Photography 101: Getting Paid for Your Work


Stephen F. Dennstedt

You’re a freelance photographer (or another type of Creative) and have entered into a contract to supply a product or service. Congratulations! It’s always nice to make money doing what you love. Once the contract is signed, and you’ve provided the product or service, you have to get paid. After all, as a Creative, you shouldn’t be giving away your talent for free—you aren’t are you? If you are, then STOP.

In addition to being a photographer and a writer I am also a full-time (365-days a year) world traveller. Yep—it’s a pretty COOL life to be sure. But it does present some unique challenges: communicating online with editors, physically signing contracts and getting paid for my work. When I contract on location it’s usually a handshake and payment in cash (or barter). Easy. When dealing with companies (or individuals) in the USA it’s a different story.

Recent Scenario:  The Senior Photo Editor at STAT News contacted me to do an editorial photo shoot in Merida, Yucatan, MX. She tracked me down through The Yucatan Times newspaper where I used to be the Staff Photographer/Photojournalist and I still retain my press credentials (La Prensa). We discussed the project by email and I agreed to her terms (they were generous) and her deadline (a rush job). She emailed me the contract as an attachment and I had to print it, sign it, scan it and return it—kind of a pain but a common situation if you’re working internationally as a freelancer.

I hired an assistant locally (language, logistics, transportation and on-site support) and completed the shoot. Interesting shoot by the way. I had taken approximately 300 images in total and then had to edit them down to about 30 images for submission. Once received the editor selected 7 images for the first cut and I then provided the required exif data for the shoot (who, what, where, when). From those 7 images she will select 3 or 4 for the final article (once published I will share a link to it on this blog so you can see the project). So now it’s time to get paid and that requires an invoice. Again, travelling internationally like I do, everything has to be electronic.


Sample Invoice at Invoice Home

I use Invoice Home at which is a free service. Invoice Home gives you the ability to generate a professional looking invoice to present for payment (see invoice above). the PDF file can be printed or transmitted electronically (the method I use). You can also email the invoice directly to your customer from the Invoice Home site. The site also allows you to track your invoices and payments and can even produce invoices using international currencies. I was contracted with a company in the USA so I used U.S. dollars but if it had been a local company here in Mexico I would have used Mexican pesos. Cool, huh?

In this case the invoice will be presented to the accounting department at STAT News and they will Direct Deposit my fee into my USA bank account (I will simply give them my bank’s ABA Number and Account Number). I’ve also published photography articles at Northrup Photo and the process is pretty much the same. In this day and age it’s relatively easy to be an international freelance Creative. All the tools are right at your fingertips via the internet. We live in amazing times—and it’s a GREAT time to own & operate your own business. Many of you know this already but for the uninitiated I hope this article might be helpful. The two aspects of photography: the aesthetic and the business.


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