There’s an obvious difference between a Canon Powershot and a Hasselblad, but we all know that it’s not the equipment that makes the photographer. Should you make more money just because you have better equipment?
Or should the equipment become trivial, since your talents are what matters and that's how you set your prices? A great example from last week is the "Blood Dress" photo that was shot on an entry level DSLR and a cheap 50mm lens.
There are two schools of thought here, setting aside charging per hour or at a fixed rate. There are also pros and cons on both sides of the fence.
1. Renting Equipment You Already Own to Yourself
Say you’ll be shooting on your Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. To rent this from Brain Box in Los Angeles, it’ll cost $125 for the body and $45 for the lens — a pretty standard price. So, your equipment is worth $170, and you charge the client an extra $170 every day that you use the gear. The thinking behind this is that the equipment costs money, and it is a separate service from your photography. The client is renting the equipment and then paying you to use it. If they need you to use a wider lens, you can rent a 14mm f/2.8 for $45, but you don’t see a dime of this.
So, let's do the math.
If you do four shoots a week with a $170 camera fee, then you’ve made $680 that week. You will have paid for your equipment in about five weeks. So, in a year, you’ve made about $6,000 in profit on a $3,500 setup. It’s understandable why this method can be appealing. When a client is requesting to use your equipment, there will be wear and tear it, and you may also be paying for insurance. However, is this not the cost of running a business? This brings us to our second school of thought.
2. Offering Your Equipment for Free
The client gets quoted a flat fee for the shoot, and there is no distinction between you and your equipment. You can offer them every piece of equipment you have, and they can decide if they want it or not. Extra lights? No problem. A bigger tripod? Bring it just in case.
This way, there is less of a limitation on your creative ideas. Imagine saying: “I would love to use a black backdrop, but that will cost you $25.” With this method, you have a greater chance of getting the perfect shot. If they need a specialized product, then sure, you’ll need to hire it and pass the cost on. Right now, I’ve got a Sony FS7 sitting beside me, because a client needs to shoot in slow motion this week. I picked it up at a rental house after the client agreed to pay for it.
Where do you stand? Maybe it changes with every job you undertake. Personally, I opt for option two; however, I’ll emphasize that my equipment is free because my flat price is inflated. Overall, it may come down to not milking the client for everything they have. A client should not be paying for every business expense you have (like the cost of your Lightroom subscription). Nobody wants to get a bill that’s inflated by made-up costs. However, if you’re shooting on a Canon 5D Mark III, you should get paid more than the amateur photographer shooting on a Canon Powershot.