Advice - Photography / Day/base rates

Photographers working on commission charge by time, typically by the day. However the photographer is the owner of the intellectual property in the work, and while the day rate charged includes an initial licence for reproducing the photographs, the commission fee in fact represents the figure below which a photographer is not prepared or cannot afford to work.

This figure varies according to individual circumstances but should start at around £400 per day before production charges and expenses.

It has to cover all overheads and capital investment before producing enough in a three or four day week to pay a salary high enough to cover holidays, periods of sickness, and a pension. Three full days is usually about as much as can be fitted in between preparation before the work, post production and delivery after, with time to spare for all the other aspects of running a business including marketing and accountancy. Allowing, after holidays, for a 48 week year, that leaves 144 days to produce the the estimated turnover, which can be 2- 2.5 times the required salary.

Each photographer has to work out this figure according to their requirements, their costs, and the number of days they can work in a year.

The NUJ provides a calculator for photographers to work out their own figures.

Static day rates now leave many photographers working below the level at which it possible to earn a professional income. The only long-term solution is to establish a higher day rate which over a period of time would provide a living. In the short term many photographers accept lower rates in the hope of surviving through subsequent reproduction fee sales. No photographer should work for less than £250 per day.

As mentioned above, the commission fee should include an initial limited licence for reproduction, to be negotiated between the photographer and the client, beyond which further reproduction fees are chargeable. Typically photographers working for editorial markets restrict reproduction to one issue of a newspaper or magazine, and further restrict the number of reproductions included, for instance six per day or three per half day.

Some may charge a premium for use on the cover. Some charge "day rates against space".

Day rates against space

Under this arrangement the day rate is a guarantee only, and licence fees are paid in full for first as well as subsequent usage. Historically, day rates were introduced as a guaranteed minimum for photographers who had traditionally been paid on commission by space rates alone, and who therefore risked being paid for no more than one small picture - or even nothing at all. "Day rates against space" are therefore not so much an innovation as a return to paying photographers in full for the licensed use of their pictures. For working example of such an arrangement see the Business Week deal (RTF file).

For further guidance on licensing see Negotiating rates and rights.

There is no such thing as a half day

Even the shortest jobs end up taking the best part of a day. The time quoted includes travel to and from, and processing/delivery after the job. No job should be invoiced at less than a day. However, in a buyers market, photographers often have to charge for shorter periods, of half a day or a number of hours The licence included in these fees is usually more limited. A half day should be charged at no less than 60% of a day.

 
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Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. Comments to ffg@londonfreelance.org please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.