Still not learning the per-image pricing lesson

(Last Updated On: September 15, 2010)

One of my  photographer friends, who’s heard my per-image pricing rant for years, got burned (again) using the outmoded day-rate/hourly rate system.

Unless you are photographing a time-locked event, hourly rates don’t make sense in the digital age.

So my friend told me, with a long face, that his longtime client demanded that he lower his price by $30 per hour or else they would outsource the work to India.

Although the art directors were not in favor of this action, based on poor results in the past, they knew the agency owner would do it in a heartbeat.  So, my friend lowered his rate.

The client arrived a few weeks later for their  regular two-day shoot. My friend usually doesn’t hire an assistant for the job due to the low rates. An assistant would be helpful since there is a lot of prep work for each of the products. This time the agency brought an intern to help with the shoot.

The photographer was pleased to have the support. The intern prepped all the products. All my friend had to do was light and shoot.  They got the job done in a day.

Unfortunately, because he works hourly, he not only lost $30 per hour due to the agency demands, but he also lost an entire day’s worth of work. Why? He placed the value of the shoot on his time rather than the images.

Photography is much more efficient in the digital age.

I had an assignment during the same time period.  We actually had to divide the studio space to accommodate both shoots.  My shoot was much simpler: 35 metal parts on a white background.  I got my assignment done in four hours (not including processing) and I earned six times as much money.

My client didn’t care how much time it took.  If I needed to spend more time, I would have done so.  I was on a roll and the light was landing just the way I wanted it.

I even took additional, detailed images that they loved and purchased.  It didn’t faze them that they had to pay more because they saw the value in each image.  Not only that, they sent more products to shoot because everything looked so good.

The sad reality is that most companies don’t place much value on your time.  Honestly, minimum wage is too high for most companies. To suggest that your time is valued at $1,500 a day or $125 an hour is not going to fly. This is especially true if companies are not used to working with photographers.  What can be justified is the $75, $125, $200, or $300 spent for each beautiful image created, which ultimately helps the company sell more products and services.

Retail clients think the same way about your time.  I’ve had people looking for wedding photographers wonder why photographers can’t just work for $20 an hour like the rest of society.

Place the value where it should be: on your images. You never know, you just might make a living.


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