Rates, Travel Fees & Discounts

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of photographers are getting slammed with ridiculous travel fees.  Add that into the constant complaints about how models often say “my rates are reasonable” and the rates turn out to be just the opposite, as well as the complaints about models who say they’re negotiable and aren’t, and… yea  :/  Anyway, I figured I’d blog some thoughts on rates and explain how I do things.  I feel like my system is pretty professional and easy to work with.

When do you discuss rates?
I like to discuss rates and negotiate before even scheduling a shoot.  I work with the people interested in working with me to come up with a rate that suits their project and budget before we start figuring out the rest.  That way, there are no surprises for those folks I’m working with, and they don’t have to worry about suddenly not being able to afford me, or having a last-minute travel cost added on.

What are your modeling rates and what do they include?
My hourly rate is currently $50 per hour for modeling.  There’s no minimum to the amount of time I’m booked, but I do ask that folks interested in booking me take travel time into consideration.  I’m not likely going to like driving 2 hours each way for a 1-hour shoot.  My rate is flat for everything from commercial-lifestyle to fashion, and includes swimwear, lingerie, and limited implied nudity.  I do not shoot sheer lingerie or any nudes, so that’s a non-issue.  And don’t forget, the clock starts when I arrive on set, so I ask that photographers be conscious of that when planning.

How do you factor in travel costs?
My base rate includes up to 25 miles of travel, and past that I charge 51 cents per additional mile (which is the IRS mileage rate for 2011).  I work all this out on an individual basis before booking, so that the number quoted is as accurate as possible.  Quite often, I ask photographers for addresses or nearest intersections to their studios, so I can map things out in advance, and make sure that I’m not going to slap them in the face with a “oh, by the way, it’s an extra $60 for travel” the night before a shoot.  That’s just not cool, and I certainly wouldn’t appreciate it being done to me.

How did you set your modeling rates?
I initially set rates a couple years ago, when a combination of two things happened.  One, I started being asked for rates fairly regularly, and two, I was being offered more trade work than my schedule would allow.  I asked a few models in my area what their rates were, in an effort to be competitive.  I also started lower than my current rate, and built up based on both my experience level and how valuable my time is.  I do periodically review my rates and the marketplace, and look at what I’m offering compared to other models of my caliber, and adjust if necessary.

You offer discounts?  Do tell!
I offer discounts to students, because I remember what it was like to be eating Ramen for weeks to get a pair of shoes something I really wanted.  The student discount varies based on numerous things, so I can’t give an exact number.  But if you’re a student and are interested in hiring me, drop me a line and we’ll talk 😉

I also offer discounts when I’m booked by a single photographer in 4-hour blocks (half day) and 8-hour blocks (full day).  Typically, instead of charging $200 for a 4-hour shoot, I charge just $150, which is, essentially, like getting a free hour.  For 8-hour shoots, instead of charging $400, I charge $325, which is a $75 discount (it’s like a free hour and a half).

I have also offered discounts to photographers who are located less than 5 miles from me, or who hire me and then shoot at a location that’s that close.  I offer a 25% discount off my hourly rate for nearby shoots, which means it’s just $37.50 an hour if we’re shooting just 5 miles from my location.

Can multiple photographers split your rates?
I allow up to 4 photographers to book me as the sole model for a shoot for either a half day or full day.  I do not, however, offer the same discount for multiple-photographer bookings that I offer for single photographers.  Why no discount?  Because you’re splitting the $200 or $400 between up to 4 people, which makes it cheaper per person all around.

I ask that no more than 4 photographers book me at once because more than 4 photographers proves to be too many photographers, and means I can’t spend much time posing for each one.  I like to make sure that, when I’m hired, photographers are getting their money’s worth.

How willing to negotiate are you?
I’m pretty open to negotiating, or at the very least, discussing options.  I know things are tough and that many photographers are hobbyists.  The most common negotiation I do is working in exchange for wardrobe or wardrobe plus heavily discounted rates.  Sometimes, this is wardrobe purchased by the photographer and worn at the shoot, then given to me.  Other times, it’s wardrobe in the form of a giftcard, so that I can purchase stuff later on (not necessarily for use on that particular shoot or with that specific photographer).  I always tell photographers not to be afraid to ask models (or me in particular) about negotiating, because chances are, we’re open to it.  If you have something to offer, I won’t know unless you put it on the table!

Do you require deposits to book?
Typically, I don’t.  Though if I were traveling to your area specific to shoot, I would require a retainer, which would be applied to the final total.  I might also require a deposit or retainer to secure a date if a photographer had cancelled on me before.  This is, of course, something I look at on a case-by-case basis.

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