Hi everyone. I have a question regarding a first communion event. Before I ask, I'll explain what I've been doing with my photo gear...
I have been shooting youth football games and cheerleading. Of course I always wind up putting most of my effort into where the action is. That being said, my eyes always seem to shoot the kid with the ball in his hand. If I shoot 200 photo's at a game, I might get 20 shots that I'm somewhat satisfied with. The parents love even the crappiest of photo's. I'll never understand that.
Anyhow, I put this photo's in a book and started selling the 4*6's for $1.00 a piece. I took 1/2 of all proceeds and donated them back to Pop-Warner football for my town. Everybody wins here.
A parent contacted me and asked me what I would charge to do a communion. Uhhhhh. I take quite a few pictures of my own kids and I'm sure I can take photo's of hers the problem is that my time isn't going to be free and the proceeds aren't going to be donated. Do I offer to put her kid on a CD and give her a CD of low res pictures and let her get back to me with what she wants? Do I go to the park and take portraits of the kid and the family next to pretty flowers? I know I will have to visit the church prior to the ceremony to see what type of rules they have for photographers as well as study the lighting to prepare myself.
Do I offer her a deal whereas she gets a few other parents to assist in paying for my time and in return I take freelance photo's of 3 kids instead of 1?
What other recommendations could you make? I'd like to know what to charge for my time, post processing, prints.
I own a D300/D700, 80 1.8, 60 2.8, 70-200 2.8, 11-16 2.8.
I'm sure I can product some quality stuff but I don't want to rip her off and I'd of course not like to rip myself off. I'd like to be very reasonable being this is my first "pro" event and would like for her to spread the word.
Thanks a bunch!
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#1. "RE: First Communion" | In response to Reply # 0aldewitt Registered since 16th May 2008Thu 12-Feb-09 12:59 PM
There are more than just technical issues here. First, do you have a valid business license and authority to collect sales tax where you live? Doing the Pop-Warner thing you're not likely to raise any eyebrows, but the devil is in the details when you start doing shooting for money. You have to have a valid business authority or if you screw up and get sued, you'll have a much harder time defending. You could also be cited for operating a business without a license and be sued by the state for failure to collect (and pay) sales tax. So that's the first thing you need to think about.
Secondly, what business structure are you in? Are you in a limited liability company (you can form one in most states in a day and thereby protect yourself from personal liability). If not, you need to form one. All it takes is one of the little angels tripping over your tripod or some other thing you don't plan for, to land you in court defending a damages lawsuit. You don't want your home and personal assets exposed, especially when nearly every homeowners policy excludes business pursuits. If it costs you $500 to form a company and another $500 or so for business insurance (you want a Comprehensive General Liability policy), you're already building in overhead that you're going to need to factor in to your costs. By the way, I would shy away from the Nevada Corporate Network or these other companies that set up your company in "tax free Nevada." If you do business in your state, you may still have to register and pay as big a fee as if you'd formed it in your state. Add to that the fact that the companies can't give you legal advice (whereas a local lawyer can, and has likely helped scores of people form similar ventures) and you are not getting what you are paying for.
Then there's the issue of warranty. Are you warranting your work? If you are not disclaiming the warranty of merchantability and fitness for particular purpose in your contract (please, tell me you have a contract), then you leave yourself open for someone who doesn't like the photos not to pay for them. Worse, they could sue for breach of warranty: "they made my little angel look fat in thses photos." Yes, people do this kind of craziness. Ask any lawyer. Warranties must be disclaimed in LARGE TYPE and usally in boldface to be valid under the Uniform Commercial Code. This is where a lawyer could assist you.
So, if you're going to do this kind of work as a hobby or as a sideline business, you have to price your services just like a professional. That means you have to recover your costs and build in some for profit. Also, there is a lot of truth to the observation that people will generally think they have received a very good service if they pay a very good price for it. Since these are friends and family asking, it's good to have two sets of prices. The "non-friend" price (which might get you excluded if someone's looking for a bargain), and the "friend price" which is a significant reduction down to a level that allows you to recover just your basic costs. With respect to setting these prices, what do other photographers charge? Have you called and asked what they would charge to do a First Communion? If Photographer A says 200, and Photographer B says 350, you could set your price for your time at 175 and know that you were the least expensive of the bunch.
As an aside, do you know how to get the best angles? Do you know where to position yourself? Have you considered working as an unpaid assistant to a local photographer doing a couple of weddings or other events to gain some valuable experience? There are a lot of things to consider, and you may find that working for a while as a photographer for some other venture is time well spent.
The real question is, are you going to go after this as a business, or are you just looking to pick up a little extra cash? If the answer is the former, sit down with a book on business planning (and pick up the two or three books at Borders that cover photography businesses) and figure it out and do it right. If the answer is that you're just after the quick cash and don't want to do this routinely, then rethink the entire proposition. You could wind up with liability and other issues, you could get cited for operating a business without a license, and might wind up paying a lot more for doing a favor than you realize.
I hope this helps.
A. L. DeWitt
Jefferson City, MO
Cameras allow us to share the beauty in God's creation with others.
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#2. "RE: First Communion" | In response to Reply # 1Secondlaw Registered since 01st Dec 2008Thu 12-Feb-09 10:46 PM
I'd just like to thank everyone for your valued responses and an extra thanks to, A. L. DeWitt for filling me in on some other stuff that I had not even considered. A. L., I appreciate the time you took to explain some of the legalities that I might encounter. You really never know what might and could happen.
In my state, it's pretty expensive to form a corporation + even if you don't make money, they figure they'll tax you anyway. Forming in another state might be the only affordable option if I decide on moving forward, but I will certainly take what you had to say and apply it to the overall picture.
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#3. "RE: First Communion" | In response to Reply # 2Tom B Registered since 08th Jan 2006Sat 14-Feb-09 10:47 PM
I haves shot pictures at 1st Communions and Confirmations and the one thing that can be an issue is the flash which some Priest do not allow. After mass and it should not be problem.
How is the lighting in the Church? The act of 1st Communion is fast and people are moving around and you have to be quick to get the shot and not disturb the mass.
Group shots are nice if you can get the kids together.
Other shots are with family (Mom & Dad) on the alter and a shot with the Priest and Deacon if there is one in the parish.
A rosary draped around the child's hands is also a nice portrait shot.
If the alter has a cross, it makes a great background.