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A word on pricing and copyright

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Something that both clients and other photographers are curious about is why I structure my pricing so differently to other photographers, so I thought I would talk a bit about why I chose this way and touch on copyright which plays a part of it.

Model: Tomasina. Photographer: Brett Sargeant, D-eye Photography Model: Tomasina

As part of a photo session I want to be able to take the time with clients to help them be comfortable, so that they end up with the best photos. For many clients it is their first time posing nude or in lingerie, so they are understandably nervous. If I need to extend the shoot so that the client can relax I want to be able to do so.

Model: ┼×eker Pare. Photographer: Brett Sargeant, D-eye Photography Model: ┼×eker Pare

This led me to choosing to operate as a low volume business. The high volume alternative would have left me with pressure to finish each shoot in the shortest possible time then moving on to the next, which is not conducive to being comfortable or the artistic process.

Model: Ivory Flame. Photographer: Brett Sargeant, D-eye Photography Model: Ivory Flame

So that left the next major choice, how would I structure the price of my product? I looked around at the options, and the most usual one is to charge a low session fee for the photo session, then to charge a per print or digital image fee with a high mark up to cover business costs. This relies on an ability to sell, and on clients buying a certain number of prints from the session.

Model: DuncanL. Photographer: Brett Sargeant, D-eye Photography Model: DuncanL

I thought about this for a while and it did not make me very comfortable. For my part I am not very comfortable selling, and from a client perspective it means you don't know up front how much you are going to spend.

Model: Joshua Seven. Photographer: Brett Sargeant, D-eye Photography Model: Joshua Sevem

There was one other factor that I didn't like about it, in that it requires the client to assign the copyright for the images to the photographer. Under Australian copyright law, if you hire someone to take a photo of you for domestic purposes, you are the copyright owner—which means you can edit, print, copy and do any number of things with those images apart from using them commercially. The photographer as the creator has some rights, but unless you have assigned the copyright of the photos to them or come to some other agreement, they can't stop you from doing those things. That at least is my understanding of how copyright applies in Australia (overseas is different). The idea of having someone assign the copyright to me, then selling some or all of the prints back to them was something I didn't like.

Model: Anon. Photographer: Brett Sargeant, D-eye Photography Model: Anon

So where did that leave me? I wanted a way where the client would know what they will be paying for before we start, in a way that they could retain their rights, be able to email photos to friends and relatives interstate or overseas if they choose to, print out copies for relatives who are not online, retain their privacy (particularly important in Canberra), allow me to take extra time with the client if it's required, to cover the amount of time involved in processing the photos and the expenses involved in running a business.

Model: Tammy. Photographer: Brett Sargeant, D-eye Photography Model: Tammy

I decided that the method that best suited me was to charge a commission that covered my artistic services in creating artwork in my style of you and for you, delivered in a digital package.

Model: Pep Ryan. Photographer: Brett Sargeant, D-eye Photography Model: Pep Ryan

Doing so means I hand over control of what happens to that artwork and who sees it to you. Sometimes that can be painful as I would really love to show the world the photos, but that is part of the artistic price I pay in providing a service to you.

Model: Alison McGregor. Photographer: Brett Sargeant, D-eye Photography Model: Alison McGregor

There was a risk involved in setting the pricing this way. Being different to what people are used to from photographers makes it more difficult to compare to other photo studios products and to see the value—particularly when you are often only seeing the initial session fee in competing products. However it makes more sense to me on both a personal and business level.

Model: Caroline. Photographer: Brett Sargeant, D-eye Photography Model: Caroline

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