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April 15, 2011 6:58 AM   Subscribe

What is the best photographer fee approach for portrait photography? Mrs. dyno04 is getting into the photography business and is trying to figure out how to best price sittings, prints, etc... We don't really like the sitting fee + price per print approach. So we are thinking about either a sitting fee + price per print + after X amount of prints receiving print release rights or sitting fee includes print release rights. If you were going to pay someone to take pictures (she is targeting babies, families, possibly pets), what kind of fee structure would you like to see from a photographer?
posted by dyno04 to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't like to be nickel and dimed. I also don't care about getting prints--I'll worry about those myself. Actually, I don't know anyone who actually orders prints from their photographers anymore.

Flat fee + full rights is my vote. Survey the competition for price points.
posted by litnerd at 7:17 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

We recently hired a photographer who charged a sitting fee and provided two sets of electronic photos. The proofs were lower resolution and had a watermark, but it was tasteful and to the side rather than splashed across the faces. We received full publication rights to these (ie. put them up on Facebook etc.) We received a higher resolution set (high res. jpgs but not raw or tiff) and for these we are allowed to make as many prints as we desire but not to publish or distribute electronically (ie. no emailing these to the relatives). Full publication and distribution rights are extra. He provides prints at reasonable rates if we want prints from the photographer, including sets, books, enlargements etc.. We are basically honest folk and have honored this agreement. I do wonder how well this is working out for him commercially though as my guess is that many people would be sending the his-res jpgs to all friends and family and not ordering prints. As customers we are extremely happy with this arrangement.
posted by caddis at 7:25 AM on April 15, 2011

Best answer: Seconding litnerd and caddis. I'm a semi-pro wedding and portrait photographer and I've only had about two clients in the last year that didn't want the electronic copies and the printing rights. Since most of what I do is weddings and senior portraits, most of the folks I work with are about 17-25ish years old and they want to have and share the files.

For my part, I'm happy to do it because for a semi-pro who's busy enough with a day job, preparing for client meetings and sessions, and reviewing/editing photos, having to wrangle prints is a relatively work-intensive and low-profit part of the business. If you price your prints at the point where it's no longer low-profit, you may find that you've turned away quite a few of that younger crowd.

I also find that pricing needs to be simple and transparent. I've had more complex pricing schemes, and if people aren't sure what they're going to pay or have to think through it too much, you're going to struggle to book them.

My advice, especially if you're pursuing the younger folks in the wedding and senior portrait markets, is to figure out what to charge for a sitting so you can make a reasonable profit without print sales. Charge that, and give them the digital files under appropriate terms. (Be reasonable with the terms -- you're not likely to have the time, energy, or ability to police how they distribute the files.) In my contract, I require attribution (website link) if they post the photos on Facebook or other sites -- this is good exposure for me and it lets me benefit from their distribution of the photos rather than trying to fight it.

YMMV, but I find that this strategy lets me focus on the more enjoyable and higher-profit portions of the business in the somewhat limited amount of time I have.
posted by jdwhite at 7:52 AM on April 15, 2011

A lot will depend upon where you're located. I'm in NYC. The majority of my business is portrait/headshot/family photos. For headshots for example - I offer a fixed fee, an amount of shoot time and a number of retouched images. I have three tiers - inexpensive, moderate (which sells the most) and high. I charge a low fee for additional retouched images. I do not offer any printing since I'm supplying the client with the high res retouched images and printing services are plentiful and inexpensive both online and at brick and mortar locations here. Works VERY well for me, but each situation is different!
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:07 AM on April 15, 2011

This is actually a really, really complicated question to answer. It depends on the market where you live, how many sessions she plans on shooting, and her cost of doing business. I highly recommend Easy As Pie to work through figuring out those numbers. I was really uncertain with my pricing and always re-doing it for each client until I did the Easy As Pie workbook. Now I feel really confident in my pricing for my market.

I offer a fixed fee for an amount of shooting time. Then I offer prints, facebook-quality digitals (low res), and high-res digitals alone and in discounted packages. People want those high-res digitals so they can do their own prints, but don't undervalue the digital images.

Disclaimer: I do not work for Served Up Fresh, I just really liked their workbook.
posted by rhapsodie at 12:54 PM on April 15, 2011

I really think that rights-to-photos thing is kind of old school and a bit irrelevant with digital pictures. Now...many would disagree. But to me it's locked in the film mentality, where there was only one negative.

Anyway, I think you are better off charging everything you need to get to make the job worthwhile upfront, and then charging for additional services as needed afterwards.

If you are going to hold the high res files forever, it means you have to hold them forever. I mean, I do have a copy of every digital picture I've ever taken, but since I give customers a burned DVD, if I lose my copies, it's up to them to keep theirs.

Um yeah, all spelled out in the contract in great detail! That's important. Really.
posted by sully75 at 9:44 PM on April 15, 2011

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