Another commercial pricing question...


TPF Noob!
Apr 8, 2007
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Norfolk, VA.
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Okay... I'm getting to be a regular here and I feel pretty comfortable asking this question. I'll start by saying that the letter you will read was written to a local photographer in my area that is very highly respected in advertising work all over the east coast. He and I have exchanged some emails and phone conversations but he is still very much an unknowing mentor to me. We are getting together for lunch soon and he's open the door for me to tag along on a shoot sometime, but we haven't been able to work out a schedule yet. I have put this out there for him mainly because of this, our shared, economic market. Plus, he (as you all) know what he's talking about.

Check this out and please let me know what you all think about this situation. For the sake of argument; I have lowered my pricing scale for this because of the nature of the association. Without getting overly political or religious here, I fully back this organization and I have wanted to be a part of this type of work for a long time.

Email copy:


I have a question dealing with a commercial contract and I know that you can help me wrap my brain around it.

The short story is I have been hired by an association that helps churches in outreach situations (basically advertising) and they have hired me to shoot portraits of staff, exteriors and photojournalistic coverage of the “day in the life” of the churches involved (around 15 local churches). I don’t have any technical issues and frankly, I am comfortable with my contract with the association. I’m paid per hour plus materials – which is fine. I give them unlimited copyright usage of all the photographs in a simple contract (I still retain ownership).

My issue is; I have agreed with the association that I can sell the same prints I have shot for them to the individual churches as well. As a give away item to the churches, I, well we, through the association, are going to give digital negatives of the pastor, 2 other staff members and 3 exterior images for the churches to use in anyway they want to for one calendar year (again, shared, limited copyright). But how would you sell the churches the other prints if they wanted them? I am thinking perhaps 100 digital images for use for one year for $500.00. Am I way high, way low or what? I really don’t need to horde these images, plus through releases I am having signed, I can do whatever I want to with them anyway. Why not offer them up to the members? Plus this is a great marketing tool for my portraiture work.

This is all pretty new ground for me and it’s the start of a continuing contract that will be ongoing for years (possibly indefinitely, since they want regularly updated images). I realize that our pricing (because of your awesome career achievements) is probably worlds apart but for the sake of evaluation, I am limited to 10 hours a month [$750.00 + Materials] primarily because of the budget of the group, they are a non-profit.

I just don’t want to get started on the wrong foot. I think I am comfortable with those terms but I would cherish your advice.

Thank you for your time.


Responses are welcomed... what do you think about the pricing?

"Well David, I personally think you are an outstanding businessman... blah, blah,blah."

<I thought this would get at least one response (everybody's probably voting for or against max).>
Looks good at first glance. I have to clean up the kitchen...just cooked brunch...but I'll get back to you if you're interested. Just wanted to let you know, you're not forgotten.
i think the letter sounds good.

as for the pricing im not really up on this sort of stuff.

i do weddigs and portraits and i charge way below some of the guys on here, but i dont really do it for the money i do it cause i love it .

sorry i cant be of more help.
500/yr doesn't seem unfair, though I wonder how much use they'll have for all 100 of the photos in the long-term. Perhaps they'll want you to shoot more in the future, or perhaps not if they're getting 100 shots. That's a lot of images. Charge $500 flat for one year. Give the church a DVD with the 100 images and give them blanket license to do what they like except print for distribution to members. Sell individual prints to church members over the course of the year. Give the church an option to buy individual digital negs from you at the end of the year and do whatever they like with them. I think that a $500/yr recurring license is bad for business in the long term, because so long as you're charging for those shots, their costs will multiply every time you shoot additional photos in years to come.

Hope that makes sense.
quick reply time:

I was really basing my decision on the work that I do for my church. I have been their photographer for a few years and during the course of the year, I take hundreds of shots. It's more or less an in-house stock photo photo database using images of their members, architecture, randoms (like basic imaging of boxes of markers and chalk in the recourse rooms, rows of pews, quieted instruments etc - stock photos).

They use my images for everything from web sites to handouts to cd covers. All of which, I provide restriction free. I just thought I'd use them as a model for my other new obligations.

These 100 digital negs are all of the same type of images I mentioned above. They might use say 5 of my shots to promote an upcoming children's event one month and say 2 of the stock shots for a mass mailer to promote another thing. The $500.00 was more or less a cd of their personal stock images.

Breaking new ground here. I still have to make up a photo packet and bio for them. (Here's where I was better at graphic arts - but that's another headache for me later!)

just read your second line again Max: Yes... the whole point is for me to reshoot all of these churches every year or two and the entire process starts all over again! (this is a really good contract!)
<I thought I'd get away with a quick response... sorry, I should have taken the time!>

The purpose for me reshooting so often is because of the hope that the church growth will warrant this. The reason the NABA is pushing this forward is that they feel that the churches are stuck in the last generation in the way they promote outreach. They hope to modernize the way people see churches in the organization and growth will be (for lack of a better term) marketable.

Quick example that I was given. One group started a small summer program on the boardwalk of Virginia Beach. The first service they had 16 people attend. The last day (3 month deal) they had 80. Those growth examples weren't [photographically] documented and they have missed the chance to "market" that.

That's where I come in. New, young (which makes me laugh, being that I'm 38) visual artist reworking the entire organization. Starting with the NABA itself.
and one more thing lol:

I am looking into opening up a smugmug account this quarter for the purposes of selling individuals to the members themselves. Hopefully this will break open some portrait work (which I probably should do more of).

okay... I'm done for awhile, maybe... =o)
Hi David,

If I'm reading this right, you have been doing this work pretty much for free in the past.
I think it's wonderful that you will be charging, and yes, it is perfectly ethical to sell direct as well. I do it with weddings. The b and g get the discs, and then I sell a bunch to the guests. It's done all the time. And no, your pricing isn't at all outrageous. After all, you have a large investment in your gear, it's upkeep, and your time.....not to mention the office supplies needed to burn the discs.

I will warn you though, that I have another photographer friend here in Texas that did the same exact thing. I believe she actually ended up leaving her church over the situation, as the church became very angry that she was now charging them. Basically, a lot of harsh words were said, and doors that had been open to her in the past, were slammed in her face.
Hopefully the churches you are working with have a little more humane reaction.

So basically, to diffuse any possible hard feelings, I'd tell them that you enjoy the work, but you have said mentioned investments that must be taken care of. People are usually pretty understanding with you hit them with simple logic.

PS-Let me know if I've misunderstood the OP, or haven't answered the question completely. I just woke up, and only have one cup of coffee down me. :)
well... you read it more or less correctly.

My church hired me a few years back to take over some graphic work (powerpoint basically) and training, scheduling and some more things that I already did for free (I am a very active member there. Soloist, set builder, graphics, drama director/playwright etc. plus I have been shooting there for many, many years. People are use to me). They paid me for these services and that included the random photography things that I used for practicing my "art" since I was going to be there anyway. I stopped this service for them in September, btw. They now hire me on a per event basis, which I am okay with.

Fast forward to last November. I dropped off my kids at an event that happened to have a concert associated with it and I thought (since I had my camera anyway), get some practice shots in. That's where I made this contact with vidographer that was tied into the NABA, which has contracted me for this work. Business cards were exchanged and I was hired. It ended up that the guy that hired me (the chairman of the company) has a daughter that was involved in a theater company that I work for for 5 years. (Small world). He actually checked out my blog and hired me straight from there along with my reputation at my church. Neat!

This is totally outside of my churches involvement altogether. Just a co-ink-i-dink! I actually thought it was funny today, I rode by the office and told some of the staff I needed to shoot them next week for the NABA. The gave me the standard "...huh?" responses.

Follow-up: I received an email from my mentor Keith and he gave me his take:

I just had a chance to look this over, and let me think about it. Charging by the hour is not the way higher levels of photography is sold. The traditional method was by the day (10 hours), but that's now a rough starting point and usage is primary consideration. Working with non profits is hard way to make money, but sometimes the work opportunity is worth the money. My problem with them is they all get their salaries, they pay full price for their other services, like Fed-X, but expect you to work nearly free. Not good business, but perhaps you can get additional returns from the opportunity.

My work load is a mess, and I've got to leave for a shoot in Brazil in a week, but I'll try and get you some considerations on the resale.

btw, do the math on 100 images (if you have 100 good ones) divided into $500.00-not good. Just for starters, I think you should consider your 10 best for $300, but I'll give it some more thought.


So... we'll see. But I do like the 10 images idea, but honestly, he and I are worlds apart in overhead and portfolio. I think I'm gonna offer more prints. Maybe 20 for $300.

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