Another (Bad) Option: Mention your Day Rate in the Email

by Heather on December 2, 2009

*** Clarification: what I’m talking about below is NOT a good idea and NOT something I endorse. If you value yourself as a photographer, you will never ever do this.

Just ’cause we are all (and I mean all) talking about the best strategy to get clients today, I thought I’d share an email that I received this afternoon (names and details have been removed to protect the innocent- and likely very successful photographer):


My name is XXXXXX XXXXXX and I am a XXXXX photographer who specializes in XXXXX and XXXXX.

I got your contact info from Workbook and wanted to offer my services to any of your clients.

My new studio day rate is 1K per day.

Take a look at my website and feel free to contact me any time for a bid.

Thanks for your time,


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Simon December 2, 2009 at 11:28 pm

“…and likely very successful photographer”

Is that an endorsement of this tactic?

j/k :)

David December 3, 2009 at 12:10 am

I’ll do it for $995!

Heather December 3, 2009 at 12:12 am

Not an endorsement at all, just speculation. Low-balling is not something that I support- it devalues the art you do and therefore, the job that we, as Art Buyers do too.

Art Buyers try their hardest to protect photographers (and of course the work) from the client’s inclination to go with the cheapest bid. But, I’m sure this kind of message is welcome in some sectors of our industry.

I am curious about the mention that this is his “new” rate. What was it before? Why the change?

Debra Weiss December 3, 2009 at 12:17 am

Any photographer would be ill advised to follow this route. To begin, the term “day rate” is based on an antiquated business model and should never be used. Further, this so called “successful photographer” is offering himself up at $1000.00 per day without any knowledge of what the job might entail and the scope of the usage. What happens if the job is really worth $30,000 or $100? I guess he wouldn’t be too successful then.

The idea that not only would someone offer this, but that a blogger with a following of photographers suggest that this is a good idea is rather infuriating.

Intellectual property is not “one size fits all”. Subscribing to the notion that this is a viable and worthwhile strategy does nothing but further erode this industry and photographers’ chances of survival.

Heather December 3, 2009 at 8:35 am

Whoa, Debra, I was being facetious. As I’ve said in a follow up comment, this is NOT a good idea and NOT something I endorse at all! But I thought some shooters might like to see that some of their membership is doing it.

Debra Weiss December 3, 2009 at 11:13 am

Heather – I wrote my comment before you posted your response to Simon. Very happy to see you’ve since included “BAD”in your title.

peter December 3, 2009 at 11:21 am

Tell me more about this ‘membership’ you speak of….

Heather December 3, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Look guys, this is serious and perhaps I shouldn’t have been so flippant in posting this email.

Let’s review: basically a photographer sends out a generic email offering his services for a day rate of $1000. He did not include any images of his work, just the message: “Hire me because I’m cheap”. Full disclosure: I clicked through because I was hoping that he would be terrible, that good photographers would not devalue themselves in this way. I will not share his work with you but you can believe me when I say that it is not the calibre of work that I would want for any of my clients. Phew.

But, keep in mind that I work for major ad agencies with big clients. What about everyone else? Perhaps, if I was a small agency with a tiny local client with a very specific and easy need (ie. a simple shot), this kind of day rate would be very appealing- and I might not care about the quality. Sad and wrong but still, possibly true.

I get a bit frustrated when I hear photographers complain that clients are demanding that they waive the usage fee or that other photographers are low-balling and driving day/usage rates down. What I find frustrating about this isn’t the complaint itself, it’s when that complaint is leveled at me, as if I can fix this situation. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to fix this but it just does not happen in my world. My clients know they need to pay usage and I will fight for the right photographer, regardless of his/her day rate (within reason of course- see past posts on Cost Consultants etc). For the most part, my clients value good photography and know that they need to pay for the artistic integrity that goes into making it.

But there is a whole other level of direct-to-client and small agency work that may not take this role so seriously. If you are competing at that level- with these shooters, you need to be aware that this kind of undercutting is going on. And in my opinion you need to stop it. Because I’m not undervaluing your work- you are by agreeing to these tactics. Say no. Start a union. Something!

In my world, your work is the most important factor when considering you for a job. Of course cost plays a part but your work is what the job ultimately hinges on.

So… you need to decide what kind of photographer you want to be. If you want to work in my world, do kick ass photography and keep your costs competitive (high enough but not too high) but sustainable (for the industry as well as for yourself).

But, if you’re after the turn-key, catalogue jobs, you may need to be clear on who you’re competing against (like XXXX above) and I would recommend refusing to devalue your work, even when pressured to do so. Otherwise the price the client is willing to pay will alway go down- there will always be someone willing to do it for less then you (illustrated facetiously by David above).

I think what I forgot to mention to you when I originally posted this is that (again, in my world), I would never take this shooter seriously. A low day rate can harm you almost as much as a high day rate. As soon as I saw this email I thought: Oh, my readers need to see this- they won’t believe it but they need to see this.

But, like the parental talk about drugs, I don’t want you to misinterpret my “sharing” as giving you a good business plan to pursue. Those evil drugs are out there and you do not want to have any part of them. Do we understand each other?

Debra Weiss December 3, 2009 at 1:25 pm

“Because I’m not undervaluing your work- you are by agreeing to these tactics.

This is absolutely correct. Everything that has happened to photographers has taken place with their permission.

“Say no.”

No is the most important word in the English language, however, it is important to know how to say no and the work has to be able to back
up the “NO”.

“”Start a union. ”

In order to be a moember of a union, one must be an employee and photographers would not retain control of their copyright. That is how it would be in the US. I know Canadian copyright laws are different, so not sure what would be required for unionization in Canada.

It is distressing to hear the term “day rate” used so frequently especially in conjunction with usage. They are two completely different business models. This is just further evidence of the licensing model not really being understood.

danno watts December 4, 2009 at 1:40 pm

maybe the “start a union” doesn’t have to be so literal in the true sense of a union, but maybe instead a collective of photographers who band together for the good of photographers and have an agreement to not take shitty rates or horrible terms in contracts, heck for some areas that would mean photographers having their OWN contracts ( sad, but so true ).


nicolle c December 4, 2009 at 9:22 pm


Phoenix Photographers Unite!! Let’s do it Danno!!

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