In the previous chapter, we discussed how we should save money and manage our bills in the profession of photography. Now, in this chapter we’ll talk about the importance of sustainability and the ways to sustain in the market. In the initial phase of your career, you will be wondering about the charges/fees that you should be quoting upon people for your services. Whether you should make the negotiations with the party as far as the charges are concerned, whether you should submit to their bargains and settle for 45k instead of 50k that you quoted earlier for the project, or whether you should charge per day/per picture or for the whole project- these are some of the biggest confusions among all the present photographers and cinematographers in almost all the photography industries be it fashion, wedding or corporate.
You will come across different kinds of ways in which the various photographers are charging their customers. Some of the photographers are still charging on per picture clicked- a practice in which you count the clicks on your camera and calculate the price accordingly. To be honest, this in my opinion is a very conservative practice, and should not be followed. Some photography companies are minting money on the name of their brand, while some others charge according to the availability of their photographers.
Some other photographers charge a lot more than necessary so as stay on the upper level of market, that is, they only prefer to work with those clients who can pay as per their standards. Then there are those who charge very less because either they are broke and want money to fix their necessities of life now or because they keep photography as their side business and take small projects that can be completed in their free time, that is, after they are done with their main job.
The last category is of the ones who charge somewhere in the middle of highs and lows because either they are angry on those who are charging very less and want to save the market from a total crash or they are frustrated on those who are charging high because apparently the latter ones have captured the entire high paying market. Basically, the whole scene in the industry is very chaotic right now and for this same reason, the photography aspirants fear stepping into it as they are afraid to answer the question,
“How much do you think you will be able to earn in the field of photography?”
My purpose of writing this article series titled, A Guide on How to Grow as a Photographer in India is that I want to fix this chaos happening in the industry and put things in order so that more and more people can come and join this ever-growing field of art. There is, in a way, no limit of customers in this profession, and there is no limit to what you can do to achieve your goals. Today you might be clicking for a local newspaper, but tomorrow you might get the opportunity to click for some big company like Apple Inc., and the day after, maybe for NASA.
Anyway, to achieve your dreams in the field of photography, first thing that you need to learn is how to sustain in the market because if you successfully manage it in the initial phase of your career, you will certainly have a great future ahead. You can not only grow in this stream on an individual level but can also give chance to other aspirants by taking them under your wing and teaching them your work ethics and professionalism. This can not only help those aspirants but will slowly bring an end to the chaos that is so prevalent in this business today.
The photography industry offers a lot of customers looking for various types of photo shoots. From wedding shoots to pictures of Rangolis made by HR teams of MNCs for Facebook posts to fashion modeling on Instagram, the demand for clicks is everlasting, and the desire to get clicked is ever-growing in the market. In such a scenario, customers are looking for decent photographers who carry a professional aura, that is, the ones who arrive on time, smell good, and maintain a certain code of conduct that appeal to the ethics of their business. As I have said earlier, we are living in an Age where our virtual life has become as significant as the real one and that is why, the demand for likes on Social Media, the demand for good pictures is rapidly growing, and consequently, your market. This should stop you from worrying about getting enough work that might provide you an earning for a decent lifestyle. If you embrace professionalism in your personality, you will certainly get enough work, but the point is that you should discover the art to keep sustaining and growing in the business with time. For this, you must follow the simple plan that I will now tell you.
How should you charge your customers? Read and understand this carefully:
If you are in the initial phase of your career, say a beginner with less than a year of experience, and have already managed to get a few high-end jobs, then try to take up projects from which you can either extract the same amount of money or close to it. If you fail to do so, try to lower your rates to somewhere in the middle but never make them too low as quick changes in rates from high to low or vice-versa on similar projects in a short duration of time would affect your credibility in the market, and people will stop trusting you. In simple words, if you have managed to extract high-end projects at the beginning of your career itself, then maintain your rates either high only or close to it or in the middle but never low. For instance, imagine doing a 50k shoot for Mr. X and then doing same kind of shoot in 20k for Mr. Y for whatever personal reasons and Mr. X comes to know of it. In such a case, your credibility = zero.
Also, you need to understand that carrying the ‘high-end photographer attitude’ after working on a few fat projects won’t lead you anywhere. You might have cracked a few nuts but expecting all your new customers to pay you as handsome as the previous ones because you refuse to work for less money (now that you have had the experience of working on big projects) will not serve your business and after a while, you will be doomed. Also, if you start breaking your rates from too high to too low because of the lack of work, you will lose your credibility in the market, and people will stop trusting you.
Now, if you have not been lucky enough to get the big photo shoot projects in the beginning itself and have to work your way to the top from a scratch, then there are no surprises in the fact that you will have to start with working on the low-budget projects. Generally, the beginners supply low-standard work in exchange for low prices, and this is the terrible mistake that they commit in their careers due to which almost all of them eventually fail to sustain and grow in the market. It is a truth well-known that the customers who pay less always expect more work in return; they are never satisfied with the low returns because in the back of their minds, they want their low-priced product to match the standards of high-end ones. For instance, a person who buys the phone worth 8k generally expects it to run like the 70k one. Similarly, a person who drives an Alto car always expects it to work like a Creta. So, the question is- what runs in the market?
Answer: The one who gives high-end services in low prices. That’s it! This is how you can break the market in your city; break whoever is in your competition slowly and gradually as the time goes by.
Let me provide you an example for explaining my arguments in a clear-cut manner. Suppose Photographer A is charging 50k per day for a wedding shoot. His product is good but the client complaints about his lose behavior and unprofessional-ism. Photographer A gets 3 wedding shoots per month. His total earnings by the end of the month: 150k.
Photographer B knows this. He starts charging 20k per day for a wedding shoot. He provides the same quality as that of Photographer B’s product; he is always on time and is highly professional with his clients. He presently manages to get 2 wedding shoots per month. His total earnings by the end of the month: 40k.
Mark this: Five years down the lane, Photographer A will lose his image in the market due to his unprofessional attitude, but Photographer B will be loved due to his consistent professionalism. Who will ultimately win in the long race? You know the answer.
Do not be afraid of following the above plan.
- Have faith in your tactics, and perseverance in your heart.
- Keep your ego aside and do not think, “Why should I work hard on low-budget products?” You got to work hard to make your stand in the market.
If someone tells you that you are ruining their industry by providing more in comparatively low prices, ask them to shut their mouths, and keep working on your art. Tell them that this field is so vast that anybody can start from anywhere and there will never be an end to getting work in it.
- Start low. Gain experience. Build customer trust. Grow slowly, very slowly. Focus on winning the long race by running at a consistent pace. The race that will eventually give you the results of your hard work after 5-6 years. Keep working towards your goal. That is it.
We are moving towards the end of this series. Next article will be on future threats in the field of photography and cinematography.
After that, I will talk about ‘mentality’ to keep up in this field and will also recommend a few good books that you can read to understand the game better.