Paid photography

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    So today I was on the beach (side note: how many of you just got jealous?) taking photos of my brother-in-law and his girlfriend. I was testing how my new flash works as a front-light with the contending sunset in the background, and while showing them the rough images on my camera, they said I should look into photographing portraits for other people, or even weddings. Some random guy happened to be walking by at that moment, overheard us, turned to me, and asked if I was looking for work as a photographer. Turns out he’s interested in finding someone to take photos of his children, and doesn’t want to have to deal with craigslist.

    I admitted to him that the only portraits I’ve really done have been of my niece, and I’m not really experienced, but I’d be willing to give it a try. I gave him my e-mail and name, and now I’m just waiting for him to get back to me. It makes me wonder though – if we do end up having a photo shoot, what am I expected to do? I’m sure some of you farktographers have done something similar in the past.

    I’m sure I’ll probably have to come up with the location and time (for lighting and whatnot), and I should provide him with a CD of the finished jpeg’s when it’s all complete. Is there anything else I should do though? Should I bring props for the kids to play with? How much should I be charging? Given I’ll probably only get a handful of useful photos out of it, I’m not thinking I can charge anything near what people do when they actually do photography for a living. Anyone with some experience in this would be really helpful 😀

    /I’m pretty sure this has been discussed in the forums before, but I gave up after a few pages of searching 🙄


    I think working out a deal where he gets a set number of prints is generally better. You control the masters, and where (read: the quality of) the prints that get made from your work. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s what I would do were I doing portraits.

    As far as props and things, I’d talk to him and see what things the kids have that represent their personalities. The people that are going to see the shots will identify the items, and plus, the kids are going to be more comfortable with their own things. Kids are funny like that 😉

    As far as cost goes, don’t sell yourself short. You know your way around the camera, and that’s going to show through in the final prints. A modest sitting fee and a reasonable markup is customary for these things. Presuming you’re going to their house, and hauling your equipment around, it’s fair to say your should be compensated more than what they’d have to pay if they went down to the local JC Pennys, you know? I don’t think that $75-ish plus a 10% markup on print costs is out of line – on the low side, really. Mark up or down based on what you think they’re willing to pay, your confidence, and how much you want to do the job, but I don’t think I’d go lower than that unless it was for a (not close) friend.

    I don’t do this for a living either, but another thing to be mindful of is the people that *do* do this for a living – I mean the good ones. Undercutting them too much cheapens the profession as a whole, and keeps the real pros from being able to do what they do. Look at all the (shudder) $300 wedding photographers out there.


    Thanks for the tips, olavf – I don’t know why, but the first price that even popped in my head was $75. Random. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it is a good idea to have the prints go through me – I was just going to do something like upload to mpix and let them print as they felt.

    As far as cheapening the profession, the very first thing I suggested to him was to go to a photographer my brother uses for my niece’s portraits – her photographs are fantastic, and I really admire her work. It’s the sort of portraiture I’d like to take eventually. Anyways, he didn’t seem too interested. I think he’s looking for a cheaper price tag. You get what you pay for, though.


    Yeah, that’s why I was suggesting the minimal markup on prints. One way or another your name is going to be associated with them, and if he takes a CD and goes down to Rite-Aid, they’re still going to be associated with them 😛
    /Nothing goes out from this house that I haven’t at least printed before, even.

    IIRC if he were to take the kids someplace to get portraits done, $35-40 is going to be an absolute minimum, and he’s going to pay a lot more in print markup. But, the money up front ensures he’s serious, and that you’re serious, and yeah, one gets what they pay for, but worst case you can offer to give the guy the sitting fee back if he’s not happy, right?


    Look at all the (shudder) $300 wedding photographers out there.

    I have. 😕

    Back on topic, though. Here’s my experience. I had a co-worker ask me and Kestrana to shoot his wedding. We severely undercut the competition, but I also warned him that you get what you pay for. His wife was happy with cheaper is better, so we agreed on $75 for the shoot plus $20 for more than basic processing (antique effects, color pop, you know, gimmicky shit). They were ecstatic with what they got, we both felt like we could/should have charged more.

    Another coworker has talked to me about shooting her kids playing at the park, we both came to agreement at $250 for two hours plus processing, but she wanted to wait until the weather got better (this was back in February). She hasn’t mentioned it since then, and I haven’t bugged her about it.

    I say do what you feel. Charge as much as you think you’re worth without feeling like you’re ripping someone off. I’ve been trying to coordinate a last-minute wedding photographer (you’d think that’d be the one wedding detail we’d have nailed down first) for the last couple days, and quality isn’t cheap. I have noticed that specifically for weddings, the price goes up significantly. Six hours of wedding shots might run $2000-5000, whereas six hours studio time with the same photographer might be $900-1500.

    And have fun. The day my photography starts causing more stress than it gives me pleasure is the day I trade my camera for a fishing boat.

    ETA: Let him pick the place – someplace familiar and/or comfortable to him and his kids. You pick the time, you’re the photographer, you control the lighting. Pay some high school kid $10 to hold a reflector for an hour and a half if you need to.


    I recently shot my best friend and her son on a spur of the moment idea for their wedding anniversary. The pictures where they were just horsing around and playing were far easier and more interesting to shoot than the family portrait. Photographers shouldn’t rely on “happy accidents” but you can increase the chance of getting some unplanned awesome shots by having people engaged in an activity where you are the observer.

    Michelle and Wyatt II by kestrana, on Flickr

    Michelle and Wyatt by kestrana, on Flickr


    Our family’s photographer is also a family friend. I would classify him as semi-professional as he has a day job and does photography work on the side. I pay him $100 and he gives me a cd with all the images. He generally does not do much in the way of post processing. On the other hand, he’s incredibly cheap.

    What I’ve seen around here is that most photographers charge a sitting fee ($75-125) and then charge for the prints (with a hefty mark up). If you want all the images from the session, that’s an additional charge around $100-150.


    Thanks for the tips, everyone. Very much appreciated. I’m waiting for the guy to get back to be, but should other questions arise I’m sure I’ll be here with more questions 😆 I’m also looking at being a secondary photographer for a wedding in September – that’ll be my first, so it’d be interesting, too.


    Well it finally happened with my entries for 15 minutes–I had two people approach me asking for high-quality copies for printing purposes (one for the waterfall shot, another for the sunrise–might not have been a high vote-getter, but someone liked it). 😀

    I thought about it, and came up with a pricing strategy that might not be phenomenally rewarding financially, but it worked, and a made $40 from the two, and I didn’t have to leave my desktop to do it (okay, I went to the post office for one, but that’s across the street).

    I offered two pricing strategies, 10 cents/sq inch @ 600 DPI, or 5 cents @ 300. If you think about it, the 10 cents is 4x better a deal, but they opted for the 5 cent option.

    As they wanted 18×24’s, 18×24*.05=$21.60 each.

    A few more of those and I’ll have paid me back for the PhotoZoom software that lets me bump up the files to that kind of resolution/size (the TIFF @ 600dpi at 18×24 would be about 150Mb–a bit much to send by email.)

    Wal-mart has mailer 10 pks for under 10 bucks (already a few left over from an unrelated shipping need), and first class postage was $1.77; I just charged $3.95 for shipping. One I didn’t even need to ship–they had internet service strong enough to download it in a few seconds (boy, am I jealous–took me a few minutes to upload.)

    Maybe one day I’ll be good enough to charge more, maybe I should be now, even. But it was a start, and ‘5 cents a square inch’ seemed to appeal to them from the marketing viewpoint.



    I am taking a photography class this semester and my professor is a professional photographer (weddings, kids, etc.). He has really opened my eyes to what good photographers charge around here. If you read my earlier post, you’ll see I’ve been getting the best deal in the entire southeast proper for photographs of my child. So admittedly, I was clueless. I’ll share with you what he shared with us last week.

    He sells prints that are meant for display not digital files. He doesn’t print anything smaller than 8 x 10. His 8 x 10’s are $85 and come with a mat and backing so they are ready to go in a frame. I think the 16 x 20 is $125. He has three options for print size with the middle being the one he wants to sell. It works because very few people want to appear to be either cheapskate or the big spender. I think he steers people toward 16. x 20. As for digital files, if you buy his top wedding “collection” (packages are what you get at the JC Penney photo studio) for $4500 you get a disk with all the images at a resolution fit for nothing bigger than 8 x 10. I think he has gotten onboard with the whole facebook for photo sharing thing and they do offer facebook-sized images although I’m not sure what the price is for that. Probably free if you buy one of the high end collections.

    We talked via Skype last week with a photographer in Australia (Susan Wall, if you are interested). She mentioned that when she was basically giving away her services for the opportunity to improve, very few people bought prints especially big prints. She attributed it to people not taking it seriously because they weren’t paying for it.

    The bottom line is to make sure that you are charging a people a price that is justified based on your talent as a photographer. Only your talent and the market can determine what that price is.


    I know my aunt buys matte & backing boards for pretty cheap when in bulk–the trick is they only come cheap if they’re all the same color–but 10 of black and 10 of white would be a good starter set.

    If I were printing the images, rather than sending a file, I’d certainly want to charge more–the costs would be greater, of course. Or, if I rented a booth at one of the fair-type venues–their is cost to that, too. As it were–both these people are folks I’ve known for a few years at least (they followed my blog back in the day), and I didn’t want to sound like I wanted to rake them over the coals or that I thought my pics were worth a gazillion dollars.

    But it’s good to know what the pros are doing. I think I need a little more street-cred (maybe win a contest, get published in Az Highways, something I could put on a ‘resume’, so to speak.

    I got ‘shared’ on G+ last night and had 7 new followers this morning–mayhaps if that leads to more viewers, and I’m approached by a complete stranger, I’ll certainly charge a bit more, I believe. At the moment, though–I don’t want to go through the hassle of actually printing them and sending them. I’d have to investigate the associated costs first.

    I’d really like to explore the idea of getting some images printed. The Rainbow Fest is in October (it’s kind of like a gay pride, only with local artisans instead of companies looking to hire, and local entertainers instead of has-been 80’s pop star performers–much more down to earth.) Perhaps I’ll use some of my ESPP shares I’ll get in Sept. to print some things up and give it a go.

    I’d just hate to get stuck with a bunch of images nobody wants to buy. Kind of a risky venture for someone who’s only recently getting comfortable with the very idea that just maybe some people really like his pictures and would hang them on a wall (other than family, of course–but they’re biased).

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