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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Photographers aren't charging for their time

I had a shoot last week which really brought this home to me. When photographers charge for their services the time it takes to do the shoot is often one of the least important parts of the quote.

Sure it's important in terms of you need to cover your overhead costs (including wages) for the time involved, but if you purely charge by time you could be doing your clients and yourself a disservice.

Last week I had a shoot for an agricultural magazine up at the Mungalli Creek Dairy on the Atherton Tablelands. We had scheduled an hour there to photograph the founding brothers for the front cover and four or five inside images. I had planned to set up some light stands and lights inside the factory before moving outside to shoot in the fields. Guess what? Life doesn't always work out like we plan.

When we arrived we found out that they could only give us about 25 minutes or so before they all had other appointments. So we had to move quick. And the factory we hoped to photograph in? Well due to it being a highly sanitised area anything we wanted to take in that would touch the ground would have to be dunked in a sanitising bucket of water. Which basically meant with the time limits we wouldn't be able to use tripods, light stands or any other supports. So we needed to shoot with small flashes and people to hold the flashes for me.

The third and final spanner in the works was that it was pouring down rain outside. If we wanted to complete the shoot in 25 minutes, and in particular get the cover shot I had already seen when we first arrived, we would have to try and time things between the showers.

Can you see a pattern here? Firstly the time had been cut short by more than half. Had I been charging merely on time then my fee may have been cut. "Weren't there for the complete hour? That means less money I'm afraid", is something that the budget-conscious client might bring up. Think that's not possible? I've heard it before.

But I had already negotiated a rate based on the entire assignment. The number of images provided, the usage of those images and the amount of time I estimated it would take. I was being paid to produce photographs, or more to the point I was getting paid for the photographs I had published. And more importantly I was paid to overcome any problems that got thrown at me.

A photographer charging only on time might have needed much longer to do the set-ups, might have panicked at the sudden shortening of the predicted time he or she would have to shoot. Might have felt lost at the sudden inability to shoot using a tripod and light stands.

Don't think about just charging for the time you're on assignment. Take into consideration the fact that you are reliable, dependable and professional. In the end knowing that a photographer will come back with publishable pictures is something worth paying good money for. Something far more valuable than the time spent getting the pictures.

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