Pricing Your Photography (And Artist) Services

By Kyle Rea

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I'm going to be very straight forward in this blog because it's imperative you see our perspective! I thought writing a section about how we photographers (and artists) price our services would be an appropriate blog to discuss. These are hard times. Hard times indeed! With inflation rising faster than minimum wage and the after effects of the stock market crashing mixed topped with a spice of "new technology", it's really hard to make a living as a photographer these days. 

Sometimes it can get confusing with all the various photographers running around with DSLR's calling themselves "professional photographers" but shooting for free or dirt cheap. (Take Craigslist for example... and I'm pretty sure you all know what I'm talking about...) I mention they are not professional because no professional (that I know) would underbid the years of effort, study and expenses paid for a nickel and a dime. Our cREAtive Castle Studios team always loves to help out as much as we possibly can but we are getting paid solely to do this work which means there are a number of factors to consider before running away due to a "higher price" than you may be used to. 

Photography / Videography / Audio (and other forms of audio / visuals) is art but it's also a business. We must pay our bills and this is how we do it!

A scenario / perspective in terms that everybody can understand:

Minimum Wage (Similar to novice photographer) = $9 hour
Supervisor Wage (Similar to intermediate photographer) = $20+ hour
Manager Wage (Similar to advanced photographer) = $35+ hour
Area Supervisor Wage (Similar to Semi-Pro photographer) = $60+ hour
CEO Wage (Similar to Professional photographer) = $100- $1,000 hour
Owner Wage (Similar to celebrity photographer= 6 to 7 figures a year.

*Note  - These are estimated income based off a general speculation of the current businesses in Los Angeles.

Notice how you move up in rank when you put in time, hard work and effort? How long does it take to move up in pay grades in any job? It doesn't just "happen", does it? It takes time. The payout gets higher and the employee now becomes an employer and gets paid out for the dedication and time they put in? Think about photographers (or any artists) and realize how many countless hours they've put in to reach the higher tier levels of understanding in their art forms.

We are independent contractors. We must buy all of our own gear.

*Estimated costs at medium/good grade equipment for benefit of the doubt. 

Camera body = $2,000+
Camera Lenses (At least 3) = $2,000-$10,000
Lights = $1,000+
Seamless Paper & Mount = $500+
Tripod, Monopod, Mounting = $500+
Accessories = $500+
Programs to edit on = $1,500+
Computer to edit on + $1,500+
2 Years of training = $40,000+

Yes, these are realistic numbers! No, we cannot afford to get by without getting paid!

Let me ask you a question,

Q: What do Costco, Ralphs, Vons, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Jon's Supermarket all have in common? 

A: They're all competitive supermarkets in their own way but selling very similar products. Which store do you prefer shopping at and why? (Answer this in your head)

In Photo: Charles Boston

In Photo: Charles Boston

Let's put it this way: How many businesses have you ever been in/to for services or shopping and compared prices to other similar businesses and made a judgement call based on price? How about based on quality? How about based on how many services they had to offer? How much time and gas does it take for you to go to one grocery store for dinner items then go to another store to get all your healthy items and then one more store for your bulk items? Wouldn't you rather go to one place for all your services that has better quality and more options for the same or lower price as the competitive markets? Are you willing to pay more for something just because you trust the quality more than the service / product more than the competitive stores?

Now think about how many man hours the owner spent to learn how to run a business that you want and would continue to build upon your needs. How much money and time investment did it cost them and all their employees just to get the product and stock it up for your presentation, hoping you'll buy it? Do you think they had time to have another job on the side while building this business? How did you even hear about the store in the first place?  

Same analogy goes for Photographers (and all artists)! We have spent years upon years of study and countless dollars each and every day to hone our crafts in order to bring you the best of what we can do! Would you offer a grocery store .50 cents for $3.00 gallon of orange juice just because you don't have the budget? The store owner is going to tell you to go find the budget or you don't get the service / product, right? If food is too harsh an example (because we die without it, but then again, I'd die without art!) then let's say for example, would you ask Best Buy or Fry's to buy a $300 DSLR for $150 because you only have that much money to spend? Sure... you could buy it on credit for if you have a credit card with 10%-28% interest... If your credibility sucks, then not happening. So you'll find a way to get it, because you "need" it or really want it. 

In Photo: Shaka Smith

In Photo: Shaka Smith

So you bought the camera. You want to save some money. Let's say you do get the camera, do you now how to use it? Know what ISO to set on with what FStop and what picture mode to set it on for the sun blowing out your photo? Sun's going down... now what do you do, the photos' too dark!? The photo came out clear but the color is way off and you wanted it to look good for your business headshot. Well, you try to edit it anyway and it's a bit grainy and the color is off but whatever, you need to post it now because your business site is already up and you want to get work! So you post it but you don't get work or people don't take you seriously because your presentation is mediocre and your competition has paid the price but are getting the results. Note.... "Getting the results".

That's why it's imperative to hire the best photographers and artists you can find because not only is a photo worth 1,000 words (or more if you are willing to book an amazing photographer) but "our" work gets results. (Bently, Mercedes or Kia Optima?) Quality always out-trumphs mediocre, but just know you get what you pay for!

(Cheap, Fast, Good = pick two)

Just think this scenario next time you want to hire a photographer. We're just like you, trying to get by on a day to day basis!

Please share this blog on your social media pages if you agree with what I'm sayin'!

-Kyle Rea
Professional Freelance Photographer
cREAtive Castle Studios