I've Waited Over Two Years to Publish This Post.

I still remember the first time I ever put together a cost estimate for a nonprofit client. I had no idea what to charge. AII I knew was that I really, really wanted to work with this organization. I dug around on the internet for guidance. I called a friend for advice. But ultimately I pulled numbers from thin air. It took me years – yes, years! – to figure out what to charge for my work.

I don't want you to go through what I went through; and so my business partner, Laura and I are excited to share our first online course over at NGO Storytelling. Registration is open now until June 7, 2019. The course starts on June 8, 2019.

We’ve been working on a project for over two years and we’re finally ready (and excited!) to share it with you. Our online course, Pricing Nonprofit Photography, is live and accepting students from May 31 to June 7, 2019.

Have you ever struggled with how much to charge nonprofits for your photography? Feel guilty about asking nonprofits to pay you for your photography? Don’t have a head for numbers? Let us help you!

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE COURSE

We created this course for other humanitarian storytellers when we realized there’s one question readers ask us over and over: “How much should I charge nonprofits for my photography?” We’ve tackled this subject on our blog numerous times. But it was becoming clear that people wanted more details and guidance. So, we decided to create an online course filled with videos, worksheets and bonus materials to help you better understand what you need to charge and give you the confidence to say yes to the right jobs and no to the wrong ones.

Who should sign up?

This course is right for you if you’re a photographer, photojournalist, visual storyteller, or a person with an interest in photography and you are confused about what to charge for your services. It’s a short, self-directed study on setting the prices that are right for YOUR business. The experience is designed to give you specific tools that will help you understand what you need to do to stay in business.

Who shouldn’t sign up?

This course isn’t right for you if you want help finding clients, creating and negotiating contracts, creating shot lists or learning what to do on assignments.

If you want us to give you an exact number to charge, this course isn’t for you. Every photographer’s numbers are different and we’ll teach you how to calculate yours. And that number can change on a regular basis based on your overhead, how many days a year you work, and how much income you bring in.

This course might not be right for you if you're an experienced photographer with established business practices that are working for you. We believe that experienced photographers can learn something new from this course but it's likely more beneficial to photographers in their early to mid career.

This course is not right for you if you want to know how to find work with nonprofits. We haven’t made that course yet. But we did do a podcast on the subject.

It’s not right for you if you’re looking for a one-on-one business or life coach.

It’s not right for you if you don’t want to do any legwork. Accurate calculations require reviewing past receipts and estimating future expenses. If you’re expecting us to hit the easy button for you then this isn’t the course for you.

It’s not right for you if you’re looking for an easy way to make money. There is no easy way to make money in the photography industry. It requires creativity, varying income streams, and lots of sticktoitiveness. You really need to love it to be here and we can only show you how to set your numbers so that your business has a real chance of success.

How much time do I need to commit to this course?

If you watch all the videos, fill out all the worksheets and listen to the podcast all in one go, you should be able to finish everything in about one hour. We strive to give you the the fundamentals of pricing in a short amount of time so you can apply them to your business immediately. Now that’s an hour well spent!

How much does this course cost?

The course fee is $129 unless otherwise stated due to a sale. It must be paid in full upfront before starting the course.

We know how hard it is to commit your hard-earned cash to training when you’ve got bills to pay and gear to buy. But staying in this business means valuing what you create. We can help you calculate a creative fee that is fair both to you and the nonprofit organizations you work with.

You may feel awkward asking organizations that do such life-affirming work in the world to pay you. But remember: your professional pictures and stories will help them share their mission and bring in funds. Also, they are businesses – ones that must show a zero balance sheet at the end of the year, granted – and so are you. Just as they invest in great people and technology to keep their organizations running, you, too, can invest in yourself with this course to further your professional development and keep your business running.

I hope you’ll consider joining me in this course. Have more questions? Visit our comprehensive FAQ or email us at hello@ngostorytelling.com.




I Can't Work for $100 Per Day and You Shouldn't Either

I was just approached to do some photography consulting with an organization doing amazing things in Rwanda. I would’ve loved to work with them but they offered a day rate far below what any photographer should accept. This makes me wonder who is taking these gigs, thus perpetuating the myth the photographers can sustainably work for next to nothing? And do they know that they shouldn’t?

This organization offered to pay me $100 per day with the average day being 8-10 hours. Essentially they wanted me to work for about $10 dollars an hour.  I can’t do that. And neither should you. Here’s why:

Let’s just say hypothetically that I found an organization that would hire me for 300 days out the year for $100 per day. I’d make $30,000. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?

©CanStockPhoto

©CanStockPhoto

That is until you learn that I do a cost of doing business calculation every year. This year I projected that I will have at least $26,000 in expenses. In addition, I’d like to make a salary and save for retirement.  Refer to bullet one: the day rate of $100 leaves me with about $4,000 to live on for the year.

In addition, I own approximately $20,000 in gear and every piece of gear I own has a life expectancy. This means that as long as I am a photographer I will be purchasing or repairing gear.  This year I’ve spent about $5,500 in gear and repairs. One major unexpected expense was spending $4,000 on a new camera when both of my bodies went down at the same time. Guess where my $4,000 salary just went?

Besides my yearly expenses, I have to take into account that my bachelors and masters degree cost me approximately $85,000. I have spent years learning my craft and paid thousands of dollars in student loans.

Your organization is doing amazing things and I wish I could help. But I am running a business. I can’t work for $100 per day. If I accepted your rate then I wouldn’t make enough money to eat, pay rent, or save for retirement. No matter how great your organization is the answer is still no. 

The Bigger Picture: Photography as Entrepreneurship


Are you interested in becoming a photographer? Are you so interested that you’d invest $100,000 and four years of your life towards pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the field? But what would you do if I told you that at least eighty percent of what you are going to need to know as a photographer isn’t taught in the best photography programs in the United States?

how_photographers_spend_there_time

I’m not really one to bash education as I have both an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in photography. But even after multiple degrees, I left school without taking a single course that addressed the business of photography.  As the graphs above indicate, a successful photography business is just that—a business.  I learned how to run my business through trial and error.

Curious to see if any photography programs have added courses on running a successful business in the seven years since I left Syracuse, I rolled up my sleeves and did some research.

UniversityDegreeCostTotal Required HoursTotal Required Business Hours
Brooks InstituteBachelor of Science in Visual Journalism$90,488 for program1206
University of MissouriBachelor of Arts in Photojournalism$36,180 per year (non resident)410
Rochester Institute of TechnologyBachelor of Arts in Photojournalism $47,336 per year1220
Syracuse UniversityPhotojournalism or Illustration Photography$59,320 for program383

I’ve invested a lot of time in the last five years into learning about business of photography. There are amazing photographers out there whose businesses are failing because they don’t understand how to run their businesses. And there are less skilled photographers that are making a good living because they do.  I am not saying that photography degrees aren’t teaching valuable skills, but I believe that we are missing the bigger picture of photography as entrepreneurship.

When you create a soapbox, you have no choice but to stand on it.  I recently partnered with my friend and collaborator Laura Elizabeth Pohl to teach a business practices workshop for photographers in Rwanda.. We both have advanced degrees that taught us to take great pictures, but we left university without knowing how to charge for our services, market our work to clients, or even do basic accounting.  We felt that teaching this course is one opportunity to pass on helpful information developed through experience and help Rwandan photographers to make a living wage.  

If the business of photography isn’t being taught to young photographers, how can they obtain the tools to become successful? What can the professional community do to help?  I’d love to know your thoughts and ideas on how we can promote entrepreneurship.

In order to do my part, I hope to continue sharing information and teaching in the communities that I live in. Keep your eyes open for the podcast from our workshop.