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Thread: To charge, or not to charge?

  1. #1
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    To charge, or not to charge?

    I'm in the middle of something I suspect a lot of start-up photographers run into. I've worked with the Detroit Fire Collective (a group of fire dancers, hoopers, and acrobats) for several months now, resulting in some pretty awesome images I release to Facebook with the stipulation that they can't be used for derivative or commercial applications (basically a Creative Commons license). They'll be performing at a show hosted by a local art gallery, headlined by DJs from a local listener-supported Internet radio station. The DFC and [the radio station] have both given me permission to shoot.

    This is where it gets complicated.

    [The radio station] has assumed that I will be handing over my images for free. Normally, I'm cool with that, since I'm usually shooting non-profit events and giving the performers a way to promote themselves. But this little shindig has a door charge, and appears to be a for-profit venture. This raises several questions.

    1. Is it right to ask these guys for compensation? I will probably cover the event free, then charge a relatively low rate per-shot rate based on which ones they want.
    2. Should I release the images free, on the basis that I've covered few events like this and am still establishing myself?
    3. How should I word the news that I will not release my images for free?
    4. Am I skilled enough to provide a reasonable chance of getting good shots?

    Honesty is always appreciated. If, based on my portfolio (link in signature block), some of you are of the opinion that I can't hack it, that's definitely something I need to know. On the other hand, this might be a breakout opportunity, and I'd hate to screw it up.
    Last edited by RustBeltRaw; 12th February 2013 at 01:32 AM. Reason: Removed station name.

  2. #2
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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    I might be tempted to tell them there will be a cover charge and they can have the images for free this time?

    Its always an upward struggle as folk seem to expect free pics all the time. Establishing the boundaries is important to show you are serious.

    I turn down quite a few events where they wont pay, as my time, skills and effort are worth paying for and you wouldn't get say a lawyer to give you their time for nothing, so why should you as a photographer do any different?

    You can then develop your photographic sideline as you wish, but considering the costs involved, it should not be a free give away. Dont be afraid to ask, and you will find that other business starts to come your way.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    I'm in the middle of something I suspect a lot of start-up photographers run into. I've worked with the Detroit Fire Collective (a group of fire dancers, hoopers, and acrobats) for several months now, . . . They'll be performing at a show hosted by a local art gallery, headlined by DJs from a local listener-supported Internet radio station. The DFC and [the radio station] have both given me permission to shoot.
    [The radio station] has assumed that I will be handing over my images for free. Normally, I'm cool with that, since I'm usually shooting non-profit events and giving the performers a way to promote themselves. But this little shindig has a door charge, and appears to be a for-profit venture.
    You should firstly NOT be dealing with whether your capacity nor your capability is suitable to charge money, but rather you should look very closely at the FACTS of this particular situation.

    I wish to clarify the facts:

    • You HAD BEEN given permission to shoot; assumptions were made at THAT TIME that your time and skills and products would be pro bono and THEN at a point LATER IN TIME you found out that there was to be a door charge?
    • You KNOW this is a venture to make a profit? Or do you just suspect / assume it? (i.e. to say - the door charge could be only to cover costs about which you might or not be aware or might not be obvious to you.



    WW
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 14th February 2013 at 12:16 AM.

  4. #4
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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    I wouldn't consider charging them unless they are asking for a) multiple prints b) all prints c) or the right to license all of the images. In exchange for allowing you to photograph them I would give them perhaps 1 copy of whatever I felt would benefit their organization and let them know that you retain the copyright and may use the images in some other manner.

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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Why not release low resolution images and/or copyrighted images for free, and say that high quality ond non copyrighted images will be charged for at commercial rates. If you give it away this time when there is a cover charge, then they will expect the same in the future.

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    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Quote Originally Posted by William W
    I wish to clarify the facts:

    You HAD BEEN given permission to shoot; assumptions were made at THAT TIME that your time and skills and products would be pro bono and THEN at a point LATER IN TIME you found out that there was to be a door charge?

    You KNOW this is a venture to make a profit? Or do you just suspect / assume it? (i.e. to say - the door charge could be only to cover costs about which you might or not be aware or might not be obvious to you.
    Point one is correct as you wrote it. Point two is an unknown. Obviously [the radio station] boys have to cover their costs, but I don't know if/how far it does beyond that. But it may be a moot point, since realistically, I should be looking for work from papers, blogs, and mags interested in using the images rather than work from the artists themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken MT View Post
    Why not release low resolution images and/or copyrighted images for free, and say that high quality ond non copyrighted images will be charged for at commercial rates. If you give it away this time when there is a cover charge, then they will expect the same in the future.
    After speaking with a fellow local photog who recently made the big leagues, this is almost exactly the approach I'm taking (low-res images with my watermark will be released for free). I they use them outside of Facebook, then we will need to talk. The modern path to supporting your photography appears to be working essentially for free until someone notices you.
    Last edited by RustBeltRaw; 12th February 2013 at 01:32 AM. Reason: Removed station name.

  7. #7
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    OK thanks for that clarification.

    If I am on the same page as you . . . in simple terms you want to do, beginning with this gig is: “move to having an operating ‘business’”

    Therefore, I see that the consideration of where you expect to get your money, long term, is now the important bit.


    I would therefore suggest, that you release some selected images, pro bono, to both the Band and to the Radio Station to use as “promotion”, provided each of those two entities credit your work.
    I wouldn’t necessarily watermark them.
    I would give them a selected few, high res images.
    I would also provide an invoice (especially)to the Radio Station and mark their Invoice – “PROMOTION EVENT” - Invoice Paid in FULL.
    I would also suggest that you know how this paperwork might be advantageous to you: in this regard you should consult a Business Expert, such as a Certified Accountant or Tax Agent or whatever the equivalent is in your jurisdiction.

    You should also have all your Business Affairs in good order and all the necessary accoutrement for a Photography Business, (including for example Insurance).

    Be aware that if you drop that you “will be charging someone”, then the keen minder CFO of the Radio Station may want you to have ‘site insurance’ or whatever to is referred to, where you live and a whole heap of other “stuff”, might flow to you from that point.

    I know I would if I were the CFO of the Radio Station and I were originally of the supposition that the gig was pro bono all the way around, and then I got wind of the Photographer was making charges to people . . . I would consider all my options to shead some of the oncosts of the setting up of the gig.

    (Think of it this way – you initially got thinking that because there is a door charge someone is therefore making money – and that is why you posted this thread for advice because you wanted a part of the action and you should get some money also . . .

    the Radio CFO might be sitting there as happy as a clam doing this all as "promotion" with a nil $ balance and for "good will" - then he finds out that the Photographer is "making bucks" so he thinks – “well maybe the Photographer should share some of the on costs . . .")

    So in general terms my (BUSINESS) advice to you - is to make sure you have all your BUSINESS skittles in a very neat and tidy row, before you start ‘charging’ any person or any business entity for anything.

    Do you have your “business” set up and ready to go?

    That is the real question here, not the short term gain of a few dollars from this one gig.

    ***

    Also – (and I do not often comment on other’s advice – but this is terribly important and correct words are necessary):
    You do not ever (very RARELY) relinquish any Copyright of any image, that you hold.

    I have, for mostly all of my commercial images: but that was for a very particular purpose – in your case, and for your purposes as you have outlined I suggest you never relinquish the Copyright, until you fully understand the reasons why you might consider so doing.

    WW

  8. #8
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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    I am not a lawyer nor business man, but perhaps asking for a nominal sum so they can use your images in a limited fashion. Somewhat akin to asking a lawyer friend a question and having them demand $10.00 from you before they answer... that way you have placed them on retainer....

  9. #9

    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    I have never charged for photography but have experience in charging for other creative works (web design).
    My advice is that you should start as you mean to go on. With any friend/contact/client, if you start for free it's hard to then start charging.

    I have found it most agreeable to both sides to do an agreed amount of work for a fixed cost, and then to charge extra for the add-ons. In my work, for example, I have created an entire website for x and then charge y per unit (page, hour, etc), for further work. For your scenario, you could set x = 0, y = $50 discounted to $5, and your unit is each high-res photo.

    Ask yourself this, though: did they ask you to photograph them, or did you ask them if you could take some pics? I think that's important for this example.

  10. #10
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Quote Originally Posted by dc197 View Post
    Ask yourself this, though: did they ask you to photograph them, or did you ask them if you could take some pics? I think that's important for this example.
    I asked, after encouragement from one of the performers. That definitely was a factor in my no-charge decision. My policy thus far has been that I charge only when people ask me to work for them, not when I show up voluntarily, and I'm continuing that.

    Quote Originally Posted by dc197
    My advice is that you should start as you mean to go on. With any friend/contact/client, if you start for free it's hard to then start charging.
    Noted, and I'm worried about that. I have had to make it clear that I'm not a reservoir for free photos, but neither do I have a rigid pricing structure. When I do get paying work, I generally charge what I think the market can bear (ie, from recent history, a friend or a startup artist will get a much lower rate than a Niagara-on-the-Lake art collector).

    Quote Originally Posted by WilliamW
    Do you have your “business” set up and ready to go?
    Definitely not. To be perfectly honest, I've been so dubious that this hobby will ever take off, I haven't really looked into the details of a proper photography business. Given that there's no consistent flow of work at the moment (or perhaps ever), setting up billing, tax stuff, and insurance is probably getting ahead of myself. Yet another reason to work free for the time being. For now, better to get a foot in the door and let people see what I can do, then worry about the financials and legals when and if it picks up from there. Bill, if the chance comes, I will definitely return to your post as a CliffNotes version of what I need to do.

    Thanks for the reality checks, guys.
    Last edited by RustBeltRaw; 31st January 2013 at 06:24 PM. Reason: Corrected quote tags.

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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    I think, in the case as you describe it, William has a very important point about the copyright.
    Make sure you keep all rights possible, and if you give them pictures, add a statement in writing
    about what they are allowed to do with it, and how (e.g. attribution). That also allows you to
    ensure you'll get no problems when there are releases missing...

    I'm afraid you'll already have to worry about the legals as soon as you let an image out of your hands

  12. #12
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Quote Originally Posted by revi View Post
    I think, in the case as you describe it, William has a very important point about the copyright.
    Make sure you keep all rights possible, and if you give them pictures, add a statement in writing
    about what they are allowed to do with it, and how (e.g. attribution). That also allows you to
    ensure you'll get no problems when there are releases missing...

    I'm afraid you'll already have to worry about the legals as soon as you let an image out of your hands
    I've already had to deal with that, unfortunately. No known problems since I started watermarking literally everything I post online, but that could be a coincidence. I will definitely prepare a written agreement.

  13. #13

    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Lex -

    This is John, a member of the board for [the radio station] . I'm somewhat disappointed that you chose to make assumptions about our station and our events rather than just ask us directly. Please allow me to clarify some points for you. We are incorporated as a for-profit business simply because it's far easier and quicker to do so than it is to set up a non-profit. Additionally, we have aspirations of eventually turning a profit, even though that day is a long way off. Yes, we do charge a nominal cover charge for our events, but most of that money goes to pay the performers. Anything left over gets rolled over into operating costs and capital expenses for the radio station. All of us running the station donate our time, talents, and resources because we see the station, and our events, as an opportunity to help build community and give exposure to talented but generally-overlooked artists.

    Wherever possible when bringing in additional talent, whether it be musical, performance, technical, or artistic (such as photographers) we try to bring in people who are close to our community and have principles that are in line with ours. As such, more often than not the services are offered free of charge because of a shared belief in what we're trying to build. This is not to say that we don't compensate people - we make every effort to take care of those who help us out. However, because what we're doing is still in its infancy, and because we are not primarily doing this to make a buck, more often than not monetary compensation is extremely limited, and we try to make up for it in other ways.

    Regardless, most of this is a moot point as far as your dilemma is concerned, as we are already in the process of instituting a handful of new policies after a year-end review of how our events have been going, and one of those policies is a restriction on professional photography. For at least the next show (February) we will not be having any professional photographers present as they have become a nuisance and have detracted from the overall experience we're trying to shape. After that we will be very selective in who we permit to come shoot our events, and we will agree in advance on appropriate terms regarding compensation, usage of images, etc.

    Personally, having seen some of your work with the DFC, I would love to have you out at some point in the future to work with us once the full board has decided it's time to have some professional shots done, but for the time being it's been decided to just forego photography beyond camera phones and point-and-shoot entirely. Simply put, at this point we just want people to come and have a good time without the cameras around to make them self-conscious.

    In that spirit, and as an apology for the policy shift after you had already spoken to someone, I'd like to invite you to come out this month as our guest (minus your camera, of course). I'll have your name with a +1 listed at the door so you don't need to worry about the cover.

    - John
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 14th February 2013 at 12:18 AM.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Quote Originally Posted by benlinus View Post
    i therefore suggest you to release some selected images, pro bono, to both the band and to the radio station to use as “promotion”, provided each of those two entities credit your work.
    I wouldn’t necessarily watermark them.
    ?

    Ww

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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
    Lex -
    ..... . I'm somewhat disappointed that you chose to make assumptions about our station and our events rather than just ask us directly. Please allow me to clarify some points for you.........
    I can think of many, many assumptions that a normal person would make in dealing with another person. If every assumption was to be queried before anyone did anything, then I reckon very little would get done.
    Reading the original post from Lex, his assumptions seemed consistent and reasonable (and in line with the assumptions I would have made in the same given circumstances). From that position, advice was requested on how best to deal with the perceived situation.
    I am surprised John feels 'disappointed' with the assumptions. Perhaps if the requisite information had been offered in the first place, then there would have been no reason for John to feel disappointed.
    Good to see that attempts are now being made to make information more available.
    Graham

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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
    ... we are already in the process of instituting a handful of new policies after a year-end review of how our events have been going, and one of those policies is a restriction on professional photography. For at least the next show (February) we will not be having any professional photographers present as they have become a nuisance and have detracted from the overall experience we're trying to shape.....
    ...., but for the time being it's been decided to just forego photography beyond camera phones and point-and-shoot entirely. Simply put, at this point we just want people to come and have a good time without the cameras around to make them self-conscious.
    Love to have more information about the actions the 'professional' photographers have caused. Does that mean they were walking about in front of the spectators to get the best position? Obstructing the spectators view in some other way (e.g. standing when people were sitting)? Attitude (e.g. being pushy)?

    If I was there with a camera of any sort, I would like to get the best position for the shot. That would mean moving around and perhaps, briefly, getting in someone elses way.
    I suppose you could put the performers on a stage and restrict movement of spectators by providing seats and asking them not to stand up and move around. Personally, that would disappoint me a lot more than having the occassional photographer block my view (I could always look around them by shifting my body a few inches to the side).

    I love the line about people being made to feel self-conscious with cameras around. What demographic is there in Michigan (I presume) that feels self-conscious about cameras? As you mention cell-phone cameras and point and shoot - I would love to know why you think that people do NOT feel self conscious for those devices (as you are allowing those) yet would feel self conscious for a larger camera. Does size really matter? Are there no street/store surveillance cameras in your neck of the woods?
    For the last 20 years in all the places I have lived, exposure to cameras has become ubiquitous and few feel self conscious anymore. I was taking pics in a dance hall and 2 people complained bitterly about it. The committee debated and eventually decided to allow the photography to continue. 2 people left and the membership GREW. It's now part of the social scene and people clamour to get their pics taken, turns out it was a good thing (who could have guessed - oh wait, it's a whole genre called event photography, where many professionals successfully earn a living).
    May I suggest that you reconsider the approach to photography. Allow 'big' cameras. Not all of us who use 'big' cameras are professional (or acting in a professional capacity).
    What about intermediate cameras between cell/PS and DSLR/DSLT? (e.g. bridge, interchangeable lens compacts). Where do you stand on those? Many a professional use those type cameras as well as all the other types.
    What's your policy about someone who comes in and breaks your rules about 'big' cameras? Kick them out along with their families and friends?
    Graham

  17. #17
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Graham,

    After attending the radio station's show, I'm pleased to say that everything seems smoothed over. Adam, one of the main station operators, is a photographer in a position similar to mine, and it seems like the rationale for their policy is not about images one way or another, but about guests. They can do whatever they want, and the idea is to keep the events low-stress. I don't know if their goal is to get really big - I certainly didn't get that vibe. If not, that probably explains why they don't want cameras, beyond the ones guests bring, in the mix. Honestly, I came away really liking these guys, and on that basis, I am perfectly happy to comply with their policies, regardless of the rationale.

    That said, there have been a few cases at other events where I've been turned away for having a gear load that was "too professional." Sensible, if event organizers are trying to maintain control of any high-quality images of their events, or keep business in the house photographer's hands. Normally the house guys know somebody running the event, which is how they get the assignment. But to an outside eye, allowing small and cell phone cameras can sound like "photography's okay, but you can only take crappy images." That's not normally the truth. I still think it's odd, since allowing a pro-bono amateur photographer essentially amounts to free publicity, but I understand the rationale for these policies.

    My favorite event-photography regulation was that I couldn't enter with a "long" (28-135mm) lens mounted. So I swapped to my physically smallest lens (50mm prime) right in front of the security guard, put the 28-135mm in my bag, got a nod, and walked in. Swapped back three steps inside security.

  18. #18

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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    My favorite event-photography regulation was that I couldn't enter with a "long" (28-135mm) lens mounted. So I swapped to my physically smallest lens (50mm prime) right in front of the security guard, put the 28-135mm in my bag, got a nod, and walked in. Swapped back three steps inside security.

  19. #19

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    Re: To charge, or not to charge?

    SIMPLE:

    YOUR WORK IS GOOD.

    YES YOU SHOULD CHARGE. I KNOW PEOPLE WHO FLIP BURGERS AND THEY SUCK AT IT AND STILL MAKE 10 BUCKS AN HOUR!!

    (Either charge em a flat fee to shoot it and then give them an unlimited or limited licence to use the images - OR charge em per image they want to use).

    S

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