View Full Version : Charging For Film

2-Feb-2008, 01:29
For those who shoot 35mm and the standard being around $40 a roll, what do you guys charge clients for LF film? Do you do it by the box or sheet?

domenico Foschi
2-Feb-2008, 01:57
You are not mentioning what kind of assignment.
I never charge by the number of film used.
I charge for service and the prints are extra.

2-Feb-2008, 02:41
I never heard of charging per roll. What's the point? Would you pay a lawyer for pencils and paper?

2-Feb-2008, 05:15
On commercial assignments, I am usually shooting 4x5 chrome.

I do charge for the film with processing built in at $12.00 per sheet, at my current costs for both. The rate will increase as my cost factors per sheet increases.

I am usually doing instant film testing as well at $5.00 per sheet.

Don't forget to add a separate shipping fee for FedEx or UPS unless your lab is within walking distance of your front door.

I feel you have every right and reason to make these charges since you've got to order the product, pay for it, pay for the shipping to the lab and back plus their processing fees, and then often have to pay for shipping out to the client. You are investing your own cash out of pocket as well as a very large amount of your time, or that of a paid employee, in handling this part of the services for your client.

To try to build these fees into the overall hourly cost structure doesn't seen realistic to me since you might shoot a dozen sheets in a hour for a table top catalog assignment where you you could quickly interchange items on a same background, but spend half a day lighting a room in a hotel and only expose three sheets. To charge you day or hourly rate for services, plus expense fees by material actually used seems to be the only fair billing or both you and your client.

To me, it's pretty much the same as adding mileage for an out of town assignment. You don't charge that for an in studio assignment, but when you travel 100 miles to shoot on location, you bill that to the client at the current allowable rates along with your other travel expenses for lodging and meals. Bill out what you use wither way.

In portraiture (roll film) it is easier to predict how much film you will use and figure that in as part of a sliding scale for the type of session or sitting fee that you charge based on numbers of changes of clothing, number of locations, etc.

In either genre, prints are always extra.

Kevin Crisp
2-Feb-2008, 07:56
Charging for pencils and paper, I hadn't thought of that...

Colin Corneau
2-Feb-2008, 10:25
There are two ways of looking at that situation.

One is to look at the work you do in terms of physical materials - charging for film, chemistry, etc. That's fair.

The other is to look at the photography you do in terms of a service rendered - the client is paying for your expertise in providing a solution to their need...in this case, providing appropriate images.

If you charge for expertise, materials are irrelevant - that's all part of your intellectual fee. It's easier to get clients to pay for materials since this is what most people understand; it's easy to grasp the idea of getting a new clutch for your car, for example.

However, if you care about copyright or intellectual property rights for your work, then you would want to consider it in terms of your creative expertise...after all, once the client pays for the film or paper, then they can do whatever they want with it (including making copies or using it in other ways that make them, not you, money)...right?

Brian Ellis
2-Feb-2008, 10:33
I never heard of charging per roll. What's the point? Would you pay a lawyer for pencils and paper?

Damn. I should have thought of that.

tim atherton
2-Feb-2008, 10:38
However, if you care about copyright or intellectual property rights for your work, then you would want to consider it in terms of your creative expertise...after all, once the client pays for the film or paper, then they can do whatever they want with it (including making copies or using it in other ways that make them, not you, money)...right?

In most places - US, UK, wherever, no they can't do whatever they like with it

Basically, it doesn't matter if the client pays directly for the film and paper or not - they usually haven't paid for the copyright as well - the photographer still owns that.

(except good old Canada that is... unless your agreement is to the contrary - which mine always are - or until the government finally passes the copyright revision that has fallen by the wayside each time it's come towards a vote...)

tim atherton
2-Feb-2008, 10:39
Charging for pencils and paper, I hadn't thought of that...

dunno, they charge for photocopies per sheet...

Merg Ross
2-Feb-2008, 10:54
My method was similar to that of Domenico. A day rate or assignment rate which incorporated all of the materials and processing. The real money was in print orders, color or back and white, and often in reproduction rights. It seemed more professional to keep the mechanics of the assignment up to the photographer and to base the rate accordingly. At least this worked well for me.

2-Feb-2008, 11:05
thanks for the info

for those who know John Harrington here is his reason from his website

"Why film is priced higher than your local K-Mart store:

It is essential to have film on hand that is known to be color pure for your shoot, whenever it might take place. Most film stock preferred by clients and photographers is very unstable in the normal aging process. Some stocks can acquire a severe green or purple bias while the film is sitting on the store shelf, or as a by product of careless manufacturing and/or handling. In order to minimize this risk to your job, I regularly test new emulsions that come on the market.

This usually requires a half day or more of set-up under a controlled situation, assistance, and messengers to and from the lab. It also requires the purchase of the film for the test. Frequently, the test is quite comprehensive, using many sample lighting situations to simulate conditions found on locations, including a gray card and a Macbeth ColorChecker.

The tests, therefore, are often lengthy. To make sure enough film is on hand to begin and finish your job, a sizable quantity of good (tested) film must be purchased and refrigerated at additional cost (electricity for a year to run the refrigerator and five square feet of prime real estate to house it). The money I spend to purchase tested film for storage is non-earning income advanced and dedicated to the service of my clients. While professional labs are usually reliable, disastrous accidents can happen. I maximize your protection by splitting the developing order into two runs. This requires additional messengers and bookkeeping. Plus, I insure your exposed film throughout the assignment to cover the cost of a reshoot should the film be lost or stolen. This is an extra cost item, which is again apportioned in the processing costs.

Most clients also prefer to have their jobs well-edited, labeled and presented to them on plastic viewing sheets. This is a service that takes time and money to perform. Since some clients use more film than others, all of these extra costs are apportioned by charging an additional percentage for each roll used. This is the reason for marking up the cost of film & processing.

In other words, there are many hidden extra costs to the production of consistent quality color and insurance against Murphy's Law. I believe that it is appropriate and fair to provide for the proportionate sharing of these costs by the mark-up system, applied directly to the product that incurs the extra cost.

Be assured that film-markup is not a profit center, but a fair and sound business practice designed to allow continued diligence in protecting your best interests. "

David Karp
2-Feb-2008, 11:13
When I was a marketing manager my photographer always charged us for the film used (including Polaroid) and the processing. The price charged was his price for the materials. The rest, film sleeves, overhead for calling and dealing with the lab, ordering the film, etc., was covered by the price for the job. This could have been by the hour, or a negotiated price.

Gordon Moat
2-Feb-2008, 12:04
I do charge for all film and processing. Sometimes that is incorporated into the fee, so the direct or exact amounts are not visible. Other times the exact costs are listed as expense items. Some other advertising shooters I know charge mark-ups on film, processing, or materials, but I do not. This is more for convenience, in that I have no need for calculating Sales Tax (Texas or California)(Note: several other aspects, but too lengthy to explain here).

With large format film, I charge film cost usually per each box. That applies whether or not an entire box is used. The reason is that each box is a batch, and each assignment (usually) starts on a fresh batch. If there are left-over packets, those might go towards other uses.

If you don't want to list film or processing expenses, you should at least incorporate it into what you are charging. Whether or not you mark-up your materials, to take an additional profit, is something for each individual to decide.


Gordon Moat Photography (http://www.gordonmoat.com)

Henry Ambrose
2-Feb-2008, 13:56
I think you should charge enough for the job that the film costs are absorbed in the total price - same for day or hourly rates. I'll even go so far as to say that the itemized bill of fare should have died out decades ago. Its a hold over from freelance newspaper and magazine work where the fee is often too small to cover anything including your time. Its a way to squeeze a few dollars out of a bean counter who is trying to squeeze dollars out of a photographer. It might also be a sign that you're working so cheap that your profit comes from a mark up on film and processing.

In my opinion your fee should cover all your bases. If you know what you're about you'll have a good idea of how long it will take and how much film you'll need to get the job done. Clients want -photographs- and most of them want to know how much the bottom line cost will be to use of the photos you make for them.

Exceptions might be where you have to rent unusual equipment like a big scissors lift or huge amounts of generators. Of course we're talking about dinosaur land here as these days most commercial work is done digitally and the photographer has a different problem of how to charge out the cost of $25,000 backs and digital captures fees.

This is not that much different from a truck driver figuring out how to pay for his rig. Do you get a freight bill that itemizes the driver's maintenance expenses? Last time I flew the airlines didn't charge me a rental fee on the plane I rode in or a separate bill for jet fuel. They just sold me a plane ride.

I do break out travel expenses but otherwise I charge one fee and make pictures with previously agreed upon usage rights. How I make the pictures is my business. Later if they need more use I charge again for that new transaction.

Gene McCluney
2-Feb-2008, 15:13
I am a commercial photographer, I shoot products for reproduction. I charge an hourly fee for my services in addition to the materials used. I do my own in-house processing to be able to offer speedy service to my clients. This in-house processing is not an inexpensive service to maintain, but there is no other alternative, since I am in middle-America in a relatively small town and market.

I charge for materials the following:

4x5 color transparency $40
4x5 polaroid test $7.99

Medium format roll (120) transparencies 1 roll, film & processing $45.00
Medium-format polaroid test $7.99

Roll of 35mm slides, film process & mount & Page sleeve $45.00
(I just mount the best exposures)

I should also add that it is ME, (Me, myself and I) that does all the work, from set-up, shooting, and then processing, and then scanning when requested.

This system of labor + materials has worked for me for over 30 years. I don't feel any pressure to "hurry up" since I am charging for my skills (and studio overhead) by the hour, and I don't feel the need to restrict or expand my film usage. I shoot just what is needed. Some jobs I can work all day setting up one shot, other days I can shoot 2 dozen shots. When I go to process, I have my processing mark-up (profit) built into the cost of the film & processing charges. I don't charge a labor charge for my time in the darkroom.

I should also add, that the type of photography I do, product photos for specific manufacturers is not one that lends itself to the selling of rights, as the photos would have no use to any other client other than the one requesting the shots. I do reserve the right to use any photos I take for self-promotion though (Portfolio)

Gordon Moat
3-Feb-2008, 12:48
I agree with Henry about the itemized bill aspect. Just keep in mind that each state in the US might have different wants in how you report certain aspects of your business. Just to give an example, if you pay more in Sales Taxes than what you bill out, then the State of California will not refund you any of that; in other words, less than zero becomes zero when calculating Sales and Use Taxes. After sending in a few of those to the state, showing zero, they sent me a letter indicating I did not need a Resale Permit. There are other aspects to this, but basically you should check with your state tax officials, or ask your accountant.

Whether or not you mark-up your expenses, or pass them on at your cost, and whether or not they are incorporated in your fees, you should be prepared to explain to an auditor how everything is derived. Keep accurate records of everything.

There are certain aspects of the professional photography realm that are changing. Usage is one aspect. The older day-rate method is less often in use, though I have also heard of location-rate basis. Obviously, there is no one method of figuring out how to charge, nor what to charge. In graphic design and illustration, there is the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook, which lists many types of assignments, and gives ranges of what to charge, all based upon surveys throughout the industry. This avoids anti-trust issues in that it is survey based. Unfortunately, no such guide book exists in commercial photography, though Foto Quote sort of attempts to list some prices based upon surveys. It is a shame that professional photography is so unorganized, and poorly mentored. My suggestion to anyone contemplating pricing for any commercial work, is to try various sources, including PDN, ASMP, APA, EP, et al, and try to find a balance that keeps you profitable. Best of luck.


Gordon Moat Photography (http://www.gordonmoat.com)