PetaPixel

15 Minutes to Shoot, 15 Years to Master

Here’s a story that was shared over on the Photo.net forums recently:

Client : Nice shot. You got it in 15 minutes. But isn’t 1,000 bucks for that a robbery?
Photographer : Yes, you are right, but to get it done correctly in 15 minutes it took me 15 years of hard work and dedication to master this art of “robbery”.

When people see photographers at work, they often assume that the results must not be worth as much as other forms of art, since pressing the shutter to capture an image seems so much faster and easier than painting a photograph.

There’s a similar story that’s told about Picasso:

Picasso was in a park when a woman approached him and asked him to draw a portrait of her. Picasso agreed and quickly sketches her. After handing the sketch to her, she is pleased with the likeness and asks how much she owed to him. Picasso replies $5,000. The woman screamed, “but it took you only five minutes!”.

“No, Madam, it took me all my life”, replied Picasso.


Image credit: Sketchbook in action! by denn


 
  • Chirn9980

    Yes, No one pays us for the time it takes to master our craft, I am a ceramicist. I think because most people get paid for their time, they don’t understand why you charge so much for so little time, but what they are actually paying for is your talent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scottschrantz Scott Schrantz

    Or the story of the engineer who was called in to diagnose a broken machine. After a couple of minutes he marked one of the parts with chalk and told the mechanic to replace that part. When the company balked at his fee, he sent them an itemized invoice.

    Chalk: $1
    Knowing where to mark it: $999

  • http://www.facebook.com/scottschrantz Scott Schrantz

    Or the story of the engineer who was called in to diagnose a broken machine. After a couple of minutes he marked one of the parts with chalk and told the mechanic to replace that part. When the company balked at his fee, he sent them an itemized invoice.

    Chalk: $1
    Knowing where to mark it: $999

  • http://twitter.com/waleedalzuhair Waleed Alzuhair

    In any contract, we agree on the deliverables, a deadline, and payment terms. If the customer is hesitant, then it should be cleared before signing the contract. A word like “robbery” would definitely place that customer on my black list and change their payment terms to 100% upfront.

  • http://twitter.com/waleedalzuhair Waleed Alzuhair

    In any contract, we agree on the deliverables, a deadline, and payment terms. If the customer is hesitant, then it should be cleared before signing the contract. A word like “robbery” would definitely place that customer on my black list and change their payment terms to 100% upfront.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PQ54IG5P6I73FWHYGC4LVDZQYI Michael

    I like this alot.

  • Doctorcreation

    Anyone can appreciate that a professional should be paid for their time and level of expertise. The challenge comes in with photographers seemingly pulling exorbitant costs from thin air. Hundreds or even thousands of dollars per hour often far exceed most other professions (lawyers, doctors, electricians, plumbers, etc). My auto mechanic has 15+ years experience and is paid $75-100 per hour for labor, a rate I consider fair for his quality of work. Why is it the photo above is valued at $4000/hour (i.e. 15 min for $1000)? Is this truly something that ONLY 15 years of experience could generate? I mean for $50 bucks I’ll throw books and fruit on the ground and shoot photos all day.

    Rather than complain that as artists you aren’t “appreciated” consider charging amounts that are more competitive and in line with the services rendered. Simply tacking on extra costs because of “experience” or “creativity” only serves to promote an atmosphere of pretentiousness at best and at worst a sense of fraud.

  • Anonymous

    A photographer has every right to charge what the market will pay them. If you have a good eye and you know how to light a scene properly you should be able to charge more than someone who is clueless with a camera. 

    While experience is hard to put a price on, when you hire a photographer you are paying for experience and their equipment, here is a sample list for a low-end photographer (rental rates from glazers camera in Seattle):

    Camera Rental: 5D MkII ($175/day)
    Lens Rental: 24-70 ($30/day)
    Flash Rental: 580EXII ($30/day)
    +Workstation to edit images on: $35/hour

    So, for one hour of shooting + one hour of editing you have to pay a minimum of $270. This is without paying the photographer for any work. Most higher end photographers will have more expensive equipment, allowing for higher quality images and better lit scenes, their rate for one hour (just equipment) could go up to over $1,000 right there.

    I guess the real debate here is: How much is experience worth? 

    It all depends on how much work the photographer has put into making images, if you factor in things like schooling, interning/assisting, additional classes, certifications, ect… you start to run a higher hourly rate. $1,000/hour may seem high to someone who has no grasp on what it ACTUALLY takes to make a proper image, but to those of us who can tell what a good image is from what a bad image is, we can appreciate the higher cost for well made images.

  • Anonymous

    A photographer has every right to charge what the market will pay them. If you have a good eye and you know how to light a scene properly you should be able to charge more than someone who is clueless with a camera. 

    While experience is hard to put a price on, when you hire a photographer you are paying for experience and their equipment, here is a sample list for a low-end photographer (rental rates from glazers camera in Seattle):

    Camera Rental: 5D MkII ($175/day)
    Lens Rental: 24-70 ($30/day)
    Flash Rental: 580EXII ($30/day)
    +Workstation to edit images on: $35/hour

    So, for one hour of shooting + one hour of editing you have to pay a minimum of $270. This is without paying the photographer for any work. Most higher end photographers will have more expensive equipment, allowing for higher quality images and better lit scenes, their rate for one hour (just equipment) could go up to over $1,000 right there.

    I guess the real debate here is: How much is experience worth? 

    It all depends on how much work the photographer has put into making images, if you factor in things like schooling, interning/assisting, additional classes, certifications, ect… you start to run a higher hourly rate. $1,000/hour may seem high to someone who has no grasp on what it ACTUALLY takes to make a proper image, but to those of us who can tell what a good image is from what a bad image is, we can appreciate the higher cost for well made images.

  • http://twitter.com/aprosserphoto Adam Prosser

    @0995496f4313230a7ff40a56cffc90a7:disqus , I’m pretty sure that the photograph is illustrative of the story and not THE photograph. I completely agree with the ethic behind this story within the boundaries of reason. I’m a photographer and it can be easy to undervalue the amount of time and energy spent getting to the point of knowing ‘where to chalk the machine’. At the same time that isn’t a green light to rip people off. The question has to be asked ‘what is the image worth to the client?’ If it is a family portrait will it be cherished for years to come and passed down through the family? If it is a photograph for a business, how is it being used and will it generate substantial profits. Value, sentimental or financial to the client may highlight the fee as a small price to pay for what they are actually purchasing from the photographer. People often say that if they’re house was burning the thing that they would save is photographs.

  • Doctorcreation

    At the cost you list above the hourly rate is $34 for equipment. If you have a studio with a $2000/month rent that is another $13/hour (assuming a 5 day work week). Toss in another $4000/month in utilities, commodities, insurance, etc, that totals $73/hour. You’re a solid photographer so lets say you run $100/hour. That is a charge to the customer of $173/hour.  Expensive but reasonable given expertise and costs. It is also in line with other professionals who also have high startup costs (mechanics need tools, dentists need equipment, lawyers need unholy sacrifices). I work in big Pharma where 1 instrument is worth $50,000 easily and yet our fully burdened hourly rates rarely exceed $250/hour. So given all that I just can’t imagine how we get to $1000/hour without some kind of “x-factor” markup.

    People buy Ferrari’s for 10 times the cost of a “normal” car because of such x-factors. Perhaps your photographs are the equivalent of Ferraris and are worth such a high dollar amount. However, the reality is that 99% of people are unable to afford a Ferrari and frankly see a lot of utility and beauty in a Cadillac, Toyota, or Ford. Similarly 99% of people are looking for good photos at a reasonable price and the markup needed to get to a “Ferrari photo” is simply unnecessary overkill that is seen as audacious waste.

    One business model is to sell a small number of “Ferrari photos” to Ferrari buyers making a large profit on a small volume. Another model is to sell “Toyota photos” to Toyota picture buyers making a profit on higher volumes. Both are legit, just don’t go looking for a sympathetic ear from the everyman who
    really just needs a “Toyota photo” of grandma and the grandkids who wants to pay “Toyota prices”.

  • Doctorcreation

    To be sure the ease with which people can take photos has in some ways commoditized the world of photography. As technology and computers have gotten better and more accessible the difference between the layman and the professional has appeared to shrink (whether this is true or not is up for debate). This means that professional photographers need to demonstrate greater degrees of differentiation between themselves and the layperson. Of course this is a challenge in many industries.In Pharma our challenge is trying to differentiate brand name drugs from generic competitors (a pill is a pill to the layperson but is it really? Why does something so small cost so much? Can’t I get it from Canada cheaper? etc etc).

    So I think professional photographers have a couple of tactics. They could
    1) Try and convince people of why they their product is worth so much (not working in Pharma)
    2) Whine and moan (also not working in Pharma)
    3) Compete on the basis of volume with lower cost/higher volume providers like Sears (Kinda working in Pharma)
    4) Add services or innovative products not easily accessible to the
    layperson (working in Pharma with biosimilars at the moment)

  • Anonymous

    You are very right that there is an “X-Factor” mark-up, it is called added or perceived value. It is something that @twitter-249394674:disqus talks about below. Also, most people do not NEED the high end photo. $1,000/hr is not amateur prices, those are highly trained and skilled professional charges. 

    Of course different professions charge different prices for services, so I am thinking comparing mechanics, doctors, pharma people, might not be the best way to go.

  • Jason

    Hi ericbuist

    I completely agree with you and Adam. There are various levels of expertise etc out
    there that are suited to each price point. If you need something done
    with a high level of expertise from a more renown photographer, you would expect to pay more for it.

    Also, what is expensive and who gets to decide? Expensive means different things to different people depending upon a number of factors including that person’s spending power, their perceived value of the item, and the state of the market. Doctorcreation’s quote of $173/hour as being expensive is completely arbitrary as is the idea that Sears is lower end. By the same token, in my neck of the woods, I would
    argue that Sears is a higher end store as its product prices are often higher than the few other stores we have.

    Finally, I don’t believe the “Ferrari” photographer is looking for
    everyman to lend a sympathetic ear, and in any case, it has nothing to do with the
    original post. We don’t know from the post, but if the client had signed a contract and agreed the price,
    then  I would say that it was a pretty poor show to complain about that price and call it robbery if the
    photo was what had been asked for. Would it have been better if the photographer had spent a few hours getting the same photo?

  • Doctorcreation

    My quoting of $173/hour” as expensive is a bit arbitrary but I did consider the following I spectrum of cheapest to most expensive. DIY photgraphs > one-hour photo places like CVS > Low-end mass photo studios like Walmart/Target > high end mass photo studios like Sears/JCPenneys > Custom photo studios and professional photographers. I also considered the that a typical US family after taxes and other expenses has no more (and usually less than) $5000 annually in truly discretionary spending per the Dept of Labor. These 2 facts taken together suggest that $173/hour is on the expensive side for photography for most people (just checked Walmart and I can get 5 photo sheets for $7.99).

    The original post starts by saying “When people…” and goes on to describe a random woman talking to Picasso. These 2 things to me clearly indicate a desire for greater acceptance of the artist’s craft leading to greater financial valuation. This post is not about breach of contract.

    Finally I totally agree you should pay more for more expertise. What I disagree with it that any noncommercial photograph is worth $1000 for 15 min worth of work. It is an obscene amount of money to the majority of American families who make under $70,000 pretax. I do not buy the “Hey I’m super experienced” remarks either. I have a PhD, MBA, multiple certifications, 12+ years industry experiences etc and in the end my employer asks me 1 simple question “What have you done for me lately”. I don’t get to walk in and say well today I completed an awesome project that no one with less experience could do so pay me $5,000 extra. It doesn’t work that way in business why should it work that way in photography?

    This is a problem not of expertise but with love and passion. I suspect there is a level of emotion and passion about the work of an artist that grants the artist a perspective that transcends money. This has the effect of inflating the value of their services in their own minds and when others don’t perceive the same value they take offense or get snide like Mr Picasso. If someone can show me a balance sheet with their costs and how they came to $1000 per 15 min then I’m interested in learning more. If it is just going to be more of “We’re experienced and true sophisticates appreciate our work” then we can agree to disagree (And I’ll keep getting nice portraits at Walmart).

  • Doctorcreation

    Oh and I should add that at that $100/hr profit I suggested you CLEAR more than $100,000 per year pretax working ONLY 20 hours per week. sounds like a pretty good gig to me. But I guess having lots of experience warrants $1000 per 15 min equating to $2,000,000 annually fo just 20 hours of work per week. Still not buying it.

  • Sean

    The learning curve for photography is so small nowadays that anyone with a decent DSLR and a few books and workshops on flash photography can hit the market in 6-8 months producing acceptable images. Rest depends on the person’s talent,creativity and marketing skills.  Clients are leaning towards stock images where they can get the same image for a pittance, or if the client is well know, they might even tell you that they are doing you a favor by letting you shoot their product. I dont think any other industry have people giving out so many freebies like photographers do. I mean even a struggling starlet gets paid when she get a minuscule role in a movie, while photographers bend over backwards to get a photo assignment with a magazine just to get the tearsheets.

  • http://www.the-dslr-photographer.com Chio

    Pretty much nailed it. While it’s fun and great to see it is accessible to more people, we have to try harder. But not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • Emurod

    i think if the photographer can sell that to someone for 1000 dollars, fair play to him/her, i struggle to see 15 years experience in the photograph though. My brother has been playing the guitar for over 15 years and he still cant play a song properly.

  • Emurod

    i think if the photographer can sell that to someone for 1000 dollars, fair play to him/her, i struggle to see 15 years experience in the photograph though. My brother has been playing the guitar for over 15 years and he still cant play a song properly.

  • Emurod

    i think if the photographer can sell that to someone for 1000 dollars, fair play to him/her, i struggle to see 15 years experience in the photograph though. My brother has been playing the guitar for over 15 years and he still cant play a song properly.

  • Emurod

    i think if the photographer can sell that to someone for 1000 dollars, fair play to him/her, i struggle to see 15 years experience in the photograph though. My brother has been playing the guitar for over 15 years and he still cant play a song properly.

  • Ludo

    i’m sorry, but what do you think that says about your brother?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ngeejee NgeeJee Tsan

    IMHO, I think, we, as professional artist/photographers, our job is to produce what was required, at a rate that is accepted by the client.  In the original article, to call the photographer a “con” after receiving the final bill is just the problem of the client.  he/she should have bring out his/her budget before getting the work done.

    I’m a creative professional specializes in communication designs and web developments, as well as photography.  As with all creative lines of work, there is no determinant of how much value you really are.  Its more like what people (your clients) is willing to pay for your creativity.  Top designers in the world can (and will) call for big bucks for that line he/she drew, but the next simple person who sits next to you might be able to pull out that same creative line, and hand it out for free.  Even if the line is exactly the same, the major difference is that the famous designer has a patron who like his/her work, and is willing to pay big bucks for it, period.  Question is, how did the designer came to the top?
    he/she might have murdered some one, took enormous risks, made tremendous efforts, or just plain lucky. Such is life.

    So we are to charge whatever monetary amount we like, be it logical, accountable, or pure plucking numbers from the sky. The bottom line is, you (the client) need to be able to accept it, and commission the work knowing your obligation as a client, and keep your end of the bargain once work is delivered.  We as the supplier of course will need to inform you of what our charges are, and let you decide if you wanna come our way.  if you think we are off your budget (not expensive, cos that is a relative term, a Ferrari is not expensive to some, while it is exorbitant to most), then be courteous enough to admit that we are off your budget, and move along.  We never hold you at gun point and demanded you to sign up.

    =)

  • delzey

    these stories are actually based on zen tales from hundreds of years ago. suffice to say, all art is under appreciated by those who do not know what it takes to create.

  • Anonymous

    This is very similar to some public misconceptions in my trade. As an actor get between $700 and $1000 for a 3 hour voice over job. People divide that number by 3, compare with what they get themselves per hour and gasp.

    What they don’t think about is the many years it takes to establish yourself as a good and reliable person. But more important, only a very few actors can enjoy having a steady job and if I did I probably couldn’t jump on a 3 hour gig. So in essence, I’m not only being paid for the 3 hours, I’m also being paid for being available (by not having a steady job). 

    Anyway, thanks for the post. 

    / Viggo Andersen

  • Deahl

    How alphabet designers . . . folks just steel the product.

  • deahl

    “I dont think any other industry have people giving out so many freebies . . . .”
    Alphabet designers . . . folks just steel the product.

  • http://www.ajc-photography.com A.J. Coots

    As a photographer, I always remember that my job is at least 50% education that is, to tell the client what my rates are, what they are getting for that, and what comparatively they would not be getting from the ‘cheap’ photog who just picked up a camera at the local camera store and wants to practice on them. In my experience, while there will always be ‘bottom dollar’ folks even for them you can translate the risks that they are ‘buying’ by hiring someone without experience and reputation.

    Little kids believe that you can get something for nothing. Sane adult people usually know that they get what they pay for and are happy to pay for value. We just need to communicate what that value is.

    As photographers, we eat, breathe, and live photography. Our clients don’t. Why should we expect them to know the value of our work without any prior education or understanding? That’s why the onus is on the photographer to nicely explain, beforehand, in an itemized way, what the client is getting into.

    Then the client can choose to go with experience and get the job done right or do with newbie and get the job done…twice. Once ‘cheaply’ and then get it redone second time to fix the ‘cheap’ job.

    Yes, it takes extra work to educate. And some photogs don’t want to do it, expecting the value of their work to be ‘self-evident. But guess what? It’s not. A little explanation goes a long way toward everyone being on the same page, and knowing whether the client is a good match for you (and you for them) whether you get the job or not.

    When everyone goes into it with expectations on the table beforehand everyone is a lot happier with the outcome. 

  • Philo

    Want me to screw up the curve?
    Professional athletes = tens of millions of dollars?!
    Crazy wrong.
    I’m sure it works out to an insane hourly rate which I surely don’t want to know.
    Yes, yes, the athletes train, are ‘gifted’, blah, blah. 
    They don’t (normally) have 10-15 years experience either.
    I’d rather give the extra money to a qualified plumber.

  • Philo

    Want me to screw up the curve?
    Professional athletes = tens of millions of dollars?!
    Crazy wrong.
    I’m sure it works out to an insane hourly rate which I surely don’t want to know.
    Yes, yes, the athletes train, are ‘gifted’, blah, blah. 
    They don’t (normally) have 10-15 years experience either.
    I’d rather give the extra money to a qualified plumber.