Photographer Rant- My Thoughts on Pricing and TFP

Although I try my best to keep this blog light-hearted and positive, I feel that I need to address an issue that has been bothering me for some time.

I’ve noticed that many photos and articles have been circulating around the photography community on Facebook regarding prices and working for free. I’d like to give my own thoughts and opinions on the matter. PLEASE NOTE: These opinions are based solely on my own experiences with photography; I understand that everyone’s situations are different and there are no ‘set rules’ when it comes to photography.

I am not posting this to call anyone out or make anyone feel bad, it’s meant to bring awareness, from a photographers’ perspective.

 PRICING:

I was recently speaking with a lady who, upon finding out I was a photographer, proceeded to complain about the ‘ridiculous’ prices of local wedding photographers. I was polite and bit my tongue at the time, but now I’m going to express my thoughts.

I’ve heard this complaint often since getting into this industry, and I feel that people don’t fully understand the investment of photography.

I’d like to state that pricing is a deeply personal thing, and it’s often a huge struggle for photographers to come up with a price list. I’ve found that with the majority of my paid jobs, I have lowballed myself, afraid of being gossiped about as one of those ‘ridiculously priced photographers’. What it often comes down to is: Confidence. Many photographers set low prices because they don’t feel they are good enough. I have struggled with this. I have thought, “I am not good enough to be charging this much…” and I have set a low price, ended up working a ridiculous amount and feeling like maybe, it wasn’t worth it.

If a photographer has a seemingly ‘high’ price list, it is probably because they are confident. They know they are good, and they know that they are worth it.

If you disagree with a photographers’ price list: Move on. There’s no need to insult someone’s prices… Everyone has their own reasons for what they charge. Many people have struggled to get to a point where they are comfortable with their price list, and many photographers still work for free or lowball themselves because they are still struggling with it.

I’m sure if you look around, you will be able to find someone within your budget. There is no shortage of photographers.

Or, if photography isn’t a priority to you- you don’t have to hire anyone. I’m sure your Uncle Joe probably has a great little Canon SLR and would be willing to take some snap shots of your wedding for you.

WHAT YOU ARE PAYING FOR WHEN YOU HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER:

I’d like to share another of my recent experiences. I had someone ask me for a wedding price and I told them $1500, which I honestly feel is on the lower end. The response was that they were going to ‘use the money to buy a nice camera and take their own photos.’

Again- I had to bite my tongue (maybe a little harder this time.)

My actual thoughts: I am not a camera. A camera can’t do what I do.

EDUCATION/EQUIPMENT

I am an educated, experienced professional. I have invested $20,000 into my education and my gear.

I spent a year studying photography, have obtained my professional photography diploma, and have since spent time on many, many shoots, gathering experience.

When you hire a photographer, you’re not just hiring a ‘nice camera’. If this is the way you think, then you are hiring someone for the wrong reasons.

TALENT/STYLE

Each of us have our own style of shooting and/or editing that makes us unique.

I implore you- hire someone not because of their prices, but because you love their style. I understand that budget can be an issue, but please ask yourself beforehand: Do you love the photographer’s portfolio? Will you be disappointed if you hire a ‘cheaper’ photographer whose work you may not like as much?

Of course, the importance you put on the photography is completely up to you and is a personal decision. Decide what these photos will mean to you.
Yes, it is an investment, but it’s a worthwhile one if it results in photographs that you absolutely adore.

Choose a photographer whose style you love, and you won’t be disappointed.

TIME/EFFORT

A lot of work goes into shoots. Depending on the type of shoot, there are many factors which take up time: e-mailing/phone calls, meeting with the client, planning location, organizing wardrobe, organizing hair and make-up, the actual shooting, and editing (this is a big one.)

For most shoots, I spend at least 30 minutes editing each of my photos, which can quickly add up. I don’t think that people fully understand the importance that editing can play. Yes, the photos look nice when you see them on the back of the camera. However, once they are blown up on a computer, there are many minute details that can be very time consuming to fix (fly-aways, anyone?)

I also like to preplan locations, and spend a lot of time driving around and taking test shots before an actual shoot.

MY PAST STRUGGLES WITH TFP (trade for print):

Basically, I often end up feeling used.

To be perfectly honest, I have a hard time saying no. I say yes to nearly every model who contacts me (and am interested in the shoot at first)… However, I quickly realize that I don’t want to invest the time or energy into the shoots unless I am genuinely excited and inspired by the concept or the model’s look.) This means I don’t actually get around to planning the shoot, it falls apart, and I look completely unprofessional. I absolutely hate doing this to people.

Also: I find that TFP aren’t always rewarding: I often feel under appreciated. I find that models sometimes won’t thank me for the photos I’ve given, and will ask for more. This frustrates me because: I spent hours on the photos I gave you. When models want more, I often feel like the ones I’ve given aren’t good enough. This, in turn, makes me wonder if the model actually likes my work or was just looking for some free photos. (This doesn’t always happen- I have worked with many appreciative models and MUAs who are perfectly happy with whatever I give them.)

Often, when people are paying for something, they value it much more.

CURRENT THOUGHTS ON TFP:

I do not blame anyone for asking for TFP; I completely understand why people do it. Don’t be afraid to ask me, if I’m inspired by your look, I will definitely say yes.

Things to keep in mind before asking for a TFP shoot:

1.) I reserve the right to say no. At this point, I am really only looking to do shoots that will elevate my portfolio. If it’s already in my portfolio, I probably won’t do it. My next step would be working towards getting published, so I’m most interested in creative, editorial shoots.

Please don’t be offended if I say no! I don’t look for a particular quality in models- Sometimes I am inspired by someone for no apparent reason. It doesn’t mean you’re not a lovely girl- It just means I most likely don’t have an idea for you at the time. It’s always good to contact me anyways, that way I know who you are, know what you look like, and will be happy to contact you if I come up with an idea that would suit your look.

This goes for other industry professionals, too- If I contact a model, MUA, stylist, etc. wanting to do a TFP shoot, I respect the fact that she/he completely reserves the right to tell me no or ask for compensation.

2.) I choose the amount of photos to give. This is usually between 2-10.

Remember, these are reflecting my work, and I want to only show the best. I don’t often like to post photos which are too similar to each other.

I can’t guarantee a certain amount of photographs (unless you are paying me, of course). This is just a risk of TFP.

3.) My watermark will be on the photos. This is usually small, and in the corner. Please do not crop this off. The point of TFP, as far as I’m concerned, is to help each other out and bring awareness to each other. I think it is so important to credit everyone involved. I only give out low-res, web versions of the photos for TFP shoots. Paid shoots receive both web- and high-resolution (for printing) images, without watermarks.

4.) Unless you are paying me, I get to have heavy input into the concept of the shoot. I’m totally open to collaboration, suggestions and ideas. Don’t be afraid to suggest. However, like I say, I’m only interested in that which will elevate my portfolio.

5.) If I need to, let me take my time, please. I have other things going on in my life. I don’t often take more than a week to get photos to the model/MUA, however, sometimes I may take a little longer with editing. I don’t like to rush and put out photos I’m not entirely happy with.

Same goes with planning: If I agree to a TFP shoot, it may take some time for me to actually organize a date, depending on what’s going on in my life at the time.

Paid shoots get priority.

6.) Possibly the most important: Please be willing to give it your all. If you are contacting me wanting to do a TFP, I am going to assume you are serious about modelling. I’m not a hardass at shoots- Anyone who has worked with me can vouch for that. I am easy-going- I won’t ask the model to do anything I wouldn’t do myself, I respect that everyone needs breaks, etc. However, please be willing to give me your best. I will do the same for you. I’m interested in working with passionate people who enjoy what they do. Also- If we are planning on trying to get a shoot published, please respect that this is a time-consuming process and that you will not be allowed to put the photos online until the photos are accepted or rejected.

THE FUTURE

I would really like to shed my reputation of being a ‘free’ photographer. I feel that I have worked hard to develop a portfolio I’m happy with, and that my time and effort are worth something.

Putting time and energy into shoots to end up feeling under appreciated is so draining. I find myself getting into slumps where I find it impossible to plan anything photography-related.  I sometimes get frustrated to the point of wanting to delete my Facebook account and take a break for a while.

However, the truth is: I love photography. A lot. I don’t think I could stop if I tried. This is why I’m trying to make positive changes with my work. I hope that people will be understanding and respectful.

Thank you for reading!

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8 thoughts on “Photographer Rant- My Thoughts on Pricing and TFP

  1. Thank you! I’ve had the same feelings and I’ve gotten quite the amount of disrespect from people. I even gave up with shooting fashion because people treat my work like garbage, bail on me and don’t even use the photos. Good to know that there are other photographers out there that share the same view. Your photos are absolutely stunning, keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Natahsha! You are definitely not alone- I have had all of the same situations (so frustrating when people don’t use the photos!) I have also struggled with the idea of quitting, multiple times. I’m sad to hear that you had to give up fashion, but I can totally understand where you’re coming from. Thank you for the compliment! I checked out your website and you do excellent work- your portraits are beautiful!

  2. This is all so very true!!! Reminds me of this thing another photographer friend of mine posted recently which was a top 10 list of things to never say to a photographer including “Your camera takes nice pictures” (umm wrong!) and “Can you remove the watermark from that picture, I want to print it out for my mom?” (aaaaahhh!!!!). You are right though, a good photographer is worth the money more than anything – not just anyone can point a camera and make the pictures turn out just right. I have had different people photograph me on the same day and one person will make me look amazing and the other makes me look horrible, now what is that all about? The camera doesn’t lie my butt!!! Clearly one of those people knows a little more about how to capture a person’s positive features as any good photographer should 😉 you stick to your guns and don’t let any one tell you other wise, from what I’ve seen of your work you’re great.

    1. Thank you for your comment!!! Ahhh, your friend is so right! I’ve had the “Your camera takes nice pictures” before… Definitely not something we like to hear!
      Haha, I know what you mean- Sometimes photographers don’t always choose the most flattering angles. :[
      Thank you so much! That really means a lot to me. 🙂

  3. This was such an interesting read. And I completely get where you are coming from. Thank you so much for sharing. I think it’s great to get it from your perspective, and understand why photographers may choose to charge alot. I used to be one if those typical ‘complainers’, but now being a complete hobby photographer, even now I value my time and what I put into it. I can only imagine what it’s like if it was my income too! I also agree, the camera is not you. Very well said!

    I love your style by the way, it is something I’d love to learn how to do 🙂

      1. That would be fantastic, I can’t wait to see! I just wanted you to know, I really enjoyed your posts/photographs! Usually I find a great blog, read a page or two then have to bounce (see: extremely time poor) but with yours I couldnt stop! Haha. I had to tear myself away, but I can’t wait to read more. Xx

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