Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

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I am just starting out in photography. Have done a couple of shoots for friends and wedding for a friend. Pictures came out well.

I got noticed and their friends are approaching me for a shoot. As I'm not a professional yet I can't demand anything. But they are insisting on paying me.

What do I do???

Would it be ok to say "If you like my pictures, pay me how much ever you like. It will be my reward"?

Please help.

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I'm a bit confused because you mentioned weddings but not in a real clear way - are you asking for prices to do wedding pictures or just some informal portraits or..? –  rfusca Jul 9 '11 at 2:56
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7 Answers 7

Just for reference, I am just starting out too. I asked around and three friends found me three small budget weddings for me to shoot. I didnt want the pressure of fulfilling a large price tag given the fact that I am so new. My first wedding is in two weeks and regardless of the size I am somewhat nervous. The brides budget (second wedding for both) was $200. I took the money but am also giving her $200 in print credit (my cost will be about $30). I will be spending about 6 hours that day and even more time processing but I am not looking to make money yet. Good thing, huh? So take some money and use it to invest in your equipment and your business in general.

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To learn about pricing structure in photography - commercial, portrait, or wedding - I suggest that you go to the source and pick yourself a book like "Focus on Profit"

Once you start charging for your work, you will want to learn about licensing and usage. Just as much as you don't want to rip people off, you especially don't want them to take advantage of you. It is easy for a client, who doesn't know the photography market, to flatter the photographer by wanting their photos and pay much less than market price.

Remember, when you charge for photos your client isn't just paying for the photo. They are paying for a skilled individual with problem-solving skills that will deliver what the client wants, on time and within budget. You are as much as visual consultant as a photographer, and the more options you give your client, and the greater confidence you build in them for your work and approach, the more you can charge.

In short, there is no one answer to the question 'how much should I charge?'. If there were, there would also be a single answer to the question 'How much is a picture worth?'.

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One other option is to get 'paid in kind'. In this case, what is a shoot worth to you in regards to time and effort? What if you traded your time and effort for say, a new lens, or camera body, or software? This is often win-win for folks, especially if they are taking a bit of risk in hiring someone unknown.

So, tell them you are just getting started, and building out your kit. Offer a full day wedding for say a Canon 60D body. Maybe a set of prints for cost plus Lightroom. You get the idea.

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Take a look at local wedding photogs websites and check out their base rate, how many hours included and whether there are assistants and then scale down (or up!) to the time and resources you spent. Also from another angle, assign an hourly wage you are comfortable with and then see if it matches the estimate.

At the minimum, factor in the time you spent or will be spending in post processing- and include all the shots on a DVD as well as a good representative set of prints in a small album. If they want extras or big prints of random things then feel free to charge them but at this point you need to balance the impression you give- don't shortchange yourself and give too many freebies and on the other hand don't just give them a DVD and start naming prices for everything.

Don't worry if you can't buy new camera equipment right away. You can always rent bodies and lenses online with for example lensrentals.com or even locally and then include this in your clients invoice.

As you visit new venues you will discover that lighting is key making a shot. Some churches do not allow flash but the majority of other interior or outdoor locations will require one or more strobes- especially the posed shots. For reportage style during a reception or dance etc, it will be wise to experiment with strobist techniques involving smaller hot shoe flashes and wireless triggers- or even holding the flash with your left hand and camera with right to give more flexible and exciting lighting angles during those fast tight closeups.

Lighting equipment is harder to rent either piecewise or kit based because it depends on the style you develop and the venue at hand- plus having assistants later on with the lighting is a must. The accessories such as wireless triggers and umbrellas, softboxes and stands are even harder to rent so building up a lighting kit that you are comfortable with and can grow with is important at this stage.

I myself am more of a reportage style shooter but I always bring two flashes, some umbrellas and wireless strobes at a minimum because they will always be used if only for fill against the sun.

There is a great FAQ at Fredmiranda wedding forum for those starting out, here is an except with regards to price:

What do I charge for a wedding?

This all depends on how long you've shot, what products you deliver, and what market or demographic you are trying to capture. The low end bride will want 4 hours - all day coverage and a DVD of everything for 500.00 bucks. On the other hand many photographers don't even show up until a 3-5,000 dollar fee is paid upfront and THEN albums prices apply. This is a topic that is hotly debated and will continue to be for years and years to come.

My experience in my short time in this business, is to cover you costs and equipment/insurance. Whatever that actually price point may be, many start with 2 1/2 times cost and work up from there. Your mileage may vary. =o)

source: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/609963

If you browse the wedding forum for awhile you will probably notice the business and backend of wedding photos is a big subject and there will be discussions on insurance, websites, client relations. As you move forward you will probably find the discussion there more and more relevant.

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Some people might call me greedy but if they insist on paying you, then yes you should take whatever they offer you! It will allow you to improve your gear and provide a better service in the future, either as a professional or to other friends.

I have no experience or idea of how much a shoot would cost, but I'd suggest the simplest thing to do would be just to accept whatever payment they suggest (be it monetary, food based or otherwise). If you start to suggest a particular price you'll inevitable alienate people. I'd also suggest that you only take payment after they've seen the photos/decided to get prints. You say your shoots so far turned out well, but you're probably not experienced enough to be sure that it will always work out!

Another thing to bear in mind would be a basic contract, to ensure you know who owns the photos, whether you can use them (say in a portfolio if you go professional later on), hopefully some other posters can help you in that area.

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+1 for baic contract. it just saves so much trouble later on. –  AJ Finch Jul 8 '11 at 13:44
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This was one of my first questions starting, so I asked a professional:

How do you know what to charge?

He answered: By asking too much.

You can try this but since you are doing this for friends, you may try a different approach:

  • Either a per-day fee (say $500) and give them all that turns out good.
  • Or better, I think, you shoot and give them everything. Tell them to count the photos they like and to pay per photo, say $25-50. That will be very attractive because they only pay for what they like and each additional item is a small increment from the next.
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+1 for the price per photo they like. –  Simon A. Eugster Jul 8 '11 at 13:24
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That's a unique idea charging per photo. I've heard of photographers charging a flat fee per outfit too for portrait sessions. –  Jon Jul 8 '11 at 14:52
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If you're truly uncomfortable taking money outright or what they'll think of your photos, consider doing what many freelancers do: request some money up front, and then request the remainder after they have seen your photos. From what it sounds like, they are very interested in compensating you for the work and service you're providing them, so don't be shy to take money.

Check online and ask around to see what other photographers are charging for similar jobs and shoots, and then subtract whatever amount you deem appropriate to reflect your "newness" to photography. I'm a freelance graphic designer, and I still charge very competitively because I have always done graphic work as a hobby and have no formal training. I charge $75/hour for most of the work that I do which is pretty low for graphic design. I've created websites for people that I only charged $1,500 for that would normally cost $5-10K.

So anyway. Definitely charge, but start out small. I've found that not only is my competitive pricing enough money for me now (I'm still in school), but it also gets me more clients and more experience.

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Damn! I charge too little too then ;) –  Itai Jul 8 '11 at 12:53
    
+1 for getting more clients + experience - pretty crucial when starting out, and it will pay off in the long run. –  elwyn Jul 9 '11 at 5:50
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I highly suggest not subtracting from your fee because of your "newness". If someone looks at your portfolio and says "I would pay you $XXX for this shoot", then you are priced correctly for the market. Why would you subtract? Are your expenses less than a seasoned pro? Do you want to stay in business or not? Charging less is exactly what causes many new photographers to enter the market, burn out at the lower rate, then quit before ever finding that rate that is sustainable. If you later try to increase prices significantly, good luck keeping your customers! –  dpollitt Dec 12 '13 at 3:10
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