The Business

What are the Rates for Freelance Photographers in Singapore?

And do you know how to calculate your *own* rate?

Person in grey jacket holding a Canon EOS 6D camera

“What’s your rate?”

When you’re trying to get freelance jobs, this is likely one of the first questions you’ll be asked.

But as a freelance photographer, do you have this “magic number” at your fingertips?

Because if you can’t tell the potential client what your rate is, you can’t expect them to be able to decide whether to hire you for their shoot.

And even if you do know your rate, how confident are you that you’re charging enough? After all, starting a freelance photography business isn’t cheap.

For one, you’ll need to make sure that you earn enough to recoup your investment in your expensive photography gear – and to feed yourself.

In this article, you’ll learn the starting market rates for photography services in Singapore, how you can calculate your freelance rate for yourself, and whether you should charge below the market rate to get clients.

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Starting Market Rates for Photography Services in Singapore

Weddings - from $120/hour; Events - from $150/hour; Portraits - from $220/hour; Products - from $20/image; Food - from $150/dish

The average starting market rates for photography services in Singapore are as follows:

Type of PhotographyAverage Starting Market RateComments
Wedding PhotographyFrom $120/hourThis figure is for shooting the actual wedding day itself, instead of pre-wedding shoots.

Also, wedding shoots are usually charged by package prices on a full-day or half-day basis.

Event PhotographyFrom $150/hourYou may be able to work out a package deal if the event will take place over several hours or even several days.

For big events, you may need to rope in a few more photographers to cover it adequately (which will cause the fee to go up).

Portrait PhotographyFrom $220/hourThe client may have to provide their own wardrobe and make-up, with the shoot being limited to a certain number of outfit changes.

There’s also the cost of the studio to be factored in if the shoot is going to be conducted in one.

Product PhotographyFrom $20/imageClients will usually have to order a minimum number of images to make the project worth the photographer’s time.

Products which are reflective, or need cleaning beforehand, will also usually cost more to shoot.

Food PhotographyFrom $150/dishThe price will depend on whether you’re shooting just the dish itself (without a background), or a full-blown menu with props.

The cost of hiring a food stylist to prettify the food is also usually charged separately.

These average starting market rates are a good starting point for indicating how much you should charge as a freelance photographer.

But don’t just follow these just because “they are the market rates”. You’ll need to do your sums to decide on a sustainable hourly rate for yourself. This next section will show you how.

How Should Freelance Photographers in Singapore Decide Their Rates?

The 5 steps to calculating your freelance photography rate are as follows. Read on for more info on each step:

  1. Decide on your target annual salary
  2. Estimate your annual business expenses
  3. Add your target profit margin
  4. Estimate your annual number of billable hours
  5. Calculate your hourly rate

P.S.: Read to the end of step 5 to learn a bonus tip for deciding your rate! 😉

Step 1: Decide on your target annual salary

To calculate your hourly rate, you first need to look at the macro and decide how much you want your annual salary to be. (You’ll see why later!)

As working with such large numbers can be difficult, it may help to decide on your target monthly salary, and then multiply this figure by 12 months.

Target monthly salary x 12 = Target annual salary

For example, if you want to aim to earn $10k a month and hence $120k a year, go for it. (Just make sure you have top-notch photography skills.)

Otherwise, you should aim to minimally cover your monthly personal expenditure, with sufficient funds remaining for savings and investments.

Step 2: Estimate your annual business expenses

To calculate your total annual business expenses, you’ll need to add your target annual salary to the other business expenses you’ll incur in a year. Like so:

Target annual salary + other annual business expenses = total annual business expenses

(Yes, your salary is considered a business expense.)

Here’s a list of the common expenses you’re likely to incur when running a freelance photography business. Estimate these the best you can before summing up their annual costs. When in doubt, it’s better to be generous with your figures instead of estimating too conservatively.

Also, this list isn’t exhaustive. Leave a comment below if you come up with something not on it:

(a) Equipment and rental costs

Photography equipment

You can’t run a photography business without photography equipment. And as mentioned above, gear such as cameras, tripods, external flashes and the relevant accessories aren’t cheap.

You’ll also need to fork out money to repair or upgrade your equipment as they wear out, or are replaced by better technology.

Pro tip: To calculate the annual costs of owning and maintaining equipment, use the equivalent annual cost formula.

Computer hardware and software

Without a doubt, you’re also going to need a computer(s) and photo-editing software licences to edit your clients’ photos.

Don’t forget about the cost of buying extra storage space to backup clients’ files too. Don’t be like the guy who sued Adobe after a bug in its video editing software erased his footage – and he didn’t have a backup.

Office space and utilities

If you have an office or studio space outside, add expenditure such as rent and office furniture to the equation.

If you’re working from home, congrats on saving on rental! But don’t forget that you still have electricity bills to pay for charging your equipment and using your computer to edit photos.

(b) Sales and marketing costs

Website domain and hosting services

You’ll need to have a website for putting up your portfolio and building your personal brand online. This means buying a website domain and subscribing to a hosting service to host your website.

You may also need to hire someone to build and maintain the website for you.

Digital marketing

Using digital marketing to publicise your services online is a great way of getting new clients for your photography business. You could pay an agency to manage this for you so you can focus on your core business.

Alternatively, you may want to invest in courses that teach you how to do basic digital marketing for yourself. For more info, check out our article on digital marketing courses in Singapore you can attend for free using your SkillsFuture credits.

(c) Costs incurred during a shoot

Transport

As you’ll need to travel not just to but also from shoot locations, budget generously for two-way trips involving cars or taxis. Don’t forget that petrol prices in Singapore aren’t cheap.

Meals

Some clients may be kind enough to sponsor your meals during shoots, but you shouldn’t expect them to. Factor your meal costs into your expenses.

Other business costs

Other business costs that you should budget for include:

Step 3: Add your target profit margin

You’ve derived your total annual business expenses. Now, decide on your profit margin so you have money to invest in your business’ further growth.

Your profit margin percentage could be anywhere between 10% to 30%, or even more depending on how much value you estimate you’re bringing to your clients.

So once you’ve decided on it, add the profit margin multiplier to your total annual business expenses to get your business’ target annual revenue. Like so:

Total annual business expenses x (100+profit margin)% = target annual business revenue

Step 4: Estimate your annual number of billable hours

The next step is to calculate your annual number of billable hours.

This is NOT the same as the total number of hours you spend at work annually. Because even if let’s say you work 8 hours a day, you won’t be able to bill clients for 100% of these hours.

For example, you won’t be able to bill for time spent on:

  • Lunch breaks
  • Initial consultations with clients
  • Replying emails, taking calls, writing proposals
  • Marketing your business
  • Invoicing, etc.

So first, estimate your daily number of non-billable hours, and then subtract this from the number of hours you work every day to get your daily number of billable hours.

Daily number of billable hours x annual number of work days = annual number of billable hours

After that, calculate the number of days you’ll be working in a year.

Let’s say you want to work a 5-day work week. So you would take:

5 work days/week x 52 weeks/year = 260 work days/year

But you won’t be working on all 260 days, because you’ll need to account for off days such as:

  • Public holidays that fall on your work days
  • Annual leave
  • Medical leave

Subtract the number of such days from your initial estimated number of working days too.

And finally, multiply your total number of work days in a year, with your number of billable hours in a day, to get your annual number of billable hours.

Daily number of billable hours x annual number of work days = annual number of billable hours

Step 5: Calculate your hourly rate

FINALLY, the end is in sight!

So now you have your business’ target annual revenue (see steps 1 to 3 of above).

And your annual number of billable hours (see step 4).

You should be able to guess what the next step for getting your hourly rate is – divide the target annual business revenue figure by your annual number of billable hours.

Target annual business revenue / annual number of billable hours = your hourly rate

In fact, you can use this handy calculator below to automatically calculate this final step! It doesn’t save any data when used.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Mission accomplished – you’ve got your rate!

After nailing down this “magic number”, you should review it periodically to check that it still makes sense for you.

For example, if your reputation and/or photography skills have significantly improved, it may be time for you to adjust your rates upwards.

Bonus tip: Add other charges to your hourly rate as necessary

Depending on the situation, you may need to add extra charges to your hourly rate to ensure you get a fair deal for the project.

Here are some examples. Don’t forget to get the client’s advance approval for these as well:

Hiring of assistants

You may want to hire ad hoc assistants to help you set up and man the equipment so you can focus on the shoot itself.

Not only will you have to charge more to cover these assistants’ own rates, you may also have to add in the costs of their own equipment, transport and meals (as applicable).

Urgent work

If a client needs their project completed in a shorter period of time than usual, you will likely have to clock in more working hours per day to finish it faster.

You may also need to reject other potential clients to deliver the urgent work on time and at your usual quality standards.

Accordingly, add a surcharge for urgent work to their bill. The more urgent the work, the higher the premium.

This premium could be calculated as a percentage of your usual rate, or a flat fee. But if you have completely no capacity to rush the work for the client, don’t be afraid to turn them down.

Shoots at odd hours, and OT rates

If the shoot is at ungodly hours (e.g. in the middle of the night, or in the wee hours of the morning), charge more for your loss of beauty sleep and likely higher transport costs.

Also, set your overtime (OT) rates. If your client doesn’t want to pay overtime, then don’t feel obliged to stay on the shoot longer than your agreed working hours. Check out this article on how to respond if your boss asks you to OT without extra pay.

Extra revisions

This step applies especially if you are quoting a package price based on your calculated hourly rate.

Sometimes, your client may ask you to re-edit certain parts of photos you’ve delivered to them.

You may not mind at first. But if your client asks for re-edits 1 million times, you’re going to be spending way too much time on the project for the fixed amount of money you’ve quoted for it.

To prevent this from happening, inform the client that you will oblige for X number of revisions (3, for example), but will charge extra for more revisions beyond that.

Also, let the client know the scope of revisions that you’ll be happy to make. The requests should be relatively minor, such as fixing any blemishes that you missed, or brightening up the photos just a tad more.

Because if they request something that requires you to re-edit the photos from scratch, you’ll likely lose money if you accommodate their request at the original fee. Instead, charge them more for such a substantial change in the required deliverables.

Copyright in the photos

While the law provides rules on who will own the copyright in photos, it isn’t always clear how these rules should apply. Therefore, your best bet would be to expressly state, in your contract, who will own the copyright in the photos.

This is important because only the copyright owner will be able to:

  • Make copies of the photos;
  • Publish the photos in Singapore, if they haven’t been published; or
  • Share the photos publicly;

And anyone else who wants to do so will have to first get their permission.

For example, your contract (whether written or otherwise) could provide that you own the copyright in the photos, but the client may make copies of and share the photos for non-commercial purposes.

If your client would rather own the copyright in the photos, you should then negotiate a fee for fully/partially transferring the copyright to them.

Charging Below the Market Rate to Get Clients

If you’re only just starting out as a freelance photographer, you may be tempted to charge less than the market rate to get clients. Or possibly, to work for just exposure.

After all, after using these clients’ photos to build your portfolio, you’ll be able to wow new clients with your skills and raise your rates to the market rate! Right?

It isn’t so easy.

You may lose money on projects

If you’re netting less revenue from the project (because you’ve charged less), you may find that you’ve lost money on the project, after subtracting your business expenses.

Or worse still, you might not even be able to fully cover your business expenses in the first place. There’s only so long your business can survive if it is bleeding money.

Such business expenses include your salary too, so think about that.

You may have difficulty raising your rates in the future

Your clients will remember the rates that you charged them. If you did good work for them for a low rate, they might want to hire you again!

…but at the same low rate.

And unless you have a very good reason why you’re charging more for this time round, you may find it difficult to get them to agree to your higher fee.

Also, when those clients refer you to their friends, those friends may expect to be charged similar rates, and baulk if you try to increase your price.

You might then find yourself trapped in a vicious cycle of low rates that you have difficulty breaking out of later on.

You may drive down the market rate

If you (and your industry peers) undercut the market rate, clients may become accustomed to paying such low rates. They may then refuse to work with photographers who peg their fees to the market rate (or higher).

As a result, freelance photographers may find it difficult to maintain their fees and be forced to lower their rates.

Over time, this could cause the market rate for freelance photographers in Singapore to go down, eating into everyone’s bottom lines and business sustainability.

Everyone loses if this happens, so don’t contribute to such self-sabotage.

So, What’s Your Rate?

By now, you should have a better idea of what your freelance photography rates should be.

Use the average starting market rates for photography services in Singapore as a starting point for how much you should charge.

However, these are just the starting market rates. Every photography business is different, so you’ll need to do your sums to derive your own rate, i.e.:

  1. Decide on your target annual salary
  2. Estimate your annual business expenses
  3. Add your target profit margin
  4. Estimate your annual number of billable hours
  5. Calculate your hourly rate

You should also periodically review your rate and see if a rate increase is justified.

But if you’re just starting out, resist the urge to undercut the market rate.

Over time, this will bring the market rate down – and affect your ability to charge more for the skills that you’ve spent many painstaking hours to hone.

How do you determine your freelance photography rates? Leave a comment!

Tan Siew Ann
I’m a freelance writer for some of the most amazing software businesses in the world. On this blog, I share tips on how you, too, can run a sustainable and meaningful freelance business. Let’s forge your freedom. 💪

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