Episode 15 – How much should photographers charge and how to book bigger photography jobs

How to score bigger photography jobs and what to charge.


Matt Walter
Episode 15 – How much should...

This episode of the Filter photography podcast takes a no-nonsense approach to how to score bigger photography jobs and what to charge.

Happy New Year! To all the things that we forgot… do something with that thing… or something like that. And look what I unwrapped here… a new website for the Filter photography podcast!

What I’ve been up to

I’ve been living in Dune Rats back pocket. There’s some space in there. I photographed the Best Night Ever show at Nightquarter on the Gold Coast with Dune Rats, WAAX, DZ Deathrays and more. Was such a good time.

I then went to Sydney to photograph Crowbar Sydney’s opening. You probably know I photograph at Crowbar Brisbane. And you may know that Crowbar Sydney has officially opened!

Trad and Tyla, who own Crowbar, took over the Bald Faced Stag in November and officially opened on 31 December. New Years. To all the things that we forgot… do something with that thing… I won’t submit you to that again.

They have done a great job turning the Bald Faced Stag into Crowbar Sydney, without just throwing out anything related to the Bald Faced Stag.

I’ve never been to the Bald Faced Stag, but being in Crowbar Sydney, I instantly felt the legacy of Tooheys and the history of the Bald Faced Stag. It was a perfect takeover in my opinion.

If you haven’t been to Crowbar Sydney yet, it’s down on 345 Parramatta Rd, Leichhardt.

So I went down to check it out on New Year’s Eve. I was cutting it fine, getting in at 7:40 pm on New Year’s Eve. But I made it. Totally Unicorn was on stage, then Pagan, then WAAX. And that was the first show at Crowbar Sydney. Insane.

Then I had the 1st of January to edit photos, and was back at Crowbar Sydney for the secret show Crowbar had been teasing – which turned out to be Dune Rats.

I met heaps of people at that show in particular, and some photographers I hadn’t met before, including Pat O’Hara. So many good eggs. There were around half a dozen good eggs there and no rotten eggs. Just fresh eggs.

Anyway, let’s talk about some actual photography stuff since this is a photography podcast.

Your questions

“What would you recommend for a novice photographer?” – @Motley95

This is a pretty wild, open-ended question, my man. What are you looking to photograph? How serious are you about it? How committed are you to things?

I would recommend you try as many photography genres as possible and you buy a camera within your means. An expensive camera isn’t always what you should start with fresh out of the gate.

I’ve seen so many people post their expensive cameras online, selling it a while after getting it but it has 250 shutter fires on it. What the hell? Did they even try photography?

Some people think they’re going to love photography so they invest big before they’ve even tried it. It’s ok to start slow and steady because the biggest difference between a novice photo and an expert’s photo is editing, not the camera itself.

“Any wise words for anyone who is trying to get their foot in the door to bigger photography jobs?” – @Mrsimonmerange

Good question! I’m going to assume you are already active and feeling stuck doing the same sized work all the time. I’m just assuming you’re ready for bigger work. So, the trick is to get to know everyone.

In my experience, people who book the jobs are people who are reliable. There are two parts to that reliability – your consistency in producing good work, and your consistency in being visible. You don’t have to be the best photographer, and you don’t need to be the best human. Trying to be either or both is good practice, but in reality, it’s not absolutely required to get bigger photography jobs.

So let’s break those two parts down individually.

You need to produce consistent work. This one is a no brainer but notice I never said ‘the best work’. Just consistent work. Everyone has thought about how bad it would be to hire someone to carry out a service only to find that they’re not actually good at it. Or they lied or their resume, or whatever it might be.

So when someone books you for a big job, the risks are also bigger. If you blow it, that’s ok, but your chances of blowing it need to be 1% as opposed to 50-50 or something like that. You need to be confident because if you blow it, you nuke yourself out of an unknown portion of work.

When you go on a photographer’s website or a company’s website, you often see a list of logos of people they have worked with. The reason they do that is to show potential clients that they have been trusted by companies as big as the client’s company. Or maybe the client is smaller. People think, “hey, if this guy photographed for AC/DC, then he’s probably good. Let’s ask him to shoot for the upcoming Powderfinger reunion tour”. Powderfinger are not reuniting, it’s just an example…

But it’s a trust-based exercise. Your role in that is to be consistent with your work so there’s no chinks in your chain of work. You want everything to be smooth.

The second thing is to be consistent in being visible. People are super busy, and it’s easiest to pick someone the client knows. You need to be remembered even when you’re not around.

I see two types of photographers when I’m out and about. The first type exists within the space, and the other tries to network with people. The people that try to network with people are trying too hard and it stinks like desperation. It isn’t confident and it casts doubts on the quality of your work.

If you just exist within the space, you’ll naturally form friendships with people and be remembered a lot more fondly. You won’t be taking risks and leaving a huge footprint of your existence on things, you’re just you. You don’t have to change yourself to work with people and you shouldn’t just like you shouldn’t to make people like you. People like you or they don’t. You’re there to do a job, not to entertain or pressure people into remembering you. Arrive, make some content and leave. Whoever you talk to will be natural, and you’ll be remembered as “that photographer that was easy to work with and not as much hassle as that other photographer we once booked.”

The more people you come in contact with, the higher the chances of meeting other people who will hire you. I met the owner of Crowbar, and I did a lot of work for him. Eventually, he introduced me to Violent Soho Soho, Soho introduced me to DZ Deathrays, DZ Deathrays introduced me to Dune Rats, Dune Rats introduced me to Skegss, and on and on.

If I hadn’t been producing consistent work for multiple venues, I wouldn’t have been noticed and contacted by Trad who owns Crowbar. Doing consistent work for Trad and not punishing bands and giving the venue a bad name was probably why he felt ok to introduce me to Soho. And on and on I guess.

If you be consistent with your photography jobs and work output and honest personality, you’ll exude reliability. And then it is a matter of time. The more work you do, the more people you’ll meet.

“Hi, I’m newish to photography and have recently been wanting to get into film cameras and what not and was just wondering if Vivitar film cameras are any good? If not, do you have any camera suggestions?” – @Mexicanseafood_

There really isn’t any bad film cameras, but film cameras in poor condition.

If you’re wanting to get into film cameras, you’re probably wanting to do it because you like the vibe of film photography. The vibe of film photography is obviously pretty unique, and the cameras themselves are what gives it that unique vibe. And the film stock of course. But camera quality is what we’re talking about here.

If you think about the Holga, it’s made to have light leaks and other unpredictable factors that will influence the photo you end up with. Compared to a Mamiya 645, it will look much grittier because the Mamiya is a sturdier camera. But it’s still going to have its quirks. And that’s part of the fun of film photography. So give the Vivitar a go and see what you think! My personal favourite film camera is my Mamiya C330.

The only cameras I would stay away from are cameras in poor condition. Often a lot of old cameras have grown fungus or have hazing over the lens. This stuff is almost impossible to get rid of and can spread to your other camera gear very quickly. Even if you think you’ve gotten rid of all your haze or fungus, it can grow back. I have a rule that if the camera I am looking at buying has fungus, I don’t buy it. I have been handed down a couple of cameras that have fungus growing on the lens. I don’t use these cameras, just keep them for memories sake, but I also keep them in a seperate room on a shelf and never bring other gear near it. Call me paranoid, but that’s my warning to you!

I want to get back into landscape photography, I’m nothing special, did it a bit a few years ago as a hobby and want to get back into it this year. I’m not a beginner but would definitely not consider myself anything above that. Do you have any recommendations for a SLR? I have a Nikon but it’s about 8 years old. I’m not after anything too ridiculous just something that will do the job and take nice landscape photos. I was reading the best cameras for it are full frame but they are so expensive. – Niel

Honestly, landscape photography is about two things – one being needing to capture something wide, and one being good choices for editing.

The camera body is one of those things where the more you spend, the more technically better the photo because of the sensor because full frame makes it a bit wider and also lets more light in. Both of those benefits are nice, but not must-haves for landscape photography.

If you’re not really sure how committed you’ll be to it, you’re probably better off getting a mid range camera body and then focusing on getting a nice, wide lens and a tripod over getting a big sensor.

Cameras are like new cars. There’s cheap ones and expensive ones, but they’re all new. The cheaper the car, the less features it will have and might not have that super quiet engine that the high-end model has. But it’ll still get you from A to B, just a little less comfortably.

People take amazing landscape shots on cheap gear dude, it’s all in the editing.

When I say get a wide lens, I would think you might want something between 14mm to 24mm. Bigger zooms aren’t always better, and you can crop or clone out anything that you don’t like being in frame. So get a higher quality lens that is wider than an all-rounder lens that zooms a lot like a 24-135mm since you know you won’t have much need for those tighter focal lengths like 135mm.

“Hey man, not sure if you’re willing to talk about it, but I’m struggling with charging for my work. How much should I charge? We all know how much gear cost especially for video.” – @Trenthilaire

How much you should charge depends on what the client is willing to pay. Value is in the eye on the person buying the service and the person providing the service.

Putting my digital marketing cap on though, there are a few different pricing methods you could look at. I’ll tell you about three I think might be useful and you can pick from that. The three I recommend you choose from are competitive pricing, customer-perceived value pricing and cost-plus pricing.

Competitive pricing is fairly straightforward. You just take a sample of what everyone else in the industry is charging, and apply an hourly figure to your work that is in line with the quality compared to what that competitor is offering. You should get at least three quotes to do this properly, because if you sample from one, you’re going to be making some pretty short sighted decisions.

Cost-plus pricing is about figuring out what it costs for you to do business, then adding some extra cheese on the top for you to take home. As a videographer, you might calculate your costs as a division of the cost of your equipment over a set amount of jobs. If you think your camera’s lifespan is 300 jobs for example, then that’s the cost of your camera divided by 300. You would do the same for all your gear, and any other expenses you have and then add some profit on top as a percentage. Most people pick between 25% and 50%.

The third method is the customer perceived value. This one is a little harder to figure out because you need to do a bit of chat at the front face with clients. You want to understand what your perceived benefit is and deduct the perceived cost from that. It’s not about what your real costs or benefit is – just what is perceived to be the benefit and cost. So say your client feels a video of yours is worth $800, but they expect it will cost you $500 to hire the equipment needed to pull it off. Instantly you know the client won’t pay more than $800, but they also will pay more than $500. The $300 difference is the customer perceived value. That means between $500 – $800 is what you can charge. The closer towards the $500 you charge, the higher the perceived value is for the client. It’s important to note that these are perceived values. It doesn’t matter what your actual costs are, it’s about what they are perceived to be and what the perceived benefit is.

In my Callister, everyone is getting paid 400% of what they’re worth. But it’s not that easy. But it’s ok to experiment.

I know you wouldn’t do this, but it’s never ok to fluctuate your price in accordance with how busy you are. The client shouldn’t wear your inability to book a lot of work. If you’re quiet, you’re quiet. Much like the client can’t control their business’ output, they aren’t going to offer you less because it’s been a quiet week. Keep the rates stable, because word of mouth is a powerful thing and if two clients find out you charged them differently, you’ll lose the chance of future work for both of them.

“Hey Matt, I’ve been a fan of your work for a while now and just had a quick question about what camera/cameras you have at the moment. I love surf photography but I also love music, I’m a drummer in a band but that’s another story. Anyway, cheers, Lachie” – @Lachiebrownphoto

Thanks dude!

I run with a Canon 5Dmkiii, and have a heap of different lenses I use for different things.

For music photography, I use my Canon 5Dmkiii and a mix of:

Canon 24-70mm 2.8

Canon 70-200mm 2.8

Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art lens

Sigma 14mm fisheye

For my macro stuff, I use my Canon 5Dmkiii and either a 100mm macro lens or 65mm MP-E with the twin flash light on either lens.

For film cameras, I have:

Mamiya C330

Mamiya 645 Pro TL

Mamiya RZ67

Holga 120GCN

Canon 1nRS

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