Dollars & Cents! How do you know what you're really making?

How much should you be charging? How much do you want to make? Is there any other variables? Most definitely!!
The topic of new photographers who are not charging anywhere near enough and the effects it has on the more seasoned photographer has come up in conversation with multiple veteran photog friends lately (not that I'm one of em') but it's made me think enough to want to I share some thoughts here. Maybe I can help someone realize the value of their time just as a further along photographer did for me!
First of all, how much are you making?
Let's say you charge $200 for the session and disk.
All in all you spent about 30 minutes emailing, setting up location and putting together contracts. Then we'll say you spent 4 hours shooting (I'm including drive time because that is time away from your family).
Next there is editing, processing and formatting for proofing. 4 hours. Last there is burning the disk, packaging and mailing (remember you have to go to the post office too) - another 1.5 hours. So we are guestimating about 10 hours. So 200/10 is $20 per hour. But you also need to think about the cost of the disk, packaging, insurance, gas, equipment and any other costs that you have. Once I figure all that in for myself, I would be down to $12 per hour.

Find out your hourly for yourself. Keep a note pad and pen and track your hours or do what I do and use an app. I start it when I close the garage (although I guess I should when I'm getting all my gear together) and stop it when I come back in. I can keep track of different jobs and start and stop the clock to keep hours. Plus I keep track of my "other" business work as well. Keep track of the next few jobs and see what your average comes out to.

Here's the thing for me... Yes. I take pictures because I truly LOVE photography. But I'm not in this to burn myself out and sell my self short. It's my name on the front of my business card. I put my heart and soul into my work and I take myself away from my family to do that. And even if I wasn't sure that my own heart and soul is wort more then $12 an hour... I know for a fact that my kiddo's are!

Your a business owner. Don't degrade it. Don't say, well it's part time, or it's just my pictures, or I'm a housewife having fun... Or anything else. {p.e.r.i.o.d.} Do you realize that at that rate The Picture People are paying their photographers more then you are paying yourself? Think about that. I'd bet your clients are getting a lot more from you then they would at Picture People!

Find the confidence to really own "it". If you don't have that confidence then maybe it's still portfolio building time. One of my biggest mistakes was coming into "pro" status (not that even today I feel pro!) before I was even close to ready. I didn't have a plan, a pricing structure, not even an idea of what it was I was trying to accomplish outside of taking pictures. It's a lot harder to back pedal then to follow a nicely plotted out course. No doubt that course will still have bumps but at least your going in the right direction!


  1. What course would you want plotted out? What questions would you ask yourself? What answers would you have? What would you have in order BEFORE calling yourself professional? I would be SOO interested to hear!

  2. Great post! I am at the beginning stages of portfolio building, but am taking it really, really slow, just using friends as models for now. It's a win/win that way and later on I can look to them for referrals. I don't want to just jump right, I'm not ready for that.

    I am actually putting together a whole business plan - something that I'm having fun with, but that is quite time consuming. It's been fun to think ahead and imagine how things will hopefully turn out. Of course, the more and more I think about it, the more and more things I realize I need to figure out. Luckily I'm in no hurry. :)