the balance between being “afforable” and “affording to be a photographer”

family snuggle

In this tight economy everyone is cutting corners, doing everything they can to save a dime.

And rightly so.

One of the things I struggle with most as a professional photographer is striking balance between remaining “affordable” while continuing to keep my business afloat. The heart of my business is the family; and with mouths to feed and bills to pay, I want my clients to have the very same thing I seek for my own – high quality at an affordable price.

Sorta like stealing design ideas from Pottery Barn then running to IKEA to make it happen. 🙂

I love what I do. Love interacting with clients. It brings my heart great satisfaction capturing life with my camera, so much so that if I could do it all for nothing, I would in a heartbeat.  Unfortunately, there are a number of expenses that come with operating a business.  That being the case, I thought it might be helpful to both clients and those looking to start a photography business to know exactly what goes into pricing out my sessions and packages.

Here’s what I take into consideration:

1. Insurance. Because I operate a business, my photography equipment is not covered under our homeowner’s policy. I pay an annual insurance premium for the equipment I own.  I often shoot on-location and have even had my van broken into during a session!

2. Professional Photography Association Membership Dues. I receive indemnification protection through my membership which protects me in case I am ever accused of negligence due to corrupted digital files, missing images, or client dissatisfaction.

3. Web hosting services. I pay an annual fee just to keep my website/blog up and running. This doesn’t include fees paid to claim my domain name, create the website or blog, logo design, etc.

4. Credit card fees. An essential service that costs up to 3.5% of per transaction.

5. Taxes. I’m required by law to pay both sales and income tax for money I draw in through my business.

6. Props, equipment, and rental fees. Ongoing expenses in this category include lenses, editing software upgrades, external storage, memory cards, and investing in a backup equipment.

7.  Mileage. As an on-location photographer, I drive to a number of different locations in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas.

8.  My time prepping, shooting, and processing the session.

9.  Postage and packaging. This includes boxes, mailers, flash drives, labels, etc.

10.  Zenfolio. I pay an annual fee to use this account as backup storage for images as well as a tool for clients needing immediate access to high-resolution files.

11.  Advertising. This includes promotional mailings, business cards, and product samples.

These expenses not only allow me to remain in business, but amount to thousands of dollars a year!  My vendor markup is almost nil at 10% or less; what you see is close to what you get when receiving professionally printed products. That is intentional on my part because I want my clients to have access to the highest quality photo products for the lowest prices possible.

Pricing is a big deal, I know this by the high number of hits received on my pricing page each week! I hope this sheds some light into the anatomy of session pricing and packages. If you have any further questions, let me know.

dawn - June 19, 2012 - 9:05 am

great post, Tina. It’s very wise of you to share this with your clients. If the art was valued a bit more, I might still be forging ahead:-)

Tina - June 22, 2012 - 8:55 pm

You raise such a good point, Dawn.

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