Clients and Pricing

I don’t write much about the commercial side of photography, realising my limitations in that sphere. Of course I try to quote sensible rates when asked, usually taking a look at my union’s recommendations, or if I can’t find anything helpful there looking at what others might charge.

Petapixel has an interesting article on pricing by Don Giannatti, When Pricing Your Photography, Focus on the Value of Your Images which seems to contain some good advice over pricing.  Giannatti has written a couple of books about creative and financial success and also two and a blog about lighting.

I’m no longer greatly interested in making money myself, though a bit comes in handy and I’m usually disappointed at the low fees the agencies I submit work to charge (and the low percentage of that which comes to me.) And even more disappointed that one of them seems to have stopped doing the basic business of checking up whether the companies it sends work to actually get around to paying for it. It’s one of the various services they get their 50% or more for, and certainly in their interest to do so as well as in mine.

But in a situation where fees are generally dropping to uneconomic levels for photographers it’s important to try and hold them up for my colleagues and not to undercut them. Occasionally I will work for free, but only for organisations without money and without any paid staff and whose work I admire and support – if organisations can pay people to work for them they can pay me too.

Another recent article on Petapixel is the cautionary tale of a wedding photographer who found himself at the wrong end of a $300,000 lawsuit. Poon vs. Tang (really) is a tale that seems to have finally come to a happy end for the photographer but there are several morals that one should draw. Firstly, never work for lawyers.

But more importantly have a clear understanding of exactly what you are agreeing to provide, preferably in the form of a written contract. I’ve seldom had a formal contract, except those sent me by a few large companies (which I’ve sometimes amended before signing to remove the silly stuff) but perhaps a clearly stated e-mail (or in the old days letter) is as good.

Second, you have to be mad to supply every RAW file you take to a client. Personally I don’t supply RAW files as I don’t rely on anyone else to process my work as I want it done. But not even removing the ones that are out of focus or blurred or where you pressed the shutter accidentally is just ridiculous. I don’t even upload these to my own computer let alone anyone else’s.

If you’ve not already got an application that lets you quickly look at RAW files and select the ones you need to keep – one of the few things Lightroom is hopeless at except with very small groups of files – then I suggest you invest in  Fast Picture Viewer Pro. It claims to be the fastest image viewer ever and certainly knocks spots off of Lightroom. They claim that if you have 1000 raw images you can deal with them in around 20 minutes, selecting and copy the 100 you want to keep and importing them into Lightroom, while using Lightroom itself would take around 1 hr 10 minutes. If anything I think they understate the time advantage.

The only small downside is that I could set up Lightroom to import the whole lot, then go and have a leisurely meal while it did so. Now I have to spend around 15 of that 20 minutes before going to eat!

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