The Harsh Truth About The Connection Between The Cost Of Your Gear And Your Value As A Photographer

harsh-truth

Posts that illustrate the cost of running a photography business and deriving an hourly (or a daily) rate from it are becoming somewhat of a standard. (We even did one ourselves, and here is another one). Those posts make a strong connection between the cost of doing business (renting a place, buying a camera and so on) and the fees that a photographer need to charge.

The team over at Salesographer makes what I think is a very true statement about the fact that the money you charge should have nothing to do with how much it actually costs to produce a shoot. It has everything to do with the value you bring to the table. They actually go right against those cost sharing posts and say that:

Every time you share a list of business expenses to justify your price, you tell the world that you don’t take yourself seriously as a business owner (and that they shouldn’t, either).

Your value is not derived from the costs that it takes to produce the work you produce.  Your value is derived from the work you produce.  And the service you provide.  And the fact that you are the only one who can do what you do.  Period. #

For me that makes total sense as creatives are not in the market for selling a commodity where the price is cut as a percentage of the cost, they sell a premium service.

That said, CODB (cost of doing business) should definitely be something you are aware of just to make sure you can keep running a business. Both Don Giannatti and a photo editor have some great tips on bidding and quoting.

[Your list of reasons photographers charge so much? It’s bullshit | salesographer | lead image by Claudio Matsuoka]

 

  • http://www.mcr-street.com Andy

    About time somebody said this. You don’t hire a bricklayer that is more expensive because he has a better trowel. You do it because you have seen or heard great things about their work.

    With photography it is your prerogative how much you want to spend. Just because you (the photographer) spent £20k on your kit does not mean you are a better photographer. People are paying for the end result, what you bring to the table. True, you could argue that you are bringing a great camera to the table, but the client doesn’t care as long as the images they get back fulfil their expectations.

  • innovatology

    Picasso isn’t valued by the cost of his paint and canvas…

  • Guest

    It’s called subjective theory of value.

  • http://wilcfry.com/ Wil Fry

    “For me that makes total sense as creatives are not in the market for
    selling a commodity where the price is cut as a percentage of the cost,
    they sell a premium service.”

    In truth, even products and commodities aren’t sold that way either, much of the time. The price is often “what the market will bear” rather than cost+profit. Basically, first decide what customers will pay for your product/service and then force the CODB to be less than that so you can turn a profit. This is how companies operate (with the exception of monopolies, I suppose).

    And it’s worth being aware that many people will be willing to live with an inferior product/service if it means they can pay less. Know your market. I used to live in a relatively poor town where people’s definition of a wedding photographer was “a guy with a camera”.

    • Sam Butler

      Exactly why I don’t work in that kind of market. I’d love to change people’s minds but I’d rather work for people who appreciate the art and are willing to pay for it at the level I agree is good exchange.

  • Chris Scott

    Thanks for sharing our post, guys!

  • David Campbell

    Doing a cost analysis is useful for figuring out your floor price (the point at which you’re losing money). But your ceiling and your actual prices are different matters.

  • Minu Park

    Seriously, 10 years of professional photographer, I think it depends on what kind of client you could reach.

    Three years ago, I make least of 20K commercials with equipment of D700 and nikon 24-70, 14-24, 70-200 and renting lights. ( three to four project per an year at least, and I worked for several major fashion magazines)

    In fact, I am a film-maker from last two years, and I am back to school for learning directing, and I am very happy for what I am doing.

    Here is my take, I sold my hasselblad and all nikon gears to move film investing of 40k on the video equipment, and I make almost nothing comparing, when I was a photographer.

    If its lucky, I make money through rental business.

    In my opinion, about photography business is not depends on your gear seriously.

    It’s all about connection and how you pursue your client nicely.

    Currently I am working as a documentary film maker in brooklyn, and making 3 grand for one project, which takes two month- My fiancé says she was tricked :)

    P.S: investing 40k didn’t give me a great jobs, but only rental business. On the other hand, when I used to have less than 10k photography equipment I made good living.

  • https://www.facebook.com/phillip.mccordall.9 Phillip McCordall

    while I appreciate the argument, unless you are charging enough to make a profit, you won’t have the finance to replace equipment and car for example.

  • https://www.facebook.com/phillip.mccordall.9 Phillip McCordall

    You are then a very unreliable photographer as anything may break down very quickly. Easily justified if the equipment is new but if it’s old you have no defense, replace everything every 4 years it’s the only way. You can’t do that if your undercharging.

    • Chris Scott

      Yeah, I’m definitely not suggesting you throw your expenses out the window and fly by the seat of your pants. This post is less about “how much should I charge” and more about “what should I be charging for?”. It has the assumption built in that you’re charging *at least* enough to actually sustain your business.

  • ext237

    There are two specific issues involved:

    1: Professional dress, good salesmanship, quickly returning calls, providing images on a timely basis, courtesy … BASIC professionalism … often take a back-seat nowadays. Many photogs’ marketing strategy relies on good lenses and their portfolio rather than offering Professional Services.

    This leads to #2

    2: Consumers/clients are increasing less educated about Professional Photographic Services. They think as long as a photog has a nice camera, photoshop, blank CDs, and a few good images on Flickr, well that’s good enough.

    If a photog lacks professionalism, then Services have no value to them — equipment and expenses are the most logical fallback.

  • CrackedGlassProductions

    As true as this is. I still base my pricing not only on the level of work that I do but on the equipment that I have. It helps me cover my costs and still stay profitable as a business. I have seen amazing things done with minmal gear but if I was shooting sports then a kit lens just won’t due. You can’t produce the same images because of the focal limitations. That said better gear doesn’t make you a better photographer. More experience does and trying new things does. I started with the basics and worked with that as much as I could till I couldn’t work with it anymore. I was frustrated I saw scenes and frames pass by me that I just couldn’t get with what I had so I upped my prices and reinvested more and more till I got to the point that I felt comfortable with the quality of work and the range of what I was able to get with my new equipment. I budgeted it out based on these points: 1. Time (How much is my time worth) 2. Skill (I have learned a lot more since I started and some of what I shoot is harder to pull off than others) 3. Expenses (How much does it cost for me to complete the job… INCLUDING MY GEAR COST.) I do it this way on purpose it is easier to explain to clients as to why I cost so much and they like the work I do. My prices are fair still. I have plenty of pro gear. My curent rate is $50 an hour for shots and $30 an hour for editing. This isn’t bad for the work that I do. I don’t charge for gas or food or anything else that is my flat rate for now. It will change as my work gets better and as I learn new things.

  • Mike

    While this is true, a pro needs to know what amount of gear to get a particular job done. I once has a home contractor that had to borrow my drill because his wasn’t powerful enough.

  • Mike

    While this is true, a pro needs to know what amount of gear to get a particular job done. I once has a home contractor that had to borrow my drill because his wasn’t powerful enough.

  • Mike

    While this is true, a pro needs to know what amount of gear to get a particular job done. I once has a home contractor that had to borrow my drill because his wasn’t powerful enough.