How Much to Charge for Graduation Photos

Graduation is an important turning point in many lives. What better way to remember that turning point than with graduation photos? Traditionally, photos were taken by the graduate's loved ones in the audience, but that is changing. Professional photographers are beginning to find a new market in graduation events. 

Getting the Job

How do you get into the world of graduation photos and how much do you charge? Since most people can get their own photos why would they need you? Well, the answer is that you need to offer something they can't have but really want. You need to have a perfectly framed close up shot of the graduate receiving their diploma. That's the moment everyone came for, and they can't get it sitting up high in the stands.

The school can't let a lot of people close to the action or else there will be chaos. But, they can allow one professional photographer to be there. This photographer will get the close shots and sell them to the interested former students and their families. Now comes the big question: how much will you charge?

How Do You Get the Converted Spot?

Before you can even consider of what you will charge people for their photos, you need to first secure the permission of the school to work there. Since school's are large bureaucracies, this can get complicated. You need to find out who is in charge of planning the graduation ceremony, and after speaking with them, you might have to talk to other people before you're guaranteed to be the photographer. 

Depending on the school, you could very well be paying them to work there either through a fee or donation. This will vary from school to school with larger ceremonies asking for more money. They're granting you some valuable real estate for the day and want a cut. If the school has a photographer they use who they are very happy with, it's best to just leave that school alone. The only way you can get that gig is to pay a lot more than he is, and that could cut into your profits.

What Equipment Will You Need

If you're shooting a university's graduation, then odds are that most of the people in attendance are from out of town and plan to leave soon. In addition to the camera, tripod and flash, you should also have a great photo printer so that you can deliver the goods on the same day.

You can offer packages that you can prepare after the event to mail to make some extra money. 


If it's a large ceremony, then you need an assistant. You also need to prepare before the big day to work out a system where you know who each photo is of. Keeping track is a large logistical challenge. Coming in with a plan and having an assistant there to supervise it is the only way to make sure everyone gets their proper photos.

How Much to Charge?

Okay, so you have to pay the school a fee, invest a few days of labor, hire an assistant, and be able to print the photos on site. Figure that maybe one in eight people will want to buy the photos. Now, take your total costs and figure out a price that will put you in a profit at say, half the photos you expect to sell. Once you determine, ask yourself a question: would I buy these at this price? If you think it is too expensive it probably is. If that is the case then maybe it's too risky to try. But if the price seems reasonable, then you could have a successful event in your hands.

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