Photo Shoot Production Expenses

Everything you need to produce the highest-quality animal images

Commercial pet photography photo shoot production expenses

All of the production expenses you see on this page are designed to increase and improve the quality of the results of your photo shoot.

You get out of a photo shoot what you put into it, and commercial pet photography is an investment that pays for itself many times over in ROI from ad spend, so it’s an investment that’s well-worth making.


We have a roster of 350+ non-pro ‘family pet’ dog models in Southern California (Los Angeles and San Diego), and also work with some of the best professional animal talent agencies in the business in San Diego, OC and LA.

If you can procure models through your company, they are often happy to receive products and/or services in exchange for their time.

Please note that for small shoots we always pay at least $50-$75/hr per talent, in addition to a product or service from the company commissioning the photography, and/or image files, which is what every pet parent wants. This combination makes them more motivated to actually show up to the shoot.

People have busy schedules, and although many pet owners are excited about getting ‘their pet in pictures’, we never ask our talent (human or animal) to work for free, and we expect that your company won’t either.


Non-pro animal talent: $50-$75/hr + products/services/images

Pro animal talent: $200-$350 per 2-hour shoot / $750-$850/day, not including agency trainer fees, which range from $500-$1k

cats with people photography by commercial animal photographer jamie piper

Professional cat talent with professional human model. 


If you’d like human talent included in your shoot, we have several options. 

We can either find pet parents who are willing to be photographed with their dogs, or cast for ‘real people’ talent, or use pro talent. 

Our low-budget clients tend to go for the former, and accept that the pets we get will be dictated by which of their parents is happy to be in front of the camera. 

Mid-range budget clients tend to choose the ‘cast for real people’ talent option, as it widens our pool. 

High-budget clients go for pro talent. 

Regardless of who the talent is, like the pet talent, we never ask them to work for free.



Non-pro human talent: $100-$150/hr; $500-$1000 for the half-day or full day shoot

Pro human talent: $1500+ usage per day for adults; $1000 + usage per day for minors.

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Regular dog owner talent, e.g. pet owners willing to be photographed with their dogs.


We require a camera/photographer assistant for all but our lowest budget ‘run & gun’ shoots. 

The camera assistant takes care of all the camera and lighting gear, carrying gear bags and accessories, handing the photographer bodies and lenses as needed, keeping track of memory cards, and making sure gear is working as expected, among other tasks.

The camera/photographer assistant is their right-hand man/woman.  

The full day rate for a first assistant is $350-$500, depending on the geographic location of the shoot.

The day rate for a second assistant is usually between $250-$350 depending on what’s required of them.

Regardless of the length of the shoot, the full day pay is required.


Avg: $350-$450/day, full day minimum regardless of shoot length


Retouching prepares photos for high-value use like paid advertising and print, and includes but is not limited to:

  • removing objects like leashes, distracting objects from backgrounds, drool on ground, etc
  • compositing subjects (taking a dog from one photo and placing them into another for example)
  • dandruff + drool + fur clean-up
  • masking backgrounds to isolate model
  • (human) skin and hair clean-up
  • clean up and sharpening of dog’s eyes
  • selective color adjustments

See our impressive retouching portfolio here.


$125-$150 per hour, depending on scope

Average: 2-5 retouched images per hour


Props might include supplies to recreate the look of a picnic or barbecue, pet clothing, toys, food, bowls, blankets, dog/cat beds, etc. 

For very elaborate shoots, we might even build a ‘room-like’ set in a studio. 


$50-$750 depending on type

Average for lifestyle shoots: $100-$125


Most of our sub-$15k budget shoot clients are happy to shoot in whatever pet home comes with the family pets we are able to secure on our shoot date(s). 

For those with more specific ideas about locations, we can rent them by the hour or the day. 

Locations can range from residential locations that charge an hourly fee of $150-$300/hr with a 3-hour minimum, to high-end pro residential locations that charge $3500-$4500/day. 

For hourly locations we will provide you with options that you can look through and book directly. 

The wide range of pricing is due to differences in both quality and size as well as geographic locations.

For studios, we can rent a simple studio in LA for as low as $500/day, or as much as $1500 for a high-end studio.

We have a half day minimum due to cleaning and painting costs. The average for San Diego is $850/day; LA is $1200/day.

Rates include cleaning, insurance, and painting the cyc wall if applicable.


Hourly residential location fees: $150/hr-$300/hr; 3-hour minimum. 

High-end ‘pro’ residential locations: $3000 -$4000 per day.

Studios: from $400 per half day to $1500 per day.

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One of our San Diego county residential locations. Cost per day for this location is $3000.


If you want remote viewing (to see the photos as they are created live-time as opposed to seeing them in a gallery following the shoot), this expense will be required. 

This is true whether you are on set or viewing the photo shoot remotely. 

So what is a digitech and what do they do?

A digital tech is the person responsible for ingesting the images into a computer at a workstation. The images are displayed on a computer screen that you can sit near or in front of. The camera is connected to the computer via a cable. 

The digitech makes basic color corrections, crops images, ensures camera controls are set and functioning properly, ensures the lighting is communicating with the camera, communicates with the camera assistant, renames files and makes backups of all the images. 

They are an integral part of a commercial photo shoot. 

Without a digital tech you aren’t able to preview the images and make changes to the shot set-ups as you go along, so it’s great to have one on set, as it ensures you are getting exactly what you want.

Fees include workstation and laptop rental.

Digitech fees are not available by the hour, and require a full day rate, whether we are shooting for a few hours or a full eight hour day.


$1250-$1500 per day; full day minimum


We produce all of our smaller shoots in-house, often hiring a PA (production assistant) to help out on the day of the shoot. 

We charge a pre-production/admin fee that covers all of our administrative time. 

For medium-sized and larger shoots, with multiple talent and a robust shot list, it’s imperative to have an outside producer coordinating everything. 

They function as the project manager for the photo shoot.


PA: $350-$500 per day

Producer/production time:

$85/$100 per hour

$850-$1000 per day

This fee applies to pre-pro days (planning time), shoot days and wrap days.

Producer duties include but are not limited to:

  • sourcing and booking crew
  • sourcing and ordering catering/breakfast/lunch
  • sourcing and booking locations
  • getting city/county permits
  • getting parking permits
  • sourcing and booking human talent
  • scheduling all talent and crew
  • creating call sheets to send to all parties with location and contact details
  • prepping locations, including laying down floor protectors, setting up tables and workstations for groomers
  • checking in talent
  • communicating with talent before and on the shoot day
  • bringing all grip needed for the shoot (tape, booties, carts, etc)
  • bringing production vehicles for talent to get ready in when on location
  • accounting 

Their involvement allows the photographer to focus on the creative so they don’t have to stop shooting to call a model that’s late, or worry about wardrobe not showing up, or exhaust themselves before a shoot by running around picking up supplies the night before. 

The fewer different hats the photographer needs to wear during the photography, the better your photos will be, and the more likely the photographer will be to want to work with you again. 

If you’ve ever hired a photographer who produced their own shoot, you already know this first-hand.

For our full day multi-talent, multi-location shoots, we work with an outside production company. 

Producers will need production assistants for the bigger shoots, so they don’t need to leave the set when needs arise. 

PAs will make runs to stores to get needs that invariably pop up on every shoot, as well as help the producer coordinate talent and other needs. 

The very large shoots require a producer, production coordinator and production assistants.


(HMUA is a hair & makeup artist)

If you are fine with the human talent showing up wearing whatever clothing, makeup and hairstyles they show up in, this expenses won’t be needed. 

If you have higher expectations about how the human talent looks, we’ll add this expense to your project. 

Wardrobe and HMUA are often different people, and sometimes one and the same.

You may have a wardrobe person, a stylist who is in charge of styling any products or props in the shots, and a hair and makeup artist. It all depends on what the shoot needs.

Each person is an expert in their chosen area, and each person has a unique responsibility to contribute to the successful outcome of the shoot.


Varies, averages between $750-$1,000/day


For our very small budget shoots, we don’t include any lights and just shoot with natural light. We shoot with our basic kit camera body (a high-quality Sony full-frame mirrorless camera), and 2 lenses- a fixed prime and mid-range zoom. 

For our clients who want high-end commercial photos, we include specialized lighting gear with multiple lights and modifiers. 

The lighting required depends on the shot list and types of shots our client wants. We need to see comps before determining lighting expenses. 

We can use one small light (called a ‘speedlight’) and have the cost be low, or we can use a full suite of lights.

For example, lighting to create high-key studio photos (bright, clean, white studio photos like Purina uses- like you see here), is $500 per day (1 day minimum).

Also generally the larger the area being lit, the more lights are required. A backyard, pool area, or big living room will need extensive lighting for example.

For every shoot we always rent lenses specifically for that shoot, and often camera bodies as well. If our client wants a bunch of action photos of dogs running across a big open field, we will rent lenses specifically for that purpose. 



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Lighting for Frontline flea and tick packaging. $500 per day for lighting.

Renting bodies and lenses enables our photographers to use the very latest in high-end gear for a reasonable price without having to spend thousands on new camera bodies and lenses every year, which would drive costs up for all of our clients pretty significantly.

For example, one of our favorite lenses for pet photography costs $2800 retail, but rents for only $85 for a full day.

Additionally, specific shots require specific gear, for example action shots require telephoto lenses with image stabilization.

Lastly, the more involved the shoot is, and the longer and more varied the shot list, the more different camera gear it requires.

Gear needs are one area of the estimate that should never be skimped on. We choose gear specifically to create the results you need.


For our low-budget shoots, our clients get take-out food for the shoot day. 

This often includes Starbucks for breakfast, and whatever take-out food is closest for lunch. 

The client will get orders from the photographer and crew, and either they or the PA will run out to pick it up. 

For our longer shoots, like full day shoots, we recommend getting catering for the clients, photographer and crew. This is always buffet style, with everyone choosing what they want to eat. 

This is always buffet style, with everyone choosing what they want to eat. This is the easiest, least-disruptive and most efficient use of on-set time. 

The advantage of doing this is it doesn’t slow the shoot down with needing to get orders from every person, and the client potentially missing out on important shots that are created while they are busy taking orders. 

Prices for catering vary significantly depending on the number of clients and crew on set, but are often $750-$1500 per day depending on the size of the crew.


$750-$1500 per day for a full crew. As low as $200/day for a very small crew. 


Short-range regional travel can be as low as $250-$350, which includes gas, travel time and single-night lodging. 

The cost of flight + car rental + hotel for long-range travel can vary significantly. A shoot in NYC will cost more than one in Florida.

Generally the rates or long-range travel are in the range of $850-$1250, depending on location, duration of shoot and flight prices.


$850-$1250/pp average for flight + meals + hotel + car + incidentals

Questions about any of these production expenses?

Get in touch with Jamie and she’ll be happy to answer them for you.