Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pricing Photography 2014

Pricing in 2014

This is a fun topic. Everyone has the same question on pricing. What do you charge for a specific photo assignment? Well, here I am giving my 2 cents after 34 year in the business. Everyone knows what they should charge, ha ha! Well let’s look at this; I remember when ASMP was getting on a roll in 1974.
Most of the big shot photographers were coming out with what you should charge for an assignment. In other words, they were getting pissed off that the young shooters were coming in and under cutting them. Its funny payback is a bitch. I was one of those young shooters. Year later (1988 ish} I was going up against one of the biggest shooters in Los Angeles while shooting in Phoenix Arizona.
“ Go Figure “. The problem was that I was the high bidder on a Phoenix standard rate. I got under cut by one of the biggest national shooters in Los Angeles. I was blown away. Hey why not, he could make some quick chump change and come to Phoenix. I’m not sure if he played golf, but I’ll bet he did. Maybe he was hurting financially and had to take whatever he could get his hands on. After all when you are a big photographer, with probably an expensive lifestyle and overhead every dollar will help pay for “err” whatever habits he might have. It’s tough cutting back. Also, we must consider having to take care of our families. Again cutting back is tough. I must say about 1988-1992 we were going through some tough times.

Lets shoot forward 10 years (1998). We all were taking care of our businesses. Some of us were shooting for a lot of money plus usage and most of us were shooting a lot for whatever we could get. Stock was still bringing in about the same amount as assignment shoots. Photographers were hearing about usage rights as what most were getting for stock sales. The idea was pretty cool, we’ll charge for shooting the assignment and then charge for usage.

Photographers were getting on the bandwagon. It was great, but some photographers were trying to charge for every bit of usage they could, while some were basically grouping the usage into one usage fee. And, there were photographer that never charged usage at all. Obviously, there was a difference in price. Shooters were charging on every use they could and others were taking one usage {or no usage} and were happy for that.

In our industry most photographers were taking care of business, following the usage guidelines and everything was great, until greed got in the way. Some shooters started getting just a little too greedy. They held to their right to the letter of the law and wouldn’t negotiate.
There were horror stories on usage and legal fees spreading through the United States. Clients started to fear usage and all the people involved in placing ads. It has become a legal mess. An industry that has been hit hard with the usage restrictions is the Hospitality industry.
One hotel that I’m aware of got hit with a multi million-dollar lawsuit. This definitely put the “usage” fear nationally, in that industries mindset. It is extremely difficult to get usage from hotel clientele.
Yes, you will hear from some photographers that they get usage but that is coming to an end. If you work with Ad agencies you might be able to get usage, but client direct, you will have problems. Especially when there are tens of thousands of photographers that will not only shoot for no usage, but also shoot for almost any budget.

So, here we are in 2014. The stock industry has pretty much killed most of our “ Bread and Butter “ assignments. You have access to millions of photographs of just about any photographic subject matter for any budget. Oh and a lot of them are unlimited usage. With all of the professional photographers out there, plus all the amateurs with camera that proclaim themselves professionals, how do you price an assignment these day and get the job?

If you are a name shooter or you have a style that the client wants, then you can command your high shot rate plus usage.
If you have a friend in the industry that will support your fees and usage, then you’re in. But if you are part of the bidding process, the chances of you getting what we consider fare fees and usage are not good. Bottom line is based on reputation and client relations.

Don’t get me wrong. I love charging usage. It has been a great part of my income stream for the last 25 years, but we have to charge usage intelligently. Personally, I don’t think you should charge usage on photographs that anyone can produce. I believe that you should charge usage on any photograph that you conceive and create and produce. Its funny the ASMP use to be, “ The American Society of Magazine Photographers”, at which point, the photographers got an assignment and went out and shot the job with their style and point of view. I guess what I’m saying is there is a difference between you being hired as a technician or for your creative point of view.

Dave Siegel
Siegel Photographic

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