How to Cost Out a Time-lapse Shoot

This is a tricky one and to be honest it is one that I still struggle with. How do you cost out a timelapse shoot? I’m actually asking this question myself as I still don’t have a solid answer. The difficulty is in making sure the client is of the understanding that this is a time consuming and somewhat costly task. You need to be sure to communicate the times and the cost to a client and somewhat educate them in the process of time-lapse photography. I guess it’s the same for any commercial work. But the difference is if the client is after a 60 second time-lapse it really doesn’t sound like a big deal. This as we know can be quite the opposite. A 60 second time-lapse can be a 24 hour capture and be another 24 hours of post processing of many thousands of frames. Then you have to factor in the camera count and accessories. What separates a good time-lapse from a great one is multiple camera angles and movement of the camera over time.

This still begs the question. How does one cost out a timelapse shoot?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below

I have decided to come up with a matrix style pricing structure. Have a look below and let me know your thoughts. The prices displayed here are purely to display how the pricing matrix works and are in no way a reflection of my current charges for commercial time-lapse photography work.

I always use multiple cameras for commercial time-lapse shoots as mentioned in the Day Build. It gives me the confidence to know that if one camera fails I always have a fallback. Then there is the use of the time-lapse dolly. These things all factor into the overall price of a commercial time-lapse shoot. We all know those accessories are not that cheap. For now I have left out the dolly and just worked out the pricing based on duration and camera count.

Time-lapse pricing matrix for commercial time-lapse

A Time-lapse pricing matrix showing a sample hourly rate

How does the Time-lapse Pricing Matrix Work?

So the way the matrix works (in Excel or Numbers for the Mac) is I start with a base price (hourly rate) at the top left directly under the 1-3 hour column and next to the single camera count. This is my minimum commercial job so it’s a good place to set the base price. I created this spreadsheet automated approach as each job can have varying factors which inherently can alter the hourly rate. So whatever base price I set the rest of the matrix is calculated off that. So for the example above I have set the base price at $100 per hour. As the duration of the time-lapse increases (IMHO) you want to provide a better hourly rate for your client to show some loyalty for committing to a larger project. So as the hours increase the hourly rate is decreased across the board (see the percentages in the sample above). The other factor is the camera count. The higher the camera count, then naturally the higher the hourly rate. This is to cover various elements, including insurance, wear and tear on use of multiple cameras and the extra work required in post production of such a complex time-lapse.

This is a simple matrix to start with. There are many other options and variables to add in there. One being the use of an expensive time-lapse dolly and of course as the job size increase so does the people count so this matrix is a good start, but can built on quite a bit. I might continue to work on this and improve and expand and happy to hear any thoughts that might help improve this.

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