There is one topic that every photographer has an opinion on; pricing. Every photographer wants to know just how much they should charge; however, before you ask what you should charge you need to ask yourself if you’re good enough to charge in the first place and the answers to both of these questions cannot be found on Facebook. To find out if you are good enough to charge you need to get an honest opinion from other artists and artists are not going to give you an honest opinion on Facebook. A good artist has an image to protect and they are not going to risk that image by commenting on a post or photograph that your friends might see and might have a negative result. There are a lot of photographers that need a dose of reality, there is an article (http://www.photographytalk.com/photography-articles/3429-5-uncomfortable-facts-for-new-photography-businesses) that every photographer should read and take to heart because it gives us advice on some of the hard questions we photographer really need to answer.
Now on to the topic of price; what should you charge? Well the first thing that you need to figure out is your cost of doing business, there are so many photographers that don’t know their cost of doing business and you can tell the those who don’t understand this concept by looking at their prices. There are photographers that are charging $30 to take a family photo; these are photographers that are killing the industry because now everyone thinks we should all charge this little and they are shocked when they find out what a real professional photographer does charge.
As an example let’s say you have a new client and you are going to do a one hour photo shoot for that client, just how much actual work is involved in that one hour shoot? Let’s figure you have one hour of time in the pre-shoot consultation, then on the day of the shoot you have at least two hours, one hour of shooting time and another hour of setting up, taking down, loading and unloading, then you will have at least an hour of post processing time. Not including travel time, you have 4 hours of work for that one hour photo shoot. Now let’s figure basic expenses for this photo shoot. Examples of expenses are the CD of images you are giving the client, there is the power you are using for your computer, there is the fuel you use to get to and from the location, and these are just some of the expenses you would have on that day. If you are only charging $30 for the shoot, then you subtract $1 for the CD, subtract $4 for the fuel to get to and from the location, subtract $2 for electricity, that looks like $30 – $1 – $4 – $2 = $23. Now you have $23, this is just a simple example, there are other expenses that need to be factored in; but for the examples sake we will say that you have $15 in expenses which means if you are charging only $30 for the shoot and you have $15 in expenses you are left with $15 which is then divided by the 4 hours of work and you are paying yourself $3.75 per hour. If you give the client all the photos you are not even covering your expenses. There are a lot of things that much be considered when figuring out just how much you should charge for your work. One thing we need to remember is that we are running a business and there are a lot of things to consider when running a business.
The photographer better know the difference between fine art and a snapshot:
The question of if you are good enough to charge brings up another question; do you know the difference between fine art and a snapshot? Once I asked myself how I can teach the general public the difference between fine art and a snapshot; I have sense learned that I don’t need to teach the general public the difference, I just need to know the difference. If you are claiming to be a photographer and are looking to charge people for your work then you had better know the difference between a snapshot and fire art. There are a lot of photographers that put in a lot of work for snapshots. Once again you are not going to find out what makes a fine art photograph on Facebook, I have seen a lot of photographers post their snapshots on Facebook; these are the people who are just taking pictures not real photographers. How can you tell a real photographer verses someone just taking pictures, one way is to look for their website. If a person is claiming to be a photographer and all they have a Facebook business page and not a real website then this is one indicator that they are not a serious photographer. Another indicator of a serious photographer is their comments. If you see someone who always seems to have something to say than I wouldn’t consider them a serious photographer because they are taking so much time to reading every comment and post rather than spending that time improving themselves and their craft. There is an old saying, “The devil is in the details” well this is one way you can tell fine art from a snapshot, look at the details of the photograph and remember a $30 photograph is not fine art it is a snapshot.
One thing I have heard from some people is that they think the photographer should give up the copyright to the photos of them. Well I am here to tell you that a professional photographer will never give up the copyright to any image. If a photographer gives up the copyright to an image that is an image the photographer doesn’t care about because it is now an image they can no longer use for any purpose. If you give up the copyright to a photo you cannot post that photo anywhere, not on your website, not on your blob, and certainly not on any self-promoting materials. The article I talked about earlier says; “You should own copyright to all your photos, unless stated otherwise in the contract. That means that you should be making money from them in the future, not just for the day you took them. You are a creative professional, and the results of your work are intended for longer use by other companies.” Now the key points here are that who owns the copyright will be stated in the contract, if you are hired by a company the copyright will be spelled out in the contract. Giving up the copyright to your images is business suicide. Simply out a professional photographer will never give up the copyright to their images.
I have had someone ask me what I would charge to do a portrait session; when I told them they were shocked and informed me that their friend only charged half and gave them all the photos they took as well as the copyrights to the images. Yes everyone knows a friend or a friend of friend who will do the photography job a lot cheaper than a professional photographer will. What I would to those clients is go for it. Go to your cousin that is only going to charge you $40 to do your portraits, the old saying is that “you get what you pay for.” A $30 portrait is not fine art; it will not be done by a professional photographer. This may sound hard and calloused but in the end it is the truth. If you want professional services your are going to pay professional prices and if the photographer wants to charge professional prices then they had better be able to back up those prices with education and with some talent.
Remember; when you hire a professional photographer you are not just getting someone with an expensive camera. You are getting someone who has taken the time to educate themselves in about their craft and who knows how to make you look awesome. A professional photographer will give you custom crafted images that you’ll be proud to display; they will produce fine art and not snapshots. A professional photographer will act like a professional, for more on professional behavior see my blog post on professionalism.