Welcome to the VISIONARY Photo-Graphics Photo Experience, our team's blog spot. At VPG, we're wedding photographers, fashion photographers, portrait photographers, commercial, action, get the point. So, come walk with us, as we venture through this dog-eat-dog world on our quest to be the best - spitting, cussing, and laughing along the way. We'll tell you what we've learned, what we want, and how we've gotten where we are...wherever we are. Bring your camera! You might need it.

Can I Buy You A Drink?

A simple opening line. Ladies, maybe you’ve heard this one a time or two. But, in reality good friends buy each other drinks all the time. After all, doing good business is like starting a close relationship with somebody. And, yes I did. This is the blog where the guy compares something to a relationship. Yet, this blog is indeed about relationships!

The perpetual question has been, for we at VPG, how to keep the client coming back. Through the PPA, we often see perpetuation of business come up as a common topic. Though we have a client or two that we do regular business with, for the most part, establishing a lasting relationship has proven to be quite a challenge to us. So, how does one secure this great feat? Well, you get closer! How does one get closer? Rapport, rapport, rapport! Okay, but how…

In the past, I’ve been mainly a “coffee or lunch” type of person. Occasionally, I might have been known to offer a drink to a client who also happened to be a close friend. HOWEVER, recently, I’ve discovered what should have been common sense to begin with. People like drinks.

Drinks are a bonding tool. They’re an “easy in to what might be a long relationship”. Drinks make people happy. They make people open up. They bring you closer to your potential client. Drinks turn acquaintances into friends, which in our world also means good client.


Beer Face Guy

I'll haf anuthr...

Recently, I’ve been one bad decision away from being the “drunken bidnisman.” Not really. Not only as an adult who wishes to live his life in front of steel bars and not behind them, but also as a business person looking for lasting relationships – responsibility is a vital key to maintaining a client’s respect. If I were the client, I’d be willing to bond, with a watchful eye on where my investment’s priorities are – business or beer. However, I have recently discovered that working people with tight schedules are more than happy to do business, if it doesn’t feel like business.


It started off by me following up with a client we shot a tournament for last year. He had mentioned “grabbing a drink” some day, to discuss tightening up how we work together. Recently, the time has neared, and I decided to touch base, and offer that drink I owed him. He was more than happy to accept. So, we set the date (coming up), and I was on my merry way, to pursue another client (hey…it’s what I do). While I was in the spirit, I decided to try it on with this next potential client – whom we’ve been trying to grab the attention of for four years. I titled my email, “Buy you a drink, and talk photography?”. She responded immediately, and now we have an ‘appointment’ set up, where we will be in a comfortable environment, letting loose, bonding, and slipping business in along the way.

Later that evening, I was planning out my week, and realized that I had half-jokingly scheduled a drink with a wedding client who “owed us five bucks”. This client (now bride and groom), has used VPG for three different shoots, and will soon be four. So, having already established a little bit of a rapport, I felt comfortable enough to turn the inconsequential sum of money owed into an excuse to discuss further details of her wedding. The “drink” soon turned into a very amicable dinner, where we discussed a little wedding photography, details for our team, travel to Florida, and established a closer personal bond which also equates into a closer professional bond that I’m confident will withstand the tests of time.

Of course, quality service – photography and the results thereof, is key. But, as part of a service comes nourishing and maintaining a relationship. This can be done by communication, quality results…and the occasional libation!

If you have trouble with relationships, however, here are some key ideas we try to keep in mind:

  • First, know that this is just one of a few good ideas. Not everybody likes drinks (though you’d be surprised!). Know the difference, or learn it.
  • It’s about the client. Buy the drink. Ask questions. Remember the answers, because bringing it up later will likely impress your client.
  • Control yourself when it comes to drinks – especially if you went crazy and need to meet somebody else in an hour. Your potential client will notice how your judgment might effect your service. For example, if I’m meeting you for a wedding, where we’ll have an open bar, and you’re ordering round after round…well what happens when you need to take good photos? Will you be at the bar instead?
  • Either get your contract signed while your bonding, or else plan your next meeting and/or step with your potential client before you part ways. This is not assuming advantage-taking. It’s assuming you’ve both been responsible adults who have established some semblance of closeness, and you want to seize the opportunity while the excitement is in the air.
  • You end the meeting. Don’t let the client get tired of hanging out with you. The last impression lasts. Cut the meeting just around when it seems to be peeking. Not before, not after.
photo of guy picking up a girl

...this is the beginning of something special

…At this point, my reference to “relationships” may be seeming a little like more than one subject. Truth is, business is just a way of life. And, such is life. Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day :)

Good luck!

Event Photography On-line Pricing

Selling photos online can be a lot like spear fishing…it depends on your equipment, your experience and skill, the size of the fish you’re ‘hunting’, the size of your ‘river’, the season, and of course your timing…

Why did I choose spear fishing? Because my first thought was crab fishing, but let’s get “reel”…Seriously though, we’ve been stabbing at this “fish” for a few years now, and though it’s slowly paying off, still an ever-evolving subject worthy of a lot of attention. Our attention is mainly geared toward the pricing end of event photography. Perhaps we’ll delve deeper later.

Facebook, Twitter, and others have put a giant question mark over the value of the printed photo. But, the printed photo is more like a book; whereas, a digital download is more like a newspaper article. Both have their place. One is completely different from the other. One is timeless, whereas the other has a popularity of about a month at best, and a shelf-life of about 5 years.

This week VPG posted images from our fourth Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament. Pricing was based on patterns I’ve noticed following a sort of experimentation from the previous three we’d shot using a newer, faster, more versatile system we’ve adopted. The following passage is what we’ve learned – not just from this genre, but from overall experience (rodeos, carnivals, ballet, football, baseball, soccer, volleyball, karate, Jiu Jitsu, skateboarding – all kinds of photography). However, for the “lazy and in-a-hurry”, you can click here for the quick tips, or click here for some pricing and facts.

After the first tournament, photos were up for viewing almost immediately. I’d put our new Lightroom to the test, and it saved a ton of time. From an attendance of about 330, we had several hits displaying lots of interest, and a few sales. Sales were in the $300 range. Good, but unsatisfactory considering the amount of interest (hundreds of hits daily) on this particular gallery. My guess was that our prices were a little steep for many. Okay, but pricing is relative. “So, let’s see what happens next time.”

The second tournament we shot was in Dallas, TX. It was projected to be twice as big as the previous, but ended up being about half the size, due to traffic conditions resulting from the “Red River Shootout“. The outcome? We came home tired and only having broken even. Online sales -BOMB. “Why?” you might ask. They were priced the same – 4×6′s starting at $9.25, up to hundred plus dollar mulit-image posters. The main difference was that we’d experimented with allowing our photos to be dragged and dropped, or “right-clicked” if you will. At the end of the day, maybe two or three visitors found it worthwhile to pay us for our services. The rest must have been happy to have our watermark on their free low-resolution photo. Although we were prepared to exchange a little financial momentum for its equivalent in exposure, we hadn’t anticipated the vast hoards of ‘opportunists’ out there. Devastated!

Outcome from the second tournament was about $60 online, and the new knowledge the that working class citizens of the United States (or at least in Texas and some of the surrounding area) will take what they can get. After putting myself in their shoes, I can’t say I blame them, though I don’t agree. Lesson learned. When it comes to intellectual property, too many people have no problem with stealing.

Shoot three – Austin, TX about four months after the first. First, this tournament fell on a Sunday – not the most ideal day. But, still on the weekend, and finishing up just in time for pro football fans to see the Dallas Cowboys. Second issue, the mats were black and lighting was low! Though our photographer made adjustments, this takes time during the quick-edit stage of production (when going through over 1,000 images). Thirdly, we guessed that 50% of the attendants had seen us the last time, meaning the novelty was worn down a little, and it was only four months since some of them made their previous purchase.

This third time, we experimented with lower prices. This took some consideration! First, our photographers work hard, and constantly. For anybody familiar with action photography, it’s not like shooting Peggie Ponytails in front of a backdrop in controlled lighting with predetermined poses. No, the action goes on and on, and unfortunately, the refs won’t let you ask to do that one again. So, you stand holding a 5+ lbs. camera up to your eye, while running back and fourth for hours at a time… Our prices – “dirt cheap”. Images were “right click resistant”. Low resolution downloads starting at $3 and 4×6 images starting at $5.25. Our target demographic was the working class adults who had sufficed it to drag and drop the images last time around. Our aim – to capitalize by way of bulk. Cater to the masses, and do as we’d done the first time ’round.

Third shoot outcome was, first, that the lighting created a lot of preliminary touch-up work therefore delaying the upload time by an entire day (uploading several hundred images takes a few days already.) Secondly, the prices didn’t make much of an impact. We made one bulk sale to the owner of a martial arts team – about $175. But, aside from that, Broke Joe was still broke. And he did not want what he could not get (for free).

Shoot number four (8 days ago). “Assess what we know.” We knew that drag-and-drop is great exposure and horrible for profit. We also knew that pricing isn’t much of a factor. As you may hear me say a million times in this blog spot, a person is either ready to do business or else they’re not (negotiating is only worthwhile if you can tell the difference between these two types). This time, we priced images down the middle – low resolution downloads and 4×6 prints starting at $7.25, up to hundred plus dollar multi-image posters. We also knew that timing is everything. Post ‘em while they’re hot! THIS TIME – our main computer went down two days prior, meaning a slower processing time once again…

Fourth Shoot results, to date, are four medium-level sales at about $15 each. Posting completion took 5 days, and THAT FACT took a toll on sales. Statistically, our number of visitors to this event dropped from 100 plus, to 46 on the fourth day after the shoot – meaning we missed our window. On one hand, we know that the prices are friendly enough for those interested. On the other we know that we missed our window shopper window. Sales will likely trickle through, but no more hundred plus visits to this page.

To date, our first of these four trial events (using our new gallery system) was the most productive. We’ve learned a ton after these and many other events throughout the years. So, finally, here is what we know about shooting an event. And, although circumstances (explained from shoot number four) make the following tips strictly theoretical, they qualify more as an educated assessment than a random guess:

    Quick On-line Pricing Tips

  • These are Action/Event-specific tips. Portraits and other genres are completely different subjects.
  • Shoot intelligently. Nobody wants to buy a picture of the back of a head. If you’re the main photographer, take advantage of your closeness to the action. Take the photos others can’t – close-ups. Also, candid shots are seldom the goal for sideline shooters. Closing the show. Time your winning shots, closing shots, raising of arms – etc.
  • Offer only quality shots. If you post just anything, people not only feel as if they’re potentially wasting their time, he/she won’t feel much like they’re missing out. But, if all they see are good shots on your link, well, they’ll stay and look to see if they’re in one of those.
  • Know your demographic. Youth are great for sales, as parents love their kids. Adults are working people who may or may not like something unless it’s socially appetizing. If your event is a special one, everyone might be interested in a little something. Price accordingly
  • Protect your photos. If you can protect your images from “right-clicking”, and you wish to profit – do it! In America, “home of the FREE” takes on many meanings. Or be ready to take the exchange.
  • Offer variety without drowning your client with options. Gloss, Matte, Metallic, or Lustre is too many options for a person who just wants a 4×6. Make some of the decisions for the client based on what you think their event represent.
  • Timing is everything! If you must, stay up late editing the first night. It will pay off. A person might look once, twice, maybe three times for the results. But, in today’s quick-click society, you have a very small window of opportunity. Business 101, half your chance is gone the moment your client ‘walks away’ the first time. Three days, at most, for full sales capacity.
  • For large events, price friendly and profit from bulk (though you don’t have to practically give them away!). For smaller, more intimate events, price to your liking. Medium pricing is fine. For elite events, price them like they’re worth the purchase, or your service won’t be appreciated.
  • Pricing tips in general: Odd numbers are psychologically more acceptable than even ones ($7.15 looks more appetizing than $6.00). Replacing the big, fat round zeros with something friendlier is better, even if it’s more. Don’t ask me why. Just try it. Statistics!
  • HAVE COPY – business cards, signage, and/or an email list are key. One of these is better than none.
  • Depending on the type of event, we typically insist on being mentioned (loud speaker) by the production people. Legitimacy is established when the “founders of the feast” mention your name.
  • Depending on the type of event, a portrait area can be a big money maker. In a formal event, people like to be dressed up. In a tournament, the winners would love to take a portrait. Set up a backdrop, lighting, and a border, to keep soccer mom from using what your time, money, and labor produced. Portraits have been our biggest sellers.

3/23/10 – UPDATE:
On February 20th, we shot the NAGA, a well organized and well known organization in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world. After posting this blog, I was on a mission to find some concrete answers. Taking what we’ve assessed above, I applied that knowledge to this well-organized event, and added a little extra organization to the photos.

If you’ve checked out photos from our past events, they’re well displayed, but there’s an excruciating number of photos to sift through. So, this time, I took the time to create an intricate gallery that was simpler for the client/passer-by. First, I separated the photos into sections: ‘with gi’, ‘no-gi’, ‘portraits(with their prizes)’,& ‘highlights’. Second, I broke those into three sub categories: men, women, & youth. Also, I offered all these categories in a ‘quick links’ section to the side (much like the quick tips anchor at the top of this blog). Lastly, I beat our upload deadline by a day. I received a call from a client who had ordered some stuff at the tourney only minutes after going live. Not only does this prove that timeliness is key, it also means that people are excited and checking on their results.

The outcome: To date, sales have been at about $500. Still not gold, but definitely worth the time! It always feels good to get back from a weekend at the lake to find that you made a few dollars.

To date, our average sale, from all events, is just over $25 dollars. This proves my notion that – not only is price a relative thing, but also that a person will enter your site with a mindset to purchase or simply not – you shouldn’t sweat the lost causes. So, the numbers are up to you.
Our most successful pricing has been sort of a middle tier pricing. At VPG we offer downloads, prints, and various novelties. The following are only a few top-selling examples, to give you a head start on pricing. If you have trouble reading between the lines, you can always click on a gallery photo and pretend that you’re going to buy, and see our full pricing set-up that way.

  • NOTE that VPG is working on streamlining a lot of our printing. If your print process is costly and laborious, you’ll want to add that into the following equation.
  • Low Res. Downloads – $7.25 A top-seller.
  • Medium Res. Downloads – $21.25 Why so “high”? Because we lose control when they start printing, and it represents us. So far no complaints. Clients who want prints are happy to buy them. Those who want digital usually just wanna use it on their website anyway.
  • 4×6′s – $7.75 – another hot item!
  • 8×10′s – $17.25 – We sold a few of these.
  • 11×14 – $37.35 – Sold a few of these as well.
  • 24×36 – $105.25 None sold, but wanted to share a large item with you. These sizes are more popular with high-end events and especially as portrait wall art (that’s a different blog!)

We at Visionary wish you the best of luck! Let us know how/if this works for you! We’d like to know.

Sand is not your friend.

In 2009 I made a trip to the Kelso Singing Dunes, here in Southern California.  I took, what I thought, was great care to not let my Camera (Canon 30D) ever come in contact with the sand, and when I was hiking and not taking photos I keep it in my camera case zipped up tight. Taking hundreds of photos of this surreal and beautiful landscape, It was one of the locations where its hard to take a BAD photo.
Kelso Dunes
The next day I was excited to look at the photos, and as soon as I started viewing them on my computer I was horrified to find repetitive spots in every single photo I took. Sand had made its way onto the sensor of my camera and I was heartbroken. I live by the rule that if I have to Photoshop a photograph then I wont use it. There have been times where I have bent this rule due to strength of the photo out weighed my moral objection to using Photoshop (in my work only, I do enjoy other peoples work that rely heavily on their Photoshop talents). But when you’re dealing with correcting hundreds of photos due to spots this is out of the question for me. While in some of the photos it was far less noticeable, the photos that showed the sky had the most noticeable spotting, and I love seeing the profile of the dune against the sky.
Kelso Dunes

I pulled my camera out first thinking it must be the lens and after cleaning both of my lenses and doing test shots against the sky I found it was indeed the sensor. After a little research I found some “How to clean your Sensor” videos on youtube, but I did not dare approach this, as I don’t have the funds to get the camera repaired if it made the problem worse or damaged the sensor, so I took it to Calumet Photo here in Los Angeles and got it cleaned for $60 and a couple of days with no camera.

While I haven’t found any advice or secret tips that keeps your camera 100% safe from sand or such the best advice is to never change lenses in such settings. On my trip I only used one lens all day and still was faced with sand on my sensor, but this may have been due to the type of sand at the Kelso Dunes (which is silica sand that is why the dunes sing).

I plan to return to the Kelso Dunes and other Dunes as well to photograph so I guess I will just have to learn to clean my own sensor and take brighter photographs, or keep my camera in an underwater housing at all times (kidding). I am heading to the Jungles of Southern Mexico next, I’m sure I will have another story about moister to share upon returning.

Happy Shooting


Preparing To Photograph A Wedding

Being a wedding photographer is a multidimensional effort, starting with an introduction to the bride and groom, continuing through the moment you deliver your clients’ album(s), discs, etc., until often weeks later, when aunt Harriette orders last-minute prints from somewhere in Canada. It’s knowing your betrothed (clients) – their likes, dislikes, style, family and friends, etc. Photographing a wedding is proper planning: colors, location, time of day, lighting, length and nuances of the ceremony, reception area (distance to), and all the hows and whens. But, most importantly, it’s proper execution. Proper execution is a combination of four things: knowing your equipment, proper preparation, communication, and a willingness to improvise. Holding yourself to the aforementioned guidelines is crucial to separating yourself from Timmy The Timid Taker-of-Pictures (who calls himself a professional, but is really just a guy with a camera and big dreams), as well as from Mai Systyr Keri (whose photo of a cat impressed client 0 so much that they went with her, ’cause she’s affordable). If you’re here looking for some helpful tips, we hope that below you’ll find something that brings you a little closer to reaching your ultimate goal. (couples’ and wedding planners’ note: we travel!)
photo of a passionate bride
1. Wedding Photography Do’s

  • Be prepared for the first meet-and-greet – Have possible end results ready for discussion (this only requires your time, it doesn’t depend on a budget – no excuses.have samples ready; have a contract ready (or the next photographer might beat you to it); ask about bridal portraits, engagement portraits, and rehearsal dinner photos; also, we like to include our Wedding Detail Sheet.
  • Know your clients – Did they fill out the aforementioned detail sheet? What’s their style? Who/what’s important to them? What are their dislikes? You don’t want to shoot busy photos if your clients are minimalists!
  • Plan the details – Location, time of day (it affects the lighting)? Where is the reception (indoor or out)? Where will the bride and groom get ready (are you invited to the preparations)? Location for formal photos? Will you photograph the departure? How will you get from point A to point B to point C? How long will that take?
  • Detail the plans (wha-!?) – Bring more than you think you’ll need: extra lenses, batteries, lights, boundaries (as per the formals area), step stools, an undershirt…, note pad, PHONE NUMBERS
  • Plan for the worst – these people are trusting you with an important day of their lives. You don’t want to miss your assignment for lack of an umbrella. Got a spare point-and-shoot (what if you drop your camera)? List your non-guarantees in your contract! Also, be ready to politely take control of certain situations (which we’ll describe in “Dont’s”.
  • Find your go-to person. This is often a maid of honor, a mom or aunt…but there’s someone out there who knows the friends and family better than you. This helps.
  • Ask for privacy – After the wedding, either you or your go to person should confidently ask the addendants for privacy. Make it professional. Thank them for being there. And emphasize that it’s important for you to get the shots they paid your for, and that you want little distractions.
  • Communicate your important shots/needs. If you’re not sure when the cake is going to be cut, you’re not doing your job. If everyone seems confused, they’ll love for you to take the lead – do it. You will be revered and talked about (sometimes).
  • Be prepared to improvise. To be the best, you must be prepared to think under pressure. When that rain starts pouring down, and you thought to bring an umbrella – everyone is standing around waiting for someone to take the reigns. The camera will make memories if only you’ll take the lead.
  • Set up an email list, for results, and/or pass out cards. Business should continue beyond the wedding, unless you gave up your work, and left it at the mercy of the local one-hour photo.
  • Have fun! Take lots of candids. Shoot from various angles. Anticipate the goings-on.

Wedding Photography Don’ts

  • DON’T work for nothing. To do a wedding right takes time, skill, patience, and money. Read “How much should I charge,” from earlier.
  • DON’T give away the results to your photos as if they had nothing to do with all the labor you’re about to put in. Have packages, plans, ideas ready. Shooting the wedding is only half the work – if that.
  • DON’T work without a contract signed (and usually a down payment). Too much is at stake, and there are too many factors to consider.
  • DON’T leave your check list behind. You don’t want to get there, to realize that you left your batteries behind, or forgot your flash, or your extension cord, or…well, you get the point.
  • DON’T let yourself get pushed around. The newlyweds didn’t hire mom, they hired you – and they did it for a reason. Again, a contract can cover this without you having to be put in an awkward position.
  • DON’T miss an important shot because you were feeling shy or tired. Earn your money. Take control.
  • DON’T let sister, brother, aunt, and uncle all take photos from the lighting you set up for formals. Clear the area, ask for privacy, set up boundaries, something.
  • DON’T show up having not thought about the wedding dress. Consider your metering options, a possible fill flash, a bounced flash, etc. Our photographers, someday, might share some secrets with you…sssssh.
  • DON’T shoot the whole wedding from the same ol’ upright standing position. Bleh…uugh! YUK!
  • DON’T forget snacks and water! A quick pick-me-up will go along way during a long wedding!

Well, that’s all for now, folks! We wish you luck and prosperity. Have fun, be smart, be bold; and, therefore, be well. These photos were taken by Michael Shane Gordon.

photo of a happy newlywed

-Ric Torres

How Much Should I Charge?

The short answer to this question is simple…Charge Something!

This subject is a touchy one that turns people on their heads, makes their palms sweaty, keeps them from calling back a potential client, and keeps many in the back of the food line. It’s a sensitive topic, one that I will address in four parts:

The breakdown goes as follows:

How much should I charge?...

How much should I charge?...

Let’s start off with a question – one that goes out to those of you who, this is maybe your third visit for the fifth time, to some random website, in search of a concrete answer to a relative question…my question is, how long have you been working on your portfolio now? 2 years? Three? More? It always starts off under the pretext of a portfolio in progress. But, before you know it, a quarter of the local community has walked away with your work, and you’re the only one not benefiting from it. Whenever a photographer works for free, he/she does four things:

  1. You pay the client to benefit from your labor. It may not feel this way at first. But, adding up travel, time, labor, electricity (if you use your own studio), wear and tear, cd/dvds, ink, and/or bandwidth (if you post them online), not to mention your initial purchase of an SLR plus lenses, you’ve gone and easily spent at least $30 invisible dollars, and given away a portion of your day to photography, then another for editing.
  2. You burn yourself out. Before you know it, you’ve cut three more corners just trying to get through with this project. It will affect your day, your week, and you won’t have as much enthusiasm for the next project. Thereafter, the client wasn’t exactly disappointed, but at the same time wan’t impressed. So she forgets to mention you when her sister gets engaged, because you just weren’t having a good time and it showed.
  3. You’ve single-handedly brought down the industry standard just that much more. Barbie McGee just got her fashion portfolio done, and a dvd given to her for next to nothing. So, when her friend, Ken, is offered pro photos for $825, she laughs and tells him where to go to get a bargain. With every free shoot, you reinforce to the client that it’s okay to expect free art/labor. Back to the breadline, people.
  4. Last, you’ve degraded your own professional status. Sure, you were nice to work with. So is Playdough. But, we always remember things best when they have a price (in the physical or spiritual realm).

But there’s good news, too (switching to Geico and Jesus aside)! It’s all relative. A person can buy a chisel, a hammer, and some stone, but they can’t necessarily make a Gian Bernini masterpiece. A person can also buy the latest Nikon D3x, but AF settings will not turn them into Dave LaChapelle. As long as photography is an art (and, I don’t foresee that changing in my lifetime), its value will always be in the eye of the beholder.

The only wrong price, my friends, is zero. Nothing is free. It’s not a cliché, it’s a fact. Someone profits from the electricity you use, your batteries, your gas, the clothes and props involved, your backdrops, the results of your photography, and even your camera. In the photo industry, as in art, as in business, a person or entity sets the standard of their worth. So, if you’re working for zero, that doesn’t say much about you. And, if you’re looking for the standard price for say, fashion photography, ask yourself what it’s worth to you. How much will it cost you to set up lighting and backdrops? Will you have to change locations, to shoot in front of that graffiti wall? How many changes of clothes (at least three). Will it be done in one 5-hour shoot, or will you treat each outfit as a separate shoot to keep your model fresh? What if you planned the day around this shoot, and the model doesn’t show up (read “Protect Your ASSets, above”)? Should that cost only you? What about results? Aren’t you going to edit the photos? Are you going to sell prints or digital rights? Are they included (I hope not, unless they’re paid for)? I can tell you that, if there aren’t at least three figures in your quote, you’re committing a fashion/photography industry crime.

The only reason a person in this day & age calls a professional is for professional photography service. If they’ve called you, you should feel obligated to give a professional rate. Otherwise, he/she can buy themselves a point-and-shoot, and go to town on their latest DIY project. Remember, the industry you’re in is saturated. That doesn’t go to say that you should be the bargain man, nor that you need to look for another line of work. It means that you simply need to be the best at what you do. This includes getting paid as such. There will always be suckers and hobbyists. But you don’t have to be one of them. If you are one of these, the rest of us both love you (for eventually becoming a part of the background) and hate you (for fooling clients into thinking that you represented a professional brand). So, sweat, pace, rehearse, or tremble -but, charge your clients what you feel you’re worth. Or, you can contact us so that you don’t have to worry about that part (we’ll do the business for you).

Things to consider for any photo shoot (not necessarily to be shared with clients, unless they ask, “why”):

  • Your talent (this should be your main pricing tool – what’s your artistic touch worth?)
  • Travel/mileage
  • Studio supplies: lighting, backdrops, props, equipment (ladders, extension cords, etc.)
  • Duration of the shoot
  • Intensity of the shoot (will you be able to take your time, or will you have to stay alert constantly?)
  • Number of subjects
  • Post production time: sifting through the discards, editing, sampling, printing, correspondence,  burning
  • Post production cost: printing, computer disc space (if you shoot in Raw, this could take alot of space), dvd/cd, paper, ink, delivery, packaging, etc.
  • Rights…we (VPG) don’t bundle rights to our photos with just any project, because we like to control how the results come out. Photography is just the beginning. If you include results, make sure you’re considering how much business you’ve lost to your local Walgreens, as well as the possibility that poor printing reflects poorly on you.
  • Sidekicks – are you using a lighting person?
  • Location fees: Some facilities charge for rent/usage

Here are Fashion Photography-specific considerations:

  • Number of models you’re working for, and who will want to benefit from your work
  • No-shows (models are notorious for no call/no shows. It’s wise to have them prepay, with an understanding that your time is part of the package
  • A quality fashion shoot is a full day. Not only do you want your models to change outfits, but you need to keep them lively, meaning ample breaks. This is important!
  • Props
  • Deadlines – are they in a hurry, therefore demanding that you work long hours editing.
  • Archiving
  • plus “any photo shoot…” guidelines above.

Wedding Photography-specific considerations:
Weddings can be very taxing, when done right. A good photographer will take very few breaks during this crucial one-time event.

  • Number of photographers
  • Length of wedding
  • Engagement Portraits?
  • Bridal Portraits?
  • Rehearsal Dinner?
  • Posed shots
  • Equipment (take more than you think you’ll need: ladders, extension cords, batteries, etc.)
  • Timetable for results
  • Result medium (please, don’t treat your product as a mere coincidental outcome of the service you provided)
  • Travel/location
  • Attire expenses
  • plus “any photo shoot…” guidelines above.

Commercial Photography Pricing Guidelines:

  • Purpose of the shoot. How your clients aims to profit from your shoot should effect what you charge.
  • Number of photographers
  • Time and intensity.
  • Is this a one-time job, or the beginning of something long-term
  • Research
  • Props
  • plus “any photo shoot…” guidelines above.

Any genre not listed above is either generally covered in the “Every Shoot” section, or else will be added later.

“But what if they say NO?!” That’s easy. Enjoy youre day, because you won’t be any less broke, but you’ll have your time back.

We at VPG hope that this was helpful. This subject has certainly been begging to be addressed. Now it’s out there. Now it’s up to you.

Legalities…Protect Your ASSets

Remember that scene, from Office Space, when one little decimal place made the difference between a few cents and $305,326.13 (not to mention a possible stay at a “federal-reserve-pound-me-in-the-4$$-prison”)?

…I must have put a decimal point in the wrong place or something…I always mess up some mundane detail…

Well, running a business where intellectual property is your b & b is especially like this. A lesson read, learned, and relearned.

In 1998(ish), Michael Torres, co-founder of VISIONARY Photo-Graphics, owned a photography business called Bella Studios. He had a model whose photo he used for a Bella ad in the Lubbock phone book. However, when the model threatened to get a lawyer, in search of royalties, Michael simply handed her the model release that she had signed, told her to show that to her lawyer, and sent her on her way to never be heard from again regarding the matter.

This is a big deal. As an artist, you never know what might come up later. You never know, in this economy, when an opportunist might see the chance to obviate working for a living by milking you for what you’re worth…Maybe you hired someone to help shoot an event. Maybe you already knew that she wasn’t the greatest one for the job, but it was an inconsequential role, and the skilled photographers were doing the skilled work, and you felt bad because she told you that she needed money to eat. You didn’t know that she’d show up late, spend more time talking than working, nor that she’d leave early. And, you especially didn’t expect that the small gig you hired her for would look to her like a chance at gold, that she wouldn’t consider or care about the fact that your company had paid dues to be there, that you were legally obligated to the organization that your photography represents, as well as each individual attending (whom you couldn’t realistically have had sign a model release), and that that individual may or may not care for having their photo sold for personal gain, therefore holding your company accountable – not the work-for-hire photographer that you paid to represent you…you just never know.

Sure, it was a definitive “work-for-hire”, and you could probably beat it in court. But who wants that?! Who wants to read/answer 7 email threats a day or more? Who wants the discomfort later, when you’re just trying to have dinner with your lemonpop, but this thing just keeps jabbing at your ribs. A simple pre-signed agreement will not only let you rest easy, it stops the train in its tracks. Just remembering that he/she signed something will keep a person honest.

So, there you have it, artists of the world. Set aside a time, maybe make a day of it – to just tackle legal documentation. Think of several possibilities, for employees and clients alike. Sales agreements. Clients, their rights, and things you might be using photos for. Wedding agreements, commercial agreements, model releases, those precious timetables, prints, photo rights, etc.  And, if you own a company, make sure that your employees and/or constituents know what’s black and what’s white (or at least that they sign at the dotted line). It’s a one-time task, and you could be saving yourself restlessness, or grief, or $305,326.13, and in rare yet definitely possible cases, an indefinite stay at “federal-reserve-pound-me-in-the-4$$ prison”.

-Ric Torres