Charging people money is scary. Having people I’ve never met ask me to produce something I have metaphorically promised the world I can do at a professional level, that may or may not meet their expectations, is terrifying. There is so much I can’t control – the weather, the mood of everyone involved, my camera suddenly deciding to jam without warning, that nerve condition I Googled last night where something snaps in your eyeball without warning and you go blind in mere seconds. Never mind that every single time I leave my house, I’m pretty sure that I am completely out of any possible creativity, creativity that will never renew itself, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone realizes I’m just a fraud that got lucky for a while.
And that’s on a good day.
I get hired repeatedly by my clients, seem to be able to pull off a shoot in most elements, and as of yet, that nerve hasn’t snapped in my eyeball. However if you look at my pricing comparatively for my area, my pricing history, or ask my mom, I am not charging enough. It’s not that I don’t want to make money of course, it’s that I feel bad taking it from people. I’m not sure I deserve what I am currently charging for what I do, never mind even more. There is no true way to measure the market rate for a photographer, but there are plenty of reasons that setting my rates – determining my true market value – is enough to make me want to go pick-up an application at McDonalds.
#1 It seems like everyone is a photographer – and even the one’s that aren’t have a fancy camera
At some point I am hoping that all of us can get together and agree that owning a fancy camera does not make someone a photographer by trade. I happen to own a really nice guitar after a gifting incident that took a wrong turn. Sometimes just for fun, I sit at my desk with it and strum like I’m a fledgling musician in a coffeehouse working for tips and free lattes. But all of the strumming in the world isn’t going to change the fact that I completely lack the coordination to have my left hand do about anything and I can’t play a single note.
Get over it
Consider every job that relies on nice equipment – a baker needs a fancy oven, an auto-mechanic requires a collection of expensive tools, a fast car alone doesn’t make anyone a race car driver (though with the right stretch of highway and a good song on the radio, we all have the potential to be a rockstar). Ownership, or even a working knowledge, of a tool does not make someone a professional anything.
#2 You’re stuck in portfolio building mode
Chances are if you are a professional photographer, you’ve done portfolio building of some sort; maybe you did portraits for friends for free, did corporate work for cost, or photographed thousands of landscapes until you felt comfortable putting your work out there for sale. Making the step from being a budding photographer to a full-fledged “real” photographer who charges money for their work is a huge but necessary one. Once you have established that you are a photographer with a body of work to show for yourself, you are no longer building from scratch. If you’ve built the house structurally sound, you’re not going to build another house to put on top of the original that’s better. Build your business to be sturdy, flexible, and confident and instead of tearing down and starting over, you will just remodel from time to time and rearrange the furniture when you need to freshen the place up.
Get over it
Spend a day going through your entire portfolio and honestly reflect on your work. Do you have a nice representation of the type of photography you want to charge for? Can you see noticeable differences in the images you created when you first started to now? Do you have images that you are quite proud of and show what you are all about as an artist? If you answered yes, the truth is you already have a portfolio. You will continue to build on this portfolio as you have more (paying) clients, as your skills improve, and as your style becomes more defined and evolves but charging your honest market rate is what is going to help you to get there.
Read the full article in Digital Photography School