When Should An Amateur Photographer Consider Charging For Their Services?

When Should An Amateur Photographer Consider Charging For Their Services?

When I grabbed my first proper camera — a Canon 450D — many years ago, I never considered going pro. But there are camera owners out there who have, intentionally or not, found their equipment getting a solid workout for little in return. So when do you bite the bullet and start putting a price tag on your time?

Image: Elliot Bennett / Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Alan Steadman over at PetaPixel has put together a list of seven things you should look out for as a photographer and point number one is exactly what I’ve mentioned here: Seriously consider charging for your work. You’ve picked up an expensive DSLR and a set of lenses to go with it and now your family and friends are getting you to take photos of birthdays, weddings and other assorted events.

If you’re churning out a quality product and giving up large parts of your day, then definitely consider asking for compensation. As Steadman explains:

I don’t know a single photographer, pro or hobbyist, that hasn’t done a job for free when they clearly should have charged for it. Some people will read this and ignore it thinking their instance is a special case but I assure you you’ll come to regret it. Assuming something doesn’t go wrong and you have somebody mad at you for doing them a favor, you’ll still most likely end up spending money (gas, food, etc) to work during your time off. So now you’re actually paying to work. And what’s worse, you’ll set a bad precedent as being cheap and easy. Nobody wants that reputation.

Of course, this is just one of the “mistakes” Steadman covers — be sure to check out the full list at PetaPixel below.

7 Mistakes Every Photographer Makes [PetaPixel]


  • I think a rule of thumb is if they hire you to take photos, give them a quote and invoice.

    Don’t be stupid and ask for payment after the fact because they will want to hit you and you deserve it.

    • Are you joking? Unless its a wedding or a major event NO ONE is going to pay you 100% before the work is done. I can’t think of many services that function that way.

      The smart thing to do is to shoot the event then withhold the photos until payment is made.

      • Withholding supplying the photos is a very unprofessional thing to do, particularly with businesses.
        They are relying on the photos coming quickly, and delaying supply may make them miss a critical deadline, and guess who gets the blame (and doesn’t get used again)?

        Drinniol is right when he says supply a quote and then an invoice. Have the quote approved by the person who will authorise the payment. Getting it approved by your contact in the marketing department may delay the process. Then, after you do the work, supply the invoice as soon as possible. Send it directly to the person who approved the quote, in the same email as the quote was approved.

        The most common excuse businesses give when they don’t want to pay you is “we haven’t received an invoice.”

        Remember, this isn’t a drug deal in a Hollywood movie, everyday business relies on a degree of goodwill to function. Also, make a note of when each business processes their payments. If you haven’t been paid on that date, chase them up. Don’t expect them to pay you the day after you send the invoice…that will annoy the people who actually pay you.

      • Umm…. I respectfully disagree. Every single one of my clients for the past 4 years pays me in FULL before I will even show up. Portraits- 50% to book, 50% due within 3 days before session. Weddings-35% to book, balance due 30 days before event. This is pretty standard in my area (DC/MD) My retainers are also non refundable.

  • What about photography for the workplace? Say you are employed, but photography is not your main job. Then the manager asks you to cover an event he is holding, and it’s under working hours?

    I myself have declined to do this many times at my work because I do feel I should be payed extra for it. They won’t hire a professional because it’s too expensive for them and I am the
    only person in the office with a dslr.
    I did ask for payment on one occasion and delivered great photos, it was after work hours
    though, and they just stopped asking me, unless it was on the boss’s time.

  • Please do not validate “I purchased a dslr worth $3000 so I’m a proper photographer” people. No one wants them and their slightly out-of-focus sunset photos at their events in the first place.

  • I’ve seen this discussion at other places, and one common response is “once you lose 100% creative control, that is when you charge”, with “creative control” including things such as whether or not you’re even going to take photos that day.

    I know some functions I’ve turned up to intending to take photos but decided I just want to experience it instead & left the camera switched off the whole time. I consider myself purely a hobbyist, I take photos only for myself because I enjoy it.

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