What do you charge for editorial retouching, and how?

In our feature “Does Editorial Post-Production Cost Too Much?” which appears in the November issue of PDN, photographers, retouchers and photo editors weighed in. They offered their experiences about both how much photographers and retouchers charge editorial clients, but how they explain their fees to clients.

“One of our biggest challenges is that the fees vary so greatly between photos,” Wired photo editor Zana Woods told PDN.

Kathy Ryan, the director of photography at The New York Times Magazine says she’s seen photographers asking for as much as $1000 per image.

Photographer Jeff Minton, who does most retouching himself, says he charges editorial clients a flat $75-$100 per image, depending on the work they want done, which is comparable to the price he once charged for custom color prints.

Retoucher Angie Hayes says some magazines at Condé Nast simply stick to a standard per-image fee of $350 for an inside photo, and $600 for a cover. Andi Kounath, owner and retoucher at redfishblack in New York, says small magazines “never pay for retouching.”

So, what do you charge for retouching? And do you think photo editors have a reasonable expectation of the costs of producing and delivering print-ready images? Do you incorporate retouching into your photo fee, or is it a separate line item? How do you calculate what post-production costs you? Is it reasonable for photographers to mark-up the cost of retouching when they hire freelancers? Are you losing money on retouching because editors don’t have the budget to cover the costs?

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9 Responses to “What do you charge for editorial retouching, and how?”

  1. Nick Strite Says:

    it depends on the kind of work I am doing, I am by no means a high end pro but I’ll charge either hourly or based on work. That usually ranges from 25 to 100 dollars give or take. I’m competitive with all the other photographers in the area and I don’t like to rip people off.

  2. Kyle Burdg Says:

    I charge based on an hourly rate. Depending on the client, I will give an estimated time and hourly rate so they will know there cost. I also (for clients that know my work speed) will just give my hourly rate and keep track of my hours and bill them. The clients I have worked with before have a good idea of how much time I will spend on a particular project already, so they aren’t ever surprised.

    You make it work for your client but keep it reasonable for you, the retoucher to make money.

  3. Ian White Says:

    I retouch for many of my clients editorially for between 75 – 150 an hour and for advertising if it’s a big media buy usually around 250 p/h or a predecided rate for big volume jobs…

  4. Naheed Choudhry Says:

    It all depends on the nature of the assignment but usually between $25 and $50 per hour or for products that need the background cut out, I pay per cutout for those, rate depends on the difficulty of the cutout. I don’t really trust anyone else to retouch my portraits so I do those myself.

  5. Michael M Says:

    If it’s simply retouching and not compositing or artistic work I charge $50-100 per image.

    But for composite and artistic work I charge $250/Hr. I have a few clients who have built retouching into our contract and one on retainer for overload work.

    For large catalog and web site projects I have been known to subcontract out to prepress service provider or off-shore retouchers if the budget is really tight and volume is high.

  6. David Thomasson Says:

    From my website: “In most cases I’ll quote a flat rate (my estimated time at $60 an hour, prorated for jobs that take less than an hour). We can chat by email about what you want done. In any case, you’ll know the cost beforehand. No surprises.”

  7. Nancy Bundt Says:

    I include basic retouching cost in my fee. I always retouch everything I send out to some degree.

    If a client wants something special, I charge by the project and give the client an tight estimate before I begin. Its usually an hourly rate, but depends on the use,,ie. cover, inside shot, small detail, etc.

  8. Jack Mikrut Says:

    I usually include any retouching or computer time in my
    fee, so that a client has an exact idea of the cost of photography in his/her project.
    Nowdays a photographers work is usually just part of a greater budget for the client and it is my experience that
    the client is very content if the quoted amount is not just an estimate but the real amount that he/she is going to pay.

  9. Jeffrey Scott Fogarty Says:

    Generally I’ll quote a flat rated based on an hourly rate. I’ll factor in a projects details and destination to figure the hourly rate. I’ll also accept a per image offers if presented all of the images and info up front.

    As for how much I’ll charge, it really depends on the details. A per image rough estimate/average would be anywhere about $150 – $300 Some more detailed beauty images can go up to $500+

    At the same time, If it’s an amazing story that I like a lot and I have some free time, that per image rate will drop significantly. Some of my best work has been on free tests :-)