Why I don’t charge for my photography work

It’s not that I don’t want to make money doing it, because I really do.  Making money means I’d be able to justify the purchase of more equipment.  It’s hard to spend thousands of dollars on equipment for just a hobby.  But at the same time, I don’t want to charge anyone for less than top of the line product.  I don’t think I’m there yet.  And then I find blog posts like this one and my determination to get better before charging is reaffirmed.  I don’t want to do anything that would be a disservice to my “client” or to the photography industry as a whole.  And I certainly don’t want to whore myself (well, maybe if you have photography equipment we could work something out 😉 ).

Seriously though, I have a nice camera and I want a nicer one, but we all know that the camera doesn’t make a good photograph.  I’ve seen fabulous photos with point and shoot cameras and heck, even camera phones and I’ve seen my share of bad photos with really nice expensive digital SLR cameras.  Cameras don’t take good photos – photographers take good photos and I want to be a good photographer.  Then I’ll start charging you – what I’m worth.

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  • Don’t let Scott’s rantings dissuade you from pursuing your dreams. His economic reasoning is flawed and off-base.

    Charge what you think your photos are worth. If your photos are worth nothing, charge nothing. If they are worth $25 or $50, charge that. I have a good friend who shoots wedding full-time: His clients spend an average of $5,000 per wedding. His photos are worth every penny. Mine aren’t worth that, so I don’t charge that.

    The great thing about our free market system is that is relies on a wide range of buyers and sellers. Amateur photographers and people who are hungry for business help to keep downward pressure on prices, and that’s a good thing.

    What you should never do is misrepresent yourself and your experience. The first wedding I shot I did for free and was totally up front with “the client”–a very good friend–that we were nothing near “professional.” They loved their pictures. The next two weddings were dirt cheap, but same story. We never claimed we would knock their socks off with our work. But as our skills (and equipment investment) grew, our prices increased, and they will continue to do so. They key to stay honest with yourself and with the people you photograph. They should always have a good grasp of just how skilled–or unskilled–you are.

    Scott’s best point is that you should never ruin someone’s wedding with poor photography. My full time job is also covering high-pressure events (video, not photos), so I’m used to “Once in a Lifetime.” Weddings are tricky, and they do take practice.

    But if you do portraits and family sessions and stuff where there’s a second chance, you should charge in keeping with your skill level.

    By the way, what camera / lenses are shooting with? Do you have a website or Flickr feed with photos?

  • Thanks for this! I’m shooting with a Canon Rebel XTi. I’ve had it for two years and I hope to make the investment into a 50D in the next few weeks. I’ve got several lenses, but the one I use most often is the 50mm f/1.8. Most of my pics are posted here on my blog, but I do have some on my flickr stream. Here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/