercial and corporate photography we photographed on transparency (slide) film. It was unforgiving with little latitude for error. Photographers seemed to perform magic, capturing an invisible image inside their camera, confident they had created what the client needed. There was no way of seeing if you had the shot until the film was processed, hours or days later. You knew your craft intuitively because you had to “get it right in camera”.

Often I have corporate photography clients tell me I must be confident because I don’t look at the LCD on the back of the camera. Actually it’s just a habit from the film days. On being photographed Actress Keira Knightley said in Interview Magazine:

“I’ve noticed that the people who started on film still have the ability to see the person in front of them. Whereas for a lot of photographers who have only ever worked in digital, the relationship between the photographer and the person who they’re taking a picture of sort of doesn’t exist anymore. They’re looking at a computer screen as opposed to the person.”

Strength of Digital

Today professional photography is captured digitally. While I loved film I could never go back to it commercially over digital. Film is sometimes used as a selling point for retail photography as a point of difference. In terms of sheer quality, turnaround and cost, digital surpassed film over a decade ago.

Digital also offers opportunities impossible with film such as Computational Photography. Using more than one camera, lens or image along with with clever software allows photographers to create images beyond the capabilities of traditional photography. Combining multiple images allows me to create photographs that closely match what the human eye and brain see (or better if so desired).

Computational photography allows me to create commercial images beyond traditional methods.

Computational photography allows me to create commercial images beyond traditional methods.

Much has been made of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus dual lens system. Apple combines images from both lenses to simulate the look of an expensive portrait lens with the background out of focus. The Light L16 camera goes several steps further and will create images that can even be refocussed later.

The Light L16 Camera creates images that can be refocussed later.

The Light L16 Camera creates images that can be refocussed later. (Image courtesy of

A great example of computational photography the Light camera captures 52 megapixel high resolution images, has a high dynamic range, superior low light abilities, and a wide optical zoom range in a tiny form factor. Creative decisions can be made and more importantly changed later in comfort during post-production. It sounds like science fiction and that is precisely how computational photography should be!

This year marks 190 years since the first photograph was created by Nicéphore Niépce. It has since taught photographers to pay attention to the subject not their camera. We have developed a unique visual language around film and what looks “natural” based on its limitations. Digital photography is relatively young and computational photography is still in its infancy. Knowing what can realistically be achieved in post-production lets me decide the best way to capture a scenario for a client in a pre-production meeting. I can judge whether it’s more efficient to balance an extreme tonal range at time of capture or in post. In the hands of a qualified photographer advanced digital technology can offer photography clients a better experience, higher quality and more flexibility.

Back to the DAM Old Days

Posted on December 28, 2016

Image Management – are we back to the old days? In the early noughties post-production for digital photography would require three distinct pieces of software:

1. Image browser
2. Raw converter
3. Image cataloguer

Each application had it’s purpose.

1. Image Browser

Image Browser: Photo Mechanic

Downloading and creating a back up of images from the camera memory card is the most critical stage of a digital workflow. After downloading images they are assessed and marked for later processing. The benchmark was and still is Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits.

2. Raw Converter

Raw Converter: Capture One

Once the best images from a shoot were selected they are brought into a raw processing program. Here the proprietary camera raw files are adjusted for colour, tone and sharpness then converted to JPEG or TIFF for delivery to the client. Adobe Camera Raw (Photoshop) and Capture One by Phase One are the market leaders. Twelve years ago these applications didn’t catalog your images or adjustments.

3. Image Catalog

Image Catalog: iView MediaPro

An important part of image collection management is tracking the archive. A dedicated Digital Asset Management (DAM) application that creates a searchable catalog. Photographers adopted established DAM programs including iView MediaPro (now Phase One Media Pro) and Extensis Portfolio. These applications were designed to catalog all types of media not just images. Eagle-eyed readers will see the interface looks almost identical to the image browser – except it’s displaying a catalog not the actual images.

All-in-one: Apple Aperture

In 2005 Apple released Aperture: an all-in-one program that did all of the above. Here was a program dedicated to photographers who could now download, browse, convert raw files, and catalog their images within one visually appealing application. In typical Apple style they disrupted the market that had competitors rushing to emulate Aperture. Eventually Adobe released Lightroom and Phase One updated Capture One to include a catalog option.

At the end of 2016 several programs have been released that move away from the all-in-one program popularised by (now defunct) Apple Aperture. Applications like ON1 Photo RAW and Macphun Luminar claim to fame is that not being tied to a catalog creates a faster user experience. If you want to catalog with these apps then look for a separate, dedicated DAM application like Media Pro. If you want the speed of downloading and viewing images you should add an image browser such as Photo Mechanic the list. So that means you’ll need:

1. Image browser
2. Raw converter
3. Image cataloguer

Deja vu? Maybe in 2017 Apple will release another program to disrupt this space… not likely, they abandoned the pro market and now have Apple Photos. I’ll stick with Lightroom.

Paid NOT To Photograph!

Posted on November 28, 2016

Like any profession photography has many aspects besides the actual service itself. Areas that don’t involve making photos and things the client doesn’t (need to) care about.

It’s those essential areas that make it a profession and require far more time than the craft of photography. These can include:

  • Client Relationship Management
  • Strategic Planning
  • Marketing
  • Business Insurance
  • Sales
  • Post Processing
  • Book Keeping
  • Accounts
  • Insurance
  • Digital Asset Management
  • Equipment Maintenance
  • Hardware And Software Upgrades
  • Continuing Professional Development
  • Retirement Planning
  • Sickness
  • …even Holidays

Ignoring these underlying facets a photography business will soon fail, then you and your clients will lose out. Clients will have to source another photographer, negotiate, build trust and a new relationship. Clients may also lose access to jobs in the pipeline and have to re-shoot.

Managing your business makes for a much better client experience. You can identify more areas I’m sure, let me know on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Storing Images – Best Practice

Posted on October 28, 2016

Photography storage and archiving can quickly become daunting, regardless of whether you’re a professional photographer or not. It doesn’t take too long to be inundated with hundreds of images and before you know it there are tens of thousands of them! Personally I’m managing over 400 000 images.

Keep It Simple
To make a storage system durable it has to be simple. It isn’t rocket science. Images can be stored hierarchically based on when they were captured (Year Month Day): 2016 > 10 > 20161028.

file structure

A simple file structure for managing thousands of images

This filing system can grow as your image archive does.

Cameras (including smartphones) store the time the photo was captured as metadata inside the image. When transferring images several applications can automatically create unique folders and filenames based on that data. For over a decade I’ve relied on Photo Mechanic to do this important task which includes making a second (backup) copy.

photo mechanic

Applications like Photo Mechanic can automate the process for you

Photo Mechanic is overkill for the average consumer who can first look at preinstalled programs. If you’re a creative professional the Adobe Creative Suite offers simple solutions like Bridge through to more advanced offerings in Lightroom.

adobe bridge

Adobe offers Bridge and Lightroom for image management

Don’t forget to have a back up system for your images too!

This year makes 20 years of managing my own digital images, and another 10+ years of film before that. As soon as I began scanning film I searched the best ways to manage scans as well as ‘born-digital’ images. I was quick to discover there were no universal solutions but there were systems used in newspapers, computer filing systems and museums. This led to being part of the solution for managing images through the Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines and the International Organization for Standardization.

Why Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Rules

Posted on September 30, 2016


Lightroom is undoubtedly the world’s leading raw photography workflow application. But why does it dominate the market when competing products can produce better results?

It’s Adobe

Firstly it’s made by Adobe who have led the graphics software market for over 25 years. Adobe’s software has been entrenched in the majority of creatives workflows, formal education, work experience and required skill set for decades. With that comes a legacy of training material and resources including videos, books, blogs, classes and face-to-face training. Invest in Lightroom and you will have no problem finding options to learn how to use it.


It’s Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Adobe market Lightroom as part of the Photoshop family to cash in on the fame of it’s older sibling. Everyone knows Photoshop, so much so it’s part of our vernacular.

If you need to take an image from your raw photo processor to Photoshop, say to combine two or more images, then no other application does better roundtrip editing than Lightroom. Photoshop can read any adjustments you have made to the raw image in Lightroom, and vice versa. Photoshop uses the same Adobe Camera Raw engine as Lightroom.

No competition
For better or worse Adobe do dominate graphics and their competitors are far behind them. The same as Microsoft, Google and Apple dominate their markets. You can very easily choose a competing product but it makes it more difficult to collaborate.


Adobe Creative Cloud

Part of Adobe Creative Cloud
Chances are if you’re a creative you subscribe to Creative Cloud and Lightroom is included in your subscription. So you already have a copy of Lightroom. Interestingly Lightroom never expires. Even if you stop your Adobe subscription your image edits are not held hostage and you can still use Lightroom  – just the Develop module and Maps are disabled.

If you hate the subscription model then you can still buy a traditional, perpetual license for Lightroom.

Engineer driven

Adobe is a company that’s long been driven by engineers – not marketers. For most software companies sales are the motivating factor and I’ve worked closely many of the largest. At Adobe decisions on software development starts with the developers. The benefit for us is those decisions are based squarely on how it will affect current, past and future users.

This is the main reason that I stick with Lightroom. Adobe won’t make new features active unless it has legacy support. I’ve seen too many software and hardware vendors abandon users older files in order to support the latest, cool features. For any photographer who cares whether their images can be accessed in the future this is essential. Those images could be your archive of professional work or your family photos.

Honorary Fellow of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography

Posted on August 31, 2016

Honorary Fellow Australian Institute of Professional Photography

Tonight I was delighted to be awarded the designation of Honorary Fellow of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (Hon.FAIPP):

This title is awarded to recognition of outstanding and long service to the photographic industry. It is usually awarded at the completion of a large project or a long period of service time. It is given for consistent and exemplary service to our profession, a reward for hard work and unselfish commitment to the industry”.

In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the AIPP and to the photographic profession, the AIPP confers on Robert Edwards the distinction of Honorary Fellow.

Honorary Fellow AIPP

(L-R) Richard Bennett, Robert Edwards, Ian van der Wolde and Greg Hocking. Photo: David Simmonds.

Thank you AIPP for the honour!

Virtual Tour of Garvan $10M Genome Sequencing Laboratory

Posted on July 27, 2016

The goal of The Garvan Institute of Medical Research is to prevent, treat or cure cancer, diabetes, obesity, neurological diseases, osteoporosis and immunological diseases. This week it was announced they will offer Australians suffering a genetic condition faster diagnosis through genome screening. Garvan is only the second place in the world to do so. The US$10 million HiSeq X Ten shown above allows for more accurate diagnosis in two months, something that previously took years.

To break down barriers and help alleviate some patients fears in the treatment of their condition we created virtual tours for The Garvan Institute and The Kinghorn Cancer Centre. The 360° photospheres allow anyone to tour the facilities online.

We also created virtual tours for Google Maps connecting the Garvan Institute and Kinghorn Cancer Centre with Google Street View.


Henry Talbot 1960s Fashion Photographer

Posted on June 28, 2016

Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer is on at The National Gallery of Victoria until 21 August 2016. Together with Helmut Newton he was an indispensable part of bringing a new chic and sophistication to Australian fashion photography. Henry’s fashion images show models outside of the studio, on location on the streets of Melbourne, at race courses, even in Papua New Guinea.

Henry Talbot
Henry was an enigmatic character who’s life would make for great film. In fact part of his life was depicted in the TV series The Dunera Boys. Born in Germany he studied art before escaping Berlin with other Jews to London before WWII began. Like many Germans of the time he was considered a risk so shipped (along with future colleague Helmet Newton) to Australia aboard the HMT Dunera.

In the 1990s I was lucky enough to work with Henry in Sydney at the L&P School of Photography along with cinematographer Ossie Emery. Henry was a quiet and frail gentleman who taught students how to light and pose people. Most students I dare say had no idea who Henry was or that they were in the presence of one of the countries most influential photographers. In his honour The Australian Institute of Professional Photography has the Henry Talbot Award for Services to the Photographic Industry. I’ll always remember Henry as an extremely generous, witty and knowledgable bloke with a wicked sense of humour. To this this day I continue to be influenced by Henry’s photography and steal borrow his jokes.