Rights grabs, payments, and more have been the talk of the town for the past couple of days. But this all brings up an even bigger question that deserves a very big answer:
Why, in 2015, with the prevalence of so many images being taken each and every minute, should someone pay for your images?
Now, let’s put some specific emphasis on this sentence and get right to the meat of the problem:
Why should someone pay for your images?
This is a question that many photographers face when they first start out and don’t ever know how to answer. It ties into how much one should charge, how to go about finding the clients that will pay for the images, marketing, social media upkeep, etc. It’s a serious question.
So, with so many free images out there and consumers willing to give images for free, why should someone pay for them?
To start, let’s figure out what you’re actually selling. You’re selling images, a service or a bunch of services that took years to cultivate and master, the fact that you’ve got the equipment to do this, your time both behind the camera and in front of a computer screen, and hopefully a creative vision.
Photography is a service. But more specifically, good photography that moves someone is a valuable service. This is why couples take so long to figure out what wedding photographers are best for them. It’s also why parents pay so much for the right senior portrait photographer. Good photography is why people pay for better LinkedIn headshots that make them look their best and tells a story about then when an employer is browsing their profile. It can mean a big career jump or whether a recruiter just moves right on.
So what is good photography?
In concerts, good photography is the ability to find the kickass angles that views that will captivate a viewer and that a label can use to market their talent *cough* the band. This takes lots of careful timing, the right gear, a long culling process afterward, and the ability to pay attention to and predict when the best moments will come. There’s a great reason why Rukes is so popular.
In portrait photography, good photography involves the ability to pose a person in such a way that they’re always flattered, getting the perfect angles, figuring out specifics with clothing, lighting, and finding a way to get genuine reactions out of the person. Why else would Peter Hurley be so in demand?
In sports photography, we’re going to stop right there. Do you have any idea how tough it is to find the best angles with a tight crop as athletes are moving back and forth so quickly?
For wedding and event photography, good photography involves not only being able to work with the main hosts but also getting on the good side of everyone. You’ll need to find a great way to get quality images, candids, poses, the angles that everyone loves, and know how to tell a story. Oh yeah, and then edit the photos. That’s just a brief list, and it can surely go on forever.
For food photography, good photography involves knowing how to appeal to someone’s senses through an image. It involves careful framing and eliciting a feeling in someone to get them hungry.
When someone buys an image or asks to use it one time, the buyer is being very specific. But when you pay for photography, you can surely be paying for the ability to produce great results each and every time.
So if you’re selling a service, the knowledge on how to use the right gear, people skills, the creative vision that someone wants, hours of post-production, etc., then what price do you put on the images? And at that point if someone still doesn’t want to pay your prices, then move on.