Many thanks for the valuable feedback on photo books – it helps to focus the mind when respected colleagues offer an informed view. So here’s another one and again, I have to concede this is another ‘fishing trip’ for different perspectives (as I seem to have lost mine completely!)
Thank to geography as much as anything, I’ve never been a regular speaker on the camera club or natural history group circuit. Most places are just a long way from where I live. But I know plenty of photographers who ‘speak’ regularly and seemingly at least, are happy with whatever fee they can negotiate. My experience is that most smaller clubs simply cannot afford to pay what I would consider to be an appropriate fee. So what is an ‘appropriate’ fee for a speaking commission?
Let’s assume the talk has to be assembled – or at least tailored and tweaked from a previous presentation. That’s one day taken care of. It has to be rehearsed or at least test-run – another half day. In my case almost everywhere involves a decent drive and by the time travel and delivery is factored in, that’s another day gone. So we’re looking at two days minimum already. Projector (£2,000), laptop (£1200), speaker system (£800) and for me, external AV help (thanks John) – these all have to be accounted for too. And this doesn’t even touch on the years of investment gathering the images/stories which the audience wants to see and hear.
All of a sudden the £75, or £100, or arguably even £500 that the average ‘club’ is able to offer, just doesn’t stack up. Like most photographers, I do some talks for free. They might be good causes, organisations I support or one-off events where, for whatever reason, you want to show your images (we’re all show-offs at heart). Increasingly however, I’m struggling to justify the time against the fee. I’m also increasingly annoyed with myself for ‘apologising’ for quoting a figure which I’ve come to know will shock the enquirer; I feel somehow that I should offer a discount, or at the very least, an explanation. Why?
Photographers, like most in the wider field of ‘wildlife’ or conservation, are under-valued – always have been. That’s something that I accept to a degree, but I don’t accept that my time (along with a decent amount of experience) is any less valuable simply because I choose work that others might consider to be simply ‘fun’.
So back to the question: how much should we charge? To be honest I’m not entirely sure but for what it’s worth, here’s what I do.
My standard fee is £650 + vat + travel. I reduce that to £350 ++ for ‘charities’ and/or good causes and if I’m pushed (which invariably I am), I’ll agree to £250++. I have little idea of how this compares with others (I hope you’ll tell me) but irrespective of how accomplished a speaker and/or photographer you are, the time investment alone makes this a good deal by anyone’s standards.
So is my diary full of speaking engagements? Well no, to be frank. But it’s not empty either and that suits me fine. Some organisations – mainly outwith the traditional ‘conservation’ sector – are happy to pay a realistic fee and where that is the case, I’m delighted to take the booking. I recently delivered a talk and was offered a ‘standard’ fee of £1500. For me that was very much the exception but proves nevertheless, that an audience exists and is willing to pay realistically. It really isn’t about the money; it’s about being valued and there’s a BIG difference.
Against the backdrop of falling sales across almost all sectors in this business, my view is that we shouldn’t buckle on this front. There are some fantastic speakers, images and stories out there just waiting to be told. Anyone who attended Wildphotos recently will I’m sure, attest to that. I’m not suggesting a militant uprising by the hard-line mavericks of our small industry, but I am suggesting that if we continue to under-value ourselves, we can’t blame our potential customers for doing the same.