What you need to know and how to find the answers.
- General economic condition of the area you are working in.Read the news. Seriously, pay attention to the business environment you are working in. National and regional business publications are a great resource; most are both in print and on-line. You need to focus on the local economy if the photography will only be used locally and, conversely, if you are working for an international company where the use is global, you need to pay more attention to the specific industry’s current economic climate.
- Detailed information on the client.The Internet is a savior in this area. You can learn so much by simply doing an Internet search of a company name. This should be your first stop when someone calls asking for a quote. If the call is from a third party, such as an ad agency or graphic designer, make sure you get the name of the ultimate client. You can research both the party calling you and the end user. Frequently, when hired by a third party, you will be billing that agency or design firm, so it is important to know the legitimacy of their business too. The client actually using your images, however, is the primary consideration when determining your price.The client’s web site can tell you:
- How much photography do they use?
- Is the photography on the site professionally done?
- What is their preferred style, and are you a good fit?
- How well designed is the site?
- What do they do or sell?
- How large, how old is the company?
- Where is the headquarters?
Then look for other sites that mention this business. Look for:
- Customer reviews
- Articles about the company
- Financial information, if the company is publicly traded
- Industry practices for a particular kind of work.
The photography industry is made up of various strata of work. For example, the following project types each have distinct client expectations and pricing norms.
- Story for a national consumer magazine
- CEO portrait for a trade magazine
- Event coverage for a corporation
- Architectural photographs for the architect
- Product illustration for the manufacturer
- Packaging photograph for a consumer product
- Annual report photography for a fortune 500 company
- Advertising photograph for a consumer product
Fellow photographers are your greatest resource for pricing information.
Start by reviewing the ASMP Paperwork Share. Members have generously allowed us to post the terms and pricing for actual jobs, giving you access to a variety of real world pricing examples.
Build a personal network you can rely on. Finding peers who will give you candid and honest information takes time, but it is an essential ingredient to understanding your market.
Your ASMP membership gives you access to fellow photographers over a wide geographic reach. Using ASMP’s Find a Photographer database, you can locate members doing the same type of photography and with similar types of clients. By contacting a photographer not in your own back yard, you immediately eliminate the fear of competition that sometimes makes it tough to share information. It is best to approach a peer with a specific question, for example,
I am _________, a fellow ASMP member, and I am struggling with pricing a project. Based on your web site, I think you do this type of work. Can I give you the details of the project and get your feedback on my quote?
By immediately offering to share the details of your job, you will gain a photographer’s trust. If you are not willing to share this information, do not expect any candid help or guidance. This technique is particularly helpful when you find yourself quoting a job that is a step up for you. Say you have been doing brochure work for a company and they ask you to quote an advertising assignment for them. If you have never priced advertising, you need to call a fellow member who does this all the time. It is in her best interest to help you, since she does not want advertising work to be devalued.
Not every photographer is open to this kind of networking, but if you get a cold shoulder, do not despair. Simply call someone else. Most photographers join ASMP to be part of a community and want to help. And, remember to return the favor when those starting out come to you.
Participate in your ASMP chapter and other industry related events. Social settings are frequently the most advantageous for getting quality information on the specific business climate of your city, region or client industry.
Industry listservs can be amazing resources literally at your fingertips. Specialty listservs are particularly helpful for finding relevant answers. Listservs can be a challenge, because you will read various, and often conflicting, opinions and answers to any given business question.
Questions that have more clear-cut answers are best researched through qualified educational sites. For example, such questions as how do I register my copyright or do I need a release to license this image are best answered through ASMP’s on-line modules on these topics.
More and more industry blogs are available all the time. (ASMP’s own blog is called Strictly Business.) You can learn a lot from these sources but, like the listservs, be smart and remember they are equivalent to reading the editorial page of any newspaper. The opinions offered up by others can help you build your own unique answers to your business woes, but nothing in this business is “one size fits all,” so be smart and piece the nuggets of knowledge together.