When to start charging for your photography

Found in: Photo Tips
Mar 13 2012
by Brianne Waterson

People normally have an advice to give no matter the subject, but for photography, it's really true! I have viewed it million times on people's Facebook pages... a halfway cute picture of a child that has 12 comments from the family and friends telling the parents they should go pro... now! Yes, the image is kind of cute and candid, but at the same time, lighting is bad, the camera is set probably on auto, and, yes, pop up flash...

Before you ask, this is not a rant about newbies. This is about my experience on what you can do to be a professional photographer (providing you have the skill, talent, and drive, to succeed)!

Child photography example by Bree Waterson
When I decided to become a pro, I did the next three things. First, I went to college for a business degree, which is underestimated in this field. Second, I started collecting every piece of educational material on photography I could find for marketing, lighting and composition, and studied the masters. I am now signing up for workshops and such because you can never stop learning! Finally, I worked for free! Then, I worked at a steep discount as a portfolio builder being upfront with my length of time in the business. Yes, I arranged trade sessions with models, did stuff for family members, and shot everything I could, as I was building more skills and buying the important pro quality equipment. I also stopped paying for others to photograph my child. If your work isn't good enough for your own children, you shouldn't charge to photograph others. This makes people believe you do not have faith in your own work. I believe it's slightly unethical, as well.

Doctors work for free while still in medical school before even touching patients on their own. You would not go to a doctor that says let me fix you up cheap because I know you don't have the money to afford one of those expensive places that actually know what they are doing... Imagine a doctor saying, "I know I don't know all the basics yet... but my friend said I did a good job diagnosing her over Facebook..."

Lets talk how you know when you are ready to charge money. First, you must have the skills to shoot in manual and understand why a pop up flash will not cut it with the professional world. You also should be able to see the differences and provide a service customers can't do for themselves. If you are running with a 300-dollar camera and a pop up flash, you just aren't ready (yet)... If you are offended by the term newbie or fauxtag, you should ask yourself why. It's probably because you're just not there and you feel insecure. In that case, study more, learn, and, for heaven's sake, don't get a Facebook page and call yourself a pro. I tell you this because it will hurt your credibility! It also makes freelancers as a whole look bad.

Flash and Burn... Giving away CD's with the photos you took is a touchy subject because you give away your hard work and the right to say where to print the work that represents you. I cringe at the thought of a cheap kiosk printing of my work. I order even my family images through a pro lab. Because, as I stated, I do what I believe in for myself the same way as I do it for my customers.

Listening to the advice of others is a fundamental part of your business. These people have made the mistakes before. They know what works and what doesn't. Recognize and follow a pro and real quality work. Remember ethics along the way. Stick to being you. Nothing will upset the other locals in your area more than copying all their sets and ideas... Customers will eventually find you to be uncreative. Trends are awesome as long as they are safe. Educate yourself on trend safety. Wrapping Christmas lights around babies or shoving them in a glass bowl for a picture is unsafe. The cord is coated with lead, and that glass bowl may break!

The basic thing you can take from this is to learn, study and master, get prepared, and then rock what you love to do! So… follow your dream... make sure your ready... and don't get lost along the way...


Guest writer: Brianne Waterson

My Name is Brianne Catherine. I go by Bree. I am the sole owner of MTM PHOTOGRAPHY AND CUSTOM EDITS. I have attended Baker College for almost four years and will be graduating with a business degree in the fall of 2011. I love to write and I love photography.

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