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Ektagraphic
06-28-2010, 12:42 AM
I'll give that a try. Thanks for all of your advice! I'll walk into things with my tools in my toolbox, knowing they are there but not taking them out until they are needed.

Solarize
06-28-2010, 04:54 AM
Technique aside, the prices you have mentioned are nowhere near viable as a sustainable business model. I don't care how low your overheads are... once you have covered marketing, promotion, film costs, fuel, insurance and so on, not to mention your time, you will be losing money.
Attempting to base your fees on what someone else charges is equally shortsighted... you don't know what their overheads are, you don't know how much work they are doing... and in fact you don't even know if they are making money. If you are serious, build a strong portfolio without too much concern for profitability. Your work needs to be strong, as the fact it is on film makes it no better or more desirable than portraits shot digitally. Once your have a portfolio, or preferably before, write down every single expense you can associate with offering portraiture as a service: insurance, website, phone etc. These are your indirect costs, and they exist regardless of whether you are getting work or otherwise. Next, work out the direct costs associated with each job; things like film, fuel, the expense in delivering a print and your time.
Now divide your indirect (ongoing) expenses by the number of commissions you expect to receive in a year. Then add onto that base figure, which will be much higher than you have anticipated, the costs associated with a single job (direct expenses)... You now have a sum for the bare minimum you must make off each job, just to break even. And with the figures you have worked out at this stage, you are likely being way too optimistic.

I make my living full time as a family portrait photographer. Shooting film 100% of the time; expenses, time, insurance, tax etc all calculated, I could not make a living taking anything less that 1,000 average per job. I do now shoot a mixture of film (645) and digital (largely replacing 35mm) to maintain profitability. I also make platinum prints and frame, so take control of the whole process. I know how tough the market is, and I know that nobody much cares about the process unless they can see a difference in the results or cost.

If you charge too little you seem undesirable. You also don't make anything like the money you will need to advertise to the ideal target market - which you will need to find to cover your expenses. Perhaps I am jumping the gun with your intentions, but selling portraits successfully is a very hard market to crack... Best of luck!

Tom Kershaw
06-28-2010, 05:17 AM
I make my living full time as a family portrait photographer. Shooting film 100% of the time; expenses, time, insurance, tax etc all calculated, I could not make a living taking anything less that 1,000 average per job. I do now shoot a mixture of film (645) and digital (largely replacing 35mm) to maintain profitability. I also make platinum prints and frame, so take control of the whole process. I know how tough the market is, and I know that nobody much cares about the process unless they can see a difference in the results or cost.


Interesting post. Would you mind indicating how "large" (quantity, print size etc.) your jobs tend to be?

Tom

eddym
06-28-2010, 05:40 AM
IMHO, it is important in being a good photographer to not to apply a "blanket" technique to your shooting. Think about why or why not you would want to eliminate shadows on someones face in each situation, before just deciding that this is what you are going to do all the time. Everything you do to take the picture and make the print is going to affect what the print does emotionally, conceptually, and what have you. That is your starting point, not "I use fill for portraits." Light is your only seriously important tool. Use it to manipulate the image in order to achieve the desired effect, not just to make use of your tools for sake of making use of them. You must free yourself from predefined boxes to be a good photographer. You must go into each image fresh, and consider each image individually. Instead of worrying about gear and what situations you will use it for, think about light and what it does for the image...then think about what you can do to manipulate it to get the intended effect. I suggest that you quit getting so much into gear in your thinking, and really get into learning and thinking about light and how to use it. One thing I would do is to get some basic shapes. Sphere, cylinder, and cube. Get three hot lamps, a table, and a backdrop or two. Get some bounce cards and some black cards. Get some diffusion. Get some barn door material (black foil - A.K.A. cinefoil - works well). Then spend your time lighting those stupid objects in every way imaginable until you understand light and can control it to get what you want. Spending your time doing that will help your goals far more than worrying about what camera to use or what other people do with reflectors.

All good advice, to which I would add one comment about reflectors: they require something or someone to hold them. In the studio it's easy to use light stands with reflector holders. Outdoors, you have to deal with wind and other environmental problems. When I shoot indoors, I like to use reflectors, but outdoors, fill flash is usually much easier to deal with.

markbarendt
06-28-2010, 07:00 AM
IMHO, it is important in being a good photographer to not to apply a "blanket" technique to your shooting.

I respectfully disagree with this.

Developing a repeatable style is what makes your services marketable and the products you want to offer priceable.

When a portrait prospect looks at your portfolio and they say "I like that" they are not asking you to do something else, they just want themselves in the photo instead of those other guys.

Solarize
06-28-2010, 08:03 AM
Interesting post. Would you mind indicating how "large" (quantity, print size etc.) your jobs tend to be?

Tom

Sure. I would usually deliver between four and eight framed prints, between 5x4 and 20x24 in size. Unfortunately, selling anything much bigger than a 12x16, framed to roughly 18x22 is hard. It boils down to the restrained taste of customers... It just isn't that fashionable in my market to have very large prints of the family. In the US I hear of 16x20 being considered very modest, but to clients here it is huge.

My pricing is structured so that small prints still return well (very important in the UK!). I had always printed in the darkroom, but I'm cutting back a bit and doing some digital printing, with platinum prints the newest, most luxurious product. I also do the framing myself. The frames are typically made from Cherry or Wenge, with museum grade glass, mountboard etc - so the emphasis is on having a few photographs, but printed and framed to the very highest standards.

jp498
06-28-2010, 08:04 AM
I use a photo basics 5-1 reflector. It folds up into the size of medium pizza pan. When let out, it's 40" in diameter. It has a choice of reflective surfaces (gold silver, white, etc..) it also has a white screen which is good for producing diffuse shade on a sunny day. (good for outdoor product shots)

It is true you need often someone to hold it, but that goes for any tall outdoor lighting unless there is either zero wind or it's so heavy you don't want to lug it. You could clamp it to a spare tripod, but that's sort of a last resort. You really don't need too complex a lighting outdoors. A fill flash 1.5 stops under and a reflector are about all you need. You don't want to eliminate shadows so much as control their contrast range to something that's acceptable for your end results. If someone comes along with a P&S digicam to distract your subject, put them in charge of the reflector. Tell them where to stand and physically help them aim it till the subject notes that the reflector is shining in their face. Thank them and tell them not to move. Then you can do your work. Instead of being a copy cat, they are part of the process!

Solarize
06-28-2010, 08:26 AM
This sort of thing, Tom. 5x4 platinum print, float mounted in a wenge frame with schott mirrogard museum glass.

Ektagraphic
06-28-2010, 10:57 AM
Technique aside, the prices you have mentioned are nowhere near viable as a sustainable business model. I don't care how low your overheads are... once you have covered marketing, promotion, film costs, fuel, insurance and so on, not to mention your time, you will be losing money.


What type of insurance do you speak of that I would need?

Solarize
06-28-2010, 11:30 AM
I can only talk about the UK, but there will be crossover. Equipment insurance first off. Public liability second; just in case someone should get injured (or something broken) while you work... and professional indemnity should you fail to provide the services contracted.

Just re-reading what I wrote earlier, I hope it didn't come across harsh or too forward? There are just so many hidden costs involved, that I wish I had known of when starting out and establishing my pricing.

Ektagraphic
06-28-2010, 11:34 AM
Not too harsh at all. You gave great advice. Thanks.

Ektagraphic
06-28-2010, 01:11 PM
Anyone in the US have any comments on insurance over here?

MattKing
06-28-2010, 01:46 PM
From the Canadian (common-law provinces) perspective, I would agree with Solarize, except I would re-order the priorities:
1) Public liability (in case someone should get injured (or something broken) while you work);
2) Professional indemnity (in case you should you fail to provide the services contracted) and
3) Equipment insurance.

I would also check my auto insurance, to make sure it covers you when you are working commercially.

Experience with issues like insurance is one good reason to investigate professional photographers' associations.

Ektagraphic
06-28-2010, 02:09 PM
In the very, very beginning trying this out to see if it will work for me with family, freinds, and freinds of freinds, should I go get insurence now?

Solarize
06-28-2010, 05:01 PM
From the Canadian (common-law provinces) perspective, I would agree with Solarize, except I would re-order the priorities:
1) Public liability (in case someone should get injured (or something broken) while you work);
2) Professional indemnity (in case you should you fail to provide the services contracted) and
3) Equipment insurance.

I would also check my auto insurance, to make sure it covers you when you are working commercially.

Experience with issues like insurance is one good reason to investigate professional photographers' associations.

Oh for sure. I didn't mean to imply order of importance in my list, although it did read like it. Public liability should be mandatory and the first thing you get.
Starting out, you could forgo professional indemnity. For weddings, commercial and events not a chance, but for portraits which can be repeated, you could do without initially.
Equipment insurance... well are you willing to risk it? Make sure you have backups. I work with at least 3 camera bodies.

Cheryl Jacobs
06-28-2010, 05:36 PM
Regarding pricing:

I work only in B&W, almost entirely medium format, and I use available light only, all on location. That means extremely minimal overhead and equipment costs. My base session fee for the Denver metro area is $350US, and 8x10 fiber prints start at $150 unframed. I also sell coffee table books (those are a hybrid process) for $1500 each. My average sale is typically a combination of prints and books, and generally come in around $2500 - $5000, not usually less but sometimes more.

Remember the tricky issues of perceived value. Charge too little, and your work will be seen as cheap.

- CJ

Ektagraphic
06-28-2010, 09:30 PM
Is it possible to have them sign some kind of contract that says that I am not resposable for anything that could happen to them or is insurance still needed?

MattKing
06-28-2010, 09:52 PM
Is it possible to have them sign some kind of contract that says that I am not resposable for anything that could happen to them or is insurance still needed?

Who are you going to get to sign your contract (known as a waiver)?

Using weddings as an example, and a poorly placed and easily tripped over lighting cord as a further example, insurance protects you from claims from anyone - friends, relatives, caterers, flower delivery persons, wedding party, mothers of the bride! :) - whereas your contract will only protect you from claims from the person(s) signing the contract, and then only if the contract is carefully prepared, and if the party signing the contract is one who is likely to be bound by its provisions (adult, competent, and someone who both benefits from the contract, and who can be shown to have knowingly and voluntarily agreed to the restriction of rights provided for in the contract).

Some of this is jurisdiction specific (i.e. it applies here, but maybe not fully where you are) but it would be unwise to assume that it wouldn't apply to you.

My suggestion would be that you speak with an insurance broker in your area who is familiar with commercial insurance for service based industries. It may be that the broker who supplies you with insurance for your car and your residence may also be able to help you with what you need.

fotch
06-28-2010, 09:55 PM
Is it possible to have them sign some kind of contract that says that I am not resposable for anything that could happen to them or is insurance still needed?

That depends.

Wording of contract.
Laws of your state.

If your concerned, and I would be, pay a good attorney to draft one for you.

Cheaper boiler plate contract available on line or at a stationary store, you won't know until you need the protection, if it works.

This is one of the cost of doing business.

Good Luck.

Ektagraphic
06-28-2010, 10:10 PM
This is all so new to me as I am not even of age yet. I'll have to look into the insurence end. I have a freind who just had a contract made up by an attorney and I'll talk to them about it. MattKing-The person that would sign a waiver would be the person having their portrait taken. I have no plan to do weddings or large functions. Simply outdoor portraits for now.