I met up with a fellow professional commercial photographer, Collins, introduced to me by a friend from the advertising industry. I was hoping to get an insight into this ever competitive, creative and challenging livelihood of making pictures.
What exactly is the market price of photography services in Malaysia? Here are just a few points noted in my conversation with Collins:
Caveat: Note that these prices are purely deduced from an observational basis and deemed best market practices. They are by no means considered an official standard to be strictly adhered to (even if it is, no one does). Cost may vary depending on many variables such as any value-added inclusions into the package. Clients are always advised to negotiate for a packaged deal with their photographer. A highly subjective service such as picture making commands a wide price range which is subject to client-photographer interaction & relationship (chemistry, familiarity, cronyism, binding contract etc), image quality (physical print, file size, style, mood, concept etc), quality of service (efficiency, responsiveness, flexibility, honesty etc) and a host of other reasons which may or may not make sense.
Type: Corporate Event Shoot
Duration: Typically 4 – 6 hours
Price: RM 500 – RM 800
No. of photographer(s): 1
I’m not too sure if this is a day charge but obviously, this has to be on a per-event-day basis.This is considered one of the bread and butter of most fledgling photographers, or photo “enthusiasts” yearning to make that extra buck to complete their accessories. I would say anyone who can take decent pictures and know how to handle a camera can pretty much get the job done, hence the low barrier of entry. This results in incredibly cut-throat, under-cutting manoeuvres in a highly competitive scenario, where a job can easily end up in the hands of the lowest bidder. Under-cutting by 50% – 60% is common. Hence, there are people who could have offered to shoot events for a mere RM 200.
The conundrum? If someone takes really good event pictures; i.e. launch, VIP booth visits, for media press release etc, that pretty much accomplishes the objective, doesn’t it? Say, I’m not picky, the pictures serve their purposes at their mediocre resolution, so why should I be paying RM 600 when I can get it done now at RM 300? But wait, RM 600 is for a 5D’s resolution with the crispness of an 85mm f1.2 by an ex-AFP shooter! You get the pic… In the end, how much are you willing to spend against your “needs”?
Note: The original fee includes professional services and a CD of all pictures (though some shooters include 3 successive shots of the same subject to make up the numbers. Reason being: different facial expressions. Take your pick. Lame, I know). Photographer may extend no. of hours put in, throw in an additional shooter, provide limited physical prints (framed?) or even include a nice photobook. All these justify the price you’re paying. Also of great importance: location!
Type: Commercial Shoot (Portraiture / Corporate / Product / Architectural / Operations)
Duration: Typically 9am – 5pm (8 hours)
Price: RM 2,000 – RM 3,500
No. of photographer(s): 1 [ + Assistant(s) ]
This is normally the day‘s rate for professional services rendered with the assistance of 1 or more photography assistants. Deliverables include a CD of very high resolution images for subsequent ads use or printing of promotional materials. Location of shoot could either be in-studio or client-side. If it’s an outdoor shoot, then the fee balloons in proportion to the logistical arrangement required. Most clients would not understand the amount of gear, backups and wear/tear incurred from such assignments, hence the seemingly high price tag.
This rate is very subjective depending on the complexity of the job (e.g. heavy post-processing of image files, intricate composites, correcting perspectives, no. of items for product shoot etc). What’s the concept? Has it been developed? Will the photographer be tasked to figure this out (some are capable of doing so)? Normally an external ad agency is assigned to do the art direction. They will work alongside the photographer.
Any hours in excess of the stipulated time is chargeable at RM 200 – RM 300 per hour for professional services fees. Studio space rental ranges from RM 500 (using own equipment) to RM 800 (renting studio equipment) a day. However, renting a studio specially designed for shooting cars (with turn-table facilities) can reach up to RM 5,000 or more a day. A surcharge of RM 100 per hour applies for every hour after 6pm (depending) for studio space rental.
Note: Professional services is commonly referred to the time, effort, creative faculties, directing and equipment utilisation by the photographer. The original fee may or may not include post-processing of image files or creative consulting depending on the job complexity. This is something that can be negotiated with the photographer. Some choose to bundle it together, while others include separate breakdowns of both professional services and image processing/creative consulting.
Another point to note is that working with an ad agency is undoubtedly expensive. I thought they would mark up about 20% – 30% (commonly) off the photographer’s fees, before quoting the client, but apparently, according to Collins, this may go up as high as 100%! Obviously due to the agency’s higher headcounts and bulky operations, this is understandable. But 100%?! Hence, some clients are better off working directly with a capable photographer who can do all the concept works, copy writing etc. Good news for photographers, not so for ad agencies. But how many such capable creative photographers are out there?
Type: Domestic Shoot (Parties / Family / Pregnancy / Children)
Duration: Typically 2 – 4 hours
Price: RM 200 – RM 650
No. of photographer(s): 1
A typical shoot for the above domestic events could be anywhere between RM 200 to RM 400 with only a CD of all image files included. Any amount in excess of that covers additional items such as prints (framed?), photobooks, extra hours or additional shooter assigned for the job. Also worth noting is the location of shoot, and if it’s an outdoor or indoor session.
How about wedding photography? The price varies vastly between FREE or REASONABLY ACCEPTABLE to INFINITY or RIDICULOUSLY-SHOWING-OFF. The whole genre of wedding photography has been overblown out of proportion and distorted. Self-proclaimed wedding photographers that command more than RM 5,000 per job have become no different than expletives-ladden celebrity chefs.
A typical wedding day shoot (morning ceremony till dinner reception) ranges anywhere between RM 1,200 to RM 1,800 for a single shooter, and RM 1,500 to RM 2,500 for two shooters. Pre-wedding shoots for a single day session is anywhere between RM 1,500 to RM 4500. Whatever the price, the determining variables are the same; duration, location, prints, photobooks, no. of softcopies, bridal gown/props rental, make up etc. The possibilities are endless.
So how do you choose? The comprehensive answer to that would warrant a dedicated post to the entire topic of wedding photography charges. I shall save that for later. However, two schools of thoughts prevail. One would not mind paying a limb or two as wedding is considered a sacred once-in-a-lifetime mark in one’s books. The other sees it as just another unnecessary spending that yields deliverables of archival material that hardly see the light of day after the event.
While there’s no one price that is deemed “reasonable market price”, I personally feel that one should go with whatever price they find comfortable with. It’s an open/free market after all. Do note that most prices are artificially inflated by virtue of one’s accreditation and awards received. Hence, I would advise clients to choose a package/service that is equally as good (in quality works and experiences) if not better than “celebrity photographers”, but yet priced competitively. Of course, there’s a whole lot more weighing criteria that go into decision making but I’m sure you get my point about the subjectivity of it all.
I’ve long known the fact that making a living out of photography isn’t going to be easy, judging by the attitudes of most Malaysians (or Asians at large, presumably) espousing the “I can do it satisfactorily as well, if not better” motto. The fact that commoners or the general masses do not actually appreciate arts in their purest form adds to the challenge. What purest form you may ask? Pure as in original in concept and idea, from which visual body of works communicating a message is translated into. This is very much unlike simply taking pictures of a wrinkly-faced old man smoking or the ubiquitous sunsets.
There’s a huge lacking in one’s ability to distinguish and appreciate quality works by “real” photographers. The proliferation of digital cameras, while on one hand help spur the uptake of a wonderful hobby, doesn’t seem to make the life of professional photographers any easier. Well, after all, you can argue that it’s a big free market out there. But then what’s “professional”? I shall leave that to another post.
Before we went our separate ways, I asked Collins how was it like making a living out of what he does now. He admitted it was challenging but it all boils down to getting referrals from a small circle of existing clients and word of mouth. He does feel the pinch in this increasingly competitive industry. Things have changed much since the advent of digital cameras more than a decade ago. He hinted he might make a switch possibly in the next decade or so.
So there you have it, a very brief overview of the market price of photography services in Malaysia. I’m aware that my arguments above may be flawed, incomplete and questionable. After all, the world is definitely larger than the screen from which you read this. It wasn’t meant as a bible anyway.
If you happen to disagree with any of the above, good. At least you’re thinking and being wise in parting with your hard-earned money.
Do sound out in the comments below if you feel I’ve made a huge blunder in my thoughts on this matter. Cheers!
Hi, I would like to find out how much I should charge for photography services that are carried out at home. I am a freelance product photographer and I have a client who is willing to travel to my place for the photo shoot sessions. Each session will take about 4-6 hours on either Saturdays or Sundays. I’m not sure what the pricing strategy is for this type of service. I’d appreciate some help from you.
There are many ways of doing this. Ad hoc per item basis with minimum spend or project basis on retainer. The former is e.g. (replace price with your own, here’s just example) RM 5 per item with a total amount no less than RM 500. So if they bring RM 360 worth of products to be photographed, they will have to pay the extra RM 140 to top up to RM 500. If it’s more, then great; those will be the bonus.
For the latter, if it’s a frequent ongoing project to photograph products over the weekend, you will need to take into account your weekend time surcharge. Also, 4-6 hours is a long time. You will need to know the final total number of products, divided over a set number of days and charge accordingly (based on what you think you’re worth your time per day. In photography, if you don’t value your work, no one will). I don’t normally try to go with duration because some customers may think the photographer will try to delay to charge more. I will deal more with the nature of the product.
What you should be considering are product type, are they reflective? Against plain background? Do they need on-camera drop-shadow? Is it a setup shot or just smack on simple? Is it pure white or black? Do they need basic/advanced editing? There are just too many variables. If you feel it’s too much work photographing some shiny pots and pans, charge premium. If it’s just a bundle of soft toys and handicraft, charge reasonably affordable. It all just makes sense.
Beyond the above mentioned, there’s a whole lot more other considerations. What kind of clients are they? Luxury brand items? Or apparel? In truth, there is no real “market price” of photography services. It’s not like cabbage, chicken, fish or chillies (fortunately, or unfortunately, depends). It’s a service industry that places quite a bit on human relations and comfort level when working long term. That counts. It really all just depends. Hope the above helps!
What about the rates for individual at those exhibitions?
What do you mean about “rates for individual”?
Hi. I would like to know about price market about landscape photography and please give me some example.
Unfortunately, it seems there’s no such thing as a market price for a service-based industry that commands a vast range of price difference from pittance to exorbitantly ridiculous given the various circumstances. All the more so especially when it involves a genre where anyone and I mean everyone can take any pics they want on any camera to post-process and “sell” as “beautiful” or “unique” because any appealing-qualities of a photo is totally subjective and personal to one’s own appreciation.
I’ve only managed to sell two framed pictures; one at RM 500 and another at RM 800. One was bought by a friend as a show of support (appreciated indeed) and another off the restaurant wall by a customer (who apparently said pics of koi fishes bring good luck, hence the purchase). I have no awards. I’ve won no titles in photography. I have not appeared in any TV shows as panel judge for any competitions but I believe I do know the essentials that go into being a good photographer with not great works, but works that mean something. It’s as simple as that, though a very important one!
It all boils down to who you are selling to? A mega corporation with annual budget for CSR who decides to make a calendar out of your pics? Were you recommended (if yes, then a higher likelihood of being confident of a more favourable price to you) by a convinced client of your works? And the most important thing behind it all; how much do you value your work?
Unfortunately, it appears sometimes the art world can be the most misunderstood social realm of humanity. Do you have a rough childhood? What’s your history? Did you just wrestled a croc on the river bank, came out unscathed and find these random but violent signs of tussle on the river sand and decide to take a picture of it and declare it “Second chance at life”? Were you a grave digger before you decide to pick up a camera belonging to your grandpa? All these help propel the perceived value and price in your works.
Life is hard. But that’s the reality.
Hence, do what you love and be at least contented with your works before you place a value and price. Most importantly, be a jerk to oneself and be the biggest critique of yourself! That helps. Trust me. What I’m saying is, there’s a huge market out there driven by supply and demand. There are all sorts of people out there.
Hello there, although this post was written way back in 2011 but I think this is one timeless article. Great one!
I’ve been shooting wedding all these while and few days back I was approached by a kindergarten to photograph their Graduation Portraits. I’m a bit clueless on how to charge them because this might be my first job for student’s graduation portraits.
Do you charge the students or do you charge the school for the fees and prints?
How much would be the print price for 8×12 and 6R?
I’m based in a small rural town. I did asked the school how much did the previous photographer charged them. 8×12 – RM15 and 6R – RM4; and no session fee. The problem is, that’s the print price in the rural town. Usually photogs will go to cities to print to get the “photographer’s price” and sell it back in the rural town.
I need some enlightenment. Thanks in advance for the help.
I really like your BSKL’s portraits, they’re really creative and not like the same-ol’-school-portrait.
My apologies for the really late reply. Been really busy with video works and commercial stuffs lately. Thanks for the compliments of BSKL shots. I personally believe they could be better and pushed to a whole new level.
Yes, that’s an old post that deserves some update. I will definitely write a follow up post to that hopefully soon. I will be frank. The entire photography and videography industry is truly screwed, in Malaysia if not the world, perhaps applicable to any other forms of business be they food or non-essential items. This happens due to a breakdown in the economic workings of society, mass consumerism and unsustainable pricing wars. All the more so evident when it comes to pre-schools grad pics.
Most if not all pre-schools sell their prints to parents. They normally have two groups; the graduating 6 years old and the non-graduating 3-5 years old. You will be required to take ONE individual portrait of each and a class pic of all of them. Depending on the print sizes and folders used, you will need to deliver a few sizes. I am not going to talk about print price here because that varies greatly.
You get them all printed and sell to the centre at RM x. The centre would then markup a certain percentage say 30% (if not 100% in some cases) and resell them to parents at RM y PER CHILD. So you have to work out your time spent photographing there, travelling and print cost, estimate your top-up value of profit before arriving at RM x. You decide how much you want to make in RM x.
The typical price range for RM y in the market right now (based on my limited experience) is RM 60-80 for 6 years old and anywhere between RM 15-40 for 3-5 years old. Sometimes you may be required to cost in the folders, which I don’t. Hence, I just focus on photography and prints. My clients take care of their own folders. For example, if you sell a 6 year old package at RM 40 (centre resells at RM 80), you will get only RM 400 for 10 students! That is for all your time slaving almost half a day if not more. Add to that the arduous task of getting every 3-5 year old to smile in a group pic and look at the camera! I rest my case.
Due to the above mentioned challenges, I price my services at a premium rate. For example, I would price at RM 100 per student. The centre resells at RM 120. You can only do this if you have a proven track record of really extraordinary pics. The entire market of pre-school photography is inundated by subpar quality work that reeks of boredom meant merely as “recording him/her at this point in time how he/she looks”. That’s why photographers are even going as low as RM 20-30 just to get the job. They are pricing it at a certain low range because “…other photographers are pricing the same too, why are you so expensive?” clients would retort.
Again, let me clarify. Not everyone can command a premium price. You could if you are confident of your work and it also depends on how much you really want the job, value your work and convince them. If they turn down, walk over. Move on. Don’t follow the herd. I’ve had my fair share of rejection and successes. You can never always win.
When it comes to pricing, the number one rule is: Always price your services based on their real and perceived benefits and NOT FEATURES.
Hope this helps.
Hi, I am Sin Ye and I would like to know the market price for the architectural and interior design photography. Is it any different rates between KL and Penang?
Do you recommend rates by day work or by quantity of photos to be given in this kind of photography session?
Would appreciate if you could offer some other advice as I am about getting started. Thank you.
Hi Sin Ye,
Thank you for your email. You would be able to get a good overview response regarding your question from my previous comment replies in this section. In short, there’s no one real market rate as that’s very subjective. People in Penang are not lesser in worth than KL folks hence why can’t you charge higher than that in KL? Every human being’s blood is red hence why the difference? You should charge based on how much you value your work and how much do you think the work would cost you down time in post editing. That means even though you’re shooting for one day, but that alone cost you 13 days of complicated compositing or editing in whatever manner; hence the client should be made known of that 13 days worth of work as most of the time, clients would lament that it’s only one day’s work. They don’t actually see the 13 days.
More honestly (many would not tell you this), your charges are based on how much your “daily cost of existence/living” is plus reasonable profit. E.g. If you need to pay bills worth RM 200/day, plus your expected profit for a day at RM 100, you would be charging your client RM 300/day. However, that’s not reasonable as it depends on how many jobs you could be securing that month and the nature of the job. That is not to say you can’t charge as high as a large organisation with 8 photographers. There are two ways about it. Most of these big established names could potentially charge higher because of a bigger overhead or, they could in fact surprisingly be competitive if they have an established volume and network. Hence, they would want to ensure they secure the job, thus the competitive rate.
Recently, a large pretty well known construction firm approached me to shoot 5 locations for an estimated 10 pics per site (he insisted quite vehemently just 10), with one location in Negeri Sembilan. I quoted (though pretty competitive) at RM 7,500 all in. I could have gone in excess of 10K. He retorted that it works out to RM 150 per picture even though I qualified I can’t be boxed into a mould of shooting/delivering only 10 pics per site as I would go more as creativity dictates. To add salt to injury, he was dividing the cost by the number of pictures. More often than not, one has no idea how much mileage they are getting out of your pictures used in print/online to fuel their multi million ringgit if not billions of profit industry. Thus, what’s 7.5K?
In short, I always tell people this (I hope my clients are able to see this), rate your services based on the benefits your customers are getting, not based on the features. That’s a big difference.
Really appreciate your opinions. Thank you for the advice. You are really a good mentor.
I’m currently looking for a photographer for a friend whom wants to do photo shoots for his new song album release. Small time with a min budget. How much should he expect for payment? Both indoor and outdoor. And any recommendations?
Based on musical/band quotation experience, I’ve often been told “small time” and “min budget” falls under RM 400 – RM 800. A father once told me to do this really cheap for future work opportunities again as it’s for his lovely daughter. I’ve yet to meet a client who says, “My budget is undecidedly infinite. Please help exhaust my funds.” Frankly, at the end of the day, unfortunately, when it comes to the creative service industry, it all boils down to the chemistry you have with the photographer. They may be really good in what they do (sometimes the real work may turn out vastly different from the shown portfolio) but have huge problems getting along with you, or vice versa. Talk to them, ask questions. Be sure about your requirements. That’s the way forward to picking the right photographer and not just comparing prices.
I need to know the price of Architectural photography of Hotels and houses in malaysia.
How much is to charge for 25 images for each area.
what is the market price here?
I can’t certainly provide an absolute answer to “the price” (as it varies greatly according to different photographers) but I can suggest ways by which you judge the affordability of a proposed fee. Take for instance my services as an example. For a 3-4 room condo with living area and kitchen, I’d be charging anywhere between RM 2,500 to RM 4,000. That includes roughly about 2 shots/angles per scene. Most of the time, a huge amount of work in compositing is required (post shoot), sometimes additional flash is also used to balanced a scene, hence the various effort that goes into taking proper architectural shots, and not just “snapping”.
Adding to the above dynamics, it also depends on the client and the usage requirements. Are they for personal or commercial use? The latter certainly commands a higher fee. Hotels for a client, may sound prestigiously great but you’d be surprised, most of the time, they may want to tie down the photographer on a contract basis, or regional, depending on their global presence. Hence, that would allow them a better investment for creative images over a set duration.
You would also need to know if the photographer’s creative direction is also required especially when it comes to styling and decorating the scene. That would affect the cost as well.
Hope that helps.
I need to know the price of kids graduation (for pre-school) in Malaysia.
How much is to charge for in Damansara area?
Photoshoot including video.
what is the market price here?
Unfortunately, there’s no market price for pre-school shoots in Malaysia. A good start, portfolio aside, would be to see if the volume of work given justifies a lower individual cost per person.
I found your article is relatively useful even it was written in 2011. Thank you for a great sharing! I have learnt so much!
I am wondering how to quote for a commercial photograph 25-30 pics, or more accurately a lifestyle photography for jewellery – that comes with styling and direction which is popular in social media now. (Instagram) This client from Singapore wanted to send over the jewellery but I’m thinking to go their place instead, maybe by monthly.
Would you please give some advises on the charging? Thanks in advance for the help!
Do remember that when you go over to client’s place to shoot, there will be additional cost involved. So try not to let your excitement rule over business senses for a more sustainable career, if you’re doing this full time. Your client has to know the extra charges involved in a transparent manner. Most importantly, you’d be surprised, most of the time, a client may pay for what you ask for not just solely based on your quality of work, but also the chemistry in the relationship. So you got to suss that out. If it’s good in that department, often times you get to charge higher. But higher just by “feel good factor” alone? Not quite. There’s in fact no price tag for confidence in professionalism. So a seemingly high price quoted which is reasonable and justified makes sense because it all hinges on that trust. Of course, your good works have to speak for themselves.
I have been asked by a friend to be a photographer for an archery course, for an estimated 8 hours (indoors and outdoors). We are both 2nd year university students. This is my first job so I’m not sure how much I should charge (transportation is not an issue). What is your opinion? Thank you.
It’s always difficult to charge for jobs when being asked by a friend. I suggest for a start you should ask him how much he’s willing to pay and leave the ball at his court, unless you’re going pro and can start setting a price.
Hi, Thanks for your post. It was an interesting post to read and eye opening. I’ve always wondered how much to charge for an event since time, location and manpower are always different.
I’m looking an advice for a 5 hour anniversary dinner which includes all photos to be edited and a photo book to be produced, (I’m not a pro by the way). How much would you charge? How many photos should be produced and how many should be retouched?
I’ve seen some people charge from RM700 – RM1200 for 200-300 photos or RM700-RM1000 for 100 photos. Some retouch 20 photos, some retouch all.
So finding a reasonable charge seems to be as you say, it should be based on the real and perceived benefits.
I normally don’t tie in the price by number of photos as final deliverable. Reason being, one can only capture so much for an event without much happenings; case in point, corporate launches that call for straight forward press materials. However, a typical event like that to me, can easily chalk up to 500 photos. Where people, expressions, performance, decorations, etc are involved, it normally results in higher shutter counts. If you charge by number of photos, there will be more work for you subsequently when you have to get them to sit down and sort thru to decide which additional shots to buy. That’s more like pre-wedding style. For events a definite no.
Not sure about how people are doing it out there, but I’m quite confident as of today, a typical corporate event is between RM 500 – RM 700 for 4-hourly. Any hour extra costs RM 100 – RM 200. For corporate/wedding/function dinners, I will normally charge about RM 1,200++. But for weddings, you can easily go up to RM 2,000 – RM 2,500. Unlimited shots and all edited. When I say edited, it means all shots are well composed, lit and balanced for their colour temperature. All prices above quoted for Klang Valley and for one photographer only.
At the end of the day, you should place yourself in the shoes of the clients holding that special momentous event; i.e. grandparents’ anniversary dinner, a child’s 1-month old celebration, etc. How much does that once-in-a-lifetime event means to you? Put that together with their confidence in your quality of work, RM x should do it. That’s how you weigh in the perceived benefits for your customers. Don’t forget that it may be just 5 hours of shoot that day; you will end up editing for another week or two as well. So are two weeks of your time worth RM x?
Another way to look at it is this (as a guide, though not always that simple): what’s your monthly commitment? Divide that by number of days and you’ll get your day’s worth in monetary value for jobs to be done. That’s a good start.
I got a project of taking interior design photos. Client expect about 100 photos each site. How much should the gig be?
Frankly, that depends who the client is, as strange as that may sound. For more ideas, please read the comments thread here.
I have hired photographer for outdoor pre-wedding photoshoot. We are going to stay in that area for maybe 2-3 days. Should I be paying for his hotel fees too? Sorry to ask as I have no experience in this.
Thank you for your reply.
Yes definitely. Hence it’s important that you fly them in right before your shoot and send them off when they’re no longer needed. Those incidental fees should be born by you.