Monday, April 18, 2011


    We wanted to do a post like this to try and help our fellow photographers to look at their own businesses to see if they are cutting themselves short so to say. The reason I say this is we sat down and figured out how long it takes us to complete a 1hr session and the business expenses incurred, and we were surprised. After all, the question always comes up of how much to charge and it really depends on each business. We hope this gives you some insight.

    We used to wonder if a potential client  would think we were too expensive and this made us keep our prices lower, after all, we thought we would lose business to some one else that was a little more inexpensive. Thankfully we are past that now.

   Okay, enough rambling. Back to what we found out about the cost of doing a 1hr session. We figured it took us about 10hrs total from beginning to end. Let me break it down for ya:

Initial contact, arranging for consultation, consultation:                 1 hour
Prep for shoot (charging batteries, cleaning equipment, packing): .75 hour
Actual shooting time:                                                                     1-1.25 hours
Initial editing and final editing of images:                                       4 hours
Prepping and posting to Blog and facebook:                                  .75 hour
Arranging and conducting ordering session:                                  1.5 hours
Placing order w/ lab and finalizing for pick-up:                              .5 hour
Average drive time:                                                                        .5 hour
    Total time (average):                                                                  10 hours

    Now lets figure in business and equipment expenses per session figuring an average of two 1hr portrait sessions per month.

Insurance for equipment:                             $10.55
Website:                                                       $12.50
Camera use (shutter life):                             $2.80
Repare/ replace flash, batteries, cf cards:     $3.00
Fuel:                                                             $3.00
     Total cost:                                               $31.85

    I think $3.00 for fuel is pretty conservative and I also didn't figure in use of lenses, stands, light modifiers (they have a tendency of blowing over and breaking), auto insurance/maintenance, packaging for print/album orders, etc. The time I figured needs to also be modified a little bit, considering that Kenya and I both handle all interaction with clients, we both shoot, drive, we do about 25-30% of the editing together. She handles the blog/facebook, I handle the ordering, she handles prepping the final order. So if we double the hours for everything that we do together we then have a total number of 15 hours invested.

    Our creative fee for one hour is $125. If we add in the $130 minimum order, we arrive at $255  (I'm not subtracting our cost for prints from this figure). Now, to a potential client it looks like we are making $255 per hour which to them probably seems outrageous. So lets put this into perspective: subtract $31.85 (business/equipment expenses) and about $4.00 for packaging/presentation of final order from the $255 and we now have a figure of $219.15 - keep in mind that I haven't subtracted the cost of the prints. Divide $219.15 by 15hrs and we have a total of $14.61 per hour minus another 30% for taxes and we get $10.23 take home and thats not figuring other forms of marketing or investing in the business.

    If we had to replace our 85mm f1.2L II lens ($2218 including filter at B&H) at $10 per hour then it would take us about 222 hours to do so. That's almost fifteen sessions, so at 2 sessions per month we have 7 1/2 months worth of sessions to replace that one piece of equipment without taking any profit for us.
    Is $10 per hour take home worth it to you? How valuable is your time? What value do you place on yourself as an artist? How much have you spent on equipment to make those images? Of course not everyone will do things as we do them. Maybe you spend less time with clients or less time editing, or spend less on equipment. Whatever the case may be, I think that charging a $125 creative fee plus $130 minimum purchase is the absolute minimum that we can do this for. So you see, $255 for a one hour session is actually a bargain for the client. (We hope to up our creative fee soon)

    Then there was the question of if we should give away high resolution image files with portrait sessions. We felt that giving them away was taking away value from what we do as artists. Think about it- who else can make tangible what you see in your mind? Who else can see and capture a portrait the way you can? Nobody. Why give away what nobody else can do as if it has no value?

    I encourage our fellow photogs to look at what you are charging and see if it really is enough. Maybe you have some room to be compensated better for your work as an artist.

    As always this post is just our opinion and we are not saying it's right or wrong, this is just what works for us. Feel free to give your opinion in the comment box below- we are happy to hear what other photographers think.

Ashland and Medford Oregon Wedding & High School Senior Photographer

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