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Friday, December 27, 2013

Running a Photography business - What it really means…..

So, last night I was up late working [surprise] and got sidetracked on this post. Feel free to read if you please :) [warning: sarcasm to follow]

Running a Photography business - What it really means…..

It means being able to pick up inexpensive cameras and lenses and do something you love while getting paid big bucks! It means only spending a few minutes per shoot easily capturing children who love to smile, husbands who just love getting family photos done, and people who are always smiling so naturally and keeping their eyes open at all times and all looking the same way at the same time! It means you never have to touch up anything afterwards with an expensive post processing software. You never have to deal with responding to numerous emails from potential clients, getting phone calls from potential clients, doing website work, paperwork, scheduling, uploading, culling, importing, exporting, etc. etc. You are never staying up way too late editing because well, you don't have a child and spouse to take care of during normal business hours. You never have to pay a babysitter to watch your kids while you go to the shoot that is of course always within 2 minutes of your home so you don't have to pay for gas and vehicle maintanence. Of course, since this is just for fun and you love it, you don't have to do business legally - you can just not pay those super high tax rates. I mean, there really isn't much to explaining in detail all the photography business joys, let's just keep it at the understanding that is so well known while photographers are making thousands and thousands per year.

ummmmmm errrrrrr what!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?

Obviously that paragraph was just slightly on the sarcastic side. [just slightly ;) ] But seriously, I don't want this post to come off as me being dissatisfied with my career and all the struggles within it. This post is not to whine about how much work comes with running a legitimate photography business, but to express my dissatisfaction with the misunderstandings of the business side of running a photography business and to help those who do not understand, well - understand! I want everyone to leave this post having a better appreciation for running a legitimate photography business. I will make this somewhat personal and most people probably haven't even made it this far in my post due to boredom. BUT, I shall ramble on for those of you still here. [aka me, myself, and I]

Something you may not know about me & Rachel Smith Photography is that up until this year, I have had to file a loss with my business every single year. What does that mean? It means that I have LOST money doing business. It means my outgoing costs are more than my incoming costs. Those of you who gasp at the fact that I currently charge $200 for a session are probably scratching your heads thinking, "What!?!? I thought $200/hour is just insane!" Here's the big "secret"……..ready?!?! It's NOT $200/hour. Let me break it down for you - the very long way…..

Photography businesses struggle with the normal business issues no matter what the location; however, it wasn't until I moved to this area of NC that I was literally swept off my feet with the prices I was seeing "photographers" charge. There are people who are offering to take pictures for people charging next to nothing for insane amounts of work. This in turn mocks the legitimate legal photographers who spend money & time investing in their business to make it top notch. If you aren't paying taxes, you aren't legal - so do not call yourself a photographer. It's demeaning to those who pay Uncle Sam their hard earned money the legal way. Also, let me just state - there is a difference in aspiring photographers building their portfolios before they start charging, photographers starting out, and experienced photographers. If you are just starting out and need to build your portfolio, you do just that, at no charge. You advertise that you are an aspiring photographer wanting to build your portfolio before you jump into charging. Gaining experience in that way will gain you more respect from non-photographers and photographers, I promise you. I started building my portfolio in 2007-2008, and even early 2009 and didn't start charging until the latter part of 2009. Let me tell you, it's a good thing I did it the right way because I would be embarrassed to admit I charged people for those "photos" - whew, they were horrible! See the comparison between then vs. 2013….

We all start somewhere. Yes, even those photographers we look up to with 273047230847308 followers you assumed just popped out of their mama with a camera in their hand knowing everything there is to know about photography by age 2 started somewhere. ;) Anyyyways….next, there is the photographers just starting their business. Since you are still in the beginning stages of  building your business, its expected to charge lower amounts than usual, you are a beginner. We all start somewhere. That is great - just make sure you are covering your costs, making enough to pay your taxes [because it's illegal not to do so], and not claiming to be "specialized" or "experienced" in certain areas. That is misleading to people who are un-educated with certain aspects of photography. Continue to build your business the legal and fair way until your demand is high enough to raise your prices each year. Lastly is experienced photographers, who have just that - experience. Length of time doesn't always have to do with experience. There may be a photographer who has 10 years of experience that has taken less photos than a photographer with 5 years of experience. I may be a 20 year photographer with no experience in newborn photography or wedding photography. While a 2 year photographer may have countless newborn sessions under their belt. It just depends. My "say" on the experienced photographer is to just continue being honest, growing, and being encouraging and helpful to those just starting out. That's it. Nothing else to say because I'm really not in a place to be giving advice to anyone but myself. I just ramble and those who read what I have to ramble about are a little more awesome than those who don't. ;) [kidding, kind of]

Ok, now back to that "What!?!?!? You make $200/hour!?!?!" thing - let me break it down even further. Here ya go:

$200 per 60 minute session [which to most they just think it's $200/hour] Not true, here are the factors that prove so - - -

- factor in cost of camera per shoot throughout the year
       [mine for example: Canon 5d Mark iii $3300+tax+shipping]
- factor in cost of lenses per shoot throughout the year
       [for example: $3000+ on lenses per year]
- factor in software equipment & website fees per shoot throughout the year
       [anywhere between $500-$3000+ depending upon software & hosts]
- factor in computer equipment per shoot throughout the year
      [for example: iMac $1200+tax, Macbook Pro $1500+tax and up]
- factor in 7% tax PER SHOOT [do the math]
- factor in babysitting cost if necessary per shoot [$8/hour so usually about $20+ bucks for a 60 minute session including travel time of 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back]
- factor in travel costs [gas, maintenance upkeep on vehicle] [varies, anywhere from $100+ per year on oil changes & $10-$500 in gas per shoot/event depending upon location]
- factor in travel time [because yes, you're traveling for work not for fun, you pay yourself] [let's say $10 for one hour, 30 min. there and 30 min back for an example estimate]
- factor in cost to pay yourself per shoot time [yes, photographers need to pay themselves! haha]
- factor in cost to pay yourself per emailing, desk time, etc. per shoot [let's say $10 per shoot]
- factor in cost to pay yourself for post-processing, uploading, culling, exporting, importing, Facebook, etc. [remember average of 5 minutes or so per photo depending on the event, so say 150 photos at 5 minutes each, so say 12.5 hours on average so remember, sometimes less sometimes more.] [so say at $10/hour at 12.5 hours per shoot that's $125 as an example estimate extra]
- factor in insurance costs [varies - but let's just estimate $200-$1000 per year depending on value insured]
-factor in everything I've probably forgotten to mention because I'm writing this at nearly 2am [priceless]

Sooooo, let's just say you had 10 shoots per month, that's 120 per taxable year.  Now I did the LOW end on every single thing, I mean most who knew the actual costs of this stuff would laugh at how low I estimated. Adding up all the low averages here I had over $37,000.00 in expenses and that doesn't even count tax! This is only estimated on paying $10 per hour and saying that each session only get's one hour of time other than the editing, etc. I don't mean this to brag, but just as a statement, I have my Bachelor's degree...$10/hour for a person with a Bachelor's degree is NOT GOOD. McDonald's employees make more than that. So again, I did all of this on the low end of everything - money and time estimates. So being on the low side, that means I am losing over $130 on average per shoot at the current rate I am charging. Knowing that I spend much more time and money than I have listed on this blog I know I am losing more than that per shoot. People do not see these numbers and many do not even factor some of these things in because they are doing business poorly or illegally. Professional photographers do not have point and shoot cameras or inexpensive digital cameras. They have expensive cameras. Professional photographers do not edit with Picnik and Picwhateverelseitiscalled, they edit with expensive software. They don't edit their photos on instagram from their iPhones, they edit on their expensive computers. 

All that being said, let me reiterate as I'm sure this blogpost could offend some, I am NOT complaining about my career. I love what I do. It has it's challenges and at times [most times] I am extremely overwhelmed. However, it is where I get my source of "ME" pride. I get my heavenly pride in Jesus. I get my earthly mama pride in being a good mama to my son and wifey pride in being a good wife. I get my "ME" pride in being a photographer who can run a successful business while making others happy.  So again, as much as I love photography - it is my job/career, my source of income. It literally helps put food on the table for my family just as much as my husbands career does. Some months I even make more than my husband - however, my job has much more expenses than his so at the end of the day - he makes more. Doesn't mean all the money and hours spent are invested in a hobby just because I love photography - it's my business and I have to treat it as so at all times or slowly but surely, it will fail. If I were to charge what I should to actually make a profit, it would be much more fulfilling and rewarding. However, I am taking time away from my family to lose money and that is not fair to them. This is one of the main reasons in 2014, I am raising my prices and my packages will be taking a re-vamp. When the demands in 2013 were so high that I was double scheduling shoots per day in the months of October-November and even up into December and maybe only having 1-2 days off per month if that, I knew it was time to yet again raise my prices. It wasn't fair for my family to lose so much of my attention but it especially wasn't fair because I wasn't making enough due to not charging enough to make the blood, sweat, and tears worth it. I know doing this I will lose some business - but I know the business that stays and that I gain will mean even more to me than before. Those of you who have taken the time to read this far - well, go take a nap. I'm sure you are tired. haha But in all seriousness - thank you for taking the time to read this [if you did ;)] I am and have always been an open book. I want my clients to know that I am a real person with real struggles and triumphs. I want to look back on my career as a business owner one day with pride knowing I succeeded and not lost time & money. Those of you who help me to achieve my dream - THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU! I am currently working on my packages for 2014 and am excited to get them out when I am finished. It's a nerving step but after hearing encouragement from other fellow photographers and even some of YOU guys, I am confident it is the right thing to do!

I am always learning, always growing, and always challenging myself to be and do better. If I can help anyone else do the same, I will be a happy girl. Ok, it's after 2am now big time and I'm super tired. So, it's that time - goodnight! 

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So happy to have found Thumbtack! I receive requests for quotes from clients in my surrounding areas for their photography needs. It really helps me market to potential clients and have an opportunity to be hired by people who I may not have found had I not joined Thumbtack! If you click below you can view my profile there and even leave me a review if you have had a session with me in the past! Rachel Smith Photography