Neverending Dilema: Charging for Photos


It should be a no-brainer, since I'm a photographer, to want to make money and charge for my photos. I mean, I have to pay my bills! I have to buy lenses and drive to the photo shoot and put food in my stomach, but that still doesn't make it any easier when a friends asks me "How much would you charge for...?" It just makes it harder.

In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to charge anything. I could take photos for people all day. It's not just my friends - it's my desire to share art and passion with EVERYONE - that art and passion being my photography. I feel like when you have to pay for something, you're less inspired, you're less taken, you're just making sure you get what you paid for. It often takes the fun out of what I'm doing, and burns me out a bit. That's probably why I keep odd jobs on the side and donate so much time. And yet, even donating drums up business - and I have people asking, "How much for...?"

So I ask myself, what do I do for each photography hour they want to hire me for? Depends on the shoot. What do I need to do for post-processing? Depends on the shoot. How long for the travel, the file dump; how much direction and effort and how much set up on my part? Depends on the shoot. I want to tell people "Oh, $60 an hour, 10 finished photos, watermarked online only." Some people say WOW, others say, oh. How can I respond, especially when those who say "oh" are my friends, are the reason I take photos so I can share them and make people happy? I don't tell them anything.

It's taken me this long to realize, you can't put prices up on your website. As attractive as it is, telling people they'll get a flat hourly rate and hoping they think it's reasonable is asinine. Some photoshoots require little prep, little post, and little travel, making them easily a $50 shoot that a person can be fine with. Others require me to build a city and herd cats, which could make them easily $100 an hour, or more. Think that's unreasonable? See my earlier post about what goes into an hour of photography.

So, I've decided this: There are cut & dry shoots. Portfolio rebuilds for models, senior photos, social media updates, and weddings. Everything else will require a FREE, scheduled meeting, whether by phone, Skype, Facebook chat, whatever - we will have to discuss our options before I price. I may lose a bit of business when people can't see exactly what I'm about on my website at first glance, but I think I'll gain the word of mouth referrals when people are stoked to find out they're the least difficult subject I've ever met, and therefore get a discount.

Let me mention, I didn't even cover travel costs (how to charge someone for gas money and time spent in traffic with no air conditioning?), how many finished photos (how much post work and why on Earth should I expect them to BUY unmarked photos!?), and how much time for each shoot (when I say it only takes an hour, I mean it, but...). And of course, bartering.

Why can't we all just barter?

So begins an open letter to Progress Energy:

Dear billing collections department at Progress Energy,
I'm wondering how you feel about Fresh Eggs, a company photoshoot, crocheted dishcloths, homemade gluten free bread, and candles? I think we can work something out...