When you’re getting ready for a shoot it’s very important to stay very organized. You probably have a lot of equipment that needs to be looked after and kept in one place, and it can be difficult to keep track of everything.
Before any shoot I make up a check-list in word or office that itemizes every piece of equipment that I will be bringing along on the shoot. It lists everything from cameras and lenses to clamps and gaffers tape. Then I have at least 4 other columns where I go through the check list and each point it travels. A check for loading up before the shoot, a check for arriving on location, a check for the end of the day and a check for unloading back at my studio. This will save your little pieces of equipment and save you some money in replacing those little pieces in case you leave them at your shoot location.
The following example is a check list for a video I’m shooting this month for a local healthcare organization:
This is just the first page, as the second page lists all of my cables that are required as well as flags and other misc grip gear. Your check list will probably go through a few drafts, so don’t make it the night before the shoot. Carry around a little notebook with you not only to write down ideas but to remind yourself of items that need to be added to your list. It will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
I received a few emails from some potential clients this weekend, each of which were both involved the same industry; custom high end tailoring and clothing.
Each client asked me what my day and half day rates were. I explained to them (in as few sentences as possible) that I don’t work by day rates. The services I can offer them are of more value that can be measured on a clock.
My services include (but are not limited to): Photography, (of course!) access and use of Makeup artists, hair stylists, wardrobe specialists and location scouts, a full retouching studio for light or heavy retouching and print services.
I said it would not be fair to throw a price at them if I simply did not know what it was that they needed, and with internet marketing clients’ needs are so specific that it’s only fair that you are compensated for catering to those specific needs.
I also feel that it’s easy to be taken advantage of by using a day rate or half day rate. If something takes far more or far less time than anticipated, you’re stuck either sitting around doing nothing or rushing around trying to finish within the day. Something will always happen that is out of you or your client’s control, and you may not be compensated well enough to handle those situations.
On the other side of the coin, I can totally see why clients like the consistency of day rates. It may help them plan their budget better. Because of this, you must become very skilled at putting together accurate, all encompassing estimates and bids. I can see how a day rate works for studio photographers, or senior portrait photographers. It’s a different type of clientele. But speaking as someone from the advertising and editorial world, I have chosen to eliminate day rates from my vocabulary.
Check out Shakodo for pricing tips and advice, it’s free to join and frankly it’s a really amazing resource.
Something that every photographer struggles with is how to price themselves. Most of the time, they under-price themselves because they are scared that someone will say no. The problem with this is that it hurts the entire industry. If you set a new low for portraits (I’m looking at you, Craigslist photographers) you will be setting a new low for expectations of photographers and the services that we provide.
And our services are valuable.
Photography is everywhere, this is a very visual time whether it’s photo or video, and people that can provide this service well get paid well.
Start with some research. See what other photographers in your area are charging, because it’s different from city to city. You can’t charge a New York rate in a Mississippi town. Have yourself a minimum rate that you will go and shoot for, and you can figure out that minimum rate using the ASMP’s cost of doing business calculator.
Keep in mind that you will NOT be shooting 365 days a year, so it’s important that the work you take can pay your expenses on days that you’re not shooting. Which brings me to my next point:
Don’t charge by the hour. You will ALWAYS be selling yourself short, unless it’s some sort of event photography in which case you should have a minimum time for. Take for example, you charge 75.00 an hour and you’re heading out to shoot a portrait of a business man. His people have given you one hour with him but it takes you 10 minutes to do the portrait. His people will then decide to pay you for only 1/10 of your time. It happens.
If you can do a shoot in 10 minutes that was thought to take an hour to complete, this means that you are very skilled and should be paid more, am I right?
You should also remove the term “Day Rate” from your business vocabulary as well. It comes down to a time issue – if a client has you for 8 hours and you’re done shooting in 3 they have you for another 5 hours – which is time you could be spending managing your business.
And that’s what photographers are, businessmen. You have to know your numbers and be able to set your rates competitively. Don’t fly into the market and undercut your competition – that’s just tacky. Research, and price fairly. Are you better than a mall photographer with one of those “studios” in the middle of the floor? Then charge more. People will eventually come around and see that they get what they pay for.
Those of you who have visited my website in the last 2 weeks have probably noticed something a bit different. My name now appears in between two brackets and the brackets are a prominent feature throughout my website, outlining both my bio info, contact details and descriptions of projects or bodies of work. This is the fruition of years of searching not only for a graphic that best represents me, but also searching for a visual style in my photography.
This arrangement of text and characters represents my obvious taste for things that are dramatic yet subtle, while being overall clean and thought out.
Branding is important for any business today, with everyone having a website and crying out for attention. A brand is your identity, and it’s what people will use to remember you, whether you have a graphic logo or a simple arrangement of text like me. I have explored graphic logos in the past and just didn’t feel comfortable with how they represented me, so I chose a specific font – two of them in fact, and went forward from there. The font is the voice that your clients will “hear” upon reading your name and information, so it’s important to pick one that best represents your work.
I then used the subtle graphics – the brackets – for certain things on the site. I didn’t want to use them for everything, like framing every photo in every portfolio with them, that would be too much. But using them in descriptions works well, and it’s a subtle reminder of who’s work you are looking at.
Branding takes a long time. Make some designs or come up with some ideas of your own. Show them to friends, family, peers, anyone who will look at them. If necessary, go to a graphic designer – this is what they are paid to do.
Over time, people will come to remember this logo or brand, so make sure it’s everywhere your business is. Business cards, promos, etc. It will make your work more recognizable and your clients take you more seriously.
So this week, I’ve had 3 studio shoots, 1 event shoot, post-production on all 4 shoots, 2 articles to write, (one for Saddle Stitch, one for the ol’ blog) all while trying to have some semblance of a life.
Working for yourself, as most photographers do, can take up a lot more time than some people think. They imagine that you spend a few hours on a set with glamorous models during the day and spend the evening with cocktails, but they are leaving out the book keeping, post-processing and client contact that goes along with that morning shoot.
Many times I will work on a shoot or several for 7 days a week – no time off. I eat, sleep and breathe photography. And I love it.
Sure, you have to make time for your friends or family or significant other. But there are times when you are on a roll, weather it’s your flow of steady work or a firestorm of creativity – those are the times when you have to – need to – work as a photographer. You will push out your best work, because you’re feelin’ it and it feels good.
Photography is all about love, you have to love it for when you have those busy weeks. And like most jobs, the more you love it the better you will be at it. If you love it enough, you may never have to work a day in your career.