Fair price for a quick photography session

Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 04:22 pm
So my parents-in-law, bless their hearts, always ask for just one thing for Christmas -- a family photo.

This hasn't gone very well. I'm pretty good at taking photos of other people, but if I'm IN the picture... The time of year also makes things harder as it's too cold to be outside, really, but there isn't abundant light inside.

So far I've had family members take pictures (my mom and dad -- some OK, one really good one [thanks dad], most eh, and my dad won't be around in time this year) and gone to a chain studio. (Absolutely icky, not going back.)

I started asking local professional photographers I know in mid November, the one I wanted is already booked through January. She sent pricing for future reference via email, it wasn't in a format I could read, though, and when I told her that and asked for a different format she didn't re-send.

I found another local person and asked her if she's available, she is. Her photos aren't fantastic but things are getting late enough that it's beggars/choosers territory. Also I know that her family is having a tough time financially and I'd like to help with that by giving her some business.

Her first quote was $145 for an 8 X 10 and 2 5 X 7's. That was steeper than I'd hoped -- I knew it'd be more expensive than a chain studio but the chain studio was like $25. I asked her if it would be significantly cheaper if we just got the one 5 x 7 (that's what the parents-in-law want, and I could just scan to have a copy myself), she said that she can give us the DVD with images and, here's why I'm asking about this, "just pay me whatever you feel it is worth for my time and a few prints!"

Photographers seem to not want to post their rates online so it's really hard to get a feel of what would be a reasonable price -- I don't want to lowball her but I also don't want to spend more than necessary. What seems reasonable to you, photographers and photography-buyers? I'm willing to take some pains to be "easy," like finding a location (with an eye for light, etc.) and making it quick. Sozlet is used to me snapping pictures of her (just did a session in front of the Christmas tree), she's not much problem, main thing is to get her talking so she snaps out of her fixed grin and then click at the right time (I know, easier said than done, point is that she's co-operative and basically knows the drill and wouldn't be a handful).

What do you think? Thanks.
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 04:24 pm
No timer on your camera? Those are the best pics.

Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 04:26 pm
I've never been able to make that work. Just as a concept. I don't know how on my new (handmedown) camera but could try to figure it out.

And as nice as this camera is, I guarantee that pro photographer gal has a much nicer one. My dad tried to take the family pic with this camera last year and it was an epic fail. (Not sure if it was him or the camera, but he's usually a good photographer.)
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High Seas
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 04:46 pm
Stick around and wait for Boomerang - she's a top professional photographer (don't tell her I said so, she's so modest she'll likely deny it).
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 05:00 pm
Typically digital files are MORE expensive than prints because you're buying the copyright.

Have you checked out craigslist?

Most photographers who list services there have price lists on their websites. You can get a good idea of the going rate in your area by sifting through a few sites.
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 05:19 pm
That's helping, thanks. They seem to be in the $50-$70 range so far.

I think she's kind of semi-pro... she has a website and does photography on the side but is mostly a teacher. And the quality is semi-pro, IMO (good enough for these purposes but not WOW). Do you think that has any bearing on the copyright part of it?

Really that part doesn't matter much, if she gives me just a print or two that's fine. She offered the DVD in this latest email where she said that whatever I think is fair she is OK with.
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 05:31 pm
Does she work out of a studio or is she coming to your house?

If she's coming to your house your comment about the lack of light bothers me in that if she's semi-pro she might not have proper lighting to tote around. The on camera flash most likely won't be enough to provide a quality shot.

I think $75 for a disc would be a pretty good deal for both of you.

If she doesn't have to go far or dig out a chunk of time out of her schedule, $50 would be a good price.
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 05:33 pm
I don't know photography, but in a situation like this I might weigh it all with the $$$ amount I would normally spend on a gift for them. If you would normally spend $40, the $75 might seem too much. If you normally would spend $100, you are getting a bargain if you agree to pay her $90.

Yes, the copyright is worth something. You won't get just 2 5x7's of one pose. You'll get all of the pics she takes, which you can then manipulate / play with and perhaps use in other ways.
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 05:35 pm
She doesn't work out of a studio but we haven't specified the location. She lives within a mile or so.

The light depends a lot on the weather. On a sunny day, plenty. On a cloudy day, it's a pretty narrow window in only a few places in the house.

I don't know if she has lighting equipment, I'll ask.

OK this helps a lot! And in a short time too. I'll send her a follow-up asking about locations (she might have someplace in mind) and go from there.
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 05:50 pm
Missed you there squinney...

A gift for my parents-in-law? Closer to $40, probably. In the past this gift has run $0 to $25.
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 06:04 pm
@High Seas,
You're too nice!
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 06:06 pm
I definitely agree. When I was saying not WOW before, you're WOW. I know that'd be much more expensive yet (but worth it).

I know a lot of people with fancy cameras who take perfectly nice pictures and some of 'em even make pretty good money at it; but then there are real professional photographers and that's a whole 'nother level (and that's your level).
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 06:14 pm
You're sweet too!

By the way -- my last gig was paid by sushi and beer. Most excellent.
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 07:45 pm
I'm happy to nip over and take your pics for free - and I'm pretty good at family pics.

There is a small matter of airfare, though......
Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2010 12:02 am
Getting the photos on disk also opens up the possibilities for future gifts of digital/stylized portraits of the same images if you have the time and Photoshop/Paintshop skills to do it.

Here are some examples of what I speak of:




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Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2010 07:53 am
Ha, I wish! Thanks for the offer. Smile

OK, this seems to be settled, yay. I went ahead and said that I'm new to this and did some research but really didn't want to lowball her -- would something in the $50-$75 range be reasonable? She said $60 including the DVD and a couple of 5 X 7's would be "great."

She has a flash but not other lighting equipment. We'll be meeting mid-day, forecast is partly cloudy. I suggested we try both inside (my living room has windows on three sides and can be really bright at midday, as long as there isn't heavy cloud cover) and outside (pretty snow right now and supposed to reach a high of 27 at midday that day, which is cold but not brutal). (5 degrees right now for example, that's too cold.)

Hope this works out. Thanks much for the quick and useful info, everyone.
Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2010 11:09 am
Unless you're going for a "Meet The Beatles" look be careful around windows on a sunny day -- especially if she's using an on camera flash.

You want nice, even light. "Cloudy bright" is the best natural lighting (and the reason I love Oregon, we get that light almost all year).

Make sure and clear away any clutter that might be in the area where you're taking the photo and also have a step stool handy so that she can take the photo from slightly above eye level.

If you have to stay inside and you have to use window light you might look around for something to help "bounce" the light (a large piece of white poster board, the silver doohicky that people put in their car windows in the summer (something reflective that isn't a mirror)). The trick is to position it so that it catches some of the light and redirects it back to your face. Play with it a bit if you have time today.

I'm sure she knows what she's doing but she's also likely to ask what you want so be sure to speak up and offer suggestions.
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Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2010 11:23 am
As a working 'budget' prof photog (using the scenario in which you wrote about earlier...economic and simple), I'd charge the following (working pro in real life).

Sitting fee $50-$75 (if local, $50. If more than a 30-min drive, $75.)

This fee will gaurantee (that I show/you show) multiple poses and qty of 2 custom lab quality, archival 5 x 7 reprints which you'll be 100% satisfied. $25.

DVD (w/ rights to do your own unlimited reprint) $15.

The DVD would have the option of files with diff compression/quality so that you could either send/post in email/online or provide a file with max resolution so you could print your own 8x10 in excellent quality.

So if I were that local struggling photog total, I'd charge $90. If not so local, $115. However, with their charging $60 you're getting a good deal and if they have a business card, you could talk up their business to local friends as an added way of repayment for giving you the great discount.

BTW, an off-camera flash is of good use as an alternate to existing light portraits; however, the photog should use a diffuser and have a flash bracket for off camera use. With flash mounted on the camera, the result is often non-flattering portraits - especially with groups portraits. I'm not saying you can't get good results at all but often the on-camera flash creates stark or harsher looking pics. Using a good diffuser makes people look natural. Also, using a nice large reflector that provides a warm color back at the subjects - like a gold reflector is ideal with the winter light. White relector are neutral abnd can make thing a bit too drab or worse slightly blue if using the light from windows. Silver reflectors are not good for family portraits as that is more for fashion and bridal shots as they can create specular highlights (splashy higfhlights). Slightly warmer (not shiny) gold is ideal.

Your budget photographer should be prepared/equipped this way and most likely knows this. Otherwise, you can take a fine portrait with a self-timer. The good thing about using digital cameras is you can edit as many times as you'd like without wasting film.
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Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 11:29 am
So this was not an epic fail. Whew. Just got the prints, they're nice. Not AMAZING, but perfectly good, and better than the chain studio photos for example.

She sent five images via email and I chose between them -- so I have (full-sized) jpegs of five images, and various-sized prints of one image.

I ended up paying her $75, even though we'd agreed on $60. She did a good job, the whole session was efficient and professional (half an hour), and the reason I went to her in the first place was that her family is having a hard time financially and I just didn't want to be cheap about it.

The light turned out to be great! That's one of the best things about the photo actually. It was a bright day but at this spot in the living room it was all indirect light.

Thanks again for your help and feedback, everyone.
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