Business Profit As A Photographer

MMPC Photography-8100591

Photographers pay yourself what you deserve!

Bridge that gap from loss to profit!

By taking a base line approach and breaking down time spent for services rendered, a photographer can break down their specific expected pay.
Unless you are hired as a second shooter or on an hourly pay, the following information is a helpful guide in order to start making money in your photography business.

First things first, I am not here to claim that I am a financial advisor or business giant. I am simply pushing forward information taught to me over the years by fellow business owners. Notice that I stated business owners not specifically photography however business is business and we are in business for profit.
One of the first things that an individual needs to do is create a plan of their desired or ideal annual/ monthly/ weekly pay. When I say desired I mean to include expenses with your personal wants or desires of spending cash. You have to be realistic here. Do not go crazy, thinking spending cash should be $1000.00 a week for Starbucks! You should then take this amount and break it down to an hourly amount at a rate of 40 hours per week (the average person’s work week). Once you have made your computations you now have your hourly rate that you will need to charge for your services in order to meet your goals to be a profitable business. Sounds pretty simple does it not? The problem is that many of us, especially beginning photographers, do not include several other factors that must be included into this analysis.

Let me step back for a moment and give you some numbers to play with based off of internet research. These numbers are obviously not hard numbers for everyone in business however they are numbers to work with. I took the bottom end photographers and price lines to show how the process works and for simplicity. The hard truth is that these price lines are higher than a large group of people in my local area. My research showed that an average 1 hour session charging $150.00 for a sitting fee with a $75.00 non-refundable booking fee applied to the sitting fee. Additional costs for prints on a basic package of $125.00 included a limited rights CD/DVD of low resolution photos. $350.00 included CD/DVD with unlimited rights.
Basic Package:
1) 16 x 20
1) 8 x 10
2) 5 x 7
8) wallets
CD/DVD included with limited rights $125.00 or $350.00 unlimited rights

Let us begin adding these numbers so that we can do a little reverse engineering to see if this price line fits our abilities or business plan. I will explain abilities comment later and how it effects the equation.
150.00 booking/sitting (total $150)
$ 125.00 prints
$275.00 Total
Total cost to customer without tax.(to keep things simple)
Taking our total of $275.00 we will now break down our hourly time from initial booking to the final delivery of goods, minus follow up calls for customer satisfaction, repeat customer, or valued customer call backs.

Initial phone call 10 minutes
Counseling session/booking 1 hour
(review contract / shot plan
clothing; background/ location choice)
Studio or location and equipment preparation 30 min
Session 1 hour
60 photos 1 hour = 1 photo/min average
(beginner Shoot a lot hope for the best also known
as run and gun)
Editing time 5 min/photo
5 x 60 = 300 minutes / 60min/hour = 5 hours editing time 5 hours
Upload to website and or print proofs 30 min
Proofing with customer for final purchase
Sales on upsizing/ frames/ books etc. 45 min
Final delivery of products and review 30 min

Total time about 9 hours 25 min

For simplicity sake I will round the number up to 9 1/2 hours of work for this single customer.
Taking our totals now we will break down how much we made per hour on this particular sale.
$275.00/ 9 1/2 hours = $28.95/ hour

This is not a bad take home for a basic price point. Remember however that we must do a few deductions. (This is that portion that beginners tend to forget about.) Personal insurance, Social security, dental/ medical, and federal insurances all must be deducted before you can began paying yourself from this particular job. This money must be handled with care until your books are balanced to pay those requirements.

Understanding the numbers will now allow us to know how many jobs we must book in order to meet basic needs and desires however we have not added in our other expenses into the overall needs of a business.

Let me give you some of those other expenses that need to be added in to the overall budget. Remember the following are a baseline of added expenses to your budget. Website (no facebook does not count as a website here); advertising; studio costs (or home rent/payment); utilities (water, sewer, electric, gas); Food (we have to eat and so does your family)

Now we understand we can book more than one session per week and you can get supper busy. However one must remember the above 9 1/2 hours that it takes per customer and allotted those times in on a schedule. Oh and remember you are a customer based business so you are subject to working around their schedule for many of these things. The good thing is, most of your editing can be done during the daily work week because that is when your customers are working. Another thing that does help, is you can charge the extra fees to the customer on gas, hotels, location fees. This is an option, however as a business you should mention the additional fees when setting up your session and costs with the customer.

What else should we look at on the expense report budget analysis? Some considerations must be made for equipment rentals, equipment upgrades, and maintenance. This is usually a guestimate in the first couple years.

The idea is before beginning a price point many factors must come into play. First know how much work goes into what you do. Giving away your work without putting in some calculations of how much time and efforts go into your work is like working for free. Factor in all of your time from start to finish and many people will see that they are working for nothing. Even worse, after all the time and efforts to do a job you find that you are putting yourself in the negative numbers by doing jobs for so cheap.

I will say that even those that are doing photography for art and not portrait work ie landscape, composite, stock photos, you can use these same calculations in order to put a price line on your works too. The formula still works when you put in your time of concept sketches to final product. Calculate the time put in and desired hourly wage to get paid for the work you put in to sell that piece of art.

I referenced abilities earlier and said I would retouch at a later time…… is now later so here it is.

Your abilities and quality of work will always be a factor in your price line! If you S U C K, admit it! Admit it to yourself and those around you that you are new. It is okay when starting out to work for free or cost for print only. This is some ones memories you are messing with! A photo is a memory frozen in time! It is a record for the future to look upon and see a piece of the past. Do not let a memory of some ones past be of that shitty photographer that gave them crappy photos of a very special day! Weddings, reunions, children, whatever it is don’t be the one to give crappy work and try and get paid for it! Go work under a skilled photographer, go to school, practice on your own. Until you have a solid portfolio of proven work that shows you can produce solid work in any given situation at any given time, do not take money or expect to be paid for your practice or training time! Just because you spent more than $100 dollars on a camera and it looks like you know what you’re doing does not make you a professional. I have been at this game since 1992 and did not start trying to charge people for services till 2012. Not everyone has to take that long training or getting that much time behind the camera. Ethically and morally I feel it is just not right to do an injustice to the photography world or to customers by charging them for a service if I can not provide solid quality work. As your skills increase your price line will increase, as your business sales increase your calendar schedule will become crowded. Remember to keep a solid schedule to keep track of both sides of the business.(editing and shooting)

In closing I want to remind you that you will be mentoring young photographers to take your place. I hope that you will be able to teach them how to do things in a honorable way and with a sound business sense.

Classically trained photographer in both film and digital era's. Began in High school with sketch art and art appreciation and later in 1993 in film photography. I have served 25 years in the United States Marine Corps and used photography as a hobby. Began my leap with digital SLR camera's in 2004. Fell in love the new options of development and post production. I am always looking for fresh new faces and interaction with Models of all types, genre, and capabilities. Primarily work in portrait realm of photography due to my love for people and the interactions I get to have building friendships and long term relationships with families and models. I love when people bring excitement and creativity to the shoot. It is always fun when 2 creatives can collaborate and create something beautiful! I am always learning, studying and developing my skills in photography. Please join me on this adventure and enjoy the fruits of my labors through review my portfolio and purchase of photographs.

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One comment on “Business Profit As A Photographer
  1. I love that mirrored image!

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