First of all, this is long, but necessary.
My own cousin, told me that on his wedding day he hired two students to do the photography. He bragged to me about how good them are and how cheap they are and what a good deal he had gotten out of them. He exploited their skills in photography, exploited their inexperience in society, exploited their young kindness of the heart and eagerness to get jobs so as to pay for their school fees. He exploited them and bragged about it to me. He works as a chief finance officer for a multi-national company earning more than $100,000 a year, owns 2 condos and drives a sports mercedes, AND a Mazda 6, two cars. He does this because he thinks like a shrewd accountant which he is, all in dollars and cents, profits and gains. Those two students, have no idea.
Please read on and think:
Students should charge as much as full time professionals or at least near to full time pro rates, and must always strive to achieve the same levels of service and quality as full time professionals.
Students, mainly those of you in art, film, media, design and related creative fields, and my questions doesn't just address photography but also people doing videos, production, design and artistic and creative work in general, consider and ask yourselves:
How much are you (or your parents) paying for your 2 to 3 year course? I reckon easily $20000 to $30000 or more? Some of you might had took student/study loans for it? And thus indebted even before you even start earning a living from this career.
So, doesn't that give you good reason to justify the need to charge the real rates you deserved compared to any hobbyist or guy-who-bought-a-camera? After all you are studying a diploma or a degree to do this career? Do you agree that by this you are already more invested, more dedicated and more qualified both in training and in moral reason than the average amateur photographer?
How much are you going paying upfront for your camera and equipments?
You are not going to be like an executive who just need to buys office clothes and a laptop and thats the equipment he needs. You need these and a lot more, and you know camera equipment are darn expensive, plus you also need faster computers and software license, probably another $20000 to $30000?
Remember a hobbyist can treat his camera spendings as a hobby or as leisure spendings, no problem. But for you, its your tools of the trade. It becomes a work/business expense. Don't you think this qualifies you to charge properly to cover your cost of operations?
I hope you are studying this field because you have dreams and aspirations. What are those aspirations? Award winning wedding photographer that travels round the world shooting weddings? A studio owner or a Principal photographer shooting big commercials with team of assistants following your instructions? Or Creative Director heading an advertising firm?
If you have dreams and aspirations, should you have pride, beliefs and ethics and aiming UP, or should you be aiming DOWN and behaving like another one of those cheapo photographers undercutting each other.
If you are doing good work but charging peanuts and undercutting the pros just to get jobs, are you aware that you are decimating your own market even before you step into it? Are you killing your own future?
What that of industry do you hope to walk into when you graduate? Companies eager to hire you and pay you good money for your good work, OR companies preferring to hire anyone who owns a camera and paying peanuts.
Take care of your future rice field.
Don't be bullied or taken advantage of. I do not know if schools teaches students business and career skills other than just technical and academic skills. How to grow a career or a creative business, etc. But if you are a student and already doing part time, then you should consider treating it as the real thing and start off in the right path.