I love the following quote:
“Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him. “It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.” So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.
“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”
“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.
“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”
To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.” (Source)
There is always a point in ones photography career that you will be told that you are too expensive and that they can easily find somebody else to do it cheaper. Designers hear that a lot too. It becomes more common when the financial markets are in a squeeze.
Getting to stay at a 5 star resort for the price of a 4 star will still be too expensive for someone on a 3 star budget.
What do you do? Take it or leave it, it is your choice. Emerging photographers, wanting to get a break, may take it. Established ones with a slow month may also take it. The ones with a strong belief in their self worth will turn it down. Or do you barter?
Bartering seems to be on the rise and can be a much better option. First of all you get to keep you marked value. If you price yourself very low, your reputation for low price will exceed you.It will be easier to scale Mount Everest than to raise your rates. Reap what you sow as they say.
The market will always have an average rate, some will price themselves slightly above, others below. What you can charge depends on your perceived market value. Quality has always commanded price. Rolls Royce will not have a “70% off regular price” end-of-year sale. They wouldn’t even think that thought. Why? Because that would destroy their perceived market value.
Since a majority of people perceive photography to be a mere click on the shutter, they often believe they can almost do it themselves or correct it by using Photoshop if they did not get it right in the first place. The tree branch in the background, no worries, I will photoshop it. The reflection of the crew in the building. Don’t mind them, they all disappear with my magic wand. Also disappearing is the notion of time. A simple step to the side, re-compose and crop out the branch and tell your crew to take cover, would save you tremendous time spent on Photoshop work. Why increase your workload when you don’t need?
What happened to the craft of photography? Once, when we loaded sheets or rolls of film into the cameras, testing the light setup with polaroids, the client understood that the material spent cost money. The more experienced photographer, the less “waste” of film and polaroids, the less money spent.
Digital photography changed that. It doesn’t cost you more to shoot another frame and check the light on the screen, but you still save time on using an experienced photographer. It is always easy when you know what you are doing. That’s why clients often ask to see that you have already done a similar shot to what they want. Reassurance.
What also hasn’t changed is the fact that you will soon be carrying far more equipment around than before. In addition to lights and light modifiers, laptops and tethered cameras are the the norm. It is a costly business to invest in, especially with the innovation rate of technology. 2 years to recoup investment cost as you constantly upgrade camera bodies and computers.
As for your lights, they should be optimized for digital photography in terms of stable colour temperature, lenses should be the top of the range as they affect image quality, cameras adequate to handle the demand of art buyers (medium format is more or less the standard for advertising work) and computer systems with plenty of backup storage to handle the file sizes you are working on. Are you seeing the spinning wheel when working in Photoshop then your computer system is not fast enough.
Once you start putting figures next to the equipment list, the sum can be more than you really want to know.
That is the investment cost for your business. Your daily business expenses, including staff salary, comes on top of this.
Bottom line, photography business is like any business; a business.