vermont brand photographer sitting at table with notebook and pen planning shoot

How much should brands budget for photography?

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vermont woman modeling clothing brand product photographer
vermont brand photographer sitting at table with notebook and pen planning shoot

How much should brands budget for photography?

Plan your growth


As the end of the year approaches, as a small business owner or entrepreneur, you’re undoubtedly thinking about your year in review, planning & getting excited for the possibilities for the new year. A good strategy and business plan will include a marketing budget. And any business, no matter how small, should include photography in its budget (if you’re not sure if this relates to you, read on. Hint: it does). I've got tips & worksheets for you and BONUS! There's a discount for you at the end.

Plan & schedule your growth. Measure, rinse, repeat.

*No information on this website constitutes financial advise. Consult with your professional team.

vermont brand photographer sitting at table with notebook and pen planning shoot

What’s on a marketing budget

You know you need professional photography but when it comes to actual numbers and knowing how much you should be budgeting things can get a bit fuzzy because there's no hard and fast rule & every business is different. There are a few things to consider as you hone in on this number.

For small businesses and entrepreneurs items to include on a marketing budget often look something like this:

  • Website
  • Photography
  • Social media platforms
  • Email marketing
  • Organic media (content marketing and SEO)
  • Paid ads
  • Podcasts
  • Marketing, advertising, & consulting services
  • Software
  • printed material
  • I place photography right after your website in importance. Yes, you could have a website with just text but it wouldn’t be high-converting. Could Nike sell shoes without images? I don't think so (& neither do they considering their $39B annual budget for marketing & many full-time photographers that make six figures per year).

    Can you think of any other items that are missing from this list for your company?

    What is your revenue?

    Small businesses typically budget between 1-4% of their annual budget on marketing while medium and larger-sized companies tend to spend between 9-12%. If you’re used to budgeting for your business you’ve probably heard the 5% of revenue rule of thumb for your whole marketing budget. Exactly how much you spend on photography will vary depending on the nature of your business. If you’re service-based this number will be smaller than if you’re product-based with a high turnover of stock but you’ll still need fresh images for social media, email marketing, and any new campaigns.

    First, figure out what your whole marketing budget will be. There are some nifty calculators available to help you do this that factor in your desired growth level like this one here. Then break it down into the amounts you spent over the last year like the list above. (If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good idea to review what campaigns or marketing channels worked well for you and what didn’t.)

    Look at the year ahead

    & plan your growth

    Most of the solopreneurs I work with need a minimum of one shoot per quarter, and most companies need weekly or biweekly shoots. But the more specific you can be in your planning the better. Take a look at your marketing calendar for the whole year ahead & make a list of all campaigns or needs for photography. This can be broken down into quarters to chunk out the work. An example list might look something like this:

    quarter 1

  • new client onboarding sequence
  • images for social media
  • Valentine's day
  • president's day
  • spring product line release
  • spring break
  • etc.
  • vermont brand photographer sitting at table with notebook and pen planning shoot

    This is a great opportunity to think about any new campaign opportunities you missed out on this past year? Did you miss an opportunity for a Mother’s Day campaign? What new products or features will you be offering in the new year? And what will be new for your business in general next year? Will you be doing a rebrand? A website overhaul? Opening a new location. Keep in mind your desired growth. If you want some help here's a great list of quarterly marketing dates, and here's a link to a quarterly marketing roadmap (with worksheet).

    Not only will this be helpful for budgeting but you'll be on your way to completing your marketing plan and it’s a good idea to get your photoshoots & any involved vendors scheduled asap (read on for discounts for those who book in advance). You might also need to budget & schedule hairstyling, makeup, wardrobe, models, props, space rental, & florals if applicable as well. If it’s not budgeted and scheduled for it’s a lot less likely to happen.

    Once you have this list you can then drill down into each item to create your shot lists for shoots. If you're still wondering how healthy or realistic your final numbers are, here's some general examples: anything less than $10k per shoot (including licensing fees) is considered low budget for medium sized companies and $5-$8500 is average price for a one-day shoot for small businessess.

    For more information on planning & getting the most from your brand photography shoots make sure you're subscribed to my newsletter.

    By now you should have a pretty good idea of what the photography portion of your marketing budget should be. It’s also a good idea to do a scaled-down review at the end of every quarter and plan ahead for the new quarter which will allow you to make any necessary adjustments in your budget and also make your end-of-year review a lot less time-consuming.

    As an added benefit for those who plan ahead, I’m offering a 10% discount on brand shoots booked in November and December for the new year with code EARLYBIRD.




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