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So you want to hire a photographer…

Taken in September 2018

A really interesting article went up recently  expressing how some cosplayers and models undervalue photographers when it comes to getting great pictures done. There are some people out there who may have taken some of what was said to heart. Understandably, there are a lot of people who may not completely understand what a photographer does when they set out to create their quality work. Sadly, this just isn’t among cosplayers, but it’s endemic to most photography clients.

“But what about that discount?”
As opposed to many of my photography friends who will read this, I have not been shooting at the level that I am at for very long. I am indeed still honing my craft and I know that I still have a long ways to go; but I do think that there is a lot of value in my work and we all have to start somewhere. So, let’s start with cost, as money is a sticking point for a lot of people, and must be discussed in every photography contract.

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Above: Some of my work from when I first started

Photographers don’t just wake up knowing how to use a professional grade camera. They require training and education to produce professional grade work. I remember years ago when I first started out, I had a lot of difficulty trying to get people to be subjects. I understood then that people wanted someone  who was already established. At that point in time, I was even offering free sessions just so I could practice; but very rarely would anybody come forward to shoot. Fast forward to now. After investing money in classes, equipment, software and so on, my skills have grown.

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Above: My recent work

I’ve gotten to the point in my career where people seek me out to inquire about photo sessions. It’s a great feeling, but I still get the (relatively frequent) person who — upon hearing about what it costs — are always looking for a discount. There’s also the occasional, “Oh, you don’t shoot for free anymore?” No. I don’t.

Sure, there are certain situations which will change the rate(s) of the shoot(s). Those could possibly also vary from client to client. However, to ask for a discount or free work right off the bat — especially when you are a new face to a photographer — is very nearly an insult. Yes, there are even those out there that think just because they have a certain ‘look’ should get something for free or at a very low discount. It stings us (as photographers) worse when you think that, just because you’re a family member or on a first name basis with the photographer, that they will immediately give you a hook-up.

There are several things that people don’t consider when inquiring about a discounted rate:

  • Travel expenditures getting to and from a shoot location.
  • If you’re shooting on private property or in a studio, there are costs to procure the location.
  • The time it takes to actually do the shoot.
  • Wear & tear on, and maintenance of the equipment used during the shoot.
  • Most of all, the time, work, and cost of the software that goes in to editing the images, so that your photos look great.

As cliché as they are, there are two ideas at play here: “You get what you pay for” and “You get out of it what you put into it”. These ideas are definitely something that you, the client, should consider when asking a photographer to shoot for you. In other words, know your budget in advance of approaching a photographer to shoot for you. Don’t expect a champagne shoot on a Budweiser budget.

An estimated cost breakdown of what it means when asking for a discount

Even if you are doing a TFP (Trade For Print) shoot, it doesn’t hurt to at least offer your shooter something (food is a wonderful motivator, by the way) for the work that they are putting in. At the very least when negotiating a shoot, come up with something amicable so that both parties are happy with what they are getting out of the shoot. Again, while every session may not a be a paid gig, it’s considerate for clients to see to it that their photographer is compensated in some form or fashion for the work that’s done.

In summary, being a photographer is not cheap. Photographers invest a lot of time in buying and upgrading equipment, training, and so many other things to ensure your pictures come out great. Consider this when your photographer tells you what it costs to shoot. After all, you don’t expect your barber, plumber, electrician or mechanic to work for free or at a loss, right?

Next time, we will cover getting exposure.

About Armand (1275 Articles)
Armand is a husband, father, and life long comics fan. A devoted fan of Batman and the Valiant Universe he loves writing for PCU, when he's not running his mouth on the PCU podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @armandmhill
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