How to show potential clients the true value of your work, the skills you've learned and time invested.
Know Your Worth and Let it be Known
The final product that photographers, filmmakers, artists and authors produce doesn't always convey its true value. The back story to any talent along with the time and money invested should add value to any piece of work. The client needs to understand this.
Let potential clients know your worth
Let's study the image at the head of this page. To make it easier to illustrate and discuss, below is a full version of this photograph.
What makes you professional?
I see a dedicated, talented and meticulous artist at work. How do I come to that conclusion? Firstly, the hands. The hands look like those of an experienced, mature person hard at work on a highly detailed piece.
Secondly, the apparatus being used also has a look of "longevity". See the use of tape to repair or improve and adapt the set up? Rather than replacing old equipment with new and potentially more suitable kit, the artist is using tried, tested, reliable and well loved tools.
Finally, the artist is using methods such as the steel rod in her left hand to allow her to work meticulously on the fine art that she is producing.
She is not worried about the latest gadgets, trends or technology, she is simply immersed in the work she loves to create whether for a client or her own home.
What is my photography work worth?
I am writing this article in response to a recent experience with a potential client for my own work. I must say at this point, it was no fault of the client. They simply didn't know or understand the sheer volume of work involved in producing this particular product of my business. I.e. the time lapses (below).
I must also point out here that I find it hard to put a value on my work as it is what I have done since I was 13 years old.
Even with the offer of "more exposure" from the client in lieu of payment, I had to politely explain to them that exposure doesn't pay the bills.
How much should I charge for my timelapses?
So this is a prime example of how hard it can be to value your most creative work so let's work out the costs as an example. Note: This could highlight the need to charge by half or full day rate rather than a single product.
Timelapses can take anywhere from one hour to a couple of days or months to produce. Something like a time lapse of a lengthy building renovation which is quite popular these days. There is no fixed amount you can charge as each project is bespoke.
This is the series of timelapse clips that prompted this article:
What is the cost and time taken for a typical time lapse
The 1m 33s clip above has 20 individual time lapses. If you were to total the time taken for all clips it would be around 60 hours including travel to locations, shooting each clip, offloading, editing and producing.
The final clip of the Milky Way took 9 hours to shoot (overnight) and around 4-6 hours to process.
Below is a list and cost of equipment and software used to make these time lapses as well as the cost of studying, qualifying and licensing myself as a drone pilot.
Of course, none of this takes into consideration the many years spent studying, learning and perfecting the software titles mentioned above.
David Attenborough's Planet Earth
Now look at the following incredible 1m 38s series of clips promoting this superb BBC series. Then, as an exercise, try to work out how much each clip might cost to obtain when you think about:
So, know your worth. How much should you charge for...
What you charge for your photography can be based on a number of factors. However, you must always take into account your style, skill level, experience and quality of end product.
For example, a new wedding photographer may make mistakes during the day, not know how to process creatively and produce below average results.
A professional, well-established and experienced photographer will glide through the day whilst putting people at ease, helping out in other areas, produce stunning work and ultimately add to the success and memories of the day. You can and should charge more and feel confident in doing so.
Weddings can be charged at a fixed rate usually with 3-4 "packages". It's a similar approach with portraits.
Commercial work is different and more bespoke so it may be more appropriate to charge on a day rate basis.
Video work differs from photography in a couple of ways. Firstly, in most cases you have audio to factor in and this is important. As I have said before, I would rather watch a movie with awesome audio and poor video than stunning visuals and ear-piercingly bad audio.
Secondly, the edit takes longer so it is important to let the client know an estimated delivery time based on your speed, creative enhancements, processes and experience with editing and production.
Other than that, what you charge can be based loosely the same as a pro photographer.
I have enough experience with professional drone work to pretty much know what to charge. For example, roof surveys can be a fixed cost depending on property size. Bespoke work is better charged at my day rate.
This way, if a project takes longer than expected (like many I have worked on), the client already knows what my day rate is and can budget accordingly as the project progresses.
You will rue the day that you give a fixed rate for a commercial project and it doubles or even triples in the time required to complete!
How long is a piece of string? Websites vary from a simple one-page sales site to a 20-30 page portfolio site and well beyond.
For websites, I find it best to establish exactly what the client wants and start with a fixed cost per site build based on number of pages, hosting required and template design.
Any additional (and possibly more time-consuming) work such as add-ons and SEO implementation for example, is charged on an individual basis on top of the original quote.
Selling Stock Photos or Video Clips
One solution for my client was for them to purchase each time lapse clip as stock. This would mean I can sell them cheaper than it would be to film bespoke clips whilst retaining the rights to sell them again and again.
They would have the rights to use those clips for a single use project. We both win.
If you want to sell stock, from the start I would suggest establishing as to whether you wish to go the agency route or sell your work privately.
The difference in earnings can be huge selling privately.
Agencies, on average, will give you 50% of any sales revenue BUT they will market your work way more than you probably could.
On the other hand. selling privately gives you higher returns but inevitably fewer sales. Two occasions where I sold privately paid quite nicely.
A simple, home video I made of Storm Ciara using my phone and Go Pro, was seen on YouTube by the Weather Channel in the US and commissioned for single use on their new series for $500.
Another time, I was approached by a local design agency that urgently needed clips showing my town through the seasons for a project they were working on. Obviously they couldn't film those clips in such a short time so they approached me.
As I had the clips in my library and ready to go, I simply put a one minute video together and charged around £600.
So to sum up, it is up to you which approach you take. Maybe a combination of selling both via agencies as well as privately...but perhaps save your best clips for selling privately.
What is a 1 minute stop motion video worth?
I just happened to see this video about a day after the phone call regarding my time lapses. This incredible piece of painstaking work to me is a prime example of maybe using a day rate. A day rate that is well above the norm, including mine, due to the complexity and specialised skill involved.
What do you think this video is worth? Answers and thoughts in comments below please!
Coincidental Update 22.12.21
So, just two days after posting this article, my point was proven once again.
I received the above text from Sky News and replied with "what is your budget for using this clip"? No budget but they would give me credits on the piece when it airs. For the record, I have NEVER received any work from such credit so politely declined...at first.
Later, I decided to let them use the clip as my daughter and her friend are swimming in this event with her friends. What the hell, it's Christmas and he even asked if the girls wanted to be interviewed prior to the swim.
What a nice chap!
If just starting out and you want or need the credits for such a piece for your portfolio and kudos, go ahead. It is a good idea to do this but don't make a habit of it.
When I filmed the Iron Man competition for Channel 4 in 2016 (paid job), I was mentioned in the TV credits. I did receive a spike in traffic to my website and Facebook page, however, most if not all of this was due to my blog post.
No work came in from it (not directly or immediately anyway).
I hope this article has helped you to understand, figure out and know your worth when it comes to your creative talents. Never sell yourself short even when starting out...as long as you can produce professional results.
Spend some time looking at what other creatives charge and work out where you fit in with regards to skills, equipment needed, location (demographic) and of course, your experience.
If you found this article useful, please add your comments below & share it with friends, family or colleagues. Thanks and Happy Holidays to you all!