Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To Pay or Not to Pay.

We've had a client that I've worked with, for about a year now, producing business cards, some fliers, banners, etc., and they've really enjoyed our work. When we worked with them last, I really took the time to streamline their look and their brand and from what I could tell at the time they appreciated that. We've also hosted some business events together and become friends, this is really great because people usually want to do business with their friends.

Recently, this particular company was in the market for some corporate portraits, but they wanted a bit more than just your average two umbrella, one-hair-light set-up. This is great because I get excited about creating some new and fresh looks for the clients' needs, to fulfill the pleasure I get in assisting them, and most importantly that I get to create useful commercial art. They thought I charged too much so because I haven't had a blog in a while so I thought I'd clear the air and educate people, new and potential clients, and some of our existing clients as well.

It seems that a key thought, that is missing sometimes, from the layman or common business owner is, what you are asking from us as commercial photographers/designers, has both an art value and also a commercial value. The thing to remember most, is that, you're using these images/designs that we create for you, to make money yourselves. So that product, however intangible as the electronic world may make it seem, is worth something.

And it is our job as professionals to educate the client on how our business works. Also, we are business owners ourselves, and at some levels carry all of the responsibilities of a business, i.e., taxes, insurance, expenses, etc. Even if we come out and do a photoshoot with no lights and an expensive camera, it counts, and it has to be billed appropriately. Over the last few years, I've learned to have a set price for the common things people DO ask for. And we don't do a ton of portraits, in fact they're not even on my website unless people ask. However I do have a price for them just in case they do. Is that price negotiable? Of course, but we do have to have a base to start from.

For example, for shooting portraits we usually start here:
$270 - For a single
$420 - For 2-3 people in a single frame
$600 - For 4-6 people in a single frame, such as a small family or group.

We can bring a studio set-up to your office, home, or a place such as a park or even the beach or a mountain. (One of the many comforts of living in SoCal.) If you're a business, with that price, you get the usage of the image for 5 years on the website of your choice, some 4x6" prints of the 4-6 pictures you choose out of the total shoot, retouching for those chosen, and a larger print such as an 8x10 or and 11x17 if you'd like. I'm easy. Heck if you want an extra print just ask me and I'll give it to you, compliments of Photon Concepts.

What we can't do is, hand over a high-res digital file unless it is paid for, for an agreed upon price. Handing over a digital file, whether its a portrait, product, landscape, etc., is digital business suicide for the future. By doing this as photographers, we are essentially handing over a copyright to that image, something that should be near and dear to the vitality of profit for your business. Copyrights can run 5 times the cost of the production of that photo.

Going to a set location in a department store and getting a photo for $40 can NEVER be compared to an individual that chooses your location, has you bringing in the lights and proper equipment, hiring an assistant if needed, using a very high-end DLSR or medium format camera, and then having you take them back for an edit and hours of potential retouching.

We cannot perform all of the above tasks for the same price as a Sears portrait and remain profitable. Where Sears, school photos, and the other department store photographs do have their purpose, (I have a TON from my childhood like most people) as a commercial photographer we can't compete with them. To be frank, we don't want to either. If a simple portrait with a nice painted backdrop is what you need, then that's what you need. Those establishments will work perfect for you. However, if you want a photograph where your personality comes through in the image, or represents a persona for your business, or you want the photos done in a place of your choosing, and you want that custom service of professional photography to come through in an image, then I'm here for you.

My end thought for commercial clients, businesses, and people that want custom pro photography, please respect us as photographers and designers and pay these individuals for our respective fields. You would expect nothing less from us. We are no longer doing this as a hobby, but as an occupation. One that is absolutely fulfilling everyday, but a job nonetheless.

What's incredibly important for photographers to know is that, if this is your hobby and you want to make a few extra bucks then by all means do it. Photography can be tons of fun and incredibly rewarding. However for those, that this "gig" is your full time job, then charge what you think you are worth for your services. Its taken you a long, long time to get here, you deserve it.