I am a photographer. I am not your everyday run of the mill lets pose everyone I see this way only because that’s what my boss at this giant studio chain tells me to, kind of photographer. I am a photographer that specializes in custom photography. Therefore, my session fee’s are higher than your local studio chain. My print prices slightly higher because I order my prints from a professional lab in which my monitor is calibrated to their printer so you get the most awesome colors. I am going to give you a one of a kind session that you and your family can cherish for generations to come and I also offer unique products, such as an iPhone case with your favorite picture on it.
I make a lot of money doing this. Wait! What? I wish!! The fact is I am only one person. I am the one responsible for the expense of all of my equipment, paying sales tax, shooting your session, editing your session, ordering prints/products for your session, and everything else that comes along with owning a business.
So the next time you think a professional photographer is rich (and there are some that are), I want you to think about this mathematical breakdown of a session fee for a normal newborn session in which there is no travel on my part. Note that this is just an average and does not include any prints or products that may be bought from the session. Every shoot is different, and I am not including ALL expenses, after all do you want to read an article or a book?
The breakdown of a newborn session
- 3 hour session, 2 hours of editing, 30 min consultation before the shoot, 30 min to upload and place your order with the lab, 1 hour reveal (going over final images with you). That is a total of 7 hours for 1 session (and sometimes it’s even more).
- I charge $175/session so that equals out to $25/hr BEFORE taxes.
- Now I must take a 25% of that session fee to hand over to uncle sam at the end of the year. So now I am at $18.75/hr
- But wait I also have overhead expenses (cost of running my own office and business, cost of training seminars, courses, and licenses, not to mention the cost of liability insurance) which gets another 25% of that session fee. So, now that brings my hourly rate to $12.50 / hr.
- Oh but wait, I need equipment to do the custom session, such as camera lenses (yes they wear out), backdrops, props, etc… So I put 10% of each session fee away, so I can make sure I always have the latest trends and equipment to give you the best session possible! So now I am at $10.00 / hr.
- I would like to retire someday, good thing my employer has an awesome 401K. Oh wait, I own my own business. I am the employer! Yep I put 20% into that puppy! So now that brings my hourly rate to $5.00 / hr! That’s lower than the federal minimum wage!
What’s my real profit?
So out of every $175 newborn session fee, I only make $35 in profit or in other-words around $5/hr. Another reason it’s important to buy your session CD or custom portraits from your session! It helps to add to my retirement fun and help put food on the table!
But I love my job and am thankful I get to do something I love so much! So the next time you go to book a custom photographer and gawk at the session fee price, just remember the above! At the end of the day, most of us make less than minimum wage and we provide way better service and customization than those big chains you see in the Malls and in stores. When’s the last time they went to your favorite park to shoot your family portraits! Probably NEVER, because that is not what they do!
Ok I get the session fee, but I can buy an 8×10 from the Wal-Mart lab for $1.50, why your print prices so high?
Again, time goes in to making sure that my monitor is always calibrated to the professional lab I use. In addition to that, my lab only uses high quality paper and ink that will allow your prints and products to out last anything printed out by Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, etc… In addition to that their printers can be calibrated differently from store to store, so you never know what kind of outcome your picture my encounter. It may look ok at one CVS, but at another it may have a reddish tone to it, and another you may have heads cropped off. Cropped? Well that’s an entirely different article in itself. Just know that that they don’t re-size and re-align the images before printing them on the size of print you want. They literally just cut off areas of the photo to make it fit. Just yet another reason you will want to order prints and products from your photographer.
Well so and so only charges $65 a session and that includes a session cd with print rights
A word of caution here. More than likely they are in their portfolio building stage (they are new to this or are updating their portfolio), which is fine. Someone who charges only $65 a session (and is not building their portfolio) will not be in business very long and/or is operating their business illegally. Ask them for a copy of their business license and sales tax ID number for the State. Either way, if this is all that they charge (and again it’s not because they are portfolio building), it should immediately raise a red flag. Take a look at my breakdown again of a session. Now break it down only using $65, that equals out to $1.85 an hour with only a $13.00 profit and they will more than likely loose the chance to make any money off of prints because they just handed you a CD with a high resolution images so you can print them yourself. Now this of course is assuming that they are a legitimate business and pay their taxes (hey you work and pay taxes, why should photographers get off scott free). And of course they may not even spend any time editing your photos at all. So I guess if I wanted to grab my camera real quick, snap some photos and burn them to a disk, well I guess I could make some extra cash. But then again, I am a PROFESSIONAL photographer! I pay my taxes, I have a business license, I have a sales tax id number, heck my business name is even a registered trademark! Just remember, you get what you pay for!
While I understand that prices are different all across the nation, the fact of the matter is, most custom professional photographers don’t make it rich doing this, but we are able to support our family. We do it because we love what we do and love the art. Yes photography is an art form. Most of us will never make it rich, but most of us do end up being able to quit our day jobs and make this an added source of income to our spouses (or as a sole income if we are really lucky and have awesome clients who buy lots of prints from their sessions and recommend our awesome work to others).