September 28, 2014 at 10:44PM


Cost per video / Cinematography costs.

This has always been something I've been intrigued about, how much should you charge per video? Which are the costs of the "average" cinematography? How are the costs rates handled?

Im currently starting my own business as a film maker, and i'd like to know how can I get to an agreement with the client, on what is the budget based on... My reel? Equipment I use? Lenght of the video? Number of days involved on the shooting?

I'd (and probably lots of people) be very grateful if someone could come with a useful answer to this question.

This is my 2014 reel: (In case it helps giving me an average of how much could I charge per work)



September 29, 2014 at 8:33AM

Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor

I depends on the type of work you are going after...

I shoot mainly corporate training and educational videos, which can be something as simple as a 5-10 minute talking head interview that takes 2 hours of my time.

I charge less when I shoot for non-profit organizations, compared to well financed businesses, because I know that the non-profits won't have a huge budget to work with, but they are often easier clients to work with because they know they are getting a deal on the price.

Sometimes, if I'm not busy I will shoot "freebies" for potential clients if I think it will pay off down the road and it's something I want to have in my reel.

But most of it boils down to developing business relationships, because people that don't know you and may not trust your ability to deliver on time, they won't hire you at any price.

September 29, 2014 at 3:13PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Simple -- start at the minimum wage rate.

Then if you have your week booked with work then you can increase your rates.

If you don't have your week booked then keep the current rate or lower it.

Know what I mean?

September 29, 2014 at 8:53PM


Nobody will take you seriously if your charge a minimum-wage rate. Either charge a professional rate ( i.e. $200 minimum for half a day ) or don't charge at all.

Guy McLoughlin

September 30, 2014 at 7:56AM

Just be careful with charging low. If you work for a client and charge them 100 then they will be confused later if you try to charge them 150. You can only negotiate down not up.

September 29, 2014 at 9:41PM

Will Youngman
Sound Mixer

I think that you can negociate with a small cost. You implemente new things and you incremente the cost.

September 29, 2014 at 11:42PM, Edited September 29, 11:42PM

Rag├╝el Cremades
Film producer and director

Hi Tommy, good question! We struggled with pricing at the start also.

The main thing you must remember is never undervalue your work. If you have a strong body of work (which from what I have seen you do) then you can feel confident in quoting a fair yet competitive price.

We gathered day and half day rates (shoot, edit, post and travel) from local companies and freelancers and based ours on that. We never quote on under a half day rate because generally clients underestimate times e.g. setup, talent nerves etc, but if it is a fast shoot then we will invoice slightly lower. Clients love that!

As for equipment we looked at local rental companies and discounted by 20-40%.

We always quote full price for the first video, even if the client dangles the "loads more work" carrot in front of us. If they are good to work with and book more work we then give them an ongoing discount which should cement the relationship.

There is no real global price for this, you just need to look at your local market and base around that.

Hope this helps.

September 30, 2014 at 1:34AM

Ryan Baigent
Managing Director, Audio Post, DOP

Thanks a lot Ryan, really helpful comment!

Tommy Plesky

October 1, 2014 at 10:15PM

Value is the key, which is tricky since it is both created and perceived. Above all, start charging now, lest you devalue your work (and the market itself). You'll learn a lot by just starting somewhere.

Here are two ways you might go about finding your estimate.

+ Overhead/fixed costs (insurance, advertising, etc.)
+ Rental fees
+ Contracted labor (sound engineer, editor, etc.)
+ Travel expenses (gas, tolls, meals)
+ Project-specific expenses
+ Your desired salary (how much do you actually want to walk away with?)

Or.. compare your competitors' pricing, pick a number in that range, and figure out the expense breakdown through the process. (A risky, but stretching method that will often teach you the hard way that you need to raise your rates.)

It might be beneficial to talk with a business-minded friend who can help you think through your business model and what expenses can be written off as tax deductions. (I studied business in college and am still learning the finer points of this whole beast.)

Like Guy said, relationships are central to good business (or really any endeavor in life). Trust plays a huge role, and although it's initially somewhat counterintuitive, setting a reasonable price helps to establish that rapport. (Consider: when you see two comparable lenses for $1,000 vs $300, you might stop to wonder why the one is cheaper. Is it really as good?)

Do as much research as you can, and then simply begin! I've learned so much by charging too little (rarely too much) and learning the hard way. Value-based pricing (check it out sometime) is a difficult yet worthwhile mentality to use when determining your rates - but at the end of the day, there are still hard costs which must be covered.

September 30, 2014 at 9:40AM

Michael Rothermel
DP / Editor / Producer

Thank you Michael!

Tommy Plesky

October 1, 2014 at 10:17PM

You would like to check what others charge for the same type of work. Are you better or worse than them? Your value but also your expperience should reflect on your rates. Too low and you ll end up broke as you ll be working for almost nothing, too high and you ll be out of work. So you need to balance it.

Bear in mind all the factors that others mentioned. Just remember that in the beginning, in order to establish yourself and make a few connections/relationships with the correct clients (who would be happy enough to suggest you to others and/or hire you again), you may need to do a few "freebies" to have something commercial/recognisable to your reel.

Also don't forget to include your gear in your rates as it shouldn't come for free.

As you develop, and you will gain more experience, along with better/high-profile clients, you should gradually rise your rates. As with every business, don't throw a big sum of money to equipment and then expect to get well-paid gigs in order to pay off. It's better to rent it when you need and upgrade when your work asks for it.

September 30, 2014 at 10:02AM

Stelios Kouk

>>> It's better to rent it when you need and upgrade when your work asks for it.

Depends on the item you are renting. For example a LitePanels 1x1 LED light rents for $75 per day, but you can buy a F&V K4000 1x1 LED light for $400 that will effectively do the same job.

Since nobody rents the F&V K4000 LED light, your option is to rent the LitePanels 1x1 for the day for $75 plus whatever it costs to pick-up and return the light, which probably puts your total rental cost at $100, or buy the F&V 1x1 for $400. Myself, I would buy the F&V 1x1 light every time.

...But then there are times when you need to rent a Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens which rents for $70 per day, where buying a Canon 300mm f/2.8 would cost you over $6,500, so renting makes total sense.

Guy McLoughlin

September 30, 2014 at 12:38PM

True, Guy. My rule of thumb: if I can afford to upgrade (instead of renting) and it's something I'll likely use again, buy it. More money up front, but it's an investment.

Michael Rothermel

September 30, 2014 at 6:08PM

Here in Los Angeles, I see guys charge $450 a day for them and their RED Scarlet package. I personally charge $800 a day for me and my BMCC package and for my lights, dolly, and "steadicam-like" stabilizer as well.
Here's my reel:!cinematography/mainPage

September 30, 2014 at 3:58PM


I'm pretty sure Ryan E. Walters has done a post on this here and on his own blog. Vincent Laforet also has an exhaustive breakdown on his blog, you just have to search for it. As most of the above have commented, there are a lot of variables to take into consideration.

September 30, 2014 at 11:57PM, Edited September 30, 11:57PM

John Morse
Producer + Director

just for a dp/cinematographer service rate alone i would charge starting 250 for editorials and 350 for small adv with your reel. this is the low minimum price in the industry for professional work as a 2nd assistant.
1st assistants are at a lowest $350. on a low budget but professional work i've seen non union independent guys work for 800 for fee. i would say 1k~1.6k per day is where you eventually want to be.

so to start, and if you are and want to be dealing with real world clients i would not charge less than $250 fee absolutely for an editorial. But 350 for fee is a good starting point.

i always found it better to shoot for no fee, than to lower my fee. It makes your service look *cheap*. this also creates an IOU factor and creates a good "low price" they can expect going forward.

October 1, 2014 at 11:27AM

Kazu Okuda

I agree with most of the people here and go do some research of your local market. Not only that but study their work and see if there is anything that they are lacking that you could improve. It has been a struggle for me as well trying to figure out how much to charge clients but there's to many factors to consider. You never want to go too low because remember this is hard work! It takes TIME to actually shoot, and Time to edit, make sure its worth YOUR TIME!

October 2, 2014 at 7:02AM

Luis Garcia

Before anything else, I'd suggest the following:

Make a list of the last 5 types of videos that clients have asked about......that you don't have an awesome example of in your reel.

Find a way to create those 5 videos.

What I've found is that the thing that made me more money is versatility and the ability to show that I've done "that type" of video.

That's made me the most money over the last few years. I couldn't get a kickstarter video to save my life, but then I did one early last year. I've now done 5 in the last 12 months.

I'm suggesting this because I see a problem in your question. You are asking about DOP rates, but you seem to be repping yourself as a Director/Editor or a small production company on your site. No problem with that, I'm the same, but Directors make money different from DOPs and Editors.

In this day and age, Director is also the Producer. Your may charge $5000 and only end up with $500, which can be a bummer. But a below the line DOP or Editor can charge a sweet rate like $250/day and rack up 15 days of work in a month. They may be UNDERPAID, but they made rent that month and they can also greatly bolster their portfolio very quickly.

I know this doesn't directly answer the rate question, but it seems like you have a deeper question to answer about your career path.

Having seen your demo reel, I think like mine, it feels a little to eventy/documentary like. I don't see many shots that let me know, "Ok, this guy can light a scene or has people who can." If you look at your reel from the prospective of the clients you "want" it good enough to get you hired?

Remember, if they don't like your reel, they often won't bother with digging through your portfolio.

-You have a lot of contrasty work with crushed blacks. Can you show them some work that's got more of that low contrast Alexa look?

-You've got a ton of MCU and MS shots in your reel, but almost nothing wider than that. Can you show them that you can do a wide that sets the scene?

-You've got no talking head stuff, that looks produced. Not produced in an obvious way, but catch light in the eyes, a little separation from the background, stationary camera, tack sharp focus, considered composition.

-Think you're in a good place, don't get me wrong, but I think some of the things above will help you and naturally raise your rates. I've found that as you improve, better clients seem to just show up and assume your day rate is higher than it is.

October 30, 2014 at 4:00AM

Nnamdi Ejim

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