What should I charge?

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by epc, Mar 28, 2010.

  1. epc

    epc TPF Noob!

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    To be honest, I'm quite new to the photography world. I have always done a lot of work with nature as a hobby, and never thought I would end up taking "real" photos of people. However, a friend asked me to take a few photos of her as senior portraits. The going rate around here was way too far out of her price range, and she wasn't looking for anything perfect; just something to get a few wallets of to hand out to friends and family.

    The results were far from perfect, but she was happy with them, and I have now gotten calls from people who saw her photos and would like me to do their senior portraits this fall. I enjoyed taking "people pictures" for once, and I'd like to get more experience. I know the only way to get better is to keep taking pictures and getting feedback, but I'm having trouble with the issue of how much to charge. I know I have a lot of work to do to improve, and I just can't find that "magic number."

    I've looked around online, and seen a lot of different perspectives -- some people say to charge what the pros charge, because if you don't, you'll be too competitive and ruin the market in your area, but I think that's far too high. Others say to charge nothing, and while I know that I'm an amateur, I think my time and photos are at least worth something.

    I don't have expensive or flashy equipment yet, but that's something I'd work on changing if I really found myself enjoying this and wanted to continue with it.

    Can you tell me how you made pricing decisions when you got started? What would you recommend for someone in my position?

    I know I should probably give examples, but I'm not quite sure what criteria to go by when choosing them, so here are the images she chose to get wallets of. They vary quite a bit in style and the amount of editing done, but they were the ones that appealed to her the most.

    1. http://i42.tinypic.com/xlif0m.jpg
    2. http://i40.tinypic.com/10qgi35.jpg
    3. http://i44.tinypic.com/nn1y4g.jpg
    4. http://i43.tinypic.com/n6wepk.jpg
    5. http://i40.tinypic.com/abnjon.jpg
    6. http://i42.tinypic.com/34nfims.jpg
    7. http://i39.tinypic.com/30mrb01.jpg
    8. http://i40.tinypic.com/1zv4y1t.jpg


    Thanks for your time, and sorry about the length. :)
     
  2. IgsEMT

    IgsEMT No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Things to consider:

    Experience, skill, expertise, processing time (2hrsof PP:1hr shooting), expenses, cost.

    Your Images:
    Hate to be blunt, but they are snapshots and not something that should be charged for. B/n lighting, composition, poses and lack of emphasis of girly features, I wouldn't pay a penny for them.
    I looked at them and chose this one as a general image to give you feedback on http://i40.tinypic.com/1zv4y1t.jpg
    Framed a bit tight and doesn't go with Rule of 2/3 (not a terrible thing but still something to consider). Too tight of an image, if Mom would want a 8x10 print she wouldn't have it, you cut her head off as well.
    Image is VERY soft, overexposed and split lighting on the face doesn't add to her glamor. Shoulders facing straight at the camera add extra weight to her thus AGAIN takes from the girls beauty. The left leg looks HUGE and yet again takes away from the girl.
    The moment you accept payment, you promise certain quality which unfortunately other then cute girl your images do not show.

    The good news is that you can only improve :). So, do not charge for this assignment and use it as a learning experience.\

    Just so you don't think I'm picking on you, here are quick specific observations:
    http://i40.tinypic.com/abnjon.jpg
    Camera angle + her chest make her look fat
    http://i42.tinypic.com/34nfims.jpg
    again she isn;t fat but your camera angle says otherwise
     
  3. epc

    epc TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the input!

    As I said, I know I have a lot of work to do -- but the only way to get there is to keep getting experience. I've taken film photo classes, but they focused more on developing and creative tactics. I signed up for a class that will work more on things like composition, lighting, etc., but it doesn't start for another month.

    Would you say I should I just charge at the cost of the prints? I've always used MPIX for prints if that makes any difference.


    Edit: Actually, she ordered larger prints of those last two, as well as two others. Maybe she's one of the rare women not cursed with self-consciousness. If only we could all be that lucky. :lol:
     
  4. IgsEMT

    IgsEMT No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    cost, at your level, YES.
    read these
    Portrait Lighting
    http://jzportraits.home.att.net/
    classical approach but if you master it - you'll rock things
     
  5. mwcfarms

    mwcfarms No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Some photographers that are new and are just getting the experience charge a flat fee for the negatives and prints rather than there time, to build their portfolio and expertise. Find a friend this summer to be your model and shoot like crazy. Take your class and in the fall maybe try just charging a very small fee for the prints and explain that your not ready to accepment payment because your still amateur. Admitting that your not great at something is a good thing because this way you can never get caught with your proverbial pants down. :sexywink:
     
  6. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Many new photographers charge what they think they would be willing to pay.

    It boils down to the target market you want as your clients.

    You have already discovered the best type of advertising for this type of photography (retail photography), word-of-mouth (WOM).

    WOM also conveys your pricing.

    When you discover that you are probably actually paying your clients to photograph them, you will want to raise your prices.

    But, WOM has already broadcast your current prices and people will want to know why they have to pay more than the senior who told them about you.

    The point is: It's difficult to raise your prices.

    But, it's easy to offer short term discounts or to have a time limited introductory offer.

    You need to stop looking at your pricing from the perspective of a consumer, and look at your pricing from the perspective of a business owner, a very different outlook.
     
  7. epc

    epc TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the response, KmH!

    So, where does that leave me right now? I can't very well charge much, but if I do improve, I want to be able to make at least something. At this point I don't mind losing money because it's going toward experience, but if I get more experience, that will probably change.
     
  8. scorpion_tyr

    scorpion_tyr No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Duplicate post
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2010
  9. scorpion_tyr

    scorpion_tyr No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Charge them whatever they are willing to pay. If you feel like it's too much, give them more time, shots, etc for their money.

    I don't agree at all with people who say you shouldn't charge for these. While they may not be the best, it's a lot better than your average joe can do, therefore it's a service that can't be provided by just anyone, so you should at least charge them enough to cover the cost of batteries, discs, prints, etc.
     
  10. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Frankly, it leaves you with needing business and marketing training.

    95% of all new photography businesses never make it to their second anniversary.

    Not because the photography business owner sucked at doing photographer, but because the photography business owner sucked at doing business.

    If you don't study business matters you will find it very difficult to maintain a photography business, even just a part-time business.

    There are many women out there that have a photography business but never actually make a profit. They support their 'business' with a day job or with hubby's day job. Many get a rude awakening when the IRS wants them to pay back taxes because they have never actually made a profit and don't really have a business.

    They way you determine your pricing is by adding up all your non-reimbursed business expenses for a month, including the wage you want to make. That's called your Cost-Of-Doing-Business (CODB). Add in your Cost-Of-Goods-Sold (COGS) and you have a starting point.

    You then divide that by the number of days you shoot. That tells you how much money you must make from each shoot to pay the business expenses and continue to pay your living expenses too.

    If you cover your living expenses with a day job, anything over your CODB/COGS is business profit.
     
  11. epc

    epc TPF Noob!

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    Thanks. For this girl, I of course didn't charge her anything for taking the pictures -- We weren't really sure how well it would turn out, and it wasn't a cut and dry "spend exactly one hour taking pictures" sort of day or anything of that sort. We more or less went on a long walk through a scenic area, stopped for lunch, and took pictures along the way. I'd do it again just for fun in a heartbeat.

    In the end, she paid me $40. That included 4 8x10s, 12 4x6s, 60 3x4s (she wanted something larger than wallets, but I don't know what she ever used them for), and originally, 80 wallets. That came to about $25, and then two days after everything arrived, she had me order 80 more wallets. Oh, and a disc of all the images. In the end, I came out more or less even when you take into consideration the disc and the batteries.
     
  12. epc

    epc TPF Noob!

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    KmH, thanks again. I do understand that side of business; I've taken business classes and my family runs a business, but we've never covered anything like this, when it comes down to starting out without any experience. As much as I would like to be, I'm not a good photographer yet. I can't charge what all the local pros charge, and I don't consider it a business. Maybe after I have more experience and more training, but until then, I'm an amateur. If I try to charge the same rate as even a cheap local pro would, I will end up with no interested "clients" and no way to gain further experience short of lowering my rates.
     

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