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Why not giving accurate quotes can burn your photography business

Why not giving accurate quotes can burn your photography business

You put all the necessary steps in place to drive traffic to your website and secure leads. Now, it’s time to present one of these leads with a quote for your photography services. Giving accurate quotes is critical for your success, and failing to do so can burn you in your photography business.

Today, we’ll cover the variables involved in giving a quote to a potential client, as well as things that can happen if you’re not giving accurate quotes. We’ll close out with a some tips that you can use to make your photography proposals even better.

Variables in giving a photography quote

One of the first things to think about when it comes to giving accurate quotes is your desired hourly rate. Let’s say the hourly rate that you charge for photography services is $250 an hour. If that’s the case, and the job will take you five hours, then you already know upfront that you need to make at least a minimum of $1,250 to meet your hourly rate alone. From there, you build on that figure to add on the elements the clients desire.

Other factors for more accurate quotes

Start with he photography location, and how much travel will be involved to get to this location. Consider the type of shoot it is, whether that’s for a wedding, party, products, etc. Consider the specifics of what the client expects from the images. You’ll need to think about things such as the terms of use and the rights of the images:

  • Do they want prints of the images or digital files they can use to make their own prints? Some photographers don’t like to give digital files because they want to maintain the ability to charge for all future prints of the images.
  • If you do give digital files, will they be the large, raw images, or compressed for smaller prints?
  • Will these images be for personal use or commercial use, and will the client be reselling them? This actually was an issue for me in one of the very first shoots I did. I was not aware that my client was a writer that was going to be selling the images I took to a magazine. In other words, my rookie mistake left money on the table, giving me the first of many burns.
  • Is the client hoping you will use Photoshop or some other image editing software to edit the images? This is one of those tasks that can add on a lot of time to your job, so it’s important to consider whether or not editing will be expected.

To put together the most accurate quotes, be sure to set a timeline for delivery. Will the images be needed quickly? If so, you might need to include a rush fee. Also ask yourself:

  • What will the lighting look like for your shoot?
  • Is it an outdoor shoot or an indoor shoot?
  • Will you need lots of props, backdrops, lighting, etc.? The reason this is so important to consider, is set up and break down also takes time when backdrops and lighting are involved.
  • It also will take additional energy and storage room to transport props, and you’ll need to consider how you will get those things to the shoot location.
  • Will the client receive all of the images, the ones you feel were the best from the shoot, or a more limited number?
  • The equipment you will be using. Believe it or not, your client might want to know the cameras you will be using. I actually missed out on some gigs because I am a Canon girl, and they wanted a Nikon shooter. Yes, really.
  • Will the dates and times for the job be a factor? Consider the fact that during rush hour in most cities your travel time for a photoshoot can as much as double. As a result, this might be something that impacts your final quote.
  • Will you need additional photographers or assistants on site? If so, you’ll have to pay them, and you’ll need to know how long they will be on site as well.

The best protection for accurate quotes is a disclaimer

Perhaps the most important thing you should include in accurate quotes is a disclaimer. If any element changes for the photoshoot that you will be doing, it can impact your final fee.

Therefore, it is critical that you include a disclaimer that says something to the effect of “this quote is subject to change.”

It’s also important to note how much you would charge on top of the quote for add-ons. Sure, you can have an hourly rate in mind, but you also need to have it written in your proposal. Your disclaimers can come with a list of prices for adds-ons, so there are no surprises to your client. The more crystal-clear you can be in your quote, the less likely you are to get burned.

What can happen without accurate quotes?

To put it bluntly, not giving accurate quotes can lead you to unintentionally giving away the proverbial farm. If you leave things open to interpretation, you could end up working more hours than you want — or give more deliverables than you planned — all because you didn’t make it absolutely clear what you would give to the client.

If your clients don’t feel they were given exactly what you told them you would give them in your quote, it could lead to an argument, demands for refunds, damage of reputation and more. The last thing you want is to be vague with a quote, and get stuck not making the hourly rate you intended, or worse, being out the money for things you didn’t anticipate.

Make your photography proposals even better

Every proposal should begin with a brief introduction that gives an overview of what the client can expect from working with you. Give the shoot in question a title, and include the date and time that the shoot is expected to take place.

Be sure to include contact information for you and your client. This will not only ensure you know how to reach them, and they know how to reach you, it will also help you in writing your photography contract once the quote is agreed to. If you have contact information for the venue, include that as well.

Mention how long you agree to be on site, and all of the variables mentioned above. This will require you chatting with the client about what they want. The more questions you can ask, the easier it will be to give more accurate quotes.

Break down your costs by line item.


Flat fees make people nervous, and can often lead clients to believe you’re just a money-hungry photographer. However, showing them why the fee is so large will make you look more professional because they will have an itemized explanation of each element of the shoot. You can even include a short blurb that explains equipment rental, second shooters, props etc. — all cost money, and that by working with you, their shoot fee includes those things.

Pro tip: Include how long the quote is valid for!

What if you get a request to shoot a wedding or some other event on the same day you’re giving a quote for? You need to give your potential client a time limit on how long they have to book you, so that you can book another gig if they aren’t going to pull the trigger.

I also let this burn me in my early days as a photographer. I told the client to just get back to me whenever they were ready. Then, I turned down a gig because it was the same day I had just quoted for. You can guess what happened next. The client I quoted didn’t get back to me for more than a month and ultimately didn’t book me. So, since I had already turned down the other gig, I ended up not making any money for the day in question. That was a bad burn that could have been avoided if I had placed a time limit on my quote.

For accurate quotes, it’s also a good idea to let your prospect know how long you keep digital files from photo shoots. Some clients expect that you will have a backup copy of the images — just in case something happens — for a year or two. You can also include whether or not a fee will be assessed for storing these images. This actually helped me years ago when a client lost their images in a move. I still had the backups and saved the day!

One last thing about accurate quotes

Finally, I’m going to reiterate one more time the importance of adding disclaimers. Make sure they know your quote is subject to change. Until a contract is signed, nothing in the quote should be set in stone. This protects you and the client.

Hopefully, at a minimum this article has given you a lot to think about regarding writing accurate quotes for your photography business. Every photographer deserves to earn a livable wage from their craft, and my hope is that this encourages you to give more accurate quotes so that you won’t get burned and lose money.

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