Am I charging too much?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by jake_reinbold, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. Hi all. I have been a long time reader/browser, but this is my first post. It is regarding the rate I am charging
    for my first photography job.

    Well, about a month ago, I was approached by the assistant minister at my church. He asked me if I would
    photograph a church worship night, so that the church would have some photos to put in brochures, ads, posters
    etc. I found out some more information about the night, what types of pictures they wanted, etc, and I agreed to
    it. There was no money or hourly rates or anything discussed, I was just told to keep track of my hours, shooting
    and editing, and we will square up when the job is finished. I agreed to this, only because I am a member of this
    church, trust the man who came to me, and because I simply didn't know of a rate I would charge, because this was
    my first job taking photographs for anyone but myself.

    So, the worship night comes, I take pictures for the full service, about an hour and a half, and get a bout 300
    images. The assistant minister then tells me that they are in no rush to get the pictures, and would like for me
    to come back for the next couple of weeks, and continue to take photos. He reassured me to still keep track of my
    hours, and just to begin editing the photos, and when I turn in the photos, I will get paid. I then continue to
    take pictures over the next 2 weeks, and am told that they now are ready for the photos. So I import and edit the
    pictures that I have accumulated over the past 3 weeks, which turns out to be almost 800 images. I spend a lot of
    time editing, and accumulate 24 hours of editing time. So, it comes time to write up my hours and invoice, and I
    come up with 4.5 hours of shooting time, and 24 hours of editing. 28.5 hours total.

    Now, I try to come up with the amount I should charge. I had been doing some research, and talking to some other
    photographers I know, and come to conclude that a professional photographer typically charges between $50-$150 an
    hour. (is this correct?) Being as though that I am by no means a "professional" I think that because this is my
    first photography job, I should charge considerably less than what a professional would charge. I also realize
    that I am wearing out my camera, using my memory cards, my CD's, my time, my software, and my computer. So I take
    this into consideration. The amounts that I come up with to charge are $25.00 per session shooting (about $17.00
    an hour), and $30.00 per hour editing. My total bill comes up to $795.00 ($75.00 for shooting for 4.5 hours,
    $720.00 for editing for 24 hours). Yesterday, I turned it into the assistant minister while he wasn't at this
    office, and told him that this invoice was negotiable if he thought there were changes that might need to be made.

    Later today get a call telling me that we will sit down and discuss this invoice sometime next week, and that he
    doesn't need me to take pictures this coming week. Now this has me kind of nervous, thinking that I might have
    made a mistake, and charged too much, and that now, he isn't going to want to use me again, because I ask way too
    much for the job. But, I also feel like the ball was put in my court from the get go, because there was no
    initial cost/rate discussed prior to the job being done.

    So what I am asking is, did I charge too much? Does this rate look reasonable? What would you charge?

    Thank you for reading this. I know it is long, but I am just looking for some help. Hopefully, I will get an
    answer that will help me out in this situation. Thanks again.

  2. I know there was another post like this a while ago, and there was a ton of discussion. Since it is YOUR church, I wouldn't charge anything, other than maybe some material cost that was already agreed upon. Your time is tax deductible, but I bet they thought you were going to do it on a volunteer basis, which is usually the case unless you are a business and are actually hired to do work (like photographers that do church directories).
  3. Difficult to tell if you've charged too much without seeing the results.
    I'd say at face value your figures seem reasonable. They reflect the effort you put in, plus a heavy discount to take account of your inexperience and limited overheads. So far so good. The only area that might be contentious is the editing time because it all depends on the value you added. If your pictures are fabulous -- a well edited set of impressive images -- then your rate will be very good value. But if your pictures are poor, and your editing time was to correct mistakes, then the church may feel they've incurred a financial penalty as a direct result of errors you made when shooting.
    There's also an additional dimension in terms of what the church feels is a reasonable assumption of charitable good will from you. Which is entirely a matter between you and them. But for future reference, never do any work without some form of common understanding, preferably in the form of a documented agreement. It will prevent all kinds of misunderstandings later.
  4. I would charge nothing. For starters it is your first job, maybe you should just do favors to build up your reputation and portfolio, and
    secondly, it is your church. I would look at it as a wonderful opportunity to do a nice favor for your church. I personally would have a hard
    time accepting money from my church...but that's just me. If they absolutely insist on paying, I would give them an awesome discount
  5. I don't know your level of experience/expertise with Photoshop - but here's a conundrum: the less experienced you
    are - the longer it would take - the more you would have to charge.

    What work did you carry out in Photoshop? Was there sufficient post processing to warrant an invoice of $720?
    Did you evaluate/post process each image individually? If so could the work have been done any quicker using
    actions/batch processing, etc?

    Bottom line - if you want to become a full-time photographer you need to build up a portfolio AND some good will.
    Weigh up how much good-will you will get by dropping all charges against an $800 payment!

    Do it a s a freebie provided you get credit on all the brochures, etc. With a church minister batting for you and
    all that coverage, other jobs should come rolling in!

    Case in point - I've just done some work with a well-known hotel chain for a charity - didn't charge a bean,
    wrote it off to marketing. Now when the hotel in question sends out information for wedding receptions,
    conferences, etc. they include one of my leaflets!! Plus the marketing manager wants to work on a package deal
    (for weddings)!

    Money can't buy the kind of kudos you will get - bite the bullet and tear up the invoice.
  6. Impossible to respond without seeing the results however if it were me I would have done it as a favor or charged a
    small token fee, say perhaps $50/$100.
  7. Jake - forgot to mention - it's your church man! Everyone gets excited when they get a chance at their first "paying" job - don't look at this as a chance to generate some income look at it as a chance to generate some standing with The Big Man Upstairs.
  8. I used to do free computer setup, installs, debugging, etc for our church. There came a time when it simply became too much, because as time went on, a little was added here, another install, then the video tie get the picture. I had to back it down. They offered to pay but I just don't think it's right. In most churches, especially smaller ones, members should do all of these things for free. Heck, when I was a kid, my dad organized and built a new building. No one ever questioned the fact that their Saturdays would be tied up for the foreseeable future (and evenings, holiday weekends, etc.)! Just some food for thought...
  9. I would charge for your time/labor. Just charge for the materials (cd) and once you get the check give it back to them as a donation when they pass around the offerings. Make your labor tax deductible though. Ask for photo credit or a small story about the photography you did for them in return. that will give you so much more goodwill and you will make more money in the first year then if you charged them triple that (birthday parties, portraitts). Its the best way to start a photography business IMO. Got to use all the goodwill and let everything else fall in place.
  10. I meant to say, I wouldn't* charge for time and labor. :)
  11. On a personal level I would suggest that you offer this up and leave it at that. On a professional level I can tell you that 24 hours of editting doesn't add up. For 4 and a half hours of shooting it would be hard to justify more than 4-6 hours of postwork assuming that you're proficient in PS. A pro will always use a contract and discuss these issues upfront so there isn't any room for misunderstandings, assuptions, and hard feelings. By offerring to do this for free it eliminates the need to discount what you believe you're worth.
  12. I only started my photography business this year, so take what you want from this.

    I made the decision to have a go at starting a business and then spoke to work mates, friends and family to see who would like some work done (family shoots, kids etc.).

    I then did my first 10 or so jobs for no charge. It was great experience for me, the "clients" didn't have too high expectations, which allowed me to impress them with the results.

    I then decided to start charging a small fee ($100) for any future sessions. I've since built up valuable experience and haven't had a weekend without at least one job since January. I gradually build up my prices as my experience and quality improves.

    I've now done dozens of family shoots, a few weddings (5 more booked over the next 6 months) and am getting work taking pictures for web sites through a web site design company.

    I haven't advertised yet. It's all word of mouth and all thanks to the "freebies" at the beginning. I've now paid for all of my equipment (I am happy to have done this in my first 8 months). My costs are still low, but that's the way they will stay, at least until I've got 12 months under my belt and have started to put together a portfolio I'm happy with. Then I may look at doing a web site.

    I guess my point is, don't look to profit early on. And certainly don't charge for all your editing time. I know I'd be out of business already if I'd tried to do that. I was very slow at the start. I'm still a bit slow, so I charge for the time it'll take me when I'm better at it! It's not the clients fault I'm slow.

    Good luck.
  13. Thanks for all of your replies.

    I know that the editing seems like a lot. But I began editing the images in Lightroom, which I am pretty familiar with, but still have things to learn. Then, about 2 weeks in, I acquired Photoshop CS3, in which I edited all remaining photos, and re-edited all previous photos. And because I had just acquired Photoshop, I wasn't a pro at using it yet, and still am not. So that's where all of the editing time comes in.

    However, I did speak to the assistant minister, and he said that my price is fine, and he sees the value that he is getting, and how much more it could be. He has no problem with the price, but what he said, is that if this is going to be the rate, then they just won't have me take pictures every single week. Which is understandable, because he said that he has plenty of photos to work with for a long time, and he wasn't going to have me come back every week before he saw the invoice, so he says.

    So, now I can do what a number of you said, and just bite the bullet, and do it all for free. This way, I will still get shooting opportunities for sure. Or, I can go ahead and get paid, and hope I still get opportunities later on. I just don't know what to do now, because he says that I will still have opportunities in the near future, but how do I know that for sure? Yet, if I do tear up the invoice, I would be much more reassured to have opportunities later on.

    I guess I did just hop on the chance of making some income on my first job, and didn't really think about getting my foot in the door, and making the church appreciate me that much more. Had I thought about this before billing with the invoice, I think I would have done it at a much cheaper rate, if at all. Thanks for you guys input. I really appreciate it.
  14. GIve him the invoice and write DONATION across the top, PAID IN FULL. I always invoice when I give anything as a contribution, so people know the value of what they are getting, and so I can write off the deduction if its possible. J
  15. There is a man at a church who is a professional woodworker. He built beautiful handcrafted cabinets for his church which
    were obviously worth a lot of money.

    He asked the church to pay for the materials only.
  16. I shoot concerts and dance recitals and other events at my church all the time, and rarely do I charge them. Usually I just have the sessions done as tax write-offs, which gives me time to experiment and hone my craft, as well as exposure among the members who see me doing it and then see my work afterwards.

    That said, if the agreement was to pay you, then the agreement was to pay you. Worse case scenario, you sit down with them and discuss the time it took and come to a mutually acceptable agreement on the payment.
  17. I really like Jeffrey's suggestion. Also, if you did this as a freebie or donation, the church could recommend you to people
    for weddings or other events if they liked your work. And that would get you future business that you could start charging
    for. :)
  18. If they're willing to pay you, how about you offer to reinvest the money into the church at your discretion? Like improve a youth center, buy a flatscreen to display the words to hymns, whatever. Word will get around the church that the visible improvement made was on your behalf... and you can take it from there. Only do this if you genuinely want to help out your church.
  19. Check with your tax preparer, but I'm pretty sure donations of labor and time are not tax deductible..
  20. I don't think it is fair to charge for extra editing time because you were using a program that you were learning. The church shouldn't have to pay for you to educate yourself in CS3.

    If you are getting experience then it is probably fair to discount your price a bit too. Afterall you are getting some benefit too.
  21. Jake wrote - "I did speak to the assistant minister, and he said that my price is fine, and he sees the value that he is getting, and how much more it could be. He has no problem with the price, but what he said, is that if this is going to be the rate, then they just won't have me take pictures every single week."

    I'm one of the leaders in my church and I read the following between the lines - "we didn't expect to pay this much but it's our fault for not talking money up front. We'll be gracious and pay it and write it off, but we're not going to get caught again!"

    I think you've some bridges that need rebuilding and I'd go with the advice above and pay the money back as a donation. By all means emphasis that you've done it this way so that it goes through the churches books in order to properly reflect incomings and outgoings.

    Just my opinion.
  22. I think you should build a good relationship with your church. making the invoice as a donation like Jeffrey said is a good idea. Most couple who will use the church for their wedding will talk to the minister, ask him to recommend you.

    That is your door of opportunity. Everyweek you are showing up to take picture, will make all the people in the church think that you are a 'pro-photographer', its a slow brain storming. Hand out your cards, make some print which is a good one and give it to the person attending, business will come.

    Word of mouth is the best and cheapest wedding/event photographer way of marketing

    Marketing cost money, shooting for the church for free maybe your way to gain more business. Thats how I am looking at it.
  23. I don't go to church so I don't have that problem, but the hours of editing seem excessive, normally one to one is all it takes, maybe two to one, one hour shooting two hours editing,
  24. I would say for 4.5 hours of shooting, and being an inexperienced photographer/retoucher, your bill is a bit
    high-it works out to almost $200 an hour for shooting. To put it in perspective, my charge for the work you did
    would have been about $450, with post-production, and I have 3 years professional experience. If you were
    proficient in photoshop, then your retouching hourly charge would be fine, and it would have only taken about 6
    hours work, tops.<br><br>
    Since it is a church, and not just any church, but the church you go to, I would second the opinion that you
    should make it a donation. The goodwill and word of mouth advertising you'll get will far outweigh the $800
    you're writing off.
  25. To play devil's advocate, the question isn't if you are charging to much the question is: can this client afford a
    professional photographer. If you talk to a personnel manager and ask them what it costs to pay and provide reasonable
    benefits to an employee you will find that $150 to $200 per hour is on the low end. This is the true cost you need to
    keep in mind. Getting rich is a perfectly legitimate goal for you BTW. Also bear in mind that we need to budget for
    down time because your availability is also something that factors into the cost of doing business. I don't begrudge
    bargain shoppers their prerogative, but you will find that there are clients who simply cannot afford to keep you in
    business. If you have to lower your price to keep a client, you will eventually find your self working all the time and
    getting poorer in the process. BTW you can't write off a service. You should check that with your accountant. I have
    always got my best referrals from my best paying clients. It kind of makes sense because they demonstrated with their
    pocket books that they value my work.
  26. Always discuss how much before the job begins. Many people think that art is cheap and a hobby therefore its in-
    expensive. Since your kinda stuck and I am sure they where expecting it to be around $100 I like the suggestion of just
    making it a donation and using it as a tax write off.

    Also I think 24 hours of editing is a bit much. They where probably expecting to get some shots right from camera so I am
    sure the few hours you spent shooting was all they where expecting to pay for.
  27. You've learned a good lesson. NEVER, NEVER trust someone simply because he bears the title of minister. These folks have an incredible sense of entitlement.

    My advice; write the thing off as a donation. Then next time negotiate your fee BEFORE you shoot.

    BTW, while in practice, I donated huge amounts of time to my synagogue. I just thought it was the right thing to do.
  28. You should not include your learning of editing applications in your billed time. The client expects you to know your tools and be efficient when using them. Consider that time an investment that will pay-off later.
  29. I think it's the book of Matthew where it says "Its better to store up treasures in heaven than on earth."

    Paraphrased obviously. Maybe Marten H. can fill it in a little.
  30. I like the idea of donating it too.

    And if you're going to donate your work you could also ask the minister to recommend you for any weddings he may come across in the future.

    There are all kinds of benefits you could work this into.
  31. I agree with Marten Holmes take and suggestion.

    It seems silly to charge your own church only to, presumably, donate money to it on a regular basis.
  32. If you give your work away for free, then everyone will expect the same. The mistake is in underpricing your work. Stick with your charged fee. People who get work for free never appreciate it; not really. When they pay for it, they appreciate it. If you act and charge like a professional, you will be treated accordingly. If you act and charge like an amateur, you will be treated like one. Be confident about your work and your prices. Giving it away and hoping for a payoff sometime in the future is never a good idea. The future may never come.
  33. Is it underpricing if we have already clearly stated a price and then clearly waived it as a donation? A special service to an institution special to the photographer?
  34. " If you give your work away for free, then everyone will expect the same."

    Simple , do not give your work away to everyone. If you expect to get paid, set a price upfront.

    Even more simple, don't deal (for money) with people you know at church.
  35. I agree with Walton on charging for your work not necessarily charging church that you go to but anyone else. I shot a baptism for my wife's friend I thought more expirience for and I did it for free
    they got over 150 photos burned on CD guess what? they told my wife that the photos were crappy and they expected way better images (posing wise) I said that they got it for free and I did my best so they should be happy because if they were to hire a pro they would have to pay few houndreds bucks. That was a last favor I did for them.
    I also shot a picnic organized by church to raise some money but was told that it would be for free.
  36. Personally I would find it hard to charge my church. An easy way since out since you have already submitted an
    invoice would be to donate all the money back to the church.

    Good luck!

  37. Dave - well remembered (I had to look it up) the verse is Matthew 6:19-21. Great sermon there...but, not this forum!
  38. It seems to me that the issue/debate isn't so much as to whether one should do work for free, charge "mates rates" or even, as Jake originally asked, whether he charged too much. The issue is much more about whether poor communication on both sides has left all parties feeling discontent and with relationships cooled. So, how does Jake proceed in order to repair any damage to the relationships and his future integrity as a pro photog? It is for these reasons that I would make a donation of the feeand look on it as a learning curve.
  39. I don't think you charged too much. A paid rate was implied and they asked you to do more.

    My only real comment is that I charge less for regular post processing than I do for shooting time. To me, shooting time is what puts wear and tear on my camera equipment, which is far costlier than my related computer equipment.

    The only time I charge a high rate to be at the computer is for 'complex' photoshop type work.
  40. Think of what a pro would have charged for doing all the work you did!

    Next time, get an agreement in writing before doing work for hire.
  41. This is just me and you can take it for what you want. I would do the job free. Place a copyright statement with your name on it on each image and allow the church to use them. Whether they use them for brochures, web sites, flyers or in TV ads, you name will be on them. I have used this technique for other situations where I expected little or no money. Churches, sadly, can be some of the worst clients. You may just approach the assistant minister and tell him the job is free on the condition that you be allowed to put your name and copyright statement on the images. You may also require them to seek your permission for use so that you will be fully aware of where the images will be used and can direct other prospective clients to see your work and use it as a portfolio. I did this for a church I was a member of and it worked out great. They had bulletin cover images and my copyright and name was displayed with each image for every use.
  42. You are using a pricing method that a pro would use without being a pro yourself.

    You need to factor in the fact that had it not been your church, but rather just any other organization, you would not have been approached to begin with. That being the case, you probably should have just charged a token fee or nothing at all.

    In the past, I've been asked by my church to shoot events attended by parishioners, their friends and families. I would typically shoot the event, and sell prints to the parishioners, and donate the money I make back to the church.

    Manyof those who buy prints would then contract me for their private events, where I have made more than what I would have had I kept the money from church events.
  43. I think it's a personal decision if you want to charge your church or not. I wouldn't feel bad about it either way. I work for a church and know that churches are in business, and they (usually) understand that service costs money. They often hope for discounts and donations from business people, but they don't usually expect it.

    However I think you overcharged. You essentially charged for your learning time with Photoshop. Not only that, but you charged for processing time in Lightroom, and then turned around and charged again for the same service in Photoshop. I know that I would not appreciate a mechanic charging to fix my transmission where I was paying for extra time while he is trying out a new tool, and then deciding that he should do it over with yet another new tool, and then I get billed for both of his learning exercises. That's just not right. If you are going to charge like a professional (even at a discount) then you have to act like one. 4 hours of shooting time shouldn't take more than 6 hours to process, adjust and edit. If you work slower than others, only charge for the customary time while you learn how to get faster.
  44. I think the suggestion above of accepting and depositing the payment, then giving it right back (on your bank) as a donation/tithe, is fantastic. That way, you can put it on your books as a paying job and feel good that your first gig provided a lot of value for a customer. At the same time, your church is receiving something they needed, that perhaps only you as a member of the congregation were able to provide. Seems like a win/win, as the gesture could easily lead to jobs for baptisms, birthday parties, even weddings someday. I'd think of it as primarily as a charitable gift, secondly as savvy marketing.

    Good luck and nice job regardless of your decision!
  45. "NEVER, NEVER trust someone simply because he bears the title of minister. These folks have an incredible sense of entitlement."

    Yeah, right. The fact is that the vast majority of clergy are often called upon, by police, area counselors, local government, and schools, to do hours of pastoral counseling and community related service, without any expectation of remuneration (not even a write-off). This isn't a bad thing, but it is a fact.

    However, since the Assistant Pastor asked for hours to be kept, that presumes a desire to pay. Apparently, at the current stated rate, it's going to be over budget -- so, show a desire to help out, and make an agreement for the future at a lesser rate.

    BTW, the receiving payment (which you will pay tax on) and writing a check back to the church suggestion, is a safe way to get some write-off. HOWEVER, just donating this service to your church MAY NOT be tax deductable UNLESS you are a professional photographer. Check with your accountant before filing this as a deduction.

    I often spend hours doing media work for my town, with no monetary compensation, but since I am not a full-time media pro, I cannot write my hours off...
  46. Jake: I volunteer at my church taking pictures for the website and anything else they may need. I do this as a gift unto the Lord. But since the pastor asked to hire you he should definitely pay you for your time and effort. I suggest sitting down and talking with him one on one. He may not have any idea what a professional photographer costs, so he may have been taken off guard. Your prices are reasonable, but generally churches don't have a whole lot of disposable income, so they may be higher than the pastor was intending. You seem to have a good heart about this, and are trying to do the right thing, keep that heart when you talk to him. :eek:) Best wishes. Jill
  47. Jake,

    There're two issues that no one seems to be considering.

    1. Churches are one of the richest businesses around. They are exempt from paying taxes and pay their employees
    next to nothing. And they've been at it for 1000's of years.

    2. There's been no talk about the usage fees for the photos you took. They want to use the photos in brochures, ads,
    and posters. How many? For how long? In what type of circulation? All things that have to be considered before
    setting a rate.

    My take on this is to "donate" the work to the church in exchange for a charitable donation receipt. You get a tax
    break and a lesson, they get over 800 photos for free. Include the usage fees in the invoice you provided.

    Next time, get everything in writing up front so no one is surprised.

  48. "Churches are one of the richest businesses around."

    That is so funny on so many levels. The sad part is that some people actually believe it. That takes far more faith than believing in creation, and just proves the point that everyone's a believer... something.

    And I don't think I'm all that under paid either.

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