"Are John's rates high?"
Well, they really aren't. John tries to maintain an industry standard by using several common resources to determine pricing for assignment and stock photography.
It doesn't do him any long-term good to be on either the high or low side of the fence. John firmly feels that he needs to stay within the same ball-park as other photographers. While he could charge twice as much as everyone else, he'd only make a small percentage of the sales. However, there are always occasions where image or assignment uniqueness would cause there to be a premium rate.
There will also be occasions where a client will use more than one picture or use one picture for multiple uses - and these would be subject to discounts. The competition in all arenas is extensive, and as we want to continue to "play ball" into the next decade as we have for the past decade, we want to show up in the same ball-park as everyone else.
Why film is priced higher than your local K-Mart store:
It is essential to have film on hand that is known to be color pure for your shoot, whenever it might take place. Most film stock preferred by clients and photographers is very unstable in the normal aging process. Some stocks can acquire a severe green or purple bias while the film is sitting on the store shelf, or as a by product of careless manufacturing and/or handling. In order to minimize this risk to your job, I regularly test new emulsions that come on the market.
This usually requires a half day or more of set-up under a controlled situation, assistance, and messengers to and from the lab. It also requires the purchase of the film for the test. Frequently, the test is quite comprehensive, using many sample lighting situations to simulate conditions found on locations, including a gray card and a Macbeth ColorChecker.
The tests, therefore, are often lengthy. To make sure enough film is on hand to begin and finish your job, a sizable quantity of good (tested) film must be purchased and refrigerated at additional cost (electricity for a year to run the refrigerator and five square feet of prime real estate to house it). The money I spend to purchase tested film for storage is non-earning income advanced and dedicated to the service of my clients. While professional labs are usually reliable, disastrous accidents can happen. I maximize your protection by splitting the developing order into two runs. This requires additional messengers and bookkeeping. Plus, I insure your exposed film throughout the assignment to cover the cost of a reshoot should the film be lost or stolen. This is an extra cost item, which is again apportioned in the processing costs.
Most clients also prefer to have their jobs well-edited, labeled and presented to them on plastic viewing sheets. This is a service that takes time and money to perform. Since some clients use more film than others, all of these extra costs are apportioned by charging an additional percentage for each roll used. This is the reason for marking up the cost of film & processing.
In other words, there are many hidden extra costs to the production of consistent quality color and insurance against Murphy's Law. I believe that it is appropriate and fair to provide for the proportionate sharing of these costs by the mark-up system, applied directly to the product that incurs the extra cost.
Be assured that film-markup is not a profit center, but a fair and sound business practice designed to allow continued diligence in protecting your best interests.