How To Price Your Motorsport Photography
I don’t know why this is such a taboo topic, not just in motorsport photography, but even in general – short of point-blank asking other photographers. Even then, it is the most avoided question among shooters.
It’s understandable as not one price fits all situations, and there are a few factors that go into pricing photography. Top-tier Formula 1 teams pay a lot more than a junior karter.
What makes pricing doubly difficult is there are literally hundreds of motorsport fans out there willing to give away photos for free. Be that because they think it might lead to opportunity or just don’t understand the value of their photo.
Pro Tip: If somebody wants to use one of your photos, it has an inherent value. I’m not saying that you must send an invoice for a lucky shot that you got as a fan, especially if you are not trying to pursue motorsport photography professionally. But that photo has value, and you should get something in return.
So how do you price your motorsport photos?
There are three models that professionals typically use when selling their images: individual photo sales as a photo package or at an hourly/daily rate.
Both methods have benefits and are suited to a variety of business structures.
Per photo pricing is straight up the most difficult to give you a definitive answer in terms of price.
Pricing on single photo usage really depends on how it is intended to be used, and this can vary greatly.
A driver wanting to use a photo on social media is a very different prospect from a sponsor using the same image for an advertising campaign.
Obviously, it’s unreasonable to charge a local junior karter in the thousands for an image to post on social media, and it’s equally unreasonable only to be paid $20 for a photo used in a national marketing campaign.
That’s why I personally try to avoid this method of pricing where possible, especially with regular customers.
It’s a clumsy model that requires you to ask a lot of questions, which can be frustrating for both you and the customer. It is also very hard to explain when approaching new clients.
That being said, it’s not uncommon to be approached by a competitor who is not a customer to view your work through social media or within the media and reach out to discuss single image rights.
This is one of the few times where it’s not unexpected to ask questions about how the person/business intends to use your photos and demonstrates professionalism in doing so.
So how do you price single images?
If you are dealing with a reputable media outlet (magazine/website etc.), it should have a rate card for the images used.
The less reputable outlets will try to take advantage of naive photographers, which is an unfortunate part of the industry. If the media outlet doesn’t have a rate card or isn’t willing to give you a price per image, then it’s not worth pursuing a relationship in the future.
For top-tier motorsport (we’re talking Formula 1, IndyCar, WEC, WRC etc.), if you would like to get an idea of the value of a photo, agencies like Getty, AAP and Motorsport Images list their photo individual sale prices as well as the usage limitations they have for those prices. Check out the Getty price calculator here.
For commercial usage, it’s much harder, so more questions need to be asked. Just keep in mind that some series (F1, WRC, Supercars etc.) don’t allow images to be sold commercially if media credentials have been awarded, and there are significant consequences if this occurs.
If you are allowed to sell images commercially, then enquire about the project budget to get an understanding of where the customer is at. The overall budget, if given an answer, will save you from underselling your work by a large amount.
For individuals, again just be careful about what rights you’ve signed away when you accepted your media credentials, but I’d be less concerned about underselling yourself. Instead, focus on building a relationship that enables you to sell photo packages (see below) at future events on an ongoing basis.
Photo pricing for individuals is a very arbitrary thing. I’ve had people tell me that $5 is way too much for a single photo, and others tell me that $50 is a bargain. It depends on the shot and where the customer is coming from. Be prepared to negotiate a little.
I’ll give you some tips on how to find your price in the market in the next section.
If you pay attention to professional motorsport photographers, you’ll quickly work out each will have a group of customers that to cater for.
It’s really the only way to be able to cover all costs (particularly travel expenses) and turn a profit each race weekend. This is a livelihood, after all.
The easiest way to manage this is to offer photo packages.
What a photo package includes will vary greatly between photographers and each of their client’s needs. But that’s all part of building a relationship with each customer.
Some photographers will offer a strict limit on photos they include as part of their package.
I tend to be a little more flexible with mine, given that no two tracks are the same and there are a number of factors outside of my control that dictate how many photos can be captured during a race event.
At the end of the day, a photo package is about documenting the race weekend for your customer and providing a collection of images that best showcase their story from the event
How should you price your photo packages?
Again, this isn’t a one price fits all situation. What I have is a tiered pricing model based on different levels of motorsport.
If you are just starting out and covering a small club event at your local track, a $100 per package is a very fair price to deliver between 10-20 photos for a two-day race meeting with a couple of on track sessions (maybe two hours of on track running in total).
However, this price should not be transferred to a national stage or a large, high-profile event.
Progressing through the various levels of motorsport, images have further uses other than social media updates and keepsakes, which include press releases as well as supply to sponsors.
This needs to be factored into your pricing.
The best way to find out prices is to ask other photographers and this can be done by building a rapport within the media centre. By developing a friendly relationship, an accurate or near enough answer should be forthcoming, which will ensure there isn’t a major undercut in price.
I could give you my pricing, but that’s not a universal answer, and this blog is read by aspiring motorsport photographers from around the world, and my packages are not relevant to many potential customer bases of the readers.
The best way to find a good price point is to gradually increase until clients push back. This
will give you a definitive answer as to what the value of your photo package is in the marketplace that you are serving.
You might lose a couple of sales in the process, but you will quickly work out what your best price point is.
Hourly and Day rates are a little harder to manage in motorsport photography, especially during a race meeting across multiple customers.
You will find it is very uncommon for professional motorsport photographers to use this pricing model for race meetings, and if they do, it’s certainly not charged at an hourly rate.
If you are in the very fortunate position of being approached by a customer to work exclusively for them, be that for a race meeting, but more likely a sponsor ride day, manufacturer event or test/media day, then offering a day rate is your best option.
An hourly rate is too variable, and each day at the track is very different. You might plan to start early but get held up by fog, or the car might have issues that require a lengthy stop in the garage.
If your pricing is based specifically on an hourly rate, all the customer is thinking is the price racking up.
Instead, I stick with a day rate which just gives customers certainty of what the price is and gives you a little more flexibility if things don’t run smoothly.
How should you price your day rates?
Your day rate should factor in the time spent at the venue, as well as editing and delivery of images. Travel costs should also be considered since you are working exclusively with one customer.
If you are just starting out and have some basic photography gear, $300 is a reasonable day rate for a local track. This equates to $30 per hour for 10 hours to cover 7-8 hours at the track plus 2-3 hours to edit and deliver images.
Obviously, this is just a very conservative starting point, so as your skill improves and you invest in better, more professional gear, as well as refine your editing process, an increase can be considered.
Pricing yourself for these styles of track events with a day rate will give your customers peace of mind that they have a fixed cost, and it’s much easier for them to include that in their racing budgets for the year.
On another note, if your customer only needs a few hours, then a half-day rate is a perfectly acceptable middle ground.
Pro Tip: My half-day rate is usually 60-70% of my full-day rate because a half-day is never truly a half-day, and it is difficult to get two half-day bookings to line up perfectly on the same day.
At the end of the day, pricing your photography is all about finding your value point in the marketplace you are serving.
I know everyone wants to shoot Formula 1, IndyCar, WEC and those top levels of the sport, but start out with the local club events. Then, as you hone and develop your skills and then as you grow, you can move your way up to high-level events with a refined offering and a proper understanding of the value you are offering.
I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.
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