As a beginner photographer, setting your hourly rate can be a daunting and overwhelming task. You may struggle to determine your value and worth, fearing that you’ll either undercharge and leave money on the table or overcharge and scare off potential clients. This pricing dilemma is a crucial hurdle to overcome, as it directly impacts the profitability and sustainability of your business.

Moreover, your hourly rate sends a powerful message to clients about the value and quality they can expect from your services. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll help you navigate the challenges of pricing your photography services, providing you with a clear and confident path to setting an hourly rate that reflects your skills, expertise, and business goals.

1. Understand Your Personal Financial Goals and Needs

Before you set your hourly rate, it’s essential to understand your financial goals and needs.

How much do you need to keep your life going? Not what you want, because you might want a lot, but how much do you actually need? Which means what’s the minimum amount of money you should have to stay reasonably healthy and safe. Also you should consider how much you hope to earn, because you need to have an aim.

So when you think about all of this it’ll help you determine the minimum amount you need to earn to cover your basic expenses and achieve your financial goals.

Once you have a clear picture of your expenses, decide on a desired monthly income that not only covers these expenses but also allows for savings and some discretionary spending. This will be your baseline for setting your hourly rate.

2. Evaluate Your Experience

Your level of skill and expertise is a primary factor in determining your rate. As a beginner, you might not have years of experience under your belt, but that’s okay. Consider the following when evaluating your experience:

  • Portfolio Quality: How strong is your portfolio? Do you have a diverse range of work that showcases your ability to handle various types of shoots?
  • Client Testimonials: If you have any client feedback, use it to gauge your strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Technical Skills: Assess your proficiency with photography techniques, including lighting, composition, and post processing amongst others.

3. Assess Your Equipment

The quality and value of your gear play a crucial role in setting your hourly rate. Higher-end equipment can justify higher rates because it often results in better quality images. Reflect on these aspects:

  • Camera and Lenses: Are you using entry-level gear, or do you have more advanced equipment?
  • Additional Gear: Consider the value of any additional tools you use, such as lighting, tripods, and editing software.
  • Maintenance Costs: Factor in the ongoing costs of maintaining and upgrading your gear.

4. Research Your Location

Your location significantly influences your rate due to varying costs of living and local market conditions. Follow these steps to understand your local market:

  • Market Rates: Research what other photographers in your area charge. Websites like local photography associations or freelance platforms can provide insights or you could simply interact with people.
  • Cost of Living: Adjust your rates based on the cost of living in your area. Higher living costs necessitate higher rates to sustain your business.
  • Demand and Competition: Evaluate the demand for photography services and the level of competition. Higher demand with less competition can allow for higher rates. For example, if you live in Nigeria, in a city like Lagos which is known for big events there’ll naturally be a higher demand for photographers compared to a city like Port Harcourt which has fewer events, but there could be higher demand for better quality photographers in Port Harcourt because the best most photographers would be in Lagos.

5. Research Your Competition

Before you can set your rates, you need to understand the market. Research what other photographers in your area are charging. Here’s how to do it:

  • Online Research: Look at local photographers’ websites to see their pricing. Many photographers list their rates or offer packages, which can give you an idea of the going rates.
  • Networking: Join photography groups on social media or local photography clubs. Engage with other photographers and ask about typical rates.
  • Mystery Shopping: Inquire about services as a potential client to get firsthand information on pricing.

This research will give you a benchmark to compare your rates. Remember, as a beginner, you may want to start slightly lower to attract clients, but don’t undervalue your work.

6. Calculate Your Costs

Understanding your expenses is crucial to setting a rate that covers your costs and allows for profit. Break down your expenses into two main categories: direct costs and indirect costs.

Direct Costs

These are expenses directly tied to your photography services:

  • Equipment: Cameras, lenses, lighting, and other gear. Factor in the cost of purchasing and maintaining your equipment.
  • Software: Editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. Consider monthly or annual subscription fees.
  • Marketing: Consider the cost of website hosting, business cards, online advertising, and other promotional materials. Also to improve the quality of your marketing you should read our blog post on how to build an engaged audience.

Indirect Costs

These are additional costs that support your business operations:

  • Office Supplies: Computer, printer, paper, etc.
  • Insurance: If you have insurance to protect your business, you should also consider it.
  • Utilities: Most new photographers don’t have an office space, but if you have one as well as internet, phone, and other utilities they’re also part of your indirect costs.

7. Account for Your Time

Time is one of your most valuable resources. Consider how many hours you spend on different aspects of your business:

  • Shoot Time: Hours spent traveling to and from shoots, setting up, and taking photos.
    Editing Time: Time spent post processing images.
  • Administrative Tasks: Managing emails, booking clients, marketing, and other business operations.

Track your time for a week to get an accurate estimate of how many hours you work on your business each week.

8. Set Your Rate & Adjust

Now that you know your competition, costs, and the time you spend, you can calculate your rate. Here’s a simple formula to get started:

  • Calculate Monthly Expenses: Add up all your direct and indirect costs for a month.
    Determine Desired Monthly Income: Decide how much you want to make per month after covering your expenses.
  • Calculate Total Hours Worked: Estimate the total number of hours you work in a month.

Hourly Rate = (Monthly Expenses + Desired Monthly Income) / Total Hours Worked

Initially, it’s advisable to start with a lower hourly rate to attract clients and build your portfolio. As you gain experience and positive reviews, you can gradually increase your rates. This approach helps you enter the market and establish a client base without pricing yourself out of opportunities.

However, if your rates are affordable and clients aren’t patronizing you, then you should check out our blog post for top seven reasons customers don’t buy from you.


Setting your hourly rate as a beginner photographer requires careful consideration of your financial goals, experience and time etc. By following these steps and calculating your rate using the provided formula, you’ll be well on your way to establishing a sustainable and profitable photography business.

Remember to periodically review and adjust your rate as your skills, expertise, and business evolve.
If you’ve used any of the steps outlined in this guide to calculate your hourly rate, share your experience with us, we’ll be happy to hear from you.