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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> What to charge? (couple studio shots)
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12/16/2008 11:23:35 AM · #1
Hi all,

So, base question: what to charge?

The circumstances: A while ago (during summer) a colleague who had seen some of my photos asked me if I could
take pictures of her and her boyfriend outdoors - she wanted the shots eventually for some x-mas presents.
That never materialized, but I recently told her that we could always do some indoor studio shots if she was interested.
So long story short, I had them over at my tiny little basement place and get in some good shots.
After the shoot was over, I gave them all the shots on a CD so that they could pick the poses and told them not to worry
about things like cropping, etc. We spent almost 3 hours all together Sat. night (including chatting, looking at other photos, setting up
different backgrounds, etc.)

I've almost finished editing the shots, and it's time to decide on a price. I told her that we'd discuss it afterwards so that we
could reach a price that we were both happy with.

What I would like to be taken into account:

1) It's a favour for a colleague so that she doesn't have to pay full studio price
2) I am an inexperienced portrait photographer and this is the first time I do something of the sort.
3) The quality of the photos delivered (shot on a D200, ISO 200, f7.1 with the 17-55 f2.8)

What shouldn't be taken into account:

1) The amount of time I spend with the PP and the # of photos delivered (she had decided on 30 in total and while she
knew that was a lot, I told her it was no problem as I would learn from the experience and I would have fun doing it)

So, I'm putting my feelers out there and asking for your guys advice - help me figure out what to charge!! What do you professional portrait folk charge for something like this? (I have very little clue)

Ah, and a side question: For you portrait photographers, what crop ratio do you deliver? I know that most frames out there these
days are of the 4x5 ratio (and I don't like it)..

Thanks!!!

Example of one of the shots that they're going to get: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/20000-24999/21304/120/747810.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/20000-24999/21304/120/747810.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

12/16/2008 11:30:40 AM · #2
you really should have discussed pricing BEFORE you did all this. what if you can't reach an agreement? biz with friends is rarely a good idea.

From personal experience, people like this (friends, colleagues and family) don't appreciate (or value) photography from somebody they know as much as they would from anyone else...regardless of the quality. Even the rare few sessions I have done for free, the people were very cheap and rude about getting electronic copies of the photo's.

as for the pic. it is nice...but there is a very harsh shadow on her right eye. kind of makes her look like she has a black eye.

Message edited by author 2008-12-16 11:37:14.
12/16/2008 11:56:55 AM · #3
Originally posted by egamble:

you really should have discussed pricing BEFORE you did all this. what if you can't reach an agreement? biz with friends is rarely a good idea.

From personal experience, people like this (friends, colleagues and family) don't appreciate (or value) photography from somebody they know as much as they would from anyone else...regardless of the quality. Even the rare few sessions I have done for free, the people were very cheap and rude about getting electronic copies of the photo's.

as for the pic. it is nice...but there is a very harsh shadow on her right eye. kind of makes her look like she has a black eye.


Although I appreciate the reply, this isn't exactly useful information.

Let me re-iterate some points:
1) This was the first time I did anything of the sort, and so I had no clue what the results would be like. In my opinion, there was no point in setting a price having absolutely no clue if I had the capabilities to deliver a quality product)
2) As I mentioned, I want to charge according to quality, as well as customer satisfaction (I know that so far she's extremely happy).. so constructive criticism is good, but as long as it leads to a constructive conclusion.
12/16/2008 11:58:19 AM · #4
How much fun/experience did you get out of it?

I did a favour repairing an engine for a 'friend' and ended up charging her less than half what a gagage would charge. She seemed to think the work (AND PARTS!!) would be free and that somehow the laws of economics didn't apply to her.

At the end of the day you both need to be happy with the outcome. If I were you I'd decide what you think a reasonable hourly rate is and multiply by a reasonable estimate of your time spent working on the pics. Then knock a third off the answer and see how that figure looks.
Originally posted by Dudski:

I told her that we'd discuss it afterwards so that we could reach a price that we were both happy with.


Why not ask her what kind of price she'd expect to pay for the favour?
12/16/2008 12:03:12 PM · #5
Seems like you have three sets of costs:
1) Actual costs of getting the photos printed, whether you print them yourself or send them off to be printed elsewhere. These obviously need to be fully covered.
2) Your time / expertise. What is that worth to you? How many hours did you spend on this, what percentage of the time can you attribute to your "learning and having fun" vs actual stuff accomplished for them, and what do you want to make per hour for the latter? Are the 30 photos all different, or do they want many copies of just a few images?
3) Some depreciation costs for your camera, lens, lighting equipment and computer, and whatever it will cost you to store the images long term (if you plan to do so).

Other normal costs of doing business may not be applicable here, so that should save you and thus them some money:
1) Advertising and web costs
2) Rent on studio space / storefront
3) Travel costs (gas and depreciation on the car)
12/16/2008 12:17:00 PM · #6
Originally posted by mikeee:


I did a favour repairing an engine for a 'friend' and ended up charging her less than half what a gagage would charge. She seemed to think the work (AND PARTS!!) would be free and that somehow the laws of economics didn't apply to her.


When I did some car repair for a friend, I didn't charge for my work, but I took her (and her checkbook) to the parts store with me.
12/16/2008 12:31:13 PM · #7
Originally posted by Dudski:



Although I appreciate the reply, this isn't exactly useful information.

Let me re-iterate some points:
1) This was the first time I did anything of the sort, and so I had no clue what the results would be like. In my opinion, there was no point in setting a price having absolutely no clue if I had the capabilities to deliver a quality product)
2) As I mentioned, I want to charge according to quality, as well as customer satisfaction (I know that so far she's extremely happy).. so constructive criticism is good, but as long as it leads to a constructive conclusion.


1.) What I am trying to say is it is very easy to go DOWN from a price you set before you do it. It is much harder to do a great job and then try to charge for what you delivered. does that make sense?
2.) see 1
3.) if you don't want the opinion of people on the internet, go find somewhere else to ask for input. I was just trying to be nice. dont be a dick.
12/16/2008 12:39:13 PM · #8
Originally posted by egamble:

Originally posted by Dudski:



Although I appreciate the reply, this isn't exactly useful information.

Let me re-iterate some points:
1) This was the first time I did anything of the sort, and so I had no clue what the results would be like. In my opinion, there was no point in setting a price having absolutely no clue if I had the capabilities to deliver a quality product)
2) As I mentioned, I want to charge according to quality, as well as customer satisfaction (I know that so far she's extremely happy).. so constructive criticism is good, but as long as it leads to a constructive conclusion.


1.) What I am trying to say is it is very easy to go DOWN from a price you set before you do it. It is much harder to do a great job and then try to charge for what you delivered. does that make sense?
2.) see 1
3.) if you don't want the opinion of people on the internet, go find somewhere else to ask for input. I was just trying to be nice. dont be a dick.


I dont think name calling is necessary here.... He asked a pointed question... what to charge.
He was not disrespectful in his reply... maybe you read it wrong.
12/16/2008 12:57:12 PM · #9
I am my sisters 'personal photographer'...at least that is what she calls me. :-)
I was doing it all for 'cost of printing'...but now that I 'have a title'...I have a 'a la carte' price I charge.

I base my prices on 'per sheet'...i.e. a sheet is $10.00 , one 8x10 fits on a sheet = $10.00, 2 5x7's fit on a sheet = $10.00...I also charge her a sitting fee...I won't mention as I'll get laughed out of here. Then when I want to make it a deal, I have a base amount that if spent I give a free 8x10....or something like that....

so in otherwords, printing at mpix costs me $2.75 for a 8x10, so I a making $7.25 per print.

hope this helps, a little bit....as I cannot charge 'pro prices for amateur work'
12/16/2008 01:04:03 PM · #10
If you are charging, always always always discuss it up front. I would just tell her not to worry about paying you at this point, because she already has a disc, of what I am assuming are the high-res images. I know thats not what you are asking, but its my opinion on what you should charge. The most valuable thing youll get from the experience is that you will learn to do it right from the start next time. Youre best bet is to ask her to sign a model release (so at least you can use the images for your own promotion) and see if she needs prints made (so you can potentially tack a few bucks on to the cost of those)and tell her to tell her friends about your work.
12/16/2008 01:28:16 PM · #11
I wich people would stop going around the pot and give $ amounts (like ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' dassilem). The basic question was "what to charge"? I would love to hear what other people's going rate is...
12/16/2008 01:51:02 PM · #12
I do a lot of freelance fashion and portrait shots...mostly working with new models trying to develop portfolios. When i first started i was inexperienced and wanted to learn. So what i did was I didn't charge the models anything. I would take the photos, edit them, give them a certain number of edited photos on a CD for free. Why would i do this....I was learning, I developed a process, and i had a model release signed so i could use the photos as i please.

So my advice on what to charge. NOTHING. Tell her that since she helped you out this time that you would give her the photos ON A CD for free. She can easily go out and get them printed herself. Make her sign a release so that you can use the photos for promotion or whatever purposes you may want...and also so that she can't sell the publishing rights of the photos. You've already learned a couple of valuable lessons. And when she shows all her friends the photos, you will have free advertising.

Lessons learned for the future is to ALWAYS discuss price first. I understand that it was your first time and you didn't really know. Next time, you will know. You'll also have a better understanding of how much time it takes to perform the job and how much you feel your photos are worth quality wise. Waiting til after the job, leaves too much room for you to have wasted your time and not being able to use the photos for anything. Also discuss the number of photos you will give ahead of time, so you aren't giving away too much work at a lower costs.

As for what size is best for cropping? I wouldn't worry about cropping at all (except to make the photo quality better). The print company can upsize or downsize the photo for you. Although in this case i'd let her get the prints herself. If you decided to get them, then make sure you mark up for the work of choosing the print company, shipping (to you and to her), and any other charges you might receive.
12/16/2008 02:45:22 PM · #13
I haven't given input because I don't think you can charge when she already has the images. She could have already gone out and printed them for all you know at this point. You already yelled at someone for saying you should have charged up front, but I also feel that was the proper course of action. Additionally I do not sell CD's to clients. If a client gets a CD it is either TFCD or a friend that I am doing a present for. When someone has a copy of the original images they don't need you for the prints and if you were looking to make money you either charge a fee for sitting prior to the shoot or you charge for prints after the shoot. It does not appear to me that you can do either at this point. Any advice that is given to you at this point is a sheer guess. My suggestion is this if you aren't charging for prints (I say this because I don't think you can now.) the MAX you should charge is $50.

I am not trying to be a jerk, but I ask you to think about it this way. Its more about full disclosure than it is anything else. Your friend my love the photos for the price she has in mind (which could be a price of free for all you know). But she may think you are ripping her off for a price of $75 dollars. Hence she would not be happy with your pictures at that price. If she knows your price going in there isn't really as much of a possibility of that.

My suggestion is this. Don't ask us, but go find out what your local market will bear. Go to the local portrait studio (chain type not necessarily single proprietor) and do some recon work. Get their advertising materials. Get their pricing structures. Lots of chain studios do the sheet pricing that was earlier described by ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' dassilem. They typically charge $25 a sheet. The issue is I don't feel as though you can charge for sheets now as she already has a CD. My personal system is a sitting fee (low $50-100) depending on what is needed, 1 complimentary 8x10 and a la carte pricing for all other prints is roughly $15 a sheet.
12/16/2008 03:02:26 PM · #14
The last time I did this I charged a $25 sitting fee and $125 for 14 edited images on a cd. I didn't know the person though, and did it as a favor for a mutual friend.
12/16/2008 03:04:43 PM · #15
I'm not sure about the pricing, but as far as crop ratio we crop everything to 8by10.
12/16/2008 03:14:46 PM · #16
I generally charge a small sitting fee, then charge per print, or sell pre-sold $$ amount of prints and they can pick what they want. However after the fact is a very poor time to Negotiate the price.(yell at me if you want I'm a big boy and can handle it) Sitting fee will depend on several things including time/poses/locations/. I have a base price of $25 for a sitting fee and it goes up from there. Although this is part time for me I still take pride in my work and think its worth what I charge. I did several free(gasp) photo shoots with prints at cost before I started charging, so if you want to do it for free to learn by all means, charge her for the cost of the prints and be happy to have a learning experience.

Matt
12/16/2008 03:19:59 PM · #17
Originally posted by Sunniee:


He was not disrespectful in his reply... maybe you read it wrong.

It doesn't matter if you sugar coat a pile of crap. It is still a pile of crap.

I was just giving him my personal experience in the matter and he says 'constructive criticism is only blah ablah blah'. I was just trying to be nice and help him learn from my own experience. Not get derided because i didn't help him come to a 'constructive conclusion'
12/16/2008 03:27:25 PM · #18
Here's what I've done this season (I read about half the thread and just skipped to the reply when it started turning into the should've dones) --

My husband set up a new backdrop and lighting system. I had never used it (plus a new camera) and this was a lot of variables for me. A lot of things could go wrong.

I invited a friends' family over (mom, dad, five kids) and shot them. I did not charge the sitting fee I normally do, and I charged them my cost + one penny for prints, if they ordered online.

A casual friend saw a shot I had posted on facebook and asked me if I could shoot her family. Still not having a lot of experience, I did not charge the sitting fee, but the print prices, if she orders online, are closer to normal, but still reduced (still not completely "normal" as I am still learning and haven't quite got the process down, yet).

They got cheap pictures and I got some much needed practice that I would not have gotten, or felt confident charging full price for.

or, what MattO said. :)
12/16/2008 03:51:53 PM · #19
Originally posted by Dudski:


What I would like to be taken into account:

1) It's a favour for a colleague so that she doesn't have to pay full studio price
2) I am an inexperienced portrait photographer and this is the first time I do something of the sort.
3) The quality of the photos delivered (shot on a D200, ISO 200, f7.1 with the 17-55 f2.8)


OK, none of the above matters. Either the photos are worthy of sale or not - so quality is immaterial. Your experience matters not for the same reason. Does a restaurant charge less when they get a new cook? No, and neither should you. Favor means free.

Originally posted by Dudski:


What shouldn't be taken into account:

1) The amount of time I spend with the PP and the # of photos delivered (she had decided on 30 in total and while she
knew that was a lot, I told her it was no problem as I would learn from the experience and I would have fun doing it)

The amount of time you spend shooting, meeting, and in PP is EXACTLY what matters! The one thing you can't have more of is time - it's what they're paying for. Now the more experienced you are the faster you'll get things done (i now can PP a senior shoot in 1/3 the time i needed a year ago). So in some ways you shouldn't charge them for the time you spend learning or experimenting.
The number of poses is what you DO charge for. THat is what takes work, expertise (in posing, lighting, bg's etc) and that is what takes time editing. Need 1 pose or 4? Obviously 4 takes more time. Obviously 4 has more value to the client.

I charge $49 for a studio session (and it's not 3 hours) and for a file is $48 per, edited and such, for family and studio portraiture. Now if they buy prints that price drops. If it's a senior and they buy a package the web res of teh poses they buy comes free.

The goal is to average $100 for every hour of my time. So for hthe 6 hours you've got in this you shoudl get $600. $350 would be about the cost of your time, talent, gear (camera, lights, space, computer, etc).

As for crop - depends on what they want for prints. Most people go to walmart and get 4x6 prints. Unless she wants 8x10. 5x7 is a whole nother crop. This is why you sell prints, not files. If they buy prints and want the file I usually ask or give them the file from the biggest print (ussually an 8x10 crop)


12/16/2008 03:55:49 PM · #20
Mannnn too many Should've done this Should've done that .. that &*^%*&^%^*

Ok Now, I know whats the problem you are having, is not having the ability to ask for money :) I know that Because I had '' still have '' this problem.
You know If your friend went to a studio, lets say for example Wall mart, she would pay not less than 10$ a pose!! roughly calculation.
Now you gave her 30, which would equal 300$, thats a bet heavy on the pocket. But your work worth more than that and we all know it.
You gave her the CD, and I know you are talking a matter of trust between you and your friend, she wont go and print whatever without your permission.
If you went by print, or pose, it would cost her allot. But if you went by session, the price will be reasonable.
I would say talk to her, tell her you are not going to charge by poses, but you will be charging by session, it included lets say 2 hours shooting, plus 18 hours editing, thats 20 hours x10$ = 200$ and she can have the final shots and print it as much as she would like.
Now we all know 200$ is very few, SO the deal would be 200 + signing the release would allow you to advertise for your self.
I would say this is an OK deal.
Btw, don't assume they don't know how much it would've coasted them if they went to a studio .. THEY DO KNOW,
When you master the art of asking for money, please PM me and give me the trick, as I am very shy when it comes to asking for money my self :)
Easy to give advices than applying it.
Btw, very nice shots, don't get discouraged by some of the negative '' You should've *&(^(*&^(*&() ''.
Keep up the good work, add this experience to your back .. don't look back to your loss .. and all the best,
12/16/2008 04:02:36 PM · #21
Originally posted by candlerain:

I wich people would stop going around the pot and give $ amounts (like ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' dassilem). The basic question was "what to charge"? I would love to hear what other people's going rate is...


You've got cost of materials sold. Average for full service studios is 20-22% of sales. I've been in business going on 5 years and this is a good number.
You need advertising (biz cards, website, etc). The big name studio's say you should spend 10-15% of your sales on advertising. I spend about half that.
You have overhead - your camera, desk, photoshop - stuff you need to do any work. And it needs upgraded, repaired, etc. YOu need envelopes, pens, electricity too. Overhead can be small or large. From a home based biz i'm averaging $15,000 a year. The more you shoot the less you need to take from each shoot to pay the overhead.
And then what's left is your profit - your paycheck. From that you must pay taxes, health care, etc.

So 30-40% comes off the top for prints and to get more business. Another 15-20% is for overhead, more if you have rent or make only $20 grand a year in sales.

So how much to charge? If you figure maybe 30% of the sale price is yours to keep and you want $40,000 a year, there are 2000 hours in a year, you need $20 an hour. Triple that since your pay is about 1/3 the sales price and you have an hourly rate. $60. That is a COST amount. You want to grow your business, hire help, etc then you need profit above and beyond your paycheck to do it.
12/16/2008 04:10:00 PM · #22
Originally posted by EL-GHOOL:


When you master the art of asking for money, please PM me and give me the trick, as I am very shy when it comes to asking for money my self :)
Easy to give advices than applying it.


I agree- easier to give advice, or even hear it, then it is to follow it. Fear is the main reason you (or anyone) won't ask for more money. Fear of rejection. What if they won't pay it? Does that mean they don't love me anymore? I mean, does that mean my work is worthless, I am worthless? Of course not.

Hey, it's easy for me to say 'Go ahead and ask $39 for an 8x10'. I now do it and you know what? They pay it and don't complain!

No one is going to value your work more than you do.
No on is going to pay you more than you ask.
Not everyone is going to pay what you ask, even if you only ask $1.
More people like Duncan Donuts coffee than Starbucks, but it costs more to buy Starbucks coffee than Duncan Donuts. Proof that while more money generally gets a better product it's not always the case.
12/16/2008 04:56:06 PM · #23
Just a heads up to people who are saying that the "should haves" and all that are a waste...thats nuts. If someone notices you forming a bad habit, would you prefer them to say something about it, or just ignore it? This guy was circumventing a basic basic principle of good business practice. Who cares how much he is going to charge if he has already given the service and disc away for free? Maybe im just being a negative nancy or something, but bad business practices are a hard thing to break once they set in.
12/16/2008 05:54:29 PM · #24


Instead of replying to individual replies (as there are a lot), I'll send out a collective thank you to all that have taken some time to offer some advice.

Originally posted by ajdelaware:

Just a heads up to people who are saying that the "should haves" and all that are a waste...thats nuts. If someone notices you forming a bad habit, would you prefer them to say something about it, or just ignore it? This guy was circumventing a basic basic principle of good business practice. Who cares how much he is going to charge if he has already given the service and disc away for free? Maybe im just being a negative nancy or something, but bad business practices are a hard thing to break once they set in.


Agreed. In my defense, though: I don't consider that I am in any way forming a bad habit, and neither was I circumventing this basic priciple many have mentioned. There is no way that I could have come up with a price beforehand not having the knowledge of what I could deliver - these were "strangers" who came over to my place to get some shots done and although I do not doubt my photographic abilities, I could not state definitely that I would be able to do a good job. In no way do I regret the path taken here - but this does not mean that I will do it the same way next time. Also, the more comments I'm getting here, the more I'm considering asking for the CD back (don't forget, this is a friendly deal here.. no one is out to screw anyone over).

For the one other paid photo stint that I did a couple of weeks ago, the price was set beforehand and all went smooth. From here on in, I will definitely be setting a price - but I will be doing so keeping in mind the price that I settle on with this person, and of course also taking into account the prices that various people have put up here in this thread.

No matter what, I come out on top with knowledge, experience, and hopefully some extra money in my pocket (with which I will not be dissapointed with no matter what the amount).

12/16/2008 06:30:11 PM · #25
I would do and have done the same thing you have in this case. I think that if you are honest with these people and explain to them how much your work and time would cost had they gone to a "pro" and give them a price that you are happy with then there shouldn't be a problem. The more experience you gain the better equipped you will be to charge accordingly. I don't see a problem charging less to attract customers and then increase your rates gradually as you gain more experience. Its a tough market and all successful companies have to start somewhere and usually they start low to attract clients and gain trust, then introduce new features and products. People will then have no problem in paying what you request because they know what they are getting.

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