What Can it Really Cost To Do a Professional Photoshoot?

I can’t begin to tell you how many times over the years I’ve been asked the question. But there really is no one answer fits all type answer.

A photoshoot can be pretty costly to say the least. At least a professional photoshoot. You may be wondering; “DJ, how much does it cost to do a photoshoot?”Using reflectors on the beach for a swimsuit shootI’ve actually gotten asked this question more than I would ever have thought. Oddly enough it actually surprises me every time someone asks me about what it costs to do some of my shoots.

Well before I get to an answer for that let me say, that the question on it’s own has great merit. It’s one of the things that many people do not consider. There can be numerous costs associated with shooting.

Especially normally shooting what and how I shoot. Through my career as a photographer I’ve worked on sets and campaigns that literally have a multi-million dollar budget as well as sets that have barely enough of a budget to buy some pizza and soda (usually my personal shoots).
The only valid answer that I have to give to those who ask is “It Varies.” As you can imagine very many things go into the production of a shoot, good, bad, or otherwise.

Please bare in mind that the statement you get what you pay for when it comes to talent is well non-applicable in this field when it comes to talent.

As a photographer I don’t shoot any differently on a free or trade shoot than I do on a shoot where I’m getting $150,000.00 (And yes I have gotten that for a shoot before).

A model isn’t going to look any different or better for free as they do at Forty-Million Dollars. So the statement about getting what you pay for is kind of bullshit here.

Some Things To Think About.

The bottom line is, every shoot is going to be different in cost. There are as I stated earlier; shoots I’ve done where there really are no major costs associated with the shoot!

The shoot below on the train, had no real costs to me. The train cost me nothing and the model was shooting a trade with me for High Speed Magazine!

Her wardrobe was provided by a designer so there was no cost for that to me. Then there are the shoots where we bring out the entire team and all the gear! Now we’re talking about some costs and I will attempt to break those down now as I can.

On a typical remote shoot there’s a lot of gear that has to be involved.

As you can see in the below image, we have sometimes have the set trailer that comes out to shoot providing restrooms, and a comfortable area for us to be in between shots. As well as a great place for the hair and make-up team to work their magic, and a changing area.

Also it’s a great place to chill during those extreme summer shoots I seem to love to do. The ones when it’s 118 degrees outside. Don’t believe me? Ask my team!

There are also often two to three additional photographers/videographers. Additionally about two to three set assistants, and as often as possible we have a wardrobe stylist.

Obviously we’re not considering equipment like my Canon Cameras, or my JTL-Lighting, Elinchrom, or Dynalites lighting systems. Not considering modifiers or lenses.

Not even counting memory cards, computers or student loans for those who went to school for photography. Those are costs that are not recurring and have little if anything to do with shoot costs. That is; unless you are renting gear. I will attempt to break down the costs of an actual glamour/fashion photoshoot as best I can below.@DeaqonJames - Photoshoot Costs Article

Trailer: $150.00 R/T (Fuel for the truck that pulls the trailer)
Staff Make-Up ArtistTricia James – $150 – $400.00 Day
Staff Hair Stylist –  Christi Bell – $100 – $300.00 Day
Staff (Assistant(s)/BTS) Photographers 2 – $50 – $200.00 Day ea.
Wardrobe Stylist – $150.00 Day / $30.00 Per Look
Set Assistants 2 – 3 – $150.00 Day
Location Fee – $Free – $50,000
Insurance – Varies
Permits – $25.00 – $2,000,000 (Depends on the city and how involved the shoot is.)

The post production team can also be expensive.

Though most photographers you find on the internet do their own touch up work and do a damn great job.

But here are some ball park figures of what our costs can be.

Graphic Artist – $150.00 Hour / $10.00 – $20.00 Per Image -This rate of course increases if the models have tattoos which need to be removed, which is why most companies often pass on models with tattoos and bad complexions.

@DeaqonJames - Photoshoot CostsI wont even get into the costs of doing  a shot like the above shot! Imagine if you will; shutting down a bridge in the city of Los Angeles for an afternoon. This requires the presence of the Police on both sides to shut down the bridge.

Traffic control to re-route the traffic around to another bridge, the costs of permits alone make this cost prohibitive for most small productions. You hopefully have a great budget if you wish to try this.

The shot above was from the first Los Angeles shoot I had done for High Speed Magazine and what a day of incredible logistics. And planning. The funny thing about this shot is that I realized after the shoot that the sign in the background said “No Stopping Anytime”! I found that very funny.But again the most basic answer I can give to the question of how much it costs to do some of the shoots we do is the costs vary from very manageable to astronomical! So before you decide on going out and trying to do shoots like we do please make certain that you’ve considered the costs.Deaqon James PhotographerNow this is very different from the should I shoot “Trade” or not.

The values outlined above are how I would bill major clients. It does not reflect billing, and are based on passion projects.

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