Chuck Espinoza Photography

Los Angeles Based Freelance Photographer.
Photography business

So you really want to be a photographer?

March 8, 2011

Being a professional photographer is more than just taking pictures. When I look at my responsibilities I’m the following:

  • Owner of a small business
  • CFO
  • Chief Marketing officer
  • receptionist
  • accounts receivable
  • accounts payable
  • copy writer
  • editor
  • prop stylist
  • producer
  • retoucher
  • janitor
  • inbound sales
  • legal aid
  • casting director
  • graphic designer
  • bookkeeper
  • clown for kids
  • coach for brides and those helping pay for weddings
  • Photographer

I had a conversation the other day with a potential client about a job. The referral was for a small and fairly easy job. Basically a job anyone with a camera and decent photography experience could handle. The budget was X but my rate for the job was about 3X. Do I take the job? Do I lower my rate just so I get the job and have the security of knowing I booked one more job and made some money?


A few years ago I would have taken the job. A lot of photographers will take the job which sets a precedent: now this client thinks this type of job is only worth X and they shouldn’t pay more. Now that my business is more established I have to think past making a few bucks. I don’t want to lower the bar for other professionals or teach potential clients that the value of  photography is X. When I look at my job titles/responsibilities above and think about the effort and expense it take to be a photographer I can’t afford to take those jobs anymore. The client had previously hired a photographer for the same type of job who shot the job and handed over a CD of images after the shoot. That’s not how I roll.

For every hour I have a camera in my hand I’ve spent about one additional hour prepping for the shoot and/or dealing with setting up for the job.You can find out more at my one-hour shoot I spend a additional hour editing the photos. By editing I mean going through the entire shoot and deleting (the bad ones), color correcting, cropping and minor retouching every image. This is to make sure that the work I present to my client looks like it was shot by a professional and not the photographer who hands over the CD of unedited images.

I can’t explain this to my clients. I don’t know or care how much my plumber pays to keep his doors open, so why should my clients care? They shouldn’t. It’s part of my job to make sure that the service and product I provide has value and that my clients feel they are getting a great deal for their money. Every one of my clients has a camera yet they still pay me to do something they could do themselves.

In regards to some of the above mentioned job titles I’m better at some and horrible at others. Here’s a copy of the bookkeeper’s desk (which also doubles as the graphic designer and retouchers work station). If I could, I’d fire my ass as a bookkeeper, but I’m not there yet.

I should fire his ass
I should fire his ass

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