Last year I shot primarily editorial work. My clients are Local, generally small-scale companies.

My expensenses are Business Insurance: $1,850 (CAD), Adobe subscription: ~$972 (CAD), car expenses, occasional gear repairs and upgrades.

I’m not sure I’m making any profit at the moment. If I am, it’s barely worth mentioning.

I might work 25 days a year. I’d love to improve that.

Prior to January 2022, I was working regularly as a photo assistant at a large commercial studio in Toronto, while doing my own shoots on the side. The assisting work made up the majority of my income. When I decided to strike out on my own last year, my income dropped by about 25%.I sometimes do private photography lessons, although I don’t advertise this. It’s not a significant contributor to my income.

For a typical shoot, I will spend a few hours location scouting, half a day shooting and up to 8 hours editing (as needed). For a commercial shoot I charge $1,050 per day (expenses like H/MUA, assistants, etc. are on top of that). My editorial rate is a bit lower at $800 per day.

The best job I had in the last few years was a day I spent photographing an automotive product demonstration. One full day of shooting, one day of minor editing. I made $1,050.

The worst was a bat mitzvah. In my contract, I specified that I would do event coverage using available light and up to 4 studio-style portraits with backdrop and strobes in an alcove at the venue. On the day of the shoot, the mother of the young girl insisted I take photos of just about every permutation of the extended family. I ended up doing 53 group portraits. The editing took me 2 months, and I didn’t feel comfortable asking for extra money. I made $800.

I don’t shoot video. I leave video work to the people who have spent at least as much time learning that craft as I have learning stills photography.

My advice to photographers is to raise your rates regularly. Your experience is valuable.

Covid wrecked my business.

I shoot 80% Editorial and 20% Fine Art. My clients are all over the US and International. I am a C Corp and myself and my husband are employees. Overhead: Equipment (mostly computer hardware/software), health insurance is a giant expense, camera insurance, liability insurance, payroll, internet/web, materials for fine art work, non-billable hours for business promotion. I need to gross approx. $5k per month to make expenses, which include contributing to a ROTH IRA, payroll, taxes, equipment, etc. I work around 250 days a year.

My clients are cheap, constantly asking for “trade” in the form of a “photo credit”.

I am married to someone who has good real estate investments. Prior to Covid, I only had to consider the most basic business expenses, however now that we lost the income from the investments, I have had to try and make up in areas that I previously did not have to fund, (such as health insurance).

On an average shoot before Covid I would have assignments where I would made a tidy profit which included the ability to bill for equipment, pre-production, location fees and other reasonable costs or have a flat fee that covered those expenses. Now, the majority of the requests I get for shoots are flat fees with no reimbursement for actual expenses.

My most profitable shoot since Covid was for a major US Newspaper where I was working locally, got to go home at night and the net income was about $3K for 3 days’ work. The hours worked each day were about 8 – 10 because I spent a lot of time prepping the images for publication. Otherwise I had a couple of assignments that were profitable because I negotiated based on their budget and kept my actual expenses very low.

The worst shoot day was for a major Newspaper based on the West Coast. The day rate was $150 for a portrait shoot about a 45 minute drive from my home city. The paper ended up using a bunch of images, the terms of the contract were horrible, but I was desperate to get some work going due to the losses from Covid shutting down everything. I don’t think I actually earned any money, maybe $35 total profit.

Yes I shoot video, but I have not had many assignments that include video,. For the majority of video I shoot, the client just asks for raw footage and sound, then their editors put the final piece together.

Advice I would give to anyone considering this line of business – stand up for your copyright and understand that this job, photography, is a business. Photo credits are useless. Try to comprehend that the decisions you make do not just effect you, but effect everyone in the industry, not only at this moment, but well into the future.

I shoot 50/50 food and architecture. All my clients are local restaurants, food manufacturers/distributors, interior designers, and architects.

Gross last year was $120k. Crew, camera kit replacement (after 10 years of D800’s), equipment repairs, flights, studio rent were the main expenses.

In 2022 I had 106 shoot days.

My income has increased roughly +15% year over year of you exclude 2020.

Average shoot unless I’m bidding to an agency, I’ll always have a combined creative and licensing fee to cover my take home. Often in Portland, for local clients, $2500-$3000/day is the ceiling for my client base. Expenses are usually passthrough because I’m already maxing out clients budgets just on my creative rate alone.

Usage is almost entirely website and social, sometimes POP, occasional packaging, rarely national, never global.

Non-exclusive usage in NA in perpetuity is common with most of my clients because they’re local, have never heard of usage.

For agency work, every job is different and will negotiate rights on a per-job basis. That said, I’ve negotiated buyout twice in the last 5 years, and those were significant pay days.

Average hours worked is probably close to 20 between prepro, shoot, and post.

My biggest shoot was for a national agriculture organization promoting food products. I took home $27,000 after 5 days of in studio POP still life work. Agency was to handle retouching (they didn’t touch them, disappointingly), expenses were close to $15,000 in addition to the 27k creative and licensing rates.

Worst shoot was for a well known global company with $6k budget to shoot packaging in studio with 15 deliverables. I wanted the client, blew the whole budget on the set dresser, studio rental, retouching, and lunch orders. There was no agency involvement. and I lost about $1500 on that shoot.

I don’t shoot video.

Play the long game. That job that I lost $1500 on, netted me $15k from other work I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten with other clients.

I was making 85k with full benefits in the US then moved to NZ which increased my income but the exchange rate means my purchasing power when I come back to the US is diminished. The company supplies all my gear and computers.

I work 42 hours per week, regular full time. Busy times of year can push into 50+ hours.

My personal photography is long-form documentary (I like to return to subjects over time), but professionally I work in Film and TV. I have always been an in-house photographer. I spent six years at a science museum covering everything from headshots to complex studio shoots as well as accompanying researchers in the field. I also ran a robotic camera system doing gigapixel images of scientific specimens. This variety has led me to some interesting opportunities including the job I have now.

I know my income could be much higher if I went freelance, but the continual change in what I get to shoot keeps me learning and growing skills. I don’t know I would get to explore this as much if I needed to brand myself as a particular kind of photographer. So far this year I have done everything from costume finals in the studio on a model to high-end product photography of swords. Being in-house what I shoot changes every week which I love!

Through my employer I have done work for Disney, Marvel, and other Film and TV productions. Daily clients are internal, mostly other departments and project supervisors who need images taken.

My days are 60-40 shooting vs admin usually. Some days I’m shooting almost back to back for hours, some days are just spent on processing and getting through backlogs. Most shoots are either quick 30min turnarounds or 2-4hr shoots with fit models. About five times a month I have full-day shoots that include video.

I love video work. I fill in for the in-house videographer occasionally.

Recommended Posts