Hi, there. Found a photographer you love only to discover they charge several hundred dollars, or GASP, even more than $1000?!? I mean, they’re just pictures. After you buy the camera everything is free, right? It’s the camera that takes amazing photos, isn’t it? Wrong. Wrong. WRONG. Here’s a short lesson running a photography business:
Let me first say that every single photographer I know, and my network is pretty large, is in this business of capturing your memories because he or she loves it. We are passionate about helping you document your time on this Earth in your flesh vessel. Okay, that didn’t sound pretty. What we do matters. It’s important. When you are gone, and all that remains is the memory of you, what do you want those memories to look like? Do you want duck face and muffin top as posted on social media, or do you want real-life love shining through in artwork created from your custom photography experience? I think I know which.
When it comes to choosing a photographer, you want a professional who is trained and who provides a wonderful experience. What does it cost that professional to run his or her business? More than you think.
Here’s a hint: We pay taxes. Legitimate photographers who are licensed and insured pay taxes. Speaking of, we also pay for insurance for both liability and equipment. Oh, the equipment?! Professional photography equipment comes with a hefty price tag. In addition to purchasing pricey cameras, lenses, and lighting gear, photographers need to maintain that equipment. This involves both cleanings and calibration of their tools. Don’t even bring up a studio or all those cute newborn props and what those cost. Photographers who operate a studio have even more expenses – rent, utilities, more insurance.
Let’s break this down. If I go with a simple digital package… let’s say I charge $495+tax for a family session with digital files. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS, WHAT? Um, what are your memories worth to you? What are the cheesy grin and mama snuggles worth to you?? (And yes, sales tax DOES apply to photographic services in the state of Maryland.)
You pay me $524.70
6% goes to sales tax = $29.70
Income taxes (15%) = $74.25
Self-employment tax* (12.4%) = $61.38
Cost of Doing Business** = Easily $100 per session goes back into my business and far more from capturing weddings.
*Yeah. Self-employment tax is a thing. You know those FICA and medicare payments you make? Well, your employer makes part of those for you. Those of us who are self-employed, we cover it all.
**Cost of Doing Business = CODB. This encompasses everything it takes to run a business: training, website, Facebook ads, graphic design, marketing materials – postcards, business cards, and flyers, professional affiliations, travel expenses, utilities for the office, equipment and cleanings/upgrades, office supplies… I could go on forever with this list. I, unlike that dude sitting in Obama’s house, will release my tax forms to anyone whom asks. 😉
I have $259.40 left after all that. Then, I need to break this down by hour. What’s my hourly rate?
Well, there’s about 1 hour in prep minimum – emailing, helping you choose outfits, preparing my equipment
The session is 1-2 hours long.
Editing each session takes approximately 3 hours. Newborns are easily double that.
Then, there’s uploading, delivery, and further communication at 1 hour on the conservative side
And another hour for writing a blog post and posting on social media for marketing (SHARING WITH YOUR FRIENDS REALLY HELPS ME!)
Total = 8 hours on an average session
I’m making $32.43 per hour.
But, I only make that rate for the sessions booked. If no one books, I make $0. Erryday, I’m hustlin’. And either I book back to back sessions and decrease the level of customer service I provide, or I need to charge more than that $495 price tag. I choose quality over quantity for myself and for YOU.
Well, Jacqie, that’s not so bad. What are you complaining about? This isn’t a complaint. This is a chance to learn why I do what I do and perhaps why other small business owners charge what they charge. And if you think I get paid for every hour worked, think again. I didn’t even pay myself for writing this blog post… or any other educational post I write. This business is a labor of love where I POUR endless nights and many pieces of myself into it to support its success.
I value my time, and if I’m going to spend my weekends and evenings away from my children then it will be worth it to provide for them. I know many of you realize, but some of you don’t, this is my career. I support two children as a single mother on this career. Some have the luxury of dual incomes. I do not, so my prices are based not only on my experience and expertise but also on what it takes for my household to run. I cannot justify charging $100 for a session and LOSING money when I have two beautiful boys to feed and care for. Sorry, it just won’t happen.
It’s really sad that many photographers are charging so little and undercutting themselves. Either they don’t know what it costs to run a business or potential clients are constantly asking for discounts. How much do you think the canvas the Mona Lisa was painted on cost? I’ll wait…
This. Is. Your. Art.
I am crazy passionate about providing these memories to you in the art form of photography. This is what I love, and this is why I’ve built a career out of it. I really believe in what I do, but it takes the power of you to make this work. I have immense gratitude for those of you who support me and continue to return for session after session to document these fleeting moments. You are the rockstars in this journey. It’s because of you that I continue on!
In the end, it’s what you value. I have paid this price and higher for family photography. Yes, I pay my photographer friends because I value what they do. These images are a legacy I will pass to my children. When I’m old and wrinkly and they have to change my diaper, they will remember that we wrestled in the grass, that once upon a time I could carry them BOTH at the same time, and that they were and always will be CRAZY loved by their mother in the midst of all the chaos.
What is your legacy worth to you?
Image by Katie DeLorme Photography
Jacqie Q Photography specializes in wedding photography and lifestyle family photography in Deep Creek Lake, Cumberland, Frederick, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and the surrounding metro areas including Urbana, Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, Columbia, Laurel, Ellicott City, Towson, and Rockville.