Tweaked Fees

Those of you familiar with my pricing structure will be aware that it’s based around the gallery delivery service, whereby I upload photos to the client’s gallery and the client gets to download what they need, when they need it. They can request access for their colleagues or designers – anyone who requires access can have it, but the gallery always remains secure to the client.

This service has been running incredibly well, but it occurred to me that the most basic package, Gallery Essential, was basically a waste of space on my website. Nobody used it because it was designed back when the economy was going in reverse. The idea was a business could get photos taken and held in the gallery for a very basic fee and then they would just buy individual images as and when they needed them and budget allowed.

Screen grab of Tim Gander's photography fee structure.

A new structure to help more clients

However, it became clear to me that most businesses want at least a basic set of images back from a shoot for immediate use and were always willing to upgrade to either Gallery 30 (now renamed Gallery Standard) or more commonly to Gallery Unlimited, which is by far the most popular package.

The other issue this presented was that it left me no obvious place on my website in which to inform potential clients that a package was available for shoots lasting just an hour or two. I hope I’ve fixed this now by replacing Gallery Essential with Gallery Starter, which gives a client up to two hours on-site for £250 and with unlimited image downloads.

The reason I don’t limit the number of image downloads on this most basic fee is because a typical two-hour shoot will be booked for covering a small to medium PR event or a short portrait session. The numbers of images taken by the end of this kind of shoot shouldn’t result in an unreasonable amount of post-shoot editing time, which is built into all my fees.

I still have limits on the Gallery Standard package because in half-day and full-day shoots the image numbers climb rapidly, and really these larger packages are aimed at different requirements.

In addition to the new Gallery Starter I’ve increased the number of image downloads included in Gallery Standard, and yet most clients will still want the sheer simplicity of Gallery Unlimited. It’ll be interesting to see how these changes work, but if you have any (sensible) suggestions, I’ll be happy to consider them. You know where to find me!

My Dried Grape for Existence (Raisin d’être)

People get into photography for all kinds of reasons and I don’t need to list them here, but since the early days of my career my motivation has been that I wanted to take pictures which were of a high enough standard that I would get commissioned (paid) to take pictures which would be published.

This started with newspapers and magazines, but since my business focuses so much more on commercial and corporate photography now, I get the same thrill by being commissioned by business clients to take photos for their websites, brochures and press releases.

If I’m honest with myself, it’s always been the endorsement of being asked to take pictures in exchange for filthy lucre which has been my motivational drug, which leads me neatly to the argument about taking pictures for money as somehow demeaning photography.

Millions of people take pictures for fun, many thousands take pictures for artistic reasons, but amongst true artists there are vanishingly few who pursue their passion with a view to never making money from it. Money, whatever we think of it, is the ultimate endorsement of what we create.

Cover of University of Bath's Donor Report

Making pictures for publication is what motivates me

For me, though I don’t put my work under the heading of art, the opposite of my principle motivation would be to take photos just so people could tell me how great they are, without anyone telling me in cash terms whether or not my work is up to snuff. Likes and shares on Facebook and Instagram are all very well, but it’s too easy for someone to endorse a photo on the web with pretty much zero commitment or investment in that photo. A Like might not even mean they like the photo and you may never know what motivated someone to  give it a click. It’s possible they made a slip of the finger which they couldn’t be bothered to reverse.

No, for me the joy of photography, my reason to strive and improve in it, is to see it used, published and put to work in return for the thing (the ONLY thing) which allows me to carry on doing it; money.

Charging money for photography doesn’t diminish it, doesn’t decrease its value. If you want to decrease the value of your photography, all you have to do is give it away, whereupon it becomes either worthless or impossible to value. If anything, giving photography away diminishes photography as a whole, a consequence which I believe has done much harm to the industry and resulted in a great deal of very poor work being used where it should never have seen light of day.

Taking pictures for money doesn’t weaken my wish to be the best I can be, it enhances my motivation. Nor does it stop me banging the drum for photography worth paying for. My raison d’être may be filthy lucre, but around that sits a joy in my work, a joy in giving my clients what they want and need and ultimately being able to say I’ve stayed true to my principles for 25 years.*

*I haven’t the slightest idea where this article came from. It just sort of wrote itself. Thank you for reading.

Photography Fees Explained

A couple of weeks ago I promised you an article about how photographers set their rates and where I fit into the market. Then I spotted some shiny things and got distracted and ended up writing about other stuff. Suitably self-chastised, I’m back on track and ready to tackle the subject properly.

I’ll qualify this article by admitting that I can’t explain all photographers’ rates for all genres. This article concentrates on photography for commercial usage by businesses, charities and other organisations. When it comes to rates set by social photographers (think families, pets, dinner dances and weddings) this is structured in a different way because the images aren’t generally licensed for commercial exploitation.

There was a time when commercial photographers worked up an estimate by showing the shoot costs plus their licensing fee based on usage and a fair few still do this, but in my experience I found it difficult to keep explaining all the cost elements repeatedly because the vast majority of clients booking me are not specialist in the field of commissioning photography. More often than not I’m contacted by an office secretary or perhaps an in-house or externally-hired press officer or public relations person.

This isn’t a criticism, it’s just one aspect of how the industry has changed and a few years ago I realised that things had shifted in such a way that I needed to simplify my fee structure in order to speed up the understanding of what I was charging and what was included or excluded.

Lego male minifig with camera takes picture of female minifig.

Now if I was a Lego photographer, I wouldn’t have to worry about running costs*
*random stock photo

What I ended up with was three main packages, one of which hardly anyone ever goes for (ironically my cheapest package, albeit with the greatest number of restrictions). And of the two other packages, the highest fee package is by far the most popular because it’s the most flexible.

If I break down my fees into their constituent elemets, essentially what I’m charging for is a combination of time on site, editing and processing time and the client’s licence to use the images for their corporate communications.

However, if you asked me to make that break-down specific, I couldn’t. I might be able to suggest rough percentages, but they really would be vague and not very informative.

There are of course other factors to account for. Within any freelance photographers fee there has to be an element of skill level and experience charged for. This is probably where I start to look pricey compared to someone who has just picked up a camera, read the instruction book and decided it’s their life ambition to take pictures for money. I reckon 25 years’ experience shows in how I approach clients, how I conduct myself on assignment right through to how the end results look and I consider all of these factors important and worth a premium.

Slightly more tangible are the running costs of being a photographer. Cameras, lenses and supporting equipment (batteries, chargers, bags) as well as a car and its associated costs, public liability insurance, computers, software, image hosting, image storage… All these things and more have to be considered before even a profit and salary (on which tax will be paid) need to be accounted for within a fee.

So where do my fees fit into the overall picture? How did I set them? The simple answer is that before I introduced my current structure I was spending quite a lot of time drawing up estimates for clients who were all of a certain level (SMEs to larger businesses with multiple office locations, but not the Goliath organisations with global span).

More often than not I found my estimates coming to very similar amounts by the time I’d factored in all the costs plus the licence fee. Eventually it just made sense to set up the three packages I have now and they’ve not only attracted more clients with their simplicity and up-front openness, but I spend much less time writing up estimates, which has to be a good thing.

Much of this has the air of a guessing game, but having worked out what it costs to run my business, what I need as a salary, and how many days a year I can expect to get paid commissions, it then comes down to whether I can attain the kind of quality that enough clients are willing to pay my fees to make the whole thing viable. This, in effect, is a business plan and is very much why I charge what I charge. Simple really, but also quite complicated which is probably why cheaper photographers charge what they do, but find they can’t sustain their businesses. That’s a whole other post, which I’m sure I’ve written already.

A Word (or 717) on Photography Fees

It’s a chicken and egg sort of scenario; you need a photographer for your next project, be that headshots, a PR campaign or website refresh, but you don’t know what the cost will be. If you look around on photographers’ websites you might get an idea from their fees pages (most photographers don’t publish guideline fees, which can be unhelpful), but even then, you don’t know what the budget should be.

In the meantime, the CEO or company accountant will want to set a budget for you to go and spend without exceeding it, but they won’t necessarily know what’s involved or what a photographer is likely to charge.

The other problem is you might not know how much time will be required to get what you need. It’s likely it isn’t your job to know, because you probably don’t book photography regularly enough to get a feel for what can be achieved in a given time period. Well, let me simplify and shorten the process of working out what you should be looking to spend.

high view of conference attendies mingling, shaking hands and drinking teas and coffees

Bear in mind events, conferences and large gatherings tend to generate more images which can affect fees

Start with the brief. I set out here what’s required in a brief and it’s important to make sure you have some idea of how many photos are required and what they are to be of. Take into account that mixing headshots, product shots, more feature-friendly portraits and other disciplines will extend the amount of time required because each will need a different set-up. Lighting, lenses and location will often change from one scenario to the next.

Now look at what uses the images will be put to. List them all from social media to local press/public relations (PR), trade PR, national PR, through company website, brochure, pitch documents and general corporate communications and also say if they’re going to be used in advertising. This is really important because any photographer worth their salt will set fees to reflect the levels of use you require (my standard fees cover all uses from social media, through press/public relations to company website use, but paid-for advertising is negotiated separately).

If it’s an event with set timings, look at the time period for which coverage is required. Having a start and finish time will help define the time the photographer needs to spend on site.

Consider any special requirements; props, backdrops, locations, transport and so on.

All of this can be talked through with a photographer, but the more information you have from the start, the easier it’ll be for a photographer to put an estimate together. Every so often I’ll get an email asking how much I’ll charge for “some photos,” which really isn’t enough information to work on.

Once you have a reasonable idea of what’s required, you can start to find photographers who cover the kind of work you need to get done. Use relevant search terms (discipline and location i.e. “corporate photographer Bristol”) in a search engine to find what you need. Check out online portfolios for the quality, style and content which most closely matches your brief, then call or email the most likely-looking candidates.

Of course I can’t speak for other photographers, but armed with this level of information I can help a client choose which of my fee packages will best suit their needs. It might be we have to negotiate on elements which don’t fit the standard fees, or it might be a reduced fee will cover everything. On the whole I find my fee structure helps the client get what they need with the minimum of admin and to-ing and fro-ing over details.

Even with a fairly detailed brief, I like to follow up an enquiry with a phone call just to clarify any points I need more information on and also to introduce myself personally to the client. It’s good to know who you’re going to be working with, and that cuts both ways.

This might seem like a bit of an effort, but it’s well worth it to get the best from the photographer before, during and after the event. Next week I’ll expand on how photographers set their fees and where I fit in the market. I bet you can’t wait!

Did you miss me?

I’m sorry if I’ve been a bit quiet of late, the truth is the last few weeks have been unbelievably busy. For one project I’ve driven 1,300 miles, visiting Bristol, Reading, London, Ipswich, Manchester and Edinburgh with my mobile studio kit to shoot corporate portraits for a new client. Over 160 people photographed within a week and a half and more than 6,800 images shot. These then had to be edited down and processed before delivery to the client within a couple of days. An absolutely mammoth tusk task, on top of which I already had work booked in for other clients upon my return.

Granted this project had some gruelling aspects to it, for example getting stuck on the M25 coming back from Ipswich on a Friday afternoon, in sweltering heat and the air conditioning in my car being kaput. I should probably get that fixed (which will guarantee we don’t have another warm day this year). Or the long drive from Edinburgh to home – broken by a brief visit to my brother in Co Durham, but all the same a long old haul.

Thumbnail portraits displayed in Lightroom's working window

Dealing with several thousand images is no small task

On the other hand, highlights include meeting and photographing about 160 really friendly people. Staying two nights in London in an amazing room at a photographer’s studio with lovely hosts and having some lovely meals when I got time to stop long enough to eat something other than fast food, in particular Hector’s in Stockbridge, Edinburgh where the food and the service were just brilliant. These factors become even more important to the lone traveler.

For a while, at least until the next big project comes along, I should be able to return to something more like my regular routine of corporate communications work, press release photography and business portraits. And you’ll have to get used to me being around again. Thank you for your patience!

Latest Blockbuster: The Cow Dancerer

One of the things I enjoy about what I do is the variety. Most of my work involves business portraits or people doing things in business, but every now and then I get called upon to shoot something unexpected. Something, for example, like cows in a field. Straightforward enough, you’d think, but when you need the shot to be used as a very large, very wide, narrow banner, and you not only need the cows in the shot, but a building and some park land in the background, the tricky-factor mounts up.

In May 2009 I was asked by National Trust to engineer exactly such a shot at Kingston Lacy in Dorset to show off their Devon Red herd that they rear there.

Having spoken to the designer who was putting the banner together (I should add the finished, vinyl banner ended up around 3 metres wide), I knew what arrangement would work, but these animals can only be herded to a certain extent and the herdsman who brought the cattle into the field for me early on the morning of the shoot had other things to get on with that day.

So there I was, alone with a field of cows, trying to work out how to get this one shot that would work. No assistant with me, I put the camera on a tripod having decided what the background needed to be, and then worked on the foreground – the cows.

At first, there were far too many animals in the shot. They were blocking out the view beyond, but then my luck changed. Some got bored and started to wander off, which then made me panic as I thought they might all walk away and I’d be left trying to herd these animals back into my scene single-handed.

Thankfully, some were obviously more into having their picture taken than others, and just the right number stayed behind. The calves settled down into the lush grass, and the adults got themselves into a line, but put their heads down to munch.

This still wasn’t quite right. I needed their heads up and turned in my direction, but how do you get a cow to look up? So I got my house keys out, took a furtive look around me, and started to, um, dance. Yes, I danced like a loon, rattling my keys in the air, to get the bovine models to look up.

 The result worked a treat. They must have thought I was mad. Luckily visitors hadn’t started arriving at the house, so my performance was only seen by cows and birds.

You might look at the final result and assume I did some Photoshop to get the cows in that line and looking the right way, but the frame you see is the frame I took, minus the top and bottom crop. Job done, one happy client, and the cows looked pretty chipper too.

If you visit Kingston Lacy, do visit the restaurant and maybe try a Devon Red steak…

Devon Red cows in Dorset

This wasn’t looking good…

Devon Red cows in Dorset.

Years of dance training finally paid off as I got the cows to look up. Click to see big.

Don’t be the bird that swallows the plate.

I’m a huge fan of Black Adder, and there are many hilariously memorable scenes, but the one which springs to mind as I write this week’s article is in Black Adder II when Percy enters Black Adder’s chamber wearing an outrageously large neck rough. On seeing it Black Adder remarks that Percy “looks like a bird who’s swallowed a plate!”

Why is this relevant to anything I have to say about photography? Well it’s simple really, dear reader; When a business plans its photography in small, manageable chunks throughout the year it can cope with getting what it needs without too much drama, but leave it for a year, two years, five years, and the project becomes rather like a bird swallowing a plate. Trying to ingest the ingestible, and risking some kind of injury in the process.

I’ve said before that photography should be treated as part of the over-all marketing plan, not as part of the web budget, because photos can be used in print as well as web. Try printing a website as a brochure, and you’ll start to understand what I mean – they’re separate budgets within the over all marketing budget.

By keeping your photography fresh and up-to-date you might very well spend a little more over time, but at least you won’t have a colossal expenditure to make in one go if you’re trying to start from scratch, having neglected the photography for some years. And since business people like to say “cash is king,” doesn’t it make sense to make smaller investments that add up to a solid image library than to trying to buy your entire photo library in one huge gulp?

So keep headshots up to date regularly, don’t wait until there’s a week’s worth to be shot unless you’re prepared for the cost. Keep on top of product, site, process and PR images. Consider planning a shoot every three months (or whatever suits best, so long as it’s regular). Or at the very least, review what you have and what you need on a quarterly basis.

espresso cup and small change

You’re buying the coffee, not the cafe. Buy in stages and don’t insist on all copyright.

To extend the subject a little, think more carefully about the image rights you need. Consider restricting your requirements to (for example) a three-year time limit. Certainly avoid all-rights or full copyright buyouts as it’s extremely rare for a business to actually require these rights, and most sensible photographers will charge more if you demand full copyright because they’ll assume you wish to allow other businesses use of your images, when the photographer might reasonably expect to be able to re-licence the images to those third-parties (with your permission, of course).

Certainly it’s normal for editorial images to be bought on licences that are limited by print run, territory/language and duration of use. Commercial images tend to be sold on wider licences, but limits can help in the negotiation process and you can always top-up the licence later.

If you have any questions about anything I’ve said here, or have a favourite Black Adder scene, feel free to comment below.

Freeze Frames Win Votes

If I spent too much time listening to business people and their opinions on the importance (or lack) of photography to their success, I’d probably jack it all in and go into a career with higher public opinion ratings. Perhaps become an estate agent or politician. Maybe a tabloid journalist.

Luckily, I don’t worry about the businesses that don’t understand how essential good imagery is because that way lies madness.

Instead I concentrate on helping those who understand the difference, and who can see what good imagery can do for their chances of success. One such example is entrepreneurial maker of ice cream, Charlie Francis of Lick Me I’m Delicious in Bristol.

Now Charlie didn’t choose me. He wasn’t the one setting up the shoot, which came about as part of Barclays’ Take One Small Step competition which was set up to offer a £50,000 prize to entrepreneurs in different regions of the UK, but I’m glad I got to do the shoot because it turns out Charlie actually understands that image is vital to business. For him, it was critical to his competition chances because to win he had to garner more votes than the other contestants within his region.

Before I visited to do the shoot, Charlie and I spoke on the phone about what would and would not work, and he immediately struck me as someone who understood the fun element of his product and was willing to be very much the “personality” of his business.

It was Charlie’s idea to have a sort of Willie Wonka persona for the shoot, and I think it worked brilliantly, especially given that his ice cream is made before your very eyes using your favourite ingredients and using liquid nitrogen!

Bristol ice cream maker Charlie Francis

Use your personality to win over clients.

The pictures done and delivered to the PR agency, the competition got under way and Charlie started working hard to get his votes in. The press release went all over the region, and an unusually high number of publications included the photo – precisely because it was fun, colourful, and shot to a newspaper style.

Then last week, Charlie discovered he had won the £50,000 prize for the South West region!

Now I’m not going to say this was ALL down to the pictures. I know Charlie worked hard to get the word out and drum up support for his entry, and who doesn’t like ice cream? But the pictures were clearly eye-catching and formed an important part of the vote-winning exercise.

Charlie Francis, Bristol ice cream maker

A choice of upright and landscape shots helps get extra press coverage.

Of course it’s all very self-congratulatory me saying this, so instead here’s what Charlie had to say, “Tim created a set of fantastic eye catching shots which captured the magic of nitro ice cream making.  I used them on my marketing materials to pull people in and they did a tremendous job, a great piece of photographic work.”

Congratulations Charlie, and good luck with the venture. Lend us a tenner 😉

Sense and Licensibility?

First of all, let me apologise for the tardy arrival of this article. A busy week and writer’s block almost had me not writing anything at all, but I couldn’t let you get off that easily!

What finally shifted my block was a discussion on a Linked In photographers’ group forum about how professional photographers can work to reduce the negative effect of un-trained, low-skilled photographers on the industry, and the thread quickly moved onto whether or not photographers should be licensed to practice. It also descended into something of a flame-fest between some professionals and amateurs (neither side coming off looking pretty), but maybe that’s another blog article.

My personal feeling is that no, there shouldn’t be a licensing system and this article will set out why I believe that. However I do believe there should be minimum standards that clients should seek out before engaging the services of a photographer.

I probably don’t need to re-tread the well-trodden arguments about how the rise in standards of photography amongst amateurs has made the industry tougher than perhaps it ever has been in the last 40 years, though amateurs were being complained about in a book I have which dates from 1944 so it’s not a new argument.

Much of the anguish of professionals centres around what I call “epiphany” photographers. You know the ones who have quite decent jobs, but buy a digital camera at Jessops and decided what they’d really like to be is a photographer. So they either keep their day jobs and moonlight at rates to undercut professionals (and devalue their images in the process), or they leave their day jobs, commercial reality hits them hard and they undercut everyone else just to get work, with no eye on their long-term business prospects.

In these scenarios, some kind of licensing system might seem like a brilliant plan, but I just don’t see it working. What kind of regulator could tell the good photographer from the bad? When I started out I know I took some pretty bad photos, but I worked hard and trained and developed. Should a regulator have ended my career then? The picture editor I was working for at the time could have, but he obviously thought I was worth persevering with.

And at what point in the starting out process would a photographer apply for a licence? What would the conditions of a licence be? And how could a licensing system cover the diversity of disciplines from weddings to editorial through industrial, commercial, corporate…

Far simpler, I think, is if picture buyers, be they wedding couples, families, publishers or commercial businesses or agencies, make sure they check out who they are looking to book very thoroughly before they put down a deposit or commit to a shoot.

man in suit being photographed in office

Never mind that the photographer is invisible, has he got public liability insurance?

This is my list of essentials, though it can vary from sector to sector and may not be exhaustive:

  • Check out the photographer’s website. Compare it with others at varying price points to get an idea of the level of quality you’re likely to get.
  • Do some digging to make sure the website isn’t just work lifted from other photographers. Not always easy to spot, but one tell-tale sign is when the photographic style and quality varies wildly from one picture to the next.

Talk to the photographer and ask:

  • How long have they been in full-time business?
  • Do they have qualifications or training under another photographer? Either is valid in my book. Self-taught is generally not acceptable.
  • Do they have public liability insurance?
  • Do they have professional indemnity insurance?
  • What are their terms and conditions?
  • What is the licence agreement covering the use of the images?

There could be much to add to this, but perhaps the most important thing is to talk to photographers. See who you’re comfortable with and at the talking stage you should start to get an idea of the level of professional service to expect from any given supplier.

Licensing might sound like a good idea, but it can’t account for creativity, approach, style, or personality. I’m sure there are plenty of views from photographers and buyers of photography, and I’d love to hear what you think.

Case Study: Conference Photography

Conference venues have had a rough time in recent years. Events can be expensive to run, and sometimes they’re expensive to attend, so where businesses have dared spend the money at all, they’ve often seen photography as a luxury bolt-on.

In my role as conference photographer I noticed a decline in appetite for this particular service in 2008/2009, but looking back over 2010 I’d say demand has increased again.

Getting quality photography at a conference has often been pretty low on organisers’ lists of priorities – that is until the conference is over and someone wants to “PR” the event. At which point they discover that all they have are some iPhone snaps which aren’t much use for anything at all except maybe viewing on an iPhone.

scientist delivering conference presentation

Balancing lighting on the speaker and their presentation takes some effort.

I can tell a client hasn’t given too much thought to photography prior to the event when I get the call the week before it’s due to happen to ask if I’m available and what the cost would be. They booked the venue about a year in advance. They booked the speakers, sound, lighting, video, staging, caterers, cleaners door staff etc etc. And (relatively speaking) at 5 minutes to midnight, somebody thought: “Oh! I think we might want some pictures from this event!”

Now I applaud these people for thinking so far in advance because as I said, some don’t think of it until the event is over, by which time it’s a bit too late to go back in time to shoot what should have been shot in the first place.

So if your organisation is considering a conference, which after all can reap great benefits in public relations, client relations and exchange of ideas with partners and clients, I would urge you to consider the benefits of getting coverage, and of getting that coverage done professionally.

Conferences can be very useful in that unlike most other events or times of the working year, they tend to be the one time when a significant number of staff and executives are in one place at the same time. So think about getting fresh headshots done – a small setup in a side-room or quiet corner is ideal for this.

Regen SW conference debate in Bath

More obscure shots can be useful later on.

A conference with industry-wide or even public interest, has scope for extensive PR. Pictures of key speakers talking passionately at the lectern, or as a panel of experts can add spontaneity to what might otherwise be a dull PR shot. For other PR uses it’s handy to get a relaxed portrait of key speakers at the venue, perhaps with relevant props visible in the shot.

Employing a professional (like wot I is) means not only will you get the vital shots you need, but you’ll get quick turnaround and you’ll also get the shots you never even realised you needed. Those little details that others would walk past, but which come in handy for future uses such as brochures, annual reports etc.

Of course you might find you have a keen photographer amongst your staff, but do they know how to handle the difficult lighting at these events? Balancing light on the speaker with the slide behind them isn’t always easy. They’ll also tend to miss the details I mentioned, and they often can’t turn the work around quickly. Finally, using a member of staff is all very well, but shouldn’t they be paying attention to the conference rather than the settings on their camera?

I cover conferences of all sizes, taking pictures which clients can then use for internal and external communications, press releases, websites, brochures, future presentations; the list is limited only by one’s imagination. In terms of cost, the photography has to be one of the better value ingredients of a good conference. The food can only be eaten once, while the photography can be used again and again, long after the taste of plastic ham sandwiches and greasy tea has passed.