How to Take Payment as a Photographer

How To Take Payment As A Photographer David Molnar


You like getting paid for your work, right? However, many photographers find it uncomfortable to talk money with their clients. Photography is expensive and a lot of people don’t understand why. You might feel like you have to go above and beyond to justify your prices.

Thankfully, while every photographer is different, there are typical policies that you can put into place. Any client who has ever hired a photographer or any type of professional services before will probably be familiar with them already. 

Plus, there are many convenient ways of taking payment that take the awkwardness out of showing up to a session and asking your client to pay you before you can get started. Let’s take a look at what you should know!

What Is a Photographer's Typical Payment Structure?
When do you ask for payment? You need to choose the moment very intentionally. Having a proper payment structure in place cuts down tremendously on a lot of issues such as no-shows, last-minute cancellations, bounced checks, etc. 

1. Take a 50% Retainer
It is quite standard for photographers to require a 50% retainer to book and reserve a date. In other words, you won’t be making room for that client on your calendar until they’ve given you half the money for their session. 

This retainer is usually non-refundable as well. This policy helps cut down tremendously on last-minute cancellations, no-shows, etc. People have a way of respecting your time more when they’ve already got money invested. 

Plus, even if they don’t, you’ve been paid for your time already!

2. Payment Plans
Some photography services (like weddings) cost several thousand dollars. It can be hard for a lot of people to come up with that kind of money all at once. 

Thus, many photographers offer payment plans as a service to their clients. You can decide how you want to do it. Perhaps you offer them the option of paying $X per week, month, or some other time interval. 

You may offer set plans that your customers can choose from or customized options that perfectly fit their financial needs. Just make sure that you keep good records and using traceable payment methods (not cash) is generally a good idea. 


3. Final Payment
The date of the final payment is also important. Some photographers set the day of the session as the date that the final payment is due. But this isn’t a good option for a few reasons. 


First, people are far less likely to cancel at the last minute if they’ve already paid their entire balance. Second, there is no awkwardness at the beginning of the session as you start it off by asking your client for money. Third, if there are issues that arise with the payment method (credit card doesn’t work, check bounces), there’s no time to fix them before the session. 


It might feel weird but know that it is standard to require payment in full before the session date. For most types of sessions, 14 days before is typical. And most wedding photographers require payment in full 30 days before the date. 

Common Types of Payments 
What are the best ways to take payments from your clients? These days there are lots of options that are convenient for both you and your clients. Let’s go over a few.

1. Offline Payments  
There are lots of great online options that we’ll get into in a moment, but offline payments are still the most cost-effective way of getting paid. When somebody hands you money in person, you don’t have to pay any third-party processing company to handle the transaction. 

Cash is easy, but not always the best method of payment. It’s not traceable, so it’s easier for a client to say they paid you more than they did and this can be a problem when they’re on a payment plan. 

Furthermore, if your fee is running up into hundreds or thousands of dollars, it isn’t a good idea for you or your clients to be walking around with that much cash. 

However, it’s still a perfectly viable method of payment. Just make sure to write a receipt to keep your own record of the transaction. 

Checks are a step up from cash in that they are traceable. They are also safer to haul around than cash when you’re handling large amounts. Plus, if you have your bank app on your phone, you can deposit the check immediately into your bank account upon receiving the check from the client. 

The main issue with a check is that it can bounce. That’s where requiring payment in full 2 weeks before the session comes in handy. If the check doesn’t clear, you still have time to fix the issue before the session date. 

Money Orders 
Money orders are a little more inconvenient for customers because they have to go get them. However, there is no risk of the money order bouncing for you. But, keep in mind that money orders are just like cash — if you lose it, there isn’t a good way to get it back. 

2. Online Payment Options 
Of course, living in the technological age that we do, there are a plethora of online payment methods available to use. For the most part, they are secure, fast, and super convenient. 

However, this all comes with a price. With one exception, online payment processors charge a fee for their services. Typically, it will be between 2.5% – 3% of the total payment. 

That might not sound like much but when you’re talking about paying it on nearly all the money you make, it adds up! Make sure that you take this fee into account when deciding on your pricing structure. It should technically come out of your client’s pocket, not yours. 


Here are a few good options.

PayPal has been around for a while so many customers will already be familiar with it and have their own accounts. If you have a personal account, the 4.9% plus 30 cents per transaction fee adds up quickly. You can save by switching to a business account, where the fee drops to 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction.

Square Up
Square Up is an option through Swipe that allows you to take credit cards on your phone. It’s helpful for in-person payments if people don’t have cash or their checkbook available. 

The transaction fee is 2.75% so plan accordingly. 

Venmo is a digital wallet option that is fast becoming very popular. It’s super easy to make quick transactions. 

Plus you can set up a business profile that works like social media. Customers can rave about you right in the app and their friends can see it and visit your profile just like any other social media platform. 

Cash App
Cash App allows people to easily transfer money instantly. Plus you can get a debit card to go with it that racks up some nice discounts as you use it. 

Cash App has different transaction fees depending on the method of payment. Debit card transactions cost 2.5% and if the payment is made with a credit card it goes up to 2.75%. 

Apple Pay
Lots of people are running around with iPhones these days. Apple Pay turns their phones into digital wallets that make it simple to make payments on the go. Many people like it because they can add their current credit cards and debit cards and use them from their phone — thus still accruing rewards. 

Instant transfers come with a fee of 1.5% (or a minimum of 25 cents and a maximum of $15).

The Exception — Zelle
Remember that we mentioned an exception? This is it! Zelle is an online payment service that doesn’t charge you a dime for transferring payments. If your bank offers it, you simply register your email address with the program and clients can send money directly to you.

It’s fast, convenient, and free! 

3. Your CRM 
Finally, do you have CRM (Client Relationship Management) software? This is a handy way to keep track of your clients, sessions, etc. 

Most CRMs also have a way to take payments directly through the software. Or they may integrate with one of the other payment methods we’ve mentioned. Regardless, you’ll pay a fee to the CRM or to the integrated payment method as usual. 

 A few examples of CRM software that can take payments are Honeybook, Studio Ninja, and Shootproof.

 Getting Paid for Your Work
In short, there are a plethora of options out there for taking payments as a photographer. Plus, there are policies that you should put in place to protect your time and avoid unnecessary headaches. 

Don’t worry, everybody’s used to business policies, and most people won’t complain about it. The ones that do probably aren’t a good fit anyway and you might be dodging a bullet before you invest too much time. 

You’re a professional and you deserve to be paid for your work!

2 thoughts on “How to Take Payment as a Photographer”

  1. Awesome article! That answered a lot of questions and it such great information! Thank you as always for sharing your knowledge!!

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