Digital Photography Tutorial: Learn How to Figure Photo Printing Costs

Page content

Why Figure Out Printing Costs?

As a professional photographer, you need to figure out your costs before you can give a client a quote on services. One of the biggest costs that you’ll run into is printing costs. Most people don’t just want digital images, where you just need a CD and a good photo burning program. So, you are faced with the following question: how to figure photo printing costs for customers?

In-House Versus Outsourced

First of all, figure out where you want to do your printing. Oftentimes, people think it’s cheaper to print their own photographs. If you only doing a handful of photographs for a client, and you have a really good laser printer, then you’re probably right. Just go ahead and do them yourself.

Then, only charge for the paper and the amount of ink that you used. When you bought your printer, you probably received a cost per print estimate. Use that plus the paper cost to figure out how much you can should charge per printing.

Cost Per Print

At-home printers are great for small jobs since they save you money on having to outsource the printing. But, if you’re doing more than just a handful of prints, you need to factor in your price per page amounts even more. If your cost per print is about 29 cents, then you’re looking at nearly $145 for 500 copies. Not to mention that you still need to add in the cost of the paper, and you’ll probably need to purchase a new drum or toner cartridge in the middle of the printing. So, you’re looking at probably charging the customer $300 just for your costs. That doesn’t even include your fee.

So, it actually may be cheaper for you to get large numbers of copies done from a printing company. Printing costs vary by company, and oftentimes online stores are much cheaper than traditional printing companies. You must call around and do some online research. Then, compare this data to your at-home printing costs.

Using an Application

If you need help with this process, the How To Geek website has a free spreadsheet application that allows you to input your paper costs and printer cartridge yields, and it then provides you with information on your price per print. You can then compare this data to your research to see which is cheaper.

Charging for Your Work

You probably want to charge the client a little more than actual printing costs in case prices go up or if your usual printer is not available. But, it shouldn’t be more than 5 to 10 percent of the actual costs, or it will look like you’re gouging the client on printing fees. This is just a safety net in case anything changes between when you get the job and do the post-production work. Always include all of your costs in your up-front estimate, and try not to charge more in the end. Or, you’ll seem very unprofessional, and the client may not use you again in the future.


Your Digital Life,