by Simon Patterson
As a serious amateur photographer, people sometimes asked me how much I would charge to shoot something for them. I had never charged to shoot photos for someone else before, so how should I have responded?
Once a friend referred me to a local music promoter who was seeking photography services. The promoter emailed me and asked how much I would charge to shoot an upcoming show. I had no idea what photography was worth. What should I have said?
I love shooting bands and would have been happy to do the job for free, but I thought that providing the service for free would be unfair to the professional photographer community. The last thing I wanted to do was undercut legitimate photography businesses, and the music promoter was operating for profit so it seemed right for him to pay for the service anyway. But how much was the job worth? I didn’t even know a ballpark figure.
So I reached out to a couple of band photographers in another city to ask what the going rates for this kind of photography were. Unfortunately, a pro photographer read my message but didn’t bother to respond. The other photographer turned out to be an amateur like me so he was unable to give advice. I didn’t know any other band photographers, so I had exhausted my pool of resources very quickly. My Google searching also proved fruitless for learning the cost of band photography in smaller, local Australian venues.
This all took a few days, by which time the music promoter told me he had someone else to do it and so my services were not required. Bummer – it would have been a lot of fun, and I missed out on the opportunity because I was trying to do the right thing by the professional photography community.
A few months later, someone else contacted me saying she heard I was a freelance photographer. She would like to know how much would I charge to shoot some products for her website? I thought I’d enjoy the challenge of shooting product shots, so I was keen to assist her. I did have previous experience of product photography, and I was very confident I could improve greatly on her existing website shots. Again, the old chestnut – how much to charge?
This time I didn’t bother trying to reach out to professional photographers. I didn’t know the pro photographers in my local area to be able to refer the client to, and I’d learnt the hard way that asking other photographers for assistance could well be a waste of time. I asked the client her budget for the shoot, but she replied that they had no idea what it was worth and so couldn’t guess what they would need to budget.
So I quickly jumped onto Google, did one search for “product photography” and the output list included a business in another city that was advertising a “super special” of $20 per image used. I didn’t even click on their link to learn their terms and conditions – that sounded good enough to me as it was a figure I could provide. The main attraction for me was enjoying the challenge anyway; any income was simply a pleasant bonus.
This approach enabled me to immediately reply to the client, saying I’ll shoot the images and then they can pay $20 for each image they want to use on their website. No charge for the images they don’t use. My price was agreed to straight away, and we arranged a time for me to go and shoot their products.
A few days later, the shoot took me about 2.5 hours. The processing / organising time was about the same. I provided 15 images, the client liked them all, and immediately paid me to use them on her website. The customer was happy and I had a blast. I also learned a lot more about shooting for clients and shooting products.
So, what should I have done differently? What advice would you have for an amateur photographer who is asked to price a job? Especially for an amateur photographer who doesn’t know the local professional photographers to be able to recommend them.
About the Author
Simon Patterson is an enthusiastic photographer who also likes discovering the truth about things. He loves hiking and camping in the wilderness and the challenge of learning to communicate through the art of photography. Simon aims to create images that affect people emotionally. When not out shooting or processing images, he reads everything he can about photography. Simon resides in country Victoria, Australia.