That was the question I got a few months ago as I was getting out of my van to go shoot the sunset. I have lettering installed on my vehicle. It’s a very inexpensive way to promote one’s business. I ordered car magnets from www.vistaprint.com and cool lettering from these guys: http://doityourselflettering.com.
But I digress….I did not answer right away as I had to think. The question was very general, especially when it comes to photography services. The fact I do not price all my assignments by the hour made it even more difficult to give an answer. The guy asking the question wanted photographs of his Kawasaki motorcycle. I told him: ‘Yes, I can do that’ as I handed him my very expensive looking business card. I did not try to get more information as far as how many photos he wanted and if prints were even a consideration. I was in a hurry to go get the sunset.
I thought about that brief encounter for a while. I never heard back from that man. Here is what I learned:
1. Confidence is just as important when talking about pricing as when describing one’s artistic and technical abilities. The guy was quite stunned I did not answer right away that he asked me if I spoke English! I’m not kidding. He may have taken my pause as lack of confidence. As I was caught off guard, I may have come across like an amateur that had no clue how to price his time and talent.
2. Was it worth it to hurry and get the sunset when I could have spent more time answering the man and possibly get an assignment? The photo I got that day came out very nice, it was cloudy (which is very rare in Phoenix), the colors in the sky are vibrant and unique, never seen them like that before. There is no question in my mind the licensing and print sales from that shot can easily surpass the amount of money I could have made on the motorcycle assignment. If I would have missed the sunset, I could have still miss getting that job. At least I got one out of two, the better one I believe.
So why am I even blogging about this? The answer is simple: most of us photographers struggle with the concept of pricing and its application. So I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents on the matter.
The bottom line is when one is in business it is to make money. Here is a simple calculation based on the following question: how much money do you want to pay yourself per hour rendering photography services? Let’s say the answer is $40/hour. That would be net by the way, after you pay taxes and deduct expenses to run your business. Now, let’s say you meet the same guy I met and he wants you to photograph his motorcycle. Let’s say it takes 30 minutes to drive back and forth to the job, 90 minutes to shoot the bike (yup, art takes time) and 120 minutes in post processing. So we’re talking 4 hours of your time. Let’s say your tax rate on your business income is 30%, you don’t own a studio and the only expenses to do a job are gas, vehicle and equipment wear. If you want to clear $40/hour in your pocket, then you need to charge at least $60/ hour. In this case, the price to do the assignment would be $240. Of course, sales tax applies.
A client looking at this price can say: This guy is nuts! Frankly, I don’t mind taking the time to break down and explain my pricing, but in the end I do not care if someone thinks my services are too expensive. We all have a finite amount of time, energy and resources. Rather than take low paying assignments and deal with people that only care about price, my preference is to go create art. This betters me as an artist, raises my confidence level and increases my portfolio of images. Some may think they can make more money if they offer rock bottom prices and compensate with a high volume of assignments. This is a loosing proposition in my opinion. Wouldn’t you rather make the same money by having 2-3 or even 10 times less the number of clients? Think about it: if you practice and get extremely good at creating photographic art, those who value the power and importance photography plays in society and in our lives, they will gladly pay for your services.
There are 2 types of people when it comes to photography. Those who understand, appreciate and seek its value and those who don’t. I am looking for those that understand (sometimes with a little help) the value and importance of great photos. Those people do not have a problem paying to get that, they need only be convinced I’m the right person for the job. Commercial clients, for the most part, understand the need for professional images. They understand great photos sell products and improve brand image. I love commercial clients. If you can deliver the quality they seek, you can command higher prices than your competition and still get the job.
The photo at the top of the page is the sunset I got that day.
Thanks for reading and all my best,
This is a question much debated, sometimes with civility and other times folks just let their emotions get the best of them. When I got serious about photography just over 1 year ago, jpeg was all I knew and frankly, it was all I could handle. I simply did not know what to do with a raw file and was intimidated but the endless array of options available to get to the final image. My problem at the time was I did not have a clearly defined vision for the final result.
Every image captured on a camera sensor starts out in a ‘raw’ format. The camera then processes that image and applies the in camera settings to produce the final jpeg image (in camera settings do not apply to raw files). Technology has advanced so much over the last decade that we can now find cameras that produce excellent results in the form of jpeg files. There are many in camera settings that give anywhere from acceptable to great results on a good number of cameras. This of course saves time and money for the non professional photographer who just wants to record memories with the best technical quality without investing additional time in post processing. Even some professional photographers choose jpeg for personal family photos. So shooting in jpeg does not make one any less of a photographer. A photo is not just about technical quality.
I look at jpeg as the in camera photo lab. You set the options and it does the work for you. That’s fine as long it is for you or for someone who does not pay you for photography services. This is where raw comes in. Any serious photographer that charges for his/her services shoots in raw. Why? In short, a lot more control over the final result and tremendous technical quality. Good post processing software is not cheap. A computer that can handle it all is not cheap either. No camera body available today can do what professional processing software does. In the right hands, the results are anywhere from superb to breathtaking (even on 12Mb sensors, just in case you think you absolutely need the D800 or MarkIII to crush your competition).
Either way, there is no free lunch. Every good photograph requires thought, knowledge (both of photography principles and your camera) and work. Take a look at the 2 photos below. Even at web size, you should be able to tell which one was shot in jpeg. The same camera and lens were used for both and the jpeg file was even post processed for better quality. Does it match the photo from the raw file? If you were a paying client, which image would you rather have?
All my best,
Click on the image for full size viewing and to order a print.
The word itself gives us the definition. At its origin, there are two Greek words: photo, meaning light and graphy, meaning draw. When we put the two together we understand photography means to draw with light.
This is much easier said than done. Understanding and capturing light in a meaningful and artistic way is no easy task. However, the understanding of this concept is the starting point. Light is the single most important element in capturing images. Have you heard the saying ‘Amateurs worry about gear, pros worry about light’?
Try capturing any subject in plain, harsh daylight. It does not matter if you think it is boring (i.e. a parking meter or a door knob). Then capture the same subject and from the same angle on a cloudy day. Then at dusk or dawn. The light will be different in every one of those situations. The point is good light can make the most boring subject interesting, sometimes even stunning. It is no secret our eyes are attracted to light. After I understood this simple truth, I decided to always drive with my lights on to help other folks on the road see me better (it reduces the risk of accidents, I am not trying to draw unwanted attention :)).
Drawing with light is creating art. A mere snapshot says ‘I was here’. A photograph says “I was here and this is how it felt’.
So next time you capture a moment in time, think about light and how you can best draw with it on and around your subject.
All my best,
Thank you for visiting my blog.
Photography is art. I have been passionate about taking photos since my early teenage years when my dad got me interested in cameras. More than two decades later, I have channeled this passion to start a photography business. I will be posting articles about photography in general as well as my experience not just as an artist, but also a businessman.
Please visit my website at www.andreiczamfir.com. Take a moment to browse through my Grand Canyon Gallery. Enjoy!
All my best,