I don’t think I can give you a straight answer on this one and I believe no one can. What I can do is to tell you what goes into price “build-up” and how different project aspects can drive the cost/charge up or down. Before you commit to anything, you got to determine the scope of work with your client. This is the key point and I would suggest you don’t skip it because it might bite you badly at the end. Understanding what your customer want, need and expects is the most important thing. You got to understand these requirements and build a solution around it.
I always prefer meeting with the client days maybe weeks before the actual photo-shoot. This is the time when I discuss all details surrounding my future engagement. In many cases clients are not aware of complexity that goes into the “final product” therefore you have to explain this process to them. There are areas you need to explore with your client so the good thing will be to check if you need to provide any of these:
- Food Stylist
- Prop Stylist
- Photo Assistant
Based on the requirements, you might need help from food/prop stylist or a second shooter (assistant). Their rates could vary so make sure you know what you dealing with (hourly or daily rates). Just a reminder, client is paying you and you have to include their “cut” in the final quote. Now, when comes down to rates, I tend to charge by the day or half day. You might choose to go with hourly rate and nothing is wrong with that … when I was new in this role I was doing the same thing. It really depends how many items you need to shoot and how complex the gig really is. You could be working on a project where vast majority of time will be spent on preparation, food styling and other details. You part might only take 3 hours out of entire day in the studio.
Never less, if you’re new on the market your rates should reflect the level of expertise and knowledge you bring to the table. Don’t be reluctant to charge a fair and reasonable rate as long as you provide a service that client wants and they’re happy with. I have one piece of advice for novices … be careful when quoting jobs because you have to know what the outgoing (hourly) rate is for a food photographer in your area. Quoting too much can be a turn off as much as low balling. To put things in perspective, when I started, the average hourly rate food photographers in my city was between $120 to $250. Shooting without assistant or food/prop stylist, I was on the lower end of that range but aware that next project could be easily go 10% – 20% higher. In today’s economy, you got to adjust to market demand and always create a lot maneuvering space.
Unfortunately, there is no formula you can use to calculate your rate. Make sure you include all your costs and expenses first (plus profitable margin) before submitting an offer. Anyway, adjustment is always an option therefore it might take some time to balance things out.