Madame, Can I Take a Photo With You? Paying for Photos in India
Today I started charging for photos. I am in India and have been for a month but it occurred to me as I criss crossed the ruins of Hampi; I have been in about 50 photos with complete strangers. Families, couples, children and all ages of men, come up to me to ask to be in a photo. Apparently, the milky white skin and wheat colored hair attract them like mosquitoes to my ankles. Thinking about Econ 101, supply and demand, there is a huge demand for photos with me and the supply is never ending (there are more than 1 billion in India). I figure if only 1% cross my path, that is at least 1 million potential customers!
(Above photo is of a woman who was posing for her family. I commented how beautiful she looked and they asked for a photo with me. I then asked her for one of her. All said and done, I think I was in 5 photos with her and her family.)
The constant demands for my mug and accompanying harassment have reached their dirty, dusty Indian limit. I can no longer simply give this asset away for free. This money maker has to do just that, make me some money! My going rate for a photo is 50 rs. That is less than a dollar and sounds low to my western friends but is extremely high for local Indians.
“Why do you charge?” They ask.“Because I can.” I want to reply.
Plus, I have ponied up countless rupees for the privilege of taking a local woman’s photo. Whether I wanted the photo or not, you snap, you pay.
If I am successful, I will branch out my photo offerings. Customers can upgrade to from the basic to silver package and receive a coffee mug with our photo on it. Big spenders can opt for the honeymoon package where for 250 rs ($4), I’ll pretend to be your coveted foreign girlfriend. Upgrade to the platinum honeymoon package and I’ll hold your hand and give you a peck on the cheek. Rates for that package start at 1000 rs ($16). These photos are sure to make you celebrated among your inner circle and strike envy with others.
Note from Author: This post was written in humor, so I hope you can appreciate that I have not actually started charging locals but it is a good way to get them to go away! But I recommend reading another article about India as a primer for this one.
If you want more India, come on a small group tour with us. Trust me, you will still have to pay for the photos.