I can understand (a little) when a new photographer or a photographer not educated in the industry complains about being hassled about the low fees they charge or accept from clients. I get it. Being in business is difficult. It’s not like your “hobby days” when you could shoot whenever and wherever you liked, and if you sold a print to a friend or someone at a show for a few bucks it offset some of the cost for equipment or gas, or whatever. It’s actual work, believe it or not. More work than the typical 40-hr-per-week worker puts in because self-employed persons aren’t just working on one or two or three tasks, but 10 or 20 covering a broad range of skill sets from accounting, management, design, interpersonal relationships and networking, to marketing, computer science and other technology, industry trend monitoring and Oh yeah, photography. It takes a lot out of a person who basically relies on their own knowledge and skill to get through the hoops and barriers blocking the way to a paycheck. So, I can understand how it can be easier to simply accept what’s offered and go a merry way on to the next project without spending too much time or effort worrying about price. Who needs yet another hassle to deal with, right?
There are, honestly, a lot of professional photographers complaining about other photographers accepting low fees from clients. Why is that? Is it because those photographers have been used to receiving the cream and now have to fight over the hind teat with someone who doesn’t know an aperture from a lens opening? Are they jealous of newbies getting work without any effort when they’ve been slogging their bones for decades? Are they afraid of losing their lofty position as “The Photographer”, soon to be referred to only as “photographer”? Maybe. But I think it’s really about the lack of industry understanding on the part of the up-and-coming-new-camera-acquiring population of photographers who have a romantic notion of what it’s like to be a professional photographer (i.e. business owner), but little knowledge of what’s actually at stake when taking that “one-hour” $200 job that actually takes three days to complete.
So, here are some hard numbers to ponder when you’re considering what fee to accept when that potential client calls and they claim poverty or no budget when they tell you what they will pay (take it or leave it).
PricewaterhouseCoopers, in their 2013 – 2017 Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report, says global spending for media and entertainment will reach $2.2 TRILLION in 2017, compared with $1.6 TRILLION in 2012. That includes such things as digital media (cable and satellite television, online movies, games, news, etc.). Related to that, and of the most importance to photographers (especially those in the commercial or editorial side of the industry), is that advertising revenue just in the United States is expected to grow 4.1% to $204 BILLION by 2017 compared to $167 billion in 2012 and internet advertising is expected to outperform traditional print advertising with annual gains of about 14%. Print advertising revenues have been declining, with 2012 seeing less than $5 billion in ad revenue. However, the business-to-business market continues to use about 30% of print advertising.
eMarketer estimated that online marketers would spend over $37 BILLION to advertise online in 2012, with Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, AOL, and Microsoft combined receiving $24 Billion of that total. Growth in online ad spending is expected to be in the double digits through 2014.
Granted, not every company that calls will be a Google or Facebook, but they are paying designers, marketers, illustrators (sometimes), publishers, printers, delivery drivers, copywriters, editors, salespeople, art directors, etc. etc. and photography is being used more than ever in all sorts of ways to be the “face” of a product, company, story. The fee you charge should be appropriate to the value the photographs you provide will give to the company using them. Put ego aside and get out the calculator.
When you contemplate the numbers, the BILLIONS and TRILLIONS of dollars spent in the U.S. and globally on advertising, compared to the effort you put in to develop your skills, purchase your equipment, receive a salary for your work, pay your living expenses and all your other business-related costs and expenses, doesn’t it seem a little unfair that those BILLIONS and TRILLIONS in revenue going into someone’s pocket other than yours, is riding on the backs of $200 and $400 and $1000 photography fees?
Think about it.