Pricing Photos: School Reunion Event

Pricing Photos: School Reunion Event

This post is a part of our on-going look at pricing photography.

The Brief:

A New York City photographer was contacted by an out-of-town high school to shoot a reunion event for two hours. The photos would be used on social media and on the school’s website in the alumni news section.

How Would You Price It?

We asked two photographers how they would approach the project and to comment on the following questions:

  1. How much would you charge?
  2. Do you charge a separate shoot and licensing fee?
  3. Do you charge for expenses (travel, parking, etc)?
  4. What does the license look like (if any)?
  5. Any other considerations or comments?

Elyse Butler Mallams, Honolulu, HI

  1. $500/hr + $100/hr post production fee
  2. Depends on the client but for this example, probably not
  3. Not if the shoot was local
  4. Probably wouldn’t have a license for a low key shoot like this

Lee Hawkins, Cleveland, OH

  1. This depends on the type of coverage and what sorts of images they are looking for.  This sort of event would be excellent for setting up a photobooth style area (think along the lines of senior prom, except for adults and families if children will be there…and probably not goofy glasses an mustaches, unless that’s what the client requests).  For basic candid coverage without the photobooth, I’d charge $800 for the shoot and basic processing and sell prints from a gallery on my website or even photobooks/albums for anyone who really wanted a lot of images. Adding the photobooth coverage would require an additional $300, and would bring in an assistant to help, as well as a backdrop (if needed) and softboxes set up with posing stools.
  2. Yes…I would charge $25/shot to license each image they wanted to put on Facebook and the website.  The images would not be full-res, but would at least be 2048px on the longest width.
  3. I have expenses for a local job built into the price, no need to get into details with the client here.
  4. It would be a perpetual license for personal use by members of the graduating class and their families, along with use by the school district.  I would not restrict people to print the licensed images, however I would strongly urge the reunion organizers to inform the class that prints will look best if purchased from me vs. a drug store.
  5. Some of these prices may fluctuate if the school is farther away, what sorts of coverage and lighting I might have to contend with, and whether I think there could be a lot in the way of secondary sales.  If there was a lot of interest in the photobooth idea, I might try to arrange to do on-site prints in order to maximize earning potential.  I price these sorts of things on a very case-by-case basis and a lot of cost factors are worked out in my head as I talk to my prospective client.

What did the photographer charge in real life?

“Let’s put this particular job in perspective as rates vary from job to job and instance to instance. I was approached by a longtime friend with a request from his high school to cover an alumni cocktail party in NYC that would last a few hours. The initial budget relayed to me was $300…quite low for event or an education client. I had the opportunity to pass or refer someone else for the job. But when I was put in touch with a contact at the school, I offered to do the job for $500, which is still significantly below my normal rate for such services. I treated this, in a way, as a favor to my friend’s high school because of our relationship. Side note: It should also be noted that most events that my friend is involved with are not only a blast, they’re full of interesting connections, ripe for networking. This event was no different.

“Nothing official was drawn up regarding licensing in this instance. It was all taken care of through email. Usage was generally for the web, social media, and internal use documenting a party celebrating the 175th anniversary of their school.

“This was a particularly laid back negotiation and I raised their initial offer by 70% off the bat. I felt it was a number that both made me feel like I was getting a reasonable fee for my time. I also felt it wasn’t a hike too high and one they could likely afford, without causing any potential awkwardness with the introduction. There were just a few emails exchanged, letting the client know, given the request from a good friend, I’d be willing to make it work in this instance. I also made it clear this was below my normal fee and that I was accepting in hopes of building a larger business relationship.

“As expected, the party was fun! There was singing, dancing, drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and a couple hundred well-connected alumni that have found a home in the Big Apple, much like myself. Additionally, the client has since reached out to hire me for a similar event, this time we agreed to more reasonable event rate of $1200 for the same amount of time.”

What did the school say?

We reached out to the school to get some insight. A representative told us, “We know New York is an expensive town, and our budget for professional photography was developed with regional variation in mind. We were very happy with the quality of the images, and it’s easier to have a trusted photographer to work with on an on-going basis, than it is to have to find and negotiate a price for every new event. Any organization would like to pay less, but price isn’t the only consideration.”


Common wisdom states that “if you’re the cheap guy, you’ll always be the cheap guy.” In this case, the photographer did a few interesting things to avoid this trap.

  • He made it clear from the start that the rate ($500) was discounted because of his friendship, thereby setting future expectation
  • He understood that the client could be a repeat customer and positioned himself for future work
  • When the client came back for another event, he was able to command a more reasonable rate ($1200)

Had this been a one-off gig with no promise of future work, then it could only be considered as a favor for a friend. In this case, the photographer recognized the potential for future work, and took a calculated risk that paid off a few months later.

What would you charge? Let us know in the comments below.

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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Miran at 12:24 pm

    Good insight! But on our market (one of EU countries) the client would have gone for another photographer (with a friend) that would do the next job also for 500. Even if they were super satisfied with previous work.

    Doubling the price or even going higher as much as 10% is utopia here. Clients would rather risk it and get one shitty job next time and save 700 than establish a good relationship with a good photographer.
    And there is no indication that this will change in near future.

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