It feels like certain questions just come up time and time again so I have dedicated a section to answering some of the most common ones that I encounter. If you have any other questions, please feel free to hit the Contact link in the navigation menu and shoot me a message. I would be more than happy to respond to your inquiry.

How much do you charge?

I guess we might as well start with the big one. The answer is simply, “It depends.” I get that this is probably not satisfying, but that is the truth. So why bother putting it here? I guess I just wanted to explain WHY it depends.

First of all, I offer a variety of photographic services. One might argue that I ought to simply put a set price on my time, but it is not as simple as that. Depending on the type of photography involved, I might be using more or less gear. There may be more or less post-production time after the fact. In most cases, the actual time spent photographing only represents part of the total time invested in a shoot. The shoot might be on-location or it might be in a studio.

Given the myriad of variables to take into account for each job, it simply does not make much sense for me to put up a list of prices. Each contract is negotiated individually based on the unique circumstances surrounding the job.

What factors do you take into account when determining pricing?

The major factors are as follows:

  1. How much time do I expect to spend photographing?

  2. How much time do I expect to spend editing?

  3. What is the nature of the subject being photographed (buildings, people, food, pets, products, etc.) and what challenges does the subject present?

  4. What resources will be required to do the job? (Also: Do I already own everything I need or do i need to rent something? Is it something that I can do alone or do need to hire an assistant or model?)

  5. Does the client have a clear idea of what they want from the start or is it a more nebulous thing that will require significant experimentation to figure out what the client actually wants?

  6. How much (if any) travel is involved?

  7. Is there an opportunity cost to taking the job? (eg. The job is timed in a manner that would prevent me from taking any other work that day or the job is of a nature that it could alienate other clients.) In the latter instance, I may just decline to do it as I have no desire to create any unnecessary animosity.

  8. What (besides money) am I getting out of this job? (ie. If a particular contract just seems fun, represents an interesting assignment, or provides a unique opportunity for growth, this is something that I take into account because all of these things have their own value that may not be monetary value, but is value nonetheless.)

  9. Is there a charity element or is the job for a good cause?

  10. Do I find the client to be an insufferable person? (I’m going to chalk this one up to my sanity having value. Never say that i’m not honest.)

But ___________ charges less. Can you price-match or beat his/her price?

Well I guess it is great that you found an amazing deal. Why not just hire ___________? Why are you coming to me?

In truth, unless ___________ is completely off the deep end in terms of pricing, I probably have the capability of matching ___________’s price, but there would have to be some reason for me to entertain this outside of the simple fact that someone else is doing it for cheaper.

There is almost always someone out there “doing it for less” and if I just blindly price-match every random person with a camera (even some very talented ones who just do this as a hobby) it is unlikely that I would be able to pay my rent. I fully recognize that there is a “race to the bottom” happening where people are just undercutting each other left and right, but I have no desire to partake in that. The price that I quote is one that I believe is fair for the work required as well as being fair for my investment of time, skill, and equipment. I am not just throwing darts at a board full of prices whenever someone asks me for an estimate.

That being said, I am open to sensible negotiations. If ___________ is telling you that he/she is planning to use some sort of technique that I didn’t mention when I described how I planned to approach the job, feel free to ask me about it. I can tell you if it’s something I can do, if it’s something that I feel is appropriate, how I feel it would differ from my method in the final result, and how it would affect the estimate that I gave you. This is a legitimate discussion to have and more often than not, if there is a difference like this, it is because someone else is using a cheaper process that will likely compromise the end result. It could be, however, that “good enough” is good enough for you for a particular project and you might be completely fine with that compromised result. We can talk about that.

If, however, you are just going to ask me about matching someone else’s price for no other reason than that is how they happen to value (or not value) their time, effort, and skill, then my answer would probably be “No.”

What do you shoot?

Photographs. Yeah, I know that this is a gear question and I have no idea why so many people are actually curious about this. I am shooting with a Nikon full-frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC) system.

I read that professionals use DSLR’s, though.

That would be correct to an extent. Most professionals do still use DSLR systems. DSLR stands for “Digital Single Lens Reflex”, which is a type of digital camera in which there is a mirror inside the camera that provides an optical view of the scene through a viewfinder via reflection. When a photograph is taken, the mirror flips out of the optical path so that the light can expose the digital sensor behind it. It is based on the original SLR film systems with the sensor placed where the strip of film would have been located in those old cameras. SLR technology was absolutely revolutionary in its day because prior to that, the dominant type of compact camera was the "rangefinder”, which suffered from the fact that the viewfinder did not get its image from the actual lens, leading to inaccuracy in framing and composition. The advent of SLR technology marked the first time in small format cameras, that the user was able to more or less see exactly what they lens was seeing. Of course since the switch from film to digital, there have been additions such as the LCD screen in the back to display photos and menus as well as the memory card slots to serve as the actual recording medium, but the gist of DSLR technology is the same as those older film SLR cameras.

I used to shoot with Nikon DSLR’s—specifically, the D300, D810, and the D850—prior to my switch to MILC. MILC is a newer type of camera system which removes the mirror and replaces the optical viewfinder with a tiny screen called an Electronic Viewfinder (or EVF). Unlike the optical viewfinder of the old SLR/DSLR systems, the EVF has the benefit of showing exactly what the photo will look like with the settings you are using. It is also capable of overlaying tremendous amounts of useful information right inside the viewfinder, making for a quality-of-life boost. There are some additional technical differences in regard to the specific mechanisms each system uses for focusing, but that is the biggest difference between the two systems. The difference in focusing mechanisms does give the MILC a greater number of focusing points that reach out further toward the edges of the frame, which gives me more flexibility in composing an image on the fly.

The removal of the mirror allows the camera bodies to be smaller (if the manufacturer chooses), but the real benefit is that it allows the lens to sit closer to the film plane, which allows for (in theory) simpler optical designs that are capable of producing greater sharpness across the entire frame of the image. An added bonus is that every major full-frame MILC also allows the user to purchase an adapter to use the older DSLR lenses seamlessly, meaning that you have the best of all worlds.

Now to get to the part where professionals use DSLR’s. MILC, being a newer technology, has had its share of growing pains and it is only with the latest generation that I would consider them to have become seriously capable professional tools. Prior to this, they were largely the domain of high-end enthusiasts. Early MILC’s also had a tendency to focus on being lightweight and compact (similar to the early days of cellphones where it seemed like phones just kept getting smaller and smaller). This made many early MILC’s rather flimsy in build quality which is an undesirable trait as a professional who has to rely on their equipment working even if it takes a few knocks. Because of this, most professionals chose to stick with their tried and true DSLR systems for which they already had a slew of lenses. Moving to MILC would mean introducing uncertainty and also re-investing in a new set of lenses to get the best performance out of the new camera. With Canon and Nikon entering the full-frame MILC market (and Panasonic after them), this situation has changed. The new wave of MILC’s are just as well-constructed as their older DSLR counterparts and their resistance to the elements is also on par.

Still, people have a tendency to choose what they know works for them and there is little reason to change anything if you are already satisfied with the results you’ve been creating. This is why professionals are notoriously the slowest group in photography to adopt any new technology. It is likely that many professionals will continue to use their DSLR systems while newer photographers use MILC’s. As MILC systems mature even more, it is likely that even established professionals will switch over in some numbers. Moving forward, however, it looks likely that DSLR development will gradually be phased out by all of the major manufacturers as their focus shifts toward the MILC market and the benefits of this new technology. As far as working professionals, I am a rather early adopter of the new Nikon Z-Mount system (Nikon’s DSLR system was the F-Mount) and I have not regretted it at all. The lenses for the system are absolutely brilliant and the benefits of the EVF, while not strictly required, are nice to have from a quality-of-life standpoint. The camera itself has proven, in my usage, to be as reliable as my old D850 so I cannot ask for much more than that.

Regardless, the camera system of choice should not factor into your decision as a client in selecting a photographer anywhere near as much as how much you like the work that the photographer is putting out in the end. While there is occasionally a technical reason to want a particular camera system (such as ultra-high resolution images), there are professional photographers using just about every single type of camera system out there and producing fantastic results. Micro 4/3, APS-C, Full-Frame, DSLR, MILC, Rangefinder, Film, Digital, etc. Nearly any system is capable of giving you professional results in the right hands. Look at the work of the photographer and see if it fits what you are looking for. Getting too into camera systems is a bit like asking a baker about what oven and flour they used rather than concerning yourself with the flavor of the bread they make. An inept photographer will produce garbage results regardless of what they are using and a good photographer will likely produce amazing results regardless of their gear.

Do you photograph weddings or birthdays?

While I have shot events in the past, I do not currently offer this as a service simply because I would not be able to serve you as well in this role as a photographer who specializes in Event Photography. My photography tends to be slower, measured, and calculated. Event photography is a different beast in that regard, requiring more agility to respond to unpredictable situations. In short, it is not something that I find a natural affinity for so I have not taken any real steps toward developing my skill in this area. If you need someone to shoot an event for you, please feel free to ask and I can refer you to any number of colleagues who specialize in it and would be able to provide you with fantastic images.

Do you do Newborn/Baby Photography?

Like Event Photography, I do not have any affinity for Newborn/Baby Photography. There are photographers who specialize in this and ONLY this so I would encourage you to seek them out because it is quite the special skill to work with a subject that is not capable of understanding you on any level. Besides, I feel like my face makes babies cry…

Do you shoot nudes or do bourdoir?

Not my thing.

Why should I hire you over ___________?

I am not really sure how to answer this one because I likely do not know ___________. Barring ___________ being an absolutely atrocious human being, I certainly have no desire to bad mouth another professional so frankly speaking, maybe you should not hire me over ___________ if you really like ___________’s photographs.

As for why you should hire me, I would hope that you think that I take better photos than ___________ so that should be the first reason. I conduct my business in a very straightforward manner where what you see is what you get. I do not nickel and dime people for little add-on’s here and there. I believe in getting the job done and I will always be willing to go out of my way to ensure that it is done correctly even if it means putting in extra time and resources due to unforeseen scenarios or complications. My pricing is calculated in a fair manner that I can explain and I deal in good faith so if you see some mitigating factor that I may have missed, I’m willing to have an honest conversation and adjust if I agree that it makes sense. I am not in this business to get rich by ripping people off. I want to get rich by providing people amazing results and service at a quality that is so high that I can’t help but become rich. :D

In the end, I am not going to be the right fit for every single job and if I am not, I will be upfront about that and tell you. Ask Usain Bolt what his marathon time is and he’ll tell you that he’s never run one in his entire life and never intends to (simply because it’s not “his thing” and he doesn’t have to). Like every other photographer in the world, I have my strengths and weaknesses not only in terms of genre, but also situations. One example of this that I am quite open about is that I will simply not do wedding photography (unless something drastic changes) because it is not the type of situation that suits my generally more methodical approach. There are people that are fantastic at it and I do not believe that I am one of them. A wedding portrait specifically, though? I will do that all day because it is an entirely different skill set.

So if you’re trying to choose between me and some other photographer, take a look at both of our work and shoot us both a message about the job and see what each of us has to say. Then make your decision from an informed standpoint. I promise that there will be no hard feelings on my end regardless of what decision you ultimately make. You have to do what feels right for you.

Can you provide me with the RAW files?

This is not something that I will normally provide. That being said, I do understand that there are projects out there that require delivery of RAW files because multiple photographers might be involved and all of the files need to be edited for a consistent look across the board. If you have such a project that requires RAW file deliver, we can talk about it, but outside of such situations the answer would be, “No.”

Do I own the copyright to the images?

The simple answer would be, “NO” and this has to do with the way copyright law works in the USA. Under a standard contract, I would technically be licensing the photographs for the use cases that you outlined during our consultation. The price I quote you reflects that use so you cannot take images from a test shoot and then go off and sell them to Vogue to publish nor would you be permitted (legally) to use them outside of the terms of our licensing agreement.

If you require the ownership of the copyright for the photos, please let me know beforehand and we will do a “Work for Hire” contract which would give you the ownership of the produced images. If you have already taken photographs with me and would like ownership of copyright, please feel free to contact me and we can negotiate a fee for the transfer.

Having said all of this, I’m a pretty easy going person and I’ve got better things to do than scour the globe for copyright violations so let’s be real. Unless it’s something egregious, there’s a pretty high likelihood that I won’t notice or care.

Are you willing to sign an NDA?

Sure. I might give you a funny look and raise an eyebrow, but I am not opposed to signing an NDA.

Do I need a permit/release for ___________?

If you have to ask, there’s a high likelihood that you do. In the consultation process, I will go over all of the paperwork that will be required, whether it is a permit, property release, model release, etc. With the exception of a situation where I am securing a model, you as the client will be responsible for securing all of the necessary permits and releases for a job. Please note that once you have been consulted as to what paperwork will be required for a shoot, the shoot will not move forward unless all paperwork has been secured.

Can’t we just do it without the permit/release? What are the chances that we’ll get caught anyway? We can just pretend like we know each other from way back or something.




Can you speak Asian?

©2019 Michael Jin.

That’s not a thing…