No–that’s the answer that every photographer will tell you as you read this and think about it. To be more precise, the photographers that do this for a living will tell you this. To be fair and respectfully so, the photographers that do this for a living are probably a lot better than many people are. However, lots of artists tend to barter with one another to do fair and equal trades. With that said, it’s about something like: “Hey, I’ll shoot for you and you can give me the equivalent amount of X to be fair.”
A big emphasis on fair trade here.
Years ago, a company asked me to shoot an event. They’d later go on to become a huge BBQ venue here in Brooklyn. When I told them my rates, they told me that they were paying their other photographer with just free food and drinks. When the rep told me this over the phone, I explained to her that that means that I needed to get X amount back, and back then my rate was $175 for the first hour and $50 for every hour after that for the type of work I was doing. That included editing the photos, optimization for the web, keywording, and all that jazz with a delivery within 24 hours after the event ended.
She said no. Of course, there’s no way that a company was going to give me that equivalent amount of drinks. Let’s figure that out now, let’s say that I asked for the equivalence in drinks. Amazon currently lists Jack Daniels 16oz whiskey at $17 roughly. Then let’s say that I was there for two hours, which totaled to $200. That basically means that I’d need around 12 bottles of whiskey for free. That sounds fair, right? I’d be providing excellent images, edited images, well lit images, candids, stuff for branding and advertising, etc. See where I’m going here?
The other day I was at brunch with a couple of people when a woman who wants to make a career jump asked me for headshots. I told her my current rate and then she responded by saying that she’ll buy me two margaritas.
I said no.
She begged, she pleaded. She got my number and texted me about it saying that she can give me the two drinks. The trade here would be:
– Two drinks
– An interview session beforehand in order for me to give out who you are and how to bring that out in the photos, travel, lighting, shooting, posing, editing, light retouching, SEO optimizing, and not only shooting for LinkedIn and other places but also for social media use.
That’s totally not fair, right? She asked for a friend rate despite just meeting her, but even then it’s worth much more than two drinks.
Let’s think about that more intensely now: is your photography worth someone buying you two drinks? Is that what it’s worth to you? If your answer is no way, then consider moving on from the barter like that. But if your living comes from creating photos for people, then tell the person to pay just like everyone else does.
In the end, it’s about thinking about it in terms of a fair trade. It won’t kill the professional, but instead it will make the professional more specialized. The folks that care about a project enough to pay for it will surely pay for it. Otherwise, consider the barter when valuing yourself.