Yesterday’s price is not todays price

A fellow photographer recently contacted me to ask advice on how to price a job she had taken on, a product shoot she was doing for a brand.

Unfortunately, she had already sent the estimate/breakdown in to the client when she contacted me, and it was immediately apparent that she had a massively undercharged this client for what she was doing - which included art direction, set design ideas and fees for her assistant, studio hire (she was using her own but should have charged more than she quoted), retouching (including rounds of editing/feedback) etc.

I appreciate that pricing jobs in our industry is not easy (it’s not like how say, a plumber or mechanic would price their work, there are many more variables at play).

I would however urge people who are new to working with brands or agencies to please, please please to talk to someone, be it fellow photographers, an agent, a photography consultant or any friend-of-a-friend you think can run an objective eye over what you’ve come up with before hitting the send button.

Because unfortunately, as soon as you’ve come up with price that is too low, it is always, ALWAYS hard to negotiate up.

Lemme insert the disclaimer here that I’m not an agent or manager, but through making my own mistakes in this area, these are the things I’m always wanting clarification on when starting talks with a client:

  • What’s the creative - does the client have something put together already or are they relying on you for creative ideas, input and art direction?
  • Shoot duration (especially if it is more than one day) - time is money.
  • Shoot location - are they shooting on outdoors (for which you may need to factor in travel outside of your immediate living area), hiring an indoor location or studio or do they want you to provide the studio/lighting (this should also be charged for).
  • Number of images - important one, this. Best to clarify and agree early, because if the client ends up liking more images from the shoot than was agreed, they should incur additional costs for the additional images.
  • Usage - where are they gonna use them and for how long - you wanna know that if the client just wants web and social usage, you don’t get sent a picture from a friend who has seen one of your images on the side of a bus.
  • What retouching is required - is it light stuff or more involving (you need to know if you need to outsource the process to someone else - another cost they need to take care of).
  • Get a percentage of the fee upfront - you get a monetary sign of their commitment to the shoot, you can cover production costs and crucially not be totally out of pocket if they turn out to be a late paying client (I’m sure we’ve all had experience of THOSE clients).

We photographers do have conversations around money, fees and usage, but not nearly enough to see that knowledge filter down to newer entrants, and this needs to change, because these newer entrants without any of this knowledge are inadvertently screwing it up for themselves and the industry by accepting crappy terms or not charging enough for the work they’re being asked to do.

Let’s resolve to talk about this more, please.

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