Advice - Photography / Digital pricing

For both photographer and client, digital technology can produce results that are better - but not cheaper. The main advantage at every stage in digital workflow, from taking the pictures through processing, transmission, picture research and page make up to archiving and retrieval, is speed and efficiency.

But it is no more possible to produce consistently professional photographs with the office pocket compact than it is to produce a magazine with a desktop inkjet printer.

Clients tend to see only savings in film processing, not the high investment and running costs necessary for digital production. Photographers switching from film to digital technology face investment in cameras which are more expensive but have shorter working lives, computer equipment and software capable of working to the highest colour management standards but requiring equally rapid replacement, the continuing expense of high speed transmission & digital archiving, and then the time involved in producing colour corrected press ready digital files.

These costs have to be met with digital pricing. Photographers have quickly devised different ways of achieving this. Some charge a digital surcharge on top of their commission fee, some charge for film replacement based on the film & processing that would have been necessary to produce the same results, some charge for digital services, some develop a combination of these approaches. All have their merits, all have the same aim in mind.

This guide concentrates on the last of these three, because charging for actual digital services provided will stand the test of time, whereas when film has disappeared from daily use - and the time is not far off - surcharges on "film" commission fees and "film replacement" costs will cease to have any real meaning. Clients can only be expected to pay for what photographers are supplying.

These costs are listed under Production Charges and Expenses.

They are also discussed at much greater length in The NUJ Guide to Charging for Digital Imaging.

It is not possible to work to the highest digital standards without charging appropriately. Nor is it possible to justify these prices without working to the highest standards. The speed of technological change has created confusion not just about pricing, but also about exactly what digital standards can replace the certainty of a colour transparency on the light table.

A consensus is now emerging and has resulted in a number of attempts at practical guidelines. The following examples establish standards essential to those supplying and commissioning digital photography: first, in the UK: Pic 4 Press; and second, those from the US-based but increasingly international UPDIG Working Group - see the links below.

More advice and links...
* pic4press guidelines from Periodical Publishers' Association
* Rates for the Job good, bad and ugly
* Join the NUJ to get individual advice & representation

Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.