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Obviously, I love working with photography. But even so, there are some aspects of the industry that I could do without. So, as a person working for myself in the field, one of the benefits of doing so is the ability to abide by my own philosophies rather than those of someone else.

I don’t believe in sitting fees.

Many, if not all other photographers I know, have some sort of sitting fee for their studio photography work. These fees basically mean that no matter what occurs during the session or what the client decides to purchase, he or she is required to pay a fee for simply booking a session at all. Honestly, I see this as a bit of a rip off to the buyer. Sure I understand that the photographer needs to have some assurance of income. But, I believe in taking a different approach. Why not, as a photographer, require a minimum purchase for sessions? This can be a win-win for everyone as that the you are guaranteed some income while the buyer will at least get a minimum of a finished product rather than just a bill.

I don’t watermark the photos a client buys.

If someone hires me to shoot photos for them, I figure they deserve the shots free of my self-promotional efforts via watermarks. Not only do watermark from your local studio shots make for a bit of an annoyance but they also often come across as a less than appealing aesthetic effect in the final images.

I don’t shaft clients or collaborators out of usage rights. 

Whether I am working with a local high school senior or a professional working in the modeling industry, I never demand exclusive ownership right to the works I create. The way I see, it regardless of what copyright law may or may not say, both parties have some ownership over the intellectual property produced in a photo session. Sure the subject would not have photos without a photographer. But at the same time, the photographer would have no photos without a subject.

I allow shared usage of the photos between myself and the subject(s). Of course, I don’t want a model going out and selling photos I took of him or her but I do allow them to use them for portfolio purposes and more. This of course, would include posting shots in online portfolios as well.

I have few qualms about my photography being spread around the Internet, with some exceptions of course. The way I see it, so long as the shots are credited to me, it’s free advertising and more exposure for my work.

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Comments on: "Why I don’t believe in sitting fees and other conventional aspects of the photography industry" (10)

  1. What a breath of fresh you are 🙂

  2. Thanks, I appreciate that.

  3. I wish more photographers were like this. It’s never made sense to me that photographers would NOT want their pictures seen by as many people as possible-within reason. Clearly you don’t want your photo used in any type of marketing campaign for for commercial use, but this uproar on Pinterest has my mind blown. The only thing I can figure is that they are upset by the lack of credit given to them on Pinterest, but this is easily solved by required a photo credit line before a new photo could be pinned onto the Pinterest system. Anyways I will step down off of my soap box now. In essence I loved your post. 🙂

  4. The business practice of charging a sitting fee goes back to the old days of film when a photographer had the expense of purchasing the film prior to the shoot and the developing and proof prints afterwards. Plus, the time involved with dealing with the lab and ensuring that you have all of the negatives and proof prints properly sorted and marked. There were several additional steps in the film days that aren’t present when shooting digital. Don’t forget that time is money, time spent dealing with the lab was time not out shooting and generating revenue.

    It seems that as times have changed, people and our collective societal values have as well…and not always for the better. There used to be a time that giving your word that you would be at a specific place, at a specific time was all that was needed to have you be there. A person’s word actually meant something and a handshake was as good as gold. Having already paid a sitting fee guarantees that a person will be at the studio at the appointed time.

    I tried booking appointments without having taken any money up front, and it cost me money in the end. I set up boudoir marathons on two different weekends several years ago at upscale hotels using a business model that I would front the cost of the hotel suites, and I would recoup that money in the sale of products afterwards. The no-show rate was about 75% over the two weekends and I was left holding the bag for some very pricey hotel suites. The no-show rate was quite a surprise as I had done confirmation calls with all the clients during the week prior and all had guaranteed me that they would be there.

    Several years back I owned a small helicopter tour business at a very popular location. When I first opened, I did not require payment when someone booked a flight…that lasted about two weeks. I was running a greater than 50% no show rate and that just doesn’t work with a business with the overhead that a helicopter operation has (my insurance was more than $20,000 a year for a single R44). A helicopter sitting on the ground isn’t generating revenue, just like an empty photography studio…or hotel suite. A person has a vested interested in showing up for an appointment if they have at least some bit of financial obligation in it. My preference is to charge a small sitting fee and then offer that amount back as product credit. If I’m doing a weekend session with short appointment times (usually an hour), I charge full cost up front and there is never an issue as the requirement to pay in full at time of booking is stating in the advertising.

    I totally agree with you and the watermark issue. I only recently started watermarking images that I place on the internet, as I keep seeing them on blogs (in violation of copyright laws) and no credit given back to me. I figure if I watermark everything it can help discourage someone stealing my property, and the watermark gives me credit when they are low enough to take what is not theirs. It also tips the viewer that the image wasn’t taken by the person displaying it. All prints and digital files that I provide to clients have no watermarks on them.

    On the issue of intellectual rights to images that you may have taken, ensure that you have it clearly spelled out in the contract or model release what rights the client or model has. Giving the client or model personal, non-commercial rights to the images is commonplace. This allows them to use the images for purposes other than commercial, revenue generating purposes. The happy bride and groom and plaster Facebook with them to their hearts content and the model can use them in her portfolio, she (or he) can’t sell or license the image for others to use (and neither can the bride and groom).

    The digital age seems to have brought about this collective disregard to intellectual rights, whether this applies to musicians or photographers. Musicians (which I am one) and the record industry has pursued those who thumb their nose at the law. They do this to not only protect what is theirs, but to protect their financial interest as well. I know several other photographers that have had their images lifted from the internet and wound up in print. As a business person, I do understand your thought of the free advertising aspect. However, I make money when I sell or license an image to an end user….free advertising in this case doesn’t go very far in paying my bills.

    And, that’s my two-cents worth!

  5. Doug – Very detailed comment there. Anyway, just wanted to say that this post pertained particularly to one-on-one in studio session. One client (or group of clients) and one photographer. Group situations like workshops are a slightly different story. I run a photography group that does a variety of workshops or group shoots if you will and of course if you are renting a space or something like that you need to get some funding up front.

  6. Sorry about the long-winded comment, guess my two-cents was more like a buck eighty-five. I am curious to know if you are not charging a sitting fee for a one-on-one studio session, what (if any) no-show rate are you having? If you are not charging a sitting fee and instead have an upfront agreement that the client will purchase a minimum amount of product, what do you do if the client then does not wish to purchase the agreed upon amount, or has this not occurred? I guess that I’ve had too many experiences with people who were not financially vested in keeping an appointment flaking out and not showing up. If you have figured out a way to not have that happen, please share your secret. People are very agreeable to sign up for an appointment when it doesn’t cost any money to make the appointment. I just need to know how to get them to show up if there is no sitting fee. I do not recall having someone that paid a sitting fee be a no show/no call for their appointment.

  7. Doug, I have yet to have anyone not want to make the minimum purchase. However, if this was to happen, the client is surely allowed to purchase images that would cost less than the total but they will still have to pay that minimum amount. So, it behooves them to order the maximum amount of prints or services available for the minimum purchase price.

    As a general rule, unless I know the client on a personal level, I require half of the payment for their package prior to the session. This negates no shows.

  8. I do believe that I may owe you a bit of an apology. I misunderstood your not charging a sitting fee as meaning that you do not charge any money upfront. I’m not quite certain how I made the mistake, but it may have had something to do with the second martini that I had that evening.

  9. Doug – no apology unnecessary. In fact, I should have probably made that point known in the original post.

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