Update: I changed my pricing structure slightly to account for 3 new packages. This breakdown, however, still applies.
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So I thought long and hard about being totally transparent with my pricing. I’m not the cheapest nor am I the most expensive by far. I have a small office space in my home, where I run my legal business. I shoot on location to avoid studio costs, and I run my own website and do all my own marketing (it’s not hired out). That being said even though my sessions cost just $583 ($550 plus Florida sales tax) I get many many complaints of being too expensive. So with all that being said. I’m going to break down my personal numbers for you, so you can see what I make from each session. Pricing for photographers is always a difficult topic, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.
$583 (total amount paid by client)
-33 (6% sales tax)
-165 (30% Federal taxes)
-91.20 (included product cost)
I’m going to stop there for just a moment. Most clients don’t know that around 1/3 of what they pay goes to my federal taxes. Yes, that is how much I owe the government for running my own business. So at the end of the first set of deductions is technically my profit – $293.80, but let me break that down for you too.
-58.76 (Business Expenses)
-73.45 (Business Benefits)
At least 1/5th of my profits goes back into my business expenses. Business Expenses are things like insurance, equipment repairs and upgrades, licenses, programs like Photoshop and other subscriptions, continuing education, etc. Eventually business expenses will include an offsite office rental and utilities with higher insurance rates to cover said space. Right now business expenses are low due to my home office.
Around 1/4th of my profits currently goes to what I’m going to call Business Benefits. These are things a normal full time job includes for its employees. Things like Health Insurance, Retirement, Sick Days and Vacation Days. I have to work all of that into my session fees since that is my income.
So after all that I end up with $161.58 per session. Keep in mind the median income in Lee County Florida in 2016 was $49,147 per year, or $4,095 per month pre-tax. After taxes that is roughly $35,000 or $2,916 per month. I would have to do 18 sessions PER MONTH to make the median income where I currently live.
Let’s continue our break down, I spend at minimum (if everything goes smoothly, and nothing goes wrong or has to be rescheduled) around 6.5 hours on one portrait session. 1 hour communicating and planning, 1.5 hours prep and travel, 1 hour shooting, and finally 3 hours to edit, order and deliver. And again 6.5 hours is the ideal amount of time (realistically it’s more around the 9 to 10 hour mark).
$161.58 divided by 6.5hrs
= $24.86 per hour
That may seem like a dream number to many people, but it does not include payment for the time I spend marketing my business. I am constantly updating social media, and meeting people in person to build my business even more. I spend at least 10 hours a week marketing. I also spend an inordinate amount of time finding new locations and props to help my business brand stand out. I do not get directly paid for any of that, it must be paid out of the hourly wage I make on sessions. I also have to pay for child care, like any other working parent, and often times that includes odd hours on evenings and weekends, so I can’t simply send them to daycare.
Also, what happens if I don’t get 18 sessions in a month? That is the minimum I need to make $35,000 a year. If I only have 10 sessions a month then my yearly income drops to $19,320. Some months are great and I might have 25 sessions, but those make up for the months where I may only have 7 sessions. And like any business there are weeks where I go with no work at all. I have to make sure that I have money put away to continue paying bills and other expenses. And with tons of hobbyists and amateurs charging $50 a session it gets harder and harder to book a full month. (BTW If you are one of those photographers, I’d love to sit down with you and go over your personal numbers so you can be profitable too!)
I hope that through this, you can also see that photographers who only charge $150 for a full session are actually losing money. There are minimums to remain profitable. If I only charged $150, my hourly rate would drop to 8.88, and I would make more working at McDonald’s.
If you still think I’m too expensive, then that’s okay. There are plenty of hobbyists that would be happy to work with you at a lower rate. But if you love my work and enjoy me personally (which is a big goal of mine with clients) then save a little extra and get what you want.
All the love.