What is the real cost of your photography workflow?
The workflow, presentation and sales methods and practices are an integral part of any photography business. However, they can also be costly.
In the last post, I raised the issue of the òreal cost‘ of photography.
As a youthful photography enthusiast, I thought professional photography was a pretty lucrative business. My contacts on photography business forums were charging anywhere between $1,000 USD to $15,000 USD for a wedding and I couldn’t believe the mark-up.
Great, I thought! So I just work for 8-12 hours one weekend, polish up the photos in Photoshop, and then sell the prints to my client at a huge profit ì maybe 70-90% higher than the price of printing. And I get paid for my weekend work!
This was all true ì but after quite a few long nights with Photoshop, I realised that my calculations had neglected one element ì I hadn’t counted the cost of my time as well as the learning curve.
WORK = TIME = EXPENSE
Today I want to present a simple example to illustrate the costs associated with doing a single wedding. Weddings are relatively simple from a business and workflow perspective in comparison to other types of photography. They are a little more stressful because if you stuff it up… it’s not good, but generally, they’re straight forward and repetitive. Ask any seasoned professional photographer, traditionally, weddings are the bread and butter of your business, especially when you’re starting out.
Let’s consider the following example:You agree to shoot Bill and Jane’s wedding. You offer them a package which includes your time for 8 hours on the day, a set of printed proofs, 25 5×7″ prints, 8 8×12″ prints and 1 16×20″ print. You also explain that you will place the proofs online for friends and family to view and find the image numbers and email you so the prints can be ordered and shipped. You offer this package for $1,850.
You need to keep track of every hour you spend working on Bill and Jane’s wedding.
In this example, your time was used as follows:
- Driving to wedding (0.5 hours)
- Shooting the wedding (8.0 hours)
- Driving home from wedding (0.5 hours)
- Downloading images to computer (0.25 hours)
- Making duplicates (backups) of original files (0.5 hours)
- Post processing of photos (12.0 hours) – you took around 700 photos and are going to provide Bill and Jane with 150
- Preparing images for web presentation (2.0 hours) – This is basically resizing images to lower resolution
- Uploading images to website & making it look pretty (2.0 hours)
- Sending order for 150 proofs to print house (1.0 hour)
- Speaking with Bill & Jane, managing their order(s) as well as any orders from friends and family (approx 5.0 hours in total)
- Managing the shipping and billing of all orders (3.0 hours)
- Misc (5.0 hours)
Total time spent: 39.75 hours
The cost of printing and shipping the 150 proofs to Bill and Jane is $0.90 per print (you are using a reputable professional print house, printing on archival paper on commercial grade Lambda or similar printers). $0.90 x 150 + $12.00 (shipping) = $147.00.
Once the entire package is delivered printing and shipping costs are:
Proofs as above = $147.00
$1.35 x 25 (5×7″ prints) = $33.75
$3.50 x 8 (8×12″ prints) = $28.00
$7.00 x 1 (16×20″ print) = $7.00
Shipping = $12.00
Total for prints: $218.25
You can’t forget the costs of your equipment, fuel for the car, paying an assistant, and general business operating costs:
Fuel = $15.00
Wear and Tear on equipment (depreciation) = $50.00
Assistant = $120 ($15/hr)
Business Insurance = $35 – this is based on a $2000/yr cost
Equipment Insurance = $20 – this is based on a $1040/yr cost
Marketing material = $5 – this is a very small marketing budget approx $260/yr
Misc = $35 – there’s lots of expenses we haven’t covered here
Total operating costs: $280.00
Now we take the package price of $1,850, subtract the print and materials cost of $218.25 and the operating cost of $280.00 and then divide the result by the number of hours worked (39.75):
1,850 – 218.25 – 280.00 / 39.75 = $34.00 per hour. This equates approximately $70,720.00 per annum. Now this isn’t really your salary, you have to put some money back into the business. Let’s say you put $10,000 per annum back into the business. your hourly rate drops to $29.20 and your take home salary would be $60,720.00 per annum. It gets worse. From the salary you need to deduct tax and money for your retirement plan. That will leave you with much less in reality.
The above example is just that. An example. All calculations are based on doing 1 wedding such as the one above each week for 52 weeks. A photographer just starting out isn’t going to have this much business and an established photographer is likely to have much more business than this but also higher expenses.
How can you increase your photography income?
You should always be endeavoring to improve your photography and editing skills. This boosts the “quality” of your product which as was discussed in my last post, will generate more business and therefore more income.
Streamline your workflow. In the example above you spent 12 hours on post processing. More experienced digital photographers might spend less time as well as achieve better results. This comes with learning and experience as well as trial and error.
Raise your prices. This is always an option. Especially if your work is good.
It’s my belief however, that skill alone will not solve these problems entirely.
I believe that in this era of digital photography, we need to rethink the way we deal with photographs. We’re still struggling because we’re still working from the mindset of traditional photography. My feeling is that we need to start using digital technology not only to shoot and edit ì we need to start using digital technology along the whole workflow.
Sure, in the end, customers are always going to want a picture they can hang on their wall. But there’s a lot more we can do with digital technology from shooting to printing that will help us take better photos and produce more efficient, valuable images.
I have much more to say on the topic of streamlining your workflow and the use of digital technology, especially when it comes to using the Internet to your advantage. Stay tuned over the coming weeks.
So let’s hear it ¶ how can we start using digital technology more to improve our efficiency? Any ideas? Anything you’ve tried?
Leave me a comment ì I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas.