You want paid like a professional photographer, first things first…[Part 1]

Open a new tab/window, type into your web search engine of choice (personally, I’m a Googler not a binger…sorry bing) “how to get paid for photography” but before you start clicking on every link come back.

Is your head spinning yet? Last time I checked there were nearly 58 million “answers.”

Although there’s a lot of great information out there from reputable well-intentioned sources, if you want to start making money with your photography, first things first… get prepared!

Yeah yeah I know, you need a hell of a lot of skills to go along with your preparation including networking abilities, general business acumen, technical equipment proficiency and more, but  any successful professional — whether they’re a Fortune 500 CEO, top-tier athlete, or photography business owner — will assure you that preparation is key to any successful venture.

Sure, it sounds simplistic, but that’s because it is.

I could spend a lifetime tossing out scenarios of how to get paid for this type of shoot  or how much to charge for that type of shootand you could spend a lifetime sifting through the mountainous tera-bytes of advice floating through cyber-space.

The fact is and it’s a harsh one, it’s up to you to do your due diligence — a.k.a be prepared for all contingencies, for all questions from buyers, for all negotiations, for everything when it comes to getting paid FAIRLY for your photography.

If you were to call a major editorial tabloid and tell them you had a once in a lifetime shot of [celebrity] with his [celebrity body part] touching the [celebrity body part] of [celebrity], you would be able to sell the image in a second. But would you be prepared to earn what you deserve for that shot? Only if you’re prepared.

So how do you get prepared to get paid fairly for your photography, basically it’s as easy as doing the math.

There are some great photo pricing software programs out there, as well as valuable photo trade association resources that every working photographer should become very familiar with. But these tools are merely guidelines and to some extent, baseline ‘windows into the world’ of photo buyer tendencies based on past negotiation prices, ad space rates and general economic conditions defining the price points on the market.

In order to get paid properly you’ve got to take into account these important pricing guidelines for usage/display, the market-specific prices your operational market will bear (i.e. mostly regulated by geographical location), as well as variable intangible factors governing image sale (e.g. uniqueness of the photo or extraneous circumstances surrounding image creation such as dangerous shooting conditions).

But more poignantly — and far more within your control — your payment terms must be established only after calculating the cost of doing business expenses (CDB) unique to your own bottom-line.

Only after meticulously outlining what expenditures you will incur on a monthly and/or yearly basis can you begin to develop accurate price estimates for your work by determining your break even rate per assignment/shooting day.

This is extremely important to your longevity and sustainability as a professional photo business owner, but also to the overall integrity of the profession. If you are willingly or unwittingly underbidding jobs because you don’t understand the nuances of the entire process from start to finish, every photographer suffers.

Thankfully, considering most of us photographers suck horribly at math, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has graciously provided us non-numeric creative-types with one of the handiest preparatory photo business tools in existence today, the NPPA Cost of Doing Business Calculator.

Something not to be lost in all of this self-serving banter is the fact that the other half of the photographer-client relationship, aka the client, deserves our preparedness and professionalism when it comes to pricing just as we deserve theirs.  Part 2 on the way…


About Alpine Objectives LLC

International mountain media, marketing & education services with more than 20 years of professional experience sliding around the wintry world.
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