Andreas Bergmann explores some of the business aspects of being a photographer which can also be applied to work for hire filmmakers. Should you work for free, and should you accept under paid jobs?

saying-no-05

One of the hardest lessons to learn, and not only learn but accept and incorporate into your way of doing things, is that sometimes you just need to say no to jobs. For your own sake, for your client’s sake, and for your career’s sake. I think this is proportionally harder the earlier you are in your career as a photographer, and making these decisions can feel like walking a tightrope, but I sure would have benefited from someone sitting me down and telling me this a looooong time ago. So today we’re going to talk about saying no to jobs, and getting paid.

Before we get started tho, the subject require a disclaimer. I’ve spent a lot of time talking this over with photographers from my own local network, a whole bunch of photographers way up the food chain from me, and I’ve arrived at some thoughts I believe to be useful for most photographers, especially new ones. But, obviously this isn’t always true for everyone, so don’t take it as a recipe for success, take it as a bunch of thoughts and ideas you can build on and draw inspiration from in your own life as a photographer.

“That isn’t in our budget”

Imagine the following: Your price for doing a commercial shoot that will be published in X countries, in Y media over the next Z months is say… 2000 space bucks. It is completely irrelevant what any actual price would be, so we’re going with “space bucks” as the currency since I’m a sci-fi dork. Your client informs you that the budget for this shoot is only 500 space bucks, and eagerly awaits your reply. I’ve been in this type of situation more times than I can count, and the first myriad times it happened I was so dazzled by the fact that someone actually wanted to hire me, that I just said yes. I was sure that the next time the client had more money they’d come to me again, happy to be able to actually pay my actual salary this time. I was equally certain that the goodwill I had generated would really pay back over time. Unfortunately neither of those assumptions tend to be true.

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KB Johnson

This is pretty good advice for any artist who uses any type of tools and skills in their particular craft. I only do free things for my family, very close friends and my church. I quote a daily rate, a half day’s rate and an hourly rate. If I need extra equipment that I don’t have, I calculate the price it would cost to rent it or lease it. Never forget to calculate travel expenses. Anything that will take more than one day to shoot, we put a contract together. We do this for any client we have not worked with in the past. If you don’t establish some type of scale and/or rate and stick to it, you’re only cheating yourself.

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