As you begin to progress with your photography, other people will begin to notice the difference. This is a nice stroke to your ego. People actually like what you're doing with your camera! And then, someone will offer to buy one of your photos. Now, what do you do? You might be surprised at how, instead of being thrilled, you feel conflicted about the compliment. You may feel unsure that the photo is actually good enough to sell to someone. Do you even want to charge for it? How will you figure out the price you want to charge for it? There are a few things to think about when it comes to selling or giving away your images. You have to determine which course you want to take. But be careful that you are fairly consistent. You don't want to sell to some friends and give them away freely to others. Remember, too, that if you start giving images away, people will usually resist if you change your mind down the road and want to charge for your work. Let's go through the spectrum of choices.
Everybody likes free stuff. What the heck, you're thrilled someone noticed, and it really doesn't cost that much, right? Right. You can order an 11x14 on very nice paper, with a coating for about $10 from online labs. Both Mark and I like Mpix. They do consistently good work; have a large variety of quality products; and ship them to you quickly, in a flat box that prevents damage. Surely, you can afford $15-20 (depending on shipping method) for Aunt Martha or your BFF. It will make a lovely gift. You'll both be happy.
If the photo is for someone whose birthday is six months away and a little lower on your friend list, you may decide to give it to them for your costs. You tell this friend, Frank, (who still hasn't returned your croquet set from the neighborhood party) the price is $20. That's what you pay Mpix, so what's wrong with that? You aren't making any money on the photo.
Well, Frank may counter that Walgreens will print it for $6 in about an hour. It's starting to get complicated.... I don't like the paper that Walgreens uses, and their staff may be great folks, but they don't get paid to professionally print photos. I would take a bet that Walgreens doesn't use the same high-grade equipment that Mpix uses.
You can see where this is going. By now, you're remembering how expensive your camera and lenses are. You've been working hard to master that equipment, and you spent an hour or two playing with your expensive post-processing software getting that photo to look perfect. Suddenly, giving away this photo is getting much less attractive.
I zoomed through the continuum from giving your photos away for nothing to a dawning that free photos aren't free of expenses. It will probably take you a little longer to settle this issue for yourself. Only you can determine what, if anything, you are going to charge for your images. I frequently give away photos, so I'm not saying you should never give them away. I am saying you should factor in all your time and effort when you try to put a value on your work.
If you have any aspirations of making money with your camera, you need to think of the business end of this photography thing. Next week, we will look at some ways to develop a formula for your pricing if you want to make money or, at least, break even. When you have settled this issue in your mind, you'll be able to put it aside and get back to the fun.