When to start charging?!

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by hana_smith, Jan 24, 2017.

  1. Hi all, this is just a quick one. As I'm just in the starting out stages with photography I wanted to get all of your opinions on when you should as a photographer start charging for your services? This would be for portrait/music gig photography as I know weddings are different when charging. I've done a few photo shoots with people and music gigs and also travelled in ordered to build up a good portfolio and gain experience so I haven't charged for any of my services (as I've thought when starting out my photography wouldn't be good enough to charge) But I've came across a couple of demanding clients that take the p*** in my opinion and end up getting too big for their boots even though they've gotten the service for free. Or am I wrong? Anyways not to go off topic. I'll soon be upgrading my equipment/sorting out a website and just wanted to know what stage should I start thinking about charging and if so how much? Even if it is just for travel until I gain more experience.

    Thank you all,
  2. "Never practice on a paying client"
    What I did when I first started in 2008 was:
    To build up my portfolio, I offered to shoot certain work for free.
    Once I felt I had a good enough portfolio to go looking for work, I began to charge.
    I still use this adage: if I say "hey can I shoot that," it's free; if they say "Hey will you shoot that?" I charge. I never had issues with converting free customers into paying ones, they new up front that I was doing it for my portfolio, and when they came to me saying "will you shoot this for an ad, or a brochure?" they knew I was going to charge.
    As far as how much, without knowing your market, it's going to be hard for anyone to guess. Just make sure it's enough to cover your hard costs, i.e., travel (you should never be out of pocket for this), your insurance (you do have insurance don't you), your equipment depreciation (you're gonna have to replace that body someting), and your salary if you don't allocate for yourself, you're working for free.
    My $0.02 worth
    Mark Keefer likes this.
  3. Seems to me that pretty soon you should charge at least for you costs.
    Well, in the film days that was film, paper, and chemistry. I presume, though, that you are still supplying prints, so should at least charge for those.
    One difference for weddings is that it isn't possible to go back and reshoot. If you make a big mistake, such as lose all the pictures, there is nothing you, or your clients, can do.
    In the case of portraits or many music gigs, you can usually reshoot if it doesn't work. In that case, you should charge for good results, and not for failures. There are many photographers that only charge for pictures that clients actually buy.
  4. Hey that Is all brilliant information thank you! What do you guys do for copyright on your images?
  5. I make sure my copyright notice "Copyright 2017 Charles L Webster" is embedded in the EXIF data, I watermark photos that are posted on my sites or others, and I register any photos that I am really concerned about protecting. I don't register many any more, since I'm just shooting travel and the like, but when I was shooting products professionally, I compiled a CD quarterly and sent it to the PTO for bulk registration.
    Your photos are copyrighted by you the minute you take the picture. Watermarking is not necessary. Registration is necessary only to allow you to pursue "punitive" damages in court.
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "This would be for portrait/music gig photography as I know weddings are different when charging. . .
    "What do you guys do for copyright on your images?"
    "Your photos are copyrighted by you the minute you take the picture."​
    Just be aware that whilst the concept of the Photographer owning the Copyright of the Image from the moment the Shutter is released, is a universal concept: it is not a universal fact.
    Copyright Laws vary from country to country and even though countries might be signatories to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works - there are within some of those Countries' individual Laws, an oddment particular to some aspects of Portrait Photography, where the Commissioning Entity will own the first Copyright of the Image.

    This is so in many Commonwealth Countries. I think this is an heritage from an oddment of English Copyright Law. I am not sure of the current position in England and Ireland - I think Scotland is different now, but was originally similar. It still exists in Australia and New Zealand (I am pretty sure), not sure about Canada and I think it exists in India.

    Anyway - it is easy to avoid any issue, (if you, the Photographer wants to own copyright to all images), and this can be done by simply including in the contract a clause stating that the Client agrees to transfer the copyright of the images to [the photographer].

    Mentioned mainly because in a previous post you had a "gander" at a 700D ... so I am thinking you're "commonwealth, somewhere" . . . also mentioned generally to highlight this little oddment which has been known to catch a few people out.

  7. An unfortunate reality that I discovered years back in film days, is that a Freelancer with shallow pockets, can do little against an organization with scale and money. They can do pretty much as they like, regardless of contracts or legalities. Sometimes, you just have to walk away. I always made certain that an up front payment covered my costs and at least some of my time.
  8. When you start charging, never try to be the low cost provider. Know what the market charges for similar work and charge the same. As a working photographer you may well work into a situation working with others in the field where you might find yourself covering for each other on assignments. Earning and keeping the goodwill of your friendly competitors is a good path to success.
  9. Charge what you want to charge -- last time I looked, thank goodness, there was no Union. As to friendly competitors etc, a nice fantasy. If another photographer offers an assignment, beware. There is likely a good reason they can't / won't do the job themselves. As in any job you don't start out at top pay rates. You learn and work your way up!
  10. I don't mean to pick a fight, but when I was active (it was back in the day in Seattle, but we all had national accounts) we were not only friendly, we got together for lunch nearly every Friday with the art directors from the national agencies in town. I can't speak to the environment in any locality today, but we all were friendly. The frienship transcended the local market and we all worked with photographers from other national markets. I remember helping Neil Liefer (one of the great sports photographers) with locations and the loan of a lens at the Reno Air Races one year.
  11. Different places, people and experiences. No fight required, you had your experiences, I had mine. I doubt the OP will have experiences like either of ours in bygone days. Doesn't hurt for someone to be familiar with the good & bad possibilities in order to make considered decisions.
  12. <br><br>
    Just couldn't help yourself, could you?
  13. Sandy, if you charge cut rate prices your work will be viewed as cut rate as well and it will limit your assignments. If your work does not stand up to professional standards, you should not be working in a professional environment. I frequently called on my fellow photographers to help me out when I needed a second photographer on the assignment, or I had a conflicting assignment, but did not want to turn down the customer. We would frequently provide each other with surge darkroom capability. Keep in mind this was advertising photography, not weddings, etc.
  14. Some cameras will allow you to store your information and copyright into the camera and will be Embedded in the EXIF data. Lightroom can also be setup to put a watermark on your photo, it could be text and a font of your choice with solid a transparency or even a custom logo or signature file if using Lightroom 6 or cc. I keep mine small in either the lower right or lower left corner of photo. I keep it small so it does not distract from the image unless the photo is meant to advertise my service. Starting out, building a portfolio, giving digital photos for free is fine, I request my watermark stay on free files, still keeping it small but it would be there if someone wanted to see who the photographer was. I ask that they do not edit the photo. No need for a poor edit by another representing your work. You could keep the images with reasonable resolution to display well on social media or give the higher resolution. Your call. If they want prints from images they choose, charge for at least your cost. At this point they like the photo. So you decide on the price. Also up to you but if a client is paying for prints, I don't watermark. You decide how you handle that. Work on your portfolio and skills so you can walk into any situation and know how to get the best shot. Once you feel you are ready, you may want to try to get some gigs with a professional photographer as an assistant or second shooter just to start learning the ropes. You will be amazed what you can learn from someone who has been doing this for 20 years. As was previously said, don't practice on paying clients, good advice. Best of luck and happy shooting.

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