I get asked more and more often and I see posts online about how much to charge for photography work and images. I cringe when I see people confessing to doing work for nothing and even I have been asked to work for no fee with the compensation of a “Free holiday”. I know this can sound really tempting, and a lot of people jump at the opportunity. However, before you go signing your rights away, consider that firstly, you are ruining the business for people who are doing this as a fulltime job, to pay actual real bills and living expenses as well as take into consideration what you are actually worth.
There are many facets of your “worth”. The easiest to quantify is the value of the equipment you use. Following is the equipment I have invested in, just to give you a rough idea – but believe me, this list is super conservative. Most full time professional photographers own so much more than this.
Camera bodies x 2 $9,000
24-105 mm lens $1,100
16-35 mm lens $2,400
14 mm wide angle lens $2,200
70-200 mm lens $2,000
Speedlight Flash $600
Nisi filters $900
Underwater housing $1,500
Lap Top $3,700
Hard Drive plus travel drive $1,700
SD Cards $500
Next, there is the value of my actual time. Let me assure you that when I go on a photography trip, despite what my images may appear to look like, I am not lazing by a pool sipping champagne and having a relaxing time (actually if this is what you thought, then I have done my job well!). The reality is I am setting my alarm for pre-sunrise, out from the crack of dawn, moving locations constantantly and not putting my camera down until late into the night, and only then to download images and start editing etc. Only to repeat the process the very next day. Once I return from a travel job, there’s usually days of editing, blog writing, putting together campaign wrap reports and the list goes on.
When you’re working out what your time is worth, it is not only future time for a job, it’s the months and years learning your craft and building up your brand. Yes, we all love to go on social media and check out what our friends and acquaintances are doing, but I spend hours per day (I can’t believe I’m admitting that) and have done so for the past few years not only to interact with friends but expand my reach and build relationships online that will help me with my photography craft.
Looking at the above, you would wonder why anyone would want to be a travel photographer. The first thing I tell people is “if you’re doing it for the money, you’re probably better off being a check out chick at Coles Supermarket”, but and it’s a big BUT – I love love love what I do. The no sleep, rushing from location to location, experiences things that most people only dream about is not only one of the best jobs in the world to me, I’m passionate about it and want to share anything I can with others. When I first started out, I admired (and still do) many other photographers and followed their work like a religion, I stalked them, asked millions of questions, used Google like a drug and learnt SO much. So if I can share just one tiny bit of any of that with someone else, well I feel like I’m paying it forward to the people that helped me.
Having said that, when someone asks me to give over my images or my time for nothing or a “free night in a hotel” I really need to stop and consider not only is it fair to my family who I leave at home when I am out following my dreams, but also aren’t I worth more than that? Is it fair for people to ask me to work for free when I feel like my work (and I) deserve more than that? Because basically that’s what people are asking of you. My advice, respect yourself and the industry you are representing and don’t sell yourself short. If someone isn’t willing to pay you what you believe you deserve, then is it really worth working with them?
If you would like to see more of my images, or hear more short stories, follow me on Instagram and Facebook @JulesIngall