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Thursday, 18 November 2021 01:44

Understanding Pricing Photography Services

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Competitive Pricing in Photography Competitive Pricing in Photography

"Pricing Photography Services" is a topic little understood by my many new age freelance & even some professional photographers. A consequence of poor financial planning has its effects on deliverables to clients, a reason for non-photographers (Clients) to read this article too.

Photography looks easy, Lots of cameras are available, even phones have over 100MP resolutions these days.

  • Then why a photographer?
  • Premium pricing for photography?
  • Do I lose out on anything when I hire a photographer who charges less?

The answer to the above and many such questions involves understanding what goes into "Professional Photography" / why would hire a professional photographer in the first place.

  • Saving Memories (a fashion shot can be recreated, while memories are a once in a lifetime moment).
  • Quality of images in terms of
    • resolution
    • clarity
    • artistic composition
    • timing of the photos
    • good post-production 
  • You being with the people in your life (instead of being behind a camera)
  • Reliability (that the data is not lost, sometimes seven after the photographer has delivered images to you)
  • Achieving the desired results from the images (especially in commercial assignments such as an ad campaign)

Let's now see how the cost of photography scales up as we start ticking all of the above-mentioned points

The most economical photography is using your mobile phone which under most circumstances would be ideal for usage in social media such as Instagram (final resolution being less than 1000 pixels in most cases .. i.e ~1MegaPixel resolution). Most of the time the quality of images lack depth in colour & dynamic range (unless shot in bright sunlight) which would be glaringly visible once you start making professional prints of your images. You would most likely see a lot of compression artefacts too and almost no scope at proper post-production (not filters but adjusting highlights, shadows etc)

The next obvious update would be to invite a friend/relative who is a hobbyist photographer (or maybe even a freelance photographer). Most of the time it would be someone with an entry-level/mid-level crop-sensor camera body with basic kit lenses (or a 50mm prime which is the most common). This is the way to go if you are on a tight budget (i.e. <10,000/- for a session of around 4hours). Yes, I did mention ₹10,000/- which most professional photography service providers quote/charge but this is what you exactly get i.e. a junior level photographer working for someone/your assignment is outsourced. The drawbacks with the above price point are

  • Lack of a backup
    • single memory card slot in camera, any failure there means total loss of data
    • Data stored on a single hard disk (photography/videography produces voluminous data) and hence another potential risk.
    • Projects under ₹10,000/- are almost always outsourced and there is no quality control (over the skill of the photographer).
  • Quality of images
    • RAW files are voluminous and most of the time images are shot in jpg which results in a drastic loss of information (i.e. details) in a photo
    • Light conditions do vary (especially during the day) and an error means a lost picture.
    • Raw images offer a perfect way to correct for errors due to improper White balance and tough lighting conditions
  • Many budget photographers do not have (afford to keep adding) the disk space required to handle RAW files.
  • A full-frame camera in the hands of an amateur is a disaster (they are presented with way too many settings which drastically slows them down)
  • Some do hire a good camera (to build a portfolio/as a one-time thing - with a very thin margin to cover their costs.
    • Equipment could be rented by the day/hour - means no prior checks
    • The sensors of these rented cameras are almost always dirty and images that come out of them have several spots of varying opacities.

So before we go to the price point at which good photography services become feasible, let's look at the costs of running a photography business

  • Cost of your camera, lenses & lights (spread over 3 - 5 years) - ₹5,00,000 to 25,00,000/- 
    • A full-frame camera (ideally a spare body to minimise lens changes)
    • A work workhorse like a 24-105mm 
    • A tele-photo lens like a 70-200mm (with IS if you routinely shoot indoors or in low light)
    • A specialist lens prime/macro etc
    • lights & various light modifiers
    • Considering you will upgrade over time, some breakdown, accidents, cost of repairs/insurance etc.
    • Those some items can last a lifetime, the average cost per day on the lower end for most photographers works out to be around 
      • ~1,000/day if you have multiple shoots daily 
      • ~3,000/day if you are engaged about 50 % of the time
  • Cost of Post-Production
    • A computer setup could cost anywhere between ₹85,000/- and go all the way up to ₹4,00,000/-
      • A monitor with hardware calibration starts around ₹28,000/-
      • If you want to save some money and get a good monitor with 99.9-100% sRGB means you still have to spend around ₹17,000/-
      • Colour calibrators start around 13,000/- and can go up to ₹50,000/-  (colour card, monitor/printer calibration tool, grey card etc)
    • If you are someone who shoots several days a week, you may have assistants working for you, those working on post-production etc
    • Software costs (legal licence) a few thousand per month
    • so based on your deliverables this can scale up too. Since these items have a short life when compared to your cameras and lenses and you need to factor this too
  • Other Costs
    • Cost of travel (+ time spent to & fro on travel)
    • Time spent making a sale
      • Social media updates
      • client calls (time spent)
      • time spent on negotiations
    • Physical deliverables (CD,Albums,pen drives,postage/dunzo etc)
    • Internet 
    • Living expenses - yes, your business also needs to support your needs to live a decent life. This is the profession that earns your bread, butter, clothes (and roof).
      • Even if you have a full-time job, have a regular salary - think about why you took up freelancing
      • you obviously had additional expenses (a hobby of photography or saving up for a huge spend like a car/home)
      • relating to photography as an extra source of income without doing the math has a huge pitfall
        • you would see extra cash at the end of the month
        • you would in fact be losing money over time (the value of your equipment depreciates over time and it's usually not apparent easily)
    • Do account for consumables (props, rentals etc)

Some assumptions

  • Clients say - it's just a 1hr shoot
    • 1hr of shooting time
    • 30-60 mins of waiting time (you reach early, unpack and spend time packing before leaving)
    • 60 -180 mins of travel time
    • 30 - 90 mins of prep time
    • 30 mins on calls
    • 1 - 10 hours editing time
    • total of about - 3 -  10 hours 
  • Clients say - it's just 4hours  (11-2pm or 6-10 pm)
    • 4 hours looks like half a workday
    • 45-120 mins of waiting time (you reach early, unpack and spend time packing before leaving)
    • these usually gets extended (people expect you to cover meal/dinner which could drag on till 3:30 pm in afternoons or 11 pm in the evenings
    • time spent on travel (1-3hrs, considering traffic in a city)
    • A day spent processing the images
    • Hence it is best to consider 4hrs/more as a full day assignment
    • Reality says there is no half-day work in this field.

Impact on Clients (with underpriced services)

  • Delayed deliverables are the first and most commonly seen impact
  • Budget hires for large events are often broken into sub-contracts and we as professionals find it very tough to have the picked team show up at events (usually they drop off for a better paying contract)
  • Loss of data / no response, when asked for corrections (albums, video etc), is a classic example of underpriced services
    • A service provider would have deleted your data and moved on to newer projects
  • Artriva as a team takes one assignment less than the internal team size (to account for last-minute contingencies) - the impact is generally a better photographer than the one in the contract. 


Want to have some more clarity?

Need some more info - Do drop in your questions in the comments below or in our Discussion forum

Read 51 times Last modified on Tuesday, 23 November 2021 14:59
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