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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> I know,I know, another "how much to charge" thread
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08/23/2011 08:55:27 PM · #1
I am a teacher at a private school and am now the official sports photographer. I have invested a lot of time and money to start this small business venture... so...

I had someone ask me to take "senior portraits" for them. And I told them that I would take them to a location, take pictures and provide the edited files (of their choosing) so they can get them printed anywhere for a whopping total of $150.

They said they can't afford that and, as a result, I am not going to take the pictures for them...

I figured it would take me about 3 hours total.

I don't want to be "penny wise and dollar dumb" and turn business away because my price was too high. But I do need people to value what I do and doing it for less seems like I don't even respect myself.

Am I wrong about this?

Message edited by author 2011-08-23 23:19:47.
08/23/2011 10:28:43 PM · #2
I suppose it depends on the area you live in, but I'm pretty sure the session fee alone for my senior pics (a LONG time ago now) was at least $100. And then you bought the wallets and other prints on top of that.

So to me, it seems like $150 for a disk you can print wherever you like is a great deal! I wouldn't take it personally....maybe they really can't afford that. But you're right in that you have to have some value in yourself. I don't think you're missing the mark. For a 3 hour shoot that's $50/hr.....and that doesn't count your hours spent editing.
08/24/2011 12:16:13 AM · #3
I think, if anything, you were undercharging. You can charge that low if you are getting print orders, perhaps, but 3 hours of shoot, plus your prep/travel time, and then your editing and delivery, you could easily be charging an effective $10 per hour of your time. I certainly can't say whether it is worth it to you at that price or not, of course.

You might consider adding smugmug or photoshelter to your process: image delivery via those sites (smugmug is now set up for paid digital downloads, if they don't want to order prints) rather than via disk. They can order prints directly from the site, at a price you set, without you having to print and deliver them.

I would say if you are delivering a disk of image files, then you should maybe be considering a 300-450 dollar figure instead of 150. If they want a lower price, offer them something in the range of 200 for the shoot, no disk, and print orders from you (perhaps a minimum). That way you can serve both types of customers. Scale those rates to what you feel your time is worth, how much time you'll be spending.

I did a shoot for a college student (needed shots of fashion designs for a class project). I did it at a very low rate--basically it just covered the studio rental only. But if I spread it out over the time it actually took, the follow up, the questions after the fact, and just supporting my customer, I made less than $5 an hour. Not that it is the only measure, but it is one to consider. My next shoots for the student's classmates will have a revised rate structure :-)
08/24/2011 12:32:34 AM · #4
Consider offering a 'group' gathering where several, say six or ten students meet at the same location and you take individual shots of each student. You might be able to cut your price quite a bit and everybody be happy.
08/24/2011 05:55:40 AM · #5
My experience around this subject has been updated with time... amd my considerations are the following:

The people that pay less are the ones that want more and have less respect for your job. I found out that this is particullary true with weddings.

If you don't like to count the pennies make shure you are confortable with the price.

But also ask yourself what do you take from the job to you... some jobs are a lot of fun. Sometimes I make sessions for "free" (or at least the money is not the issue) because my peasure of doing the session is the most important, although this isn't money wise.

And mosto of the time sin jobs like this is the post production that will reduce your earnings. try to limit that to the minimum so you can keep prices low.

The smugmug idea is great. I always put there the proof galleries, and I only edit the final selection of photos in a number that where agreede dbefore and the price for the session reflects that.
08/24/2011 07:10:36 AM · #6
you're head is in the right place and you've been given some good advice.

all i can add is that you do a little more homework on the business side. there are a number of freelance rate calculators out there that you can use to determine a reasonable hourly rate for yourself. as long as you can comfortably justify to yourself what you have to charge, you can allow your work to speak for itself.

i'd also suggest getting a copy of john harrington's Best Practices for Photographers. (harrington is one of the top photographers in DC and a great example of what to aspire to).

another excellent resource is jacobs's The Big Picture: The Professional Photographer's Guide to Rights, Rates & Negotiation. i will point out that it was written in 2000, before most working pros had shifted from film to digital. even though some of the material is dated, the core ideals have not changed.

good luck!
08/24/2011 10:40:51 AM · #7
Thank you to everyone who offered advice. I just bought the two books (from amazon.com) that Skip recommended.

Just from being part of this online community, I learned a while ago not to devalue yourself and your skill so that is why I knew I needed to charge something for the shoot.

Thanks for the support. I've got a smugmug site already that I've been working on getting ready for back to school.

I just don't want to find myself in the position of charging too little and then not being able to charge enough later. And I don't want people from work thinking I will do this for free.

If I ASK THEM if I can take their pictures, I do it for the experience. If THEY ASK ME to take their pictures, they have to pay for it.

Anyway, I am grateful for this community... And thank you to Skip who is always quick to respond to the business questions.
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