To a very large degree, the answer lies in how you came about this opportunity and how badly you want your work displayed in the Hospital. By offering you “great latitude” in the choice of images, they must have knowledge of your work and faith in your judgment, and as such, they must have an idea of how much you normally charge per print. I wouldn’t assume they are looking for a lowball figure unless that has been hinted at in your discussions. Remember, you can always negotiate a lower figure if they balk at your first quote but you won’t be given the opportunity to negotiate up!
As for pricing your work, the “cost basis” is pretty much irrelevant unless you are figuring your time as part of the cost. To do that is pretty difficult considering you are looking at 12 to 15 NEW images that could take many hours to create, even if you simply go to “The Place” and snap the shutter, and it never works out that way for me.
Like you, I am an unknown photographer even though I have been selling my work for 25 years. My 20x24 prints sell for $630.00 framed. Except for using wood frames and glass, they are prepared and presented pretty much as you plan to do. I would normally offer a 10% discount for this quantity of images but I have established prices to discount from. When I print a new image it can take from 6 to 8 hours, sometimes more. Subsequent printing of the same negative can be done considerably faster but it still takes several hours to get it right. I also have an advantage in that I never make one print of anything when I am printing (I usually make 4), so I am spreading the time per print over more potential sales.
Some have suggested that the hospital is looking for “poster art” but I don’t think you can assume that. There are lots of reasons for using local, original art in public buildings.
So, I would think a figure of $8,000.00 to $9,000.00 is reasonable for 15 prints. But, of course, that’s just my opinion.
I think that the prices people are quoting are fair, but I doubt the hospital would pay. If the doctors found out they paid $10,000 for photos but delayed the purchase of a medical device, they would express some frustration.
I would consider showing the big price, but offer to break it down over a series of years so that you lower their initial cost while maintaining your visibility over a period of time. Sort of like a subscription that I mentioned before. Otherwise, after they fire the administrator that gave you $10,000 for 15 photos, they will replace them with blurry pastel watercolors donated to the hospital foundation by a doctor's wife.
A lot of good and interesting advice here - just to add one thing I'm feeling after reading it -
My gut is to say if you go for fiber silver prints, go the whole way, selenium, etc. The cost and work of everything else in the process is too much to pull up short of best.
The other option is to consider good inkjets, as was suggested (from scanning good 8x10 prints, or negs, if you do the P-shop thing). You could submit both options, which would give you the opportunity to explain the difference and sound out their appreciation level (or lack of) for the finer print.
Someone above mentioned the printing time, and the fact that most of us print more than one, once we have the image the way we like it. I would think that part of the decision is whether you would like these images enough to add them to your serious work. If not, the inkjet route might be the best.
I am an architect and work for HBE Corporation. We are the largest hospital design/build firm in the country. For a “major Chicago hospital” $10,000.00 is a pittance. That doesn’t mean they spend money foolishly but if they see the value in the artwork they wouldn’t worry about a payment plan. If they don’t see the value, they’ll call the doctor’s wife regardless of your price.
Originally Posted by jeroldharter
Darn it! I made a long and rambling post to address some of the things brought up here and I somehow lost it when I went to upload it.
It's clear that some have misinterpreted what I am doing with this project and I wanted to clarify that. I may come back here tomorrow and post a message again so if anyone is interested in this thread, check back tomorrow.
That's what I get for writing the world's longest and most rambling post!
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I just noticed that we have a 2nd page in this discussion that I didn't see before. Some of the comments made on that page are right on the button and are along the lines of what I said in my "lost" post.
To summarize the most important points I wanted to make:
1) It makes no sense to me, as some have suggested, to save a few bucks and go 2nd rate by foregoing selenium toning and archival matting . As someone else pointed out, the difference in the final price is negligible. It is not a big savings. Also, my reputation is at stake and I believe it was my reputation that caused the hospital to contact me in the first place. I might save $15 or $20 on a $700 print. That is not worth scrimping on.
2) They most definitely are willing to pay fairly high prices. I talked to people at the hospital tonight and they made that clear. Also, I have learned that the going rate for this type of work sold to hospitals is about $1,000 to $1,200 per print. I posted links to photographers who are very successful at this type of work in my "lost" message. One charges well over $1,000 for large prints and he makes them on a printer and they are not mounted or framed. Those prices are for prints from a printer just rolled up and sent in a mailing tube. Here is one example: http://www.henrydomke.com/index.htm He just presses a button, out pops a print, he sticks it in a mailing tube, sends it to a hospital and collects $1,000. Hospitals are definitely not penny-pinchers in general, as some here seem to think. That may be why hospital costs are so high.
3) I have always done my own matting and framing. It's not rocket science. But judging from the prices frame shops charge, they must think they are rocket scientists. I can do at least as good a job as they can and I do it exactly as I want it done. You can too! This is an area where you can REALLY save money by doing it yourself. And I would never let a flawed mat bear my name. Because the hospital also may be buying large numbers of framed color prints from me after this job is done, I may farm that out the framing for that. But my local frame shop charges $45 just to cut the over-mat window (including the cost of the mat but nothing else). I can save a bundle of money doing it myself and I always do. I pass most of that savings on to the customer and that keeps my prices down. Matting and framing is no big deal and if you are selling small number of prints, you should learn to do it if you aren't already. If you do, you can cut your costs WAY down.
4) I have been doing some research since posting this question and have learned that the general going rate for this type of sale to hospitals is about $1,000 to $1,200. I have contacted photographers who have done precisely this kind of work and that's what they charge. There seems to be an impression by some here that hospitals are tight-wads. But remember what hospitals charge you for an aspirin and then maybe you will see that money is not such a big deal for them. As it turns out, they pay very well. In my case, the department also wants to spend the money in their budget for this year because, if they don't by the end of the fiscal year, they will get a smaller budget next year. It's like any business.
The hospital department that I will be doing this for has about $10,000 in their budget left this year and from that they are spending 3 to 4 thousand on something else. But the fiscal year ends very soon and they expect to budget another $15,000 for artwork then. I threw some numbers around tonight when I talked to them and it instantly became clear that I will have absolutely no problem getting at least $700 per picture. They called tonight to ask me to do something else too. They now also want 3 or 5 (yes, that's "or".. they want odd numbers .... they really do have a sense for art!), 20x24" framed color prints. They can be just pretty landscapes, etc. I will just pick them from my inventory and I will send them out for printing so almost no work is involved unless I mat and frame them myself which I will almost certainly do. (I'm just not that great at picking mat colors if they want colored mats for the color prints).
The thing I found so surprising were all the suggestions to forget selenium toning, printing on fiber-based papers and using fine mat boards. That really isn't a big part of the price of a picture and, as I said, my reputation is at stake. I find the attitude that suggests that I should cut corners on quality to save a few buck that won't make much difference in the final price surprising coming from people who strive for excellence in their photography. We should take pride in the quality of our work. After all, we are all probably here (APUG) because we are committed to doing the very best that we can with our photography. If you are reading this, you are almost certainly highly committed to excellence. But cutting corners does not make sense when considered in that light especially when you aren't even saving much money. It's a small investment for top quality work. If I had made it a habit to work like that, the hospital probably never would have called me in the first place.
Also, consider this: I don't lug around 4x5" and big 8x10" cameras and spend so much money on film and so much time and effort making images only to end the process by saving a couple bucks at the expense of quality. That makes no sense to me at all. That's analogous to the guy who had his gold medal plated in brass.
Someone suggested that the hospital is not interested in art and that they could just buy posters at a discount store. Sure they could. But the fact is that they didn't. And they are interested in art.... decor art. They called me and asked me to produce fine quality b&w prints. If they wanted cheap discount store pictures, they never would have called me. They would have just sent someone to Walmart. (Actually, you get the finest art at Menard's! LOL)
Someone said that since they only want prints and they aren't contracting me to shoot them, I shouldn't factor that in to the price. But think about that. The travel, etc., is a very real expense that will be incurred. If I don't factor that in, I will lose money. I learned that lesson the hard way years ago. In fact, I learned that you have to consider all your costs and that means some "hidden" costs that some might not think of. People who don't do that can't figure out why they are being paid well but somehow losing money. But I don't itemize those costs on the official estimate. They are built into the estimate. A good friend of mine is Ron Harris. You have read his articles if you read Photo Techniques Magazine. (Check out his website. Beautiful images!). Anyway, he was telling me today that even if someone simply asks him for a print of an existing image that he has, he factors in all costs including something for actually shooting the picture even though it may have been done years ago. Of course, that's not a large amount. But he knows that if he doesn't take those things into consideration, he will be losing money even if it feels like he is making money. Ron is a very smart man! (He is also a retired physics professor.) So, if anyone here is not considering all their costs when they sell prints, they are probably losing money whether they know it or not. In fact, I read some statistics once that said that that is one of the main reason that new businesses fail.
I have my cost estimate worked up for this job already. I made a list and tried to factor in all my expenses. I even allowed for utilities. After all, my well pump will be running almost non-stop while printing and my sump pump that my sinks drain into will be pumping away almost non-stop too. Also, my film drying cabinet and dry-mount press will be burning up electricity. The amount I factored in for those things is small, of course, but I factored them in. I tried to think of everything. The final cost estimate to produce the 20x24" archival prints, matted and framed, comes to about $236 each. That also allows for paper for test prints and ten sheet of film for each finished image. But it does not include my labor or a profit. That is just my costs and those costs are very real. You cannot ignore any real costs or you will almost certainly lose money. If a project will requires travel, you have to factor that in. If you think that you shouldn't factor in necessary travel because you were only asked for the print, you should not be doing this for a business because you will lose money. So you work up a true cost estimate and, from that, decide on a fair final price. If the customer won't pay that amount and you can't go lower without losing money, you just don't take the job. It's as simple as that unless you don't mind losing money for some reason.... glory, exposure, etc. It makes no sense to spend so much time and effort to lose money.
Someone was correct when they said that the hospital doesn't care how I get the shots....from my existing files or by shooting them. That's very true. But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't factor in travel expenses if that is what's required to do the job. The hospital is saying, "We want some fine prints. Provide them for us. Give us an estimate for how much they will cost." They have no problem with paying my expenses. All they care about is that they get a good product at a price that is acceptable to them. To put it another way, if you were to buy a print at a gallery, you better believe that all the photographer's costs to produce that image are factored in one way or another. If they aren't, he is losing money.
The funny thing is that I have talked to several pros who do this type of photography regularly and their cost basis for a finished and framed 20x24" 20x24" b&w print ranges from $450 to $600. And that is from images that they already have and don't have to shoot for the project. My cost estimate is much lower. I am either missing something in my estimate or they may be including their labor in their cost basis.
Not to make light of your very valid post, but if you decide to charge the hospital the way that hospitals bill, you can bill them for each of the components. For example, charge separately for each side of the glass in the frame. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
On a more serious note, you also need to consider the potential benefit of exposure to the public (which, in a hospital venue, may not be that high) as well as the potential for resale of the images (assuming you retain copyrights).
Last edited by mgb74; 01-30-2007 at 11:13 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your approach to pricing but I do believe you are approaching it as an assignment rather than as an artist. When I do Architectural photography, that is an assignment and the expenses associated with the project including travel, materials, props, etc.are factors that determine the fee.
When I do Fine Art, my expenses including my time are more or less irrelevant because the time it takes to make the negative, the difficulty involved or lack there of, the distance I travel or anything else about making the negative or the print has no bearing on either the artistic merit or the market value of the final print. That’s not to say that I don’t consider expenses when doing Fine Art, but the relationship between effort and expense and sales results is clouded at best and has to be considered over a longer period of time. Additionally, there is the talent factor, which is no small thing.
Finally, I’ve been around the art scene for a long time and can tell you that few people have good “value” since when it comes to art. Because of that, how you, the artist, values your work is very important when it comes to how other people value it.