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Photography Ain’t Cheap, Charge Wisely

Let's start off with a statement and you can decide if it makes sense later. There are two kinds of photographers, those that bring in the volume and those that shoot for clients who appreciates it.

I have been doing commissions for photography assignment since 2008, mostly for three kinds of genre. Namely portraitures, event photography and product photography. I will break it down briefly of how I charge, share a little of encounters and then discuss the various kinds of clients I encountered. Disclaimer: There will be some real-work scenarios/examples of clients being shared.

Portraiture is my favourite genre as I believe many of my clients can see in my portfolio. Well, I even dedicated a whole tab to it on my website. There were distinctive styles I did in early days and those shots have been shared around in various social platforms and personal social accounts. My clientele grew due to that - I even had clients messaged me to asking for my quote while browsing my work in an MUA’s portfolio, they thought that my style suited them. I started to get referrals for private clients, many from overseas while on work visa or vacation to Singapore. (Needless to say, I lost most of these referrals due to the recent pandemic) My fees went up and I was comfortable in my rates as I have always delivered what my clients want. I would say, if you like my style then let's discuss further.

Digressing a little from the original topic. Nowadays the enormous impact Instagram had dealt into the photography scene had made a lot of styles more suited for ‘Instagram Worthy’ post. Frankly, I didn’t really felt comfortable with the whole IG thing and had never really jumped onto the bandwagon. I have a long-time friend who use photos taken with her handphone, edit with extreme photo manipulation, top it off that she is quite pretty and curvy – calls herself a photographer and had gained over a million followers within a short period. Getting loads of sponsors to travel the world and ‘take pictures’, which is pretty insane of how Instagram can generate such opportunity for anybody. I have no grudge against such Instagrammers. In fact, I respect them as they worked ridiculously hard for their kind of craft - Just not the art/creative portion in photography.

Event photography had been my staple as I shoot for a lot of media, corporate, D&Ds, galas, private functions, etc. This genre is like a workhorse to me, and it became my bread and butter for a long while. Frankly, my rate for event is the most fluid as I have a range for different type of clients. Not to divulge too much trade secrets but my client pays me for my worth and I get the job done every time. I might have mentioned this story in my previous post. I used to have this corporate client who engages me for a lot of their corporate work such as contract signing, launches and D&D. They have different in-charge for different segments, so I meet different people within this organisation for various assignments. I shot for their D&D for a couple of years - one of the previous in-charge passed my contact to the new committee and they asked for my quote. Upon confirming the rates, date, and location and after sending out the official quote - they came back to me saying that someone in that committee had pushed for another photographer and his rates were cheaper as well. She asked if I could lower my rates, I told her I do not do price wars. In addition, I mentioned as well that due to past working relations, I could give her ‘friendship’ rate but not for this particular D&D. In the end, I lost that job, but I was looking at the bigger picture in my mind. Guess what? A year later, they came back to me again, paid me for my worth (btw, I quoted them higher now) and I get the job done. I asked her what happened to the other photographer which they had chosen over me the previous round. She replied: “don’t talk about that – it was a disaster.”

I will share a quick one on product photography. Product photography is really a ‘hit or miss’ kind of assignment. I could never have enough practice as different product requires different skill set, experience, and gear. All I could say is that my highest-ever paying job came from product photography.

In my opinion, you should work for client who appreciate your services. Who are my best clients? Those who pay well and ask for little! Even though this is rare in Singapore, there are clients who love my work, trust that I deliver and appreciate my effort. Best of all, they can afford it! If only all my clients fall under this category, I would be an extremely happy and successful photographer! This group is classified under S-Rank category of clients.

Next come the A-Rank clients. They appreciate my work, pays well but they are extremely sound in what they are looking for and micro-managing is in their blood - These are tell-tale signs of client falling into this category. Personally, I like this type of client – I respect clients who knows what they want. I have to work hard for it, but I love these challenges! This is by far a hundred times better than clients who doesn’t know what they want.

B-Rank clients are those who ask for little but do not pay much as well. They are either just doing their job of having the need of getting a photographer and/or have too many other duties in their job scope. They like what I do and can afford my rates but will definitely ask for discounts/additional add-ons, etc. They are not bad at all - they form a substantial portion of my clients. In a real word scenario, these clients are good to have and many times they provide stable amounts or repeated work which pays the bills.

C-Rank and below. In short, these are clients where I almost know that I will not be working with them again in the future. They are clients who pays extremely low, are extremely demanding and many times do not know what they want. My sums do not add up and I always feel exhausted every time after shooting for them, not physically but mentally. These clients are bad for my health eventually.

Some obvious signs of such clients include:

  • Asking way too many questions than my average client (Many times, a lot of info can already be found in my website)

  • Extremely paranoid clients who text/calls you at any time just for a simple question. Too many special request and revisions. Though I do mention that I do not have such a thing call ‘weekends’ in my line of work, but there are rest times and boundaries which clients should not step upon

  • ‘Roti-Prata’ clients: In my own experience, these are the most difficult clients. In addition to not knowing what they want, they like to keep changing what was already set. They also ask for addition services and yet wanting to stick to the original quote. Out of respect for myself and the industry, I always let such clients go.

  • Lack of trust: Just something in me or when I sense certain vibe from a client. I do not seem to trust such client on intuition, and it always turned out true. Result of extreme overdue payment, or excuses to lower my payment, etc.

Alternate clients – These are special client whom I either have a relationship with or shooting for certain special purpose. Clients that fall into this category would be long-time friends, good for my portfolio clients (Less now) or ‘For a cause’ kind of clients. I enjoy shooting for this category as I am using my skills for a more meaningful purpose.

Some clients are just never satisfied and are difficult to please. To each on his own. For me, if I am already engaged at that point of time. - I will just suck it up, complete the job and never accept such assignment again. From a marketing/producer/event background, I know that the ‘Show must go on’. Thus, to the best of my ability I will never sabotage any of my client’s assignment.

In conclusion, I got to mention that professional photography gears and maintenance aren’t cheap. You decide if you are the type of photographer that wants to go for volume or quality. Looking forward to many more good years of fun and engaging assignments!

Cheers, Jay.C

Nb: For those who do not know, I am on Vero. htttp://


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