Photography retainers

What are photography retainers?

Commonly referred to as deposits or booking fees, a retainer fee is an agreed amount of money paid in advance to secure the services of a professional for an agreed-upon time frame.

Most photographers, including myself, will require a retainer/deposit to secure your photoshoot which means the agreed date and time are blocked out in the photographer's diary.

A typical photographers T&Cs that you will likely need to agree to and sign prior to a photoshoot will include stipulations around whether a refund of a retainer is possible and how much is refundable. How much is refunded (if your chosen photographer indeed provides any refunds) is usually dependent on the amount of notice of cancellation you provide.

Why do I need to sign a photography agreement?

Photography agreements are designed to protect both parties. You, the client are notified of any limitations with regards to the image use, what license the images are provided with (personal or commercial use) how the images will be delivered etc.

They are not to be feared and it is unlikely that you will find a professional photographer that will not require a T&C document to be signed. As is the case with most professionals who offer a service.

What is a personal use licence?

This will differ from photographer to photographer, so be sure to check the T&Cs.

When I provide you images on a personal use license it means that you can use it to promote yourself and/or your business. The images can be posted to social media, included on your website, used in your newsletters. They may not be used in a commercial capacity.

What is a commercial use licence?

Once again, the licence conditions can differ between photographers so always check the T&Cs.

With my commercial licence, you are free to use the image to sell a product or service. For example an e-Commerce store. You can resell the image itself or reproduce it into calendars, posters, canvasses etc. You can also use it for commercial adverts either online or in print. You do not own the copyright to the image, however. If you have ever bought an image from an online Stock Photography Site then you will understand that when you purchase an image with a commercial license, you are not the only person who may purchase that image. Ie, you do not have exclusivity to the image.

What if I want exclusive use of the images? Can I purchase the Copyright?

It is possible to purchase the copyright of images however this is often a very expensive option typically undertaken by the larger sized organisations. Copyright is usually sought when the company want exclusive use of the images within their brand.

Long term/multiple shoot retainers

In the vast majority of cases, a retainer is paid for a single photoshoot. For example, a wedding. However, there are also multiple shoot or hours retainers.

Let's assume you are a fashion designer. You are constantly going to be creating and needing to update your product/fashion photography for your website/store/social media. You don't want to have to look for a photographer each time you need to update your portfolio. So you purchase a retainer from a photographer for X many hours.

Or you're a cake maker or chef in regular need of professional images for your culinary creations. These images may be for a menu update. Or to update your website portfolio. Or simply to post to your social media channels as part of your marketing efforts.

Or you're a crafter with an Etsy store. Constantly creating new works to sell.

Or you hold regular events and often need an event photographer.

An interior designer who often seeks permission from property owners to have their design work photographed for their portfolio.

A blogger who wants unique and specific imagery for their posts.

etc etc

What are the benefits of a long term/multiple shoots retainer?

There are many reasons to consider agreeing to a retainer with your preferred photographer.

  • Consistency - if you are building and selling YOUR brand, then consistency is key. This is especially true if you run an online store. Whether this is an Etsy shop, through Amazon, eBay or your own e-Commerce website, you will want consistent imagery. Consistency promotes brand recognition and authority. You're only as good as the worst image you posted.

  • Time-saving - having a photographer on retainer guarantees you that you will get time with them on a pre-agreed schedule. This saves YOU time because you are not having to brief a new photographer on your brand, your style, your requirements each time you need to update your images.

  • Money-saving - most photographers will incentify long term retainers by reducing the hourly/daily rate the larger the retainer fee. This can save you between 10 - 60% over paying full price each time you need a photoshoot. The longer the retainer, the greater the photographers' financial security, the bigger the savings they can pass on to you!

  • A member of your business - working with the same photographer means that they become an extension of your business. They understand you. They understand your brand and they have a very vested interest in delivering to your requirements. Why? Well, they want you to sign up to another retainer when the current one ends of course! I for one hate losing a client!

  • Peace of mind - because you have agreed on a schedule (in most cases) upon securing a retainer, you have the peace of mind to know that your photography requirements are taken care of for the period of the retainer. This once again translates into time savings for you! The time you can spend focussed elsewhere in your business.

  • Control your budget - The retainer will allow you to accurately budget your photography needs knowing that for the duration of the retainer, prices are going to remain constant.

How do your retainers work?

My retainers are for my time only. That is, you are securing my time, experience and expertise to undertake photography for you.

I have retainers from £1000 - £10,000 (the later saving you a whopping £6603!) and fully customised retainers can be agreed if you need more hours/days.

Images themselves are then purchased separately. Prices for images vary based on the licence type (Personal or Commercial Use) and editing required and start from £10 each. Image prices will be discussed and agreed prior to the signing of a retainer.

Why are images priced separately?

A typical oversight by many is that taking the image is merely the initial step.

Images need to be developed (digitally) and oftentimes, depending on the subject matter and the deliverables required, will need extensive post-processing.

The amount of postprocessing (often referred to as 'photoshopping') required will affect the agreed per image price.

Some images can be a quick 10-minute process. Others can take several hours, encompassing several different layers (images) being combined to create a single image.

A photographer who doesn't account for editing time as a separate entity to shooting time is likely to be putting very little if any, time into post-processing your images to any professional standard.

How do I know if a retainer is right for my business?

Generally as previously mentioned, if you have a need for fairly regular photography shoots, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly then you're going to benefit from a photography retainer.

Please get in touch for a no-obligation exploratory call to discuss how I may be able to help your brand and see if a retainer is suitable for you.

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Contact Info

EmC Photography

Baines Coney

United Kingdom (UK)

Tel: 07545 287 079


Cambridge. London. England. Wales. Scotland. United Kingdom. Norwich. Ipswich.

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