Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pricing Photography

It's a subject I spend countless hours fretting over... how much do you charge for your work as a photographer? It can be one of the most challenging aspects of my job and is definitely one of the biggest frustrations at times.

To be perfectly honest, photography is an incredibly expensive commodity. Why you may ask? For a slew of reasons. If you've ever been to a camera or computer store, have you noticed the price tags? There's nothing in there for under $1000. Start adding up all the items that a
photographer needs just to be able to take and process photos (computer, software, cameras, lenses, lighting gear, etc...) and you're looking at an astronomical figure. Then factor in the photographers cost of doing business (CODB). That's your rent for your office, internet, phone, car, gas, insurance, health care, website... etc.

Not only does a photographer have to cover the cost of their equipment, and their CODB, but they also have to make a living on top of that. If you're not a photographer or a business owner, consider this: take your annual income from your job and then double it. That's roughly the amount of money a photographer will have to earn in order to take home the same amount of money that you do. Starting to understand why photos are expensive?

Unfortunately the photo industry is full of people driving the cost of photos down. Many new photographers just starting their career or looking to get a toe hold in the industry often end up being the very ones driving the value of photography straight into the ground. Photographers like this are collectively referred to as "low ballers". In an attempt to undercut competition, the low baller will devalue their work in hopes that the cheaper price tag
will lure art buyers away from the higher priced, experienced photographers. I've even heard of such photographers giving full unlimited rights to their work for FREE, in the hopes that the exposure will help out their portfolio. You heard right... giving work away for nothing. Sounds crazy? Don't believe me? Trust me, it happens all the time.

One might ask, what's wrong with a new photographer charging less for their work? They're new so shouldn't they charge less than an established professional? The use of their photos by a commercial client is great exposure and that's worth a lot isn't it? How about "any work is better than no work at all isn't it"? The answer to every one of these questions is NO! Here's why.

Photography, like any other product, had a fair market price. By charging less than that fair market price, one is short changing themselves and the entire photo industry in a race to the bottom. In photography, like in life, there are no shortcuts.

Rather than explaining it myself, I'll redirect you to a great read on the subject by photography consultant Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua. Click here to see her article on Low Balling.

Additionally, if you're a photographer that's just getting started and are trying to determine your CODB, check out this link. The National Press Photographers Association's (NPPA) has a neat little tool designed to help calculate your cost of doing business.

You may ask, why am I offering up this post? It's not to gripe about competition or the increasing trend of photographers undercutting their peers. I offer this up for several reasons:
1.) to help new photographers out there that are struggling with pricing. I personally got to where I am today through the help and guidance of other photographers that were kind enough to offer advice and answer my questions. As such I feel I owe it to the industry to give a little back given all it's provided to me.
And 2.) to hopefully educate anyone out there (that's taken the time to read this) so that they too can understand why photography is priced the way it is.

Oh yeah, if you've gotten this far in the post, I thought you might need a little laugh by now. After all, not everything has to be super serious :)

No comments:

Post a Comment