Portfolio Building- To Charge or Not To Charge?

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by g-fi, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. g-fi

    g-fi TPF Noob!

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    I've been building my portfolio for about a year now, and have gotten as far as I can with family/close friends. I've probably got hundreds of great photos of them, but I'd like to focus on newborn/maternity and probably family portraiture in the long run, so I need a bit more range in my portfolio before I start actively seeking that sort of client.

    My original intention is to place ads in my local area (community bulletin boards/rec center/craigslist, etc.) for newborn, maternity and family models for half hour $25 sessions and offer one 8x10 sheet and a CD with 5 high res photos. I am confident that I can get enough images in a half hour for that price, and even more importantly, for my portfolio. I'd like to build a network of clients that I've already worked with, and frankly, I'd like to not do it for free, even if the price I charge is insignificant.

    I figure if I'm going to be doing all the work anyway, charging a small amount for it is preferable than doing it for nothing. I'm currently self employed, so the logistics of paying taxes/business license/etc. is not a consideration.

    Do you/did you charge for portfolio building sessions? Faux pas?
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I think you are of sound mind by not wanting to do it for free. Further to that, I think it might even be a mistake to do it too cheaply. You are building your reputation as well as your portfolio, and you don't want to be known as 'the cheap photographer'.

    Now of course, it might be necessary to have a lower price point to bring in clients but I'd suggest that you find some way to give the perception that you aren't cheap while still offering a great deal. Maybe you offer '50% Off' coupons or something along those lines.
     
  3. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree with Mike; I would suggest doing some intelligence gathering and finding out what established studios in your area are charging, and then adjust your price accordingly based on the product you'll provide.
     
  4. g-fi

    g-fi TPF Noob!

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    For the size of the town I'm in, there is a glut of photographers, who work in the $100-250 session fee bracket and a few studios that are significantly more. I'm not one of those photographers (I hope!) that will go dirt cheap just to undercut the competition, but I'd like to stay competitive. When I start taking clients, I'd like to be in the middle of the bracket because there are really no newborn/maternity focused photographers.

    I really really like the idea of the 50% off coupon. I like that it suggests that my normal prices are in the range of where I want to be when I am done portfolio building, so I'm not "raising" my prices if portfolio clients come back for repeat business. Thanks for the suggestion!!
     
  5. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    I'll assume we are talking studio sessions rather than location sessions. Sitting fee's for location sessions would be a fair bit higher.

    I wouldn't worry on not having portfolio images of the new direction you want to take your photography business. I would just use the portfolio images you have to demonstrate your technical and artistic abilities.

    I would charge your full sitting fee and only include the one 8x10 (call it a $XX value) as an up front incentive plus an introductory 20% discount on any prints or digital files purchased within a limited time frame (like 3-5 days) after presentation of proofs. Don't give them forever to decide or they will take forever to decide. You need to get them to order while they are still excited about the images.

    I would not be giving high resolution images on disc without some serious compensation, equivelent to large wall prints (like $100 per image) which is what they could get printed. 20-25 edited images with resolution for 5x7 printing go for a mid-range price of $500 a disc around here (central rural Iowa). So 5 hi-rez files would be at least $100 ($25ea.) and more like $500 around here.

    When you are deciding what to charge for your images remember that the cost of the photopaper and ink is neglegable and that is all a photo finishing store sells, a piece of paper and a bit of ink. They don't have the images you have made to sell. You are the exclusive seller of your images. That's part of why they are so valuable.

    Besides, it is easier to lower your prices than it is to raise them.

    Start high.

    If less than 1/3 of your clients are complaining your prices are to high, they are not high enough.

    Any way, theirs some of my thoughts and good luck with your new venture. :thumbup:

    Last thought........A signed contract and model releases prior to a shoot are essential.
     
  6. DSPhotography

    DSPhotography TPF Noob!

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    I've got a lot of friends that volunteer to do shoots with me to build up a portfolio, and most of them will offer to pay for the film/processing if THEY requested the shoot.. but I've always been in the mindset that if I'm the one asking them to model for me, that I should compensate them for their time (again, all friends and usually lunch is "payment" enough). Am I in the wrong on this? I mean they are good friends of mine.. I'd feel weird charging them.
     
  7. jess28

    jess28 TPF Noob!

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    I did not charge for portfolio building sessions, but I do charge for prints from them. They have no obligation to order, but I don't do cd's of images. At all. After reading on here I decided to make a hard and fast rule about that and stick with it. This way they are not obligated to spend any money, but have the option to do so if they are inclined.
     

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