My income is 40% Architecture and Interior Design and 60% Real Estate. My clients are all local. I have 1 full-time and 3 part-time employees. My overhead includes systems, team equipment, and payroll. I work 260 days a year. My Profit is 70k.
My clients are loyal but very budget aware and like to haggle. My market is very competitive.
My income didn’t change much over the last few years because I’m in a growth market.
An average shoot lasts about 3 hours on-site, in which I am paid hourly + per image use. The average final invoice is about $1,200. After overhead, I take home about $300.
My best shoot was 1.5 days plus 4 hours of in-state travel. 8 hours total shooting, about 8 hours in post with social, web, and marketing usage for 5 years at $50/image. The total invoice was $5300. Take home was $3100 after expenses.
My worst shoot was 2 days with travel; the client told me they wanted one type of shoot, and the reality was they wanted another, so I did not have the correct equipment and had to return to the site the next day. It took up an entire Saturday and Sunday in which I spent three hours shooting and delivered 33 edited images and 33 watermark proofs; I was only paid $1000 and took home $250.
I don’t shoot video, but my team does. About 15% of our deliverables are video, but about 30% of the income is from video.
Research and compare your pricing and terms with your colleagues and competitors so you are not the photographer bringing down everyone’s value.
My income is 70% Commercial/Lifestyle and 30% Real Estate. My clients are mostly local small businesses and a couple of larger Chamber of Commerce types.
I hire a part-time assistant/grip on bigger Jobs maybe 10% of the time; besides that, I don’t have much overhead.
Between shooting and editing, I probably work around 250 work days a year.
Most of my clients are easygoing mom-and-pop types, but I do have two retainer clients at $2250 per month each. One is an influencer for which I do two 2-hour shoots a month, and for the other, I do five 1-hour shoots a month.
I was netting about 45K a year pre-pandemic, but the pandemic scared me, and I upped my hustle game and picked up real estate photography to make ends meet because the local housing market was skyrocketing. I have many years of experience shooting for higher-end builders and designers. I dumbed it down for quick and easy, in-and-out Real Estate clients that did not want to pay high dollar. By late summer of 2020, a good bit of my normal work came back, and I kept the real estate photography in my back pocket for extra quick cash. So, I have almost tripled my income from what I was making pre-pandemic.
As mentioned earlier, I have two retainer clients, which gross me 54K a year, Real estate Photography grosses me around 45k (I have not even really pushed this), and other normal day-to-day commercial/lifestyle work grossed around 75K.
For bigger commercial client shoots (local restaurants, golf, interior designers, headshots, and a couple of bigger production ad agency shots a year), I will have a few hours invested in developing a treatment after zoom meetings and emails to figure out the client’s needs. Then we usually have a scout day which I charge around $800-$1200 and then I average around $2200-$2500 per shoot day (8-10 hours per day) for my time, $300/day for assistant and then usually charge $300 per day for camera/gear allowance/rental. I will often times add in $500-$800 on the quote for editing and delivery. Each shoot day yields 25-30 final licensed images. They can select more at $100 per image. This would go up for national clients.
My best-paying shoot was for a golf tourism company. I grossed $6800 for a 2-hour scout day and 1.5 days of shooting. I probably netted $6200 after paying my assistant. Pre-tax.
The worst paying was a 3 hour restaurant shoot I did trade for and got a $300 gift card. But it is a long-time client, and every once in a while, they will hit me up for trade.
I don’t shoot any video.
My real estate side hustle I picked up in 2020 during the pandemic to make ends meet because the housing market was booming. I have never advertised it and just kind of word of mouth. This is ‘filler’ when I am not busy. Quick 30-45 minute in and out jobs, but they do add up. I did around 230 listings last year at an average of 200 bucks a pop for a gross of 46k. When I can, I try to stack all the listings for the week into one day. 5 or so max. A local colleague of mine did 1200 listings last year, but that is ALL they do. There is money there.
This is not for everyone and not the best business model, but it is pretty good money if you are not afraid to work. Looking to up some pricing this year and hopefully find a 3rd retainer client and phase the real estate back out. I just wanted to throw all this out there to let people know you can side hustle within your photography if you need extra income.
I just signed with a rep, but we have not worked together yet.
My clients are smaller architecture/design firms, mostly east coast, some west coast, and throughout the US. Occasionally I will work with an agency or brand, but my focus has been on doing high-end, modern architecture, so my goal is to primarily work with just architects.
I have no overhead besides maintaining equipment.
Last year I shot 33 days, but I’m in my home office most days either doing post-production or other admin or portfolio work; the goal has been to earn more per commission and shoot less so I can be more selective and spend more time on each project.
My income has increased a lot over the last few years; referrals have helped, as well as my plan to charge more and work less. I reworked my rate sheet and contract at the beginning of 2022, and it helped me attain my goal of being more selective about the projects I take on. Higher rates helped weed out lower-end projects and helped me to focus on larger cost share commissions where there are 3-4 project partners paying for licensing.
The only marketing I do is keeping up with Instagram posts. Most of my work comes from referrals, Instagram, and Google searches.
An average shoot in 2022 was 2 shoot days with the fees totaling approx. $15k-$18k with 2-3 additional licenses added in. My assistant and any travel was additional, although travel has been minimal since 2020. Take home was pretty close to that, as the only overhead/expenses I usually have are taxes.
The best-paying job in 2022 was $18k (expenses not included) for 2 shoot days; licensing had 4 total partners on the contract, two 10 hrs days; take home was $18k less taxes.
The worst job was one I took in San Francisco. I compromised my day rate to get the job because it sounded like a “cool” project. However, this is something I’ve learned to NEVER do over the decades I’ve been in business. It always leads to the client not respecting your rates, and everything, including your time, becomes negotiable. Expenses excluded, my fees were billed at $9950 for what turned out to be almost 4 days of shooting, with one additional license included. It was chaotic and stressful with a client who is fairly new to the design world. This was really their first “big” shoot, and they overspent their budget on stylists, moving companies, props, etc., etc.
No video work.
The best advice I have received: show what you want to shoot. This came from the first photographer I ever assisted. He told me never to show work for the sake of showing work if it wasn’t something I loved. I have held onto this for my entire career, and it has been the guiding light. If I’m not happy with what I’m shooting, really, what is the point? This business requires too much time, thought, emotion, and effort – just to be a means of making money. It satisfies my need to create.
The worst advice I have received is: “The client will never notice”…this was in a recent conversation with another photographer. I won’t specify what it was in regards to because I don’t want to put that person on the spot, but my gut rejected this mindset immediately. The client might not notice, but I will, and most of the time, I’m trying to please myself and my standards first. I need to know it is the best that I can do, always, because I will know the difference – regardless if the client does.
I had a conversation a couple of days ago with a photographer who reached out thru Instagram. The conversation quickly diverged into a long discussion on feeling adequate or good enough. I’m finding that this is a universal feeling that all creatives have, no matter the genre or level of success. Second-guessing what we are doing is the norm. Feeling like a fake… normal. Feeling not good enough or that others are succeeding more than we are… normal. We have to almost put our hypothetical blinders on and stay focused on OUR goals, on OUR opportunities, on OUR strengths, on OUR successes, and learn to be happy with where we are at. There is always room for growth, but sometimes it helps to take a look back thru the archives and see where we’ve come from and the progress we’ve already made. Ok, done preaching. :)
Our income is 30% Commercial and 70% product photography.
Most of our clients are regional to the southeast area of the US, but we are moving towards larger national clients. We mostly work with advertising agencies.
Every year we don’t have a baby, our profits grow.
We have no employees and hire freelancers for every job.
We fully renovated our studio in 2020, and we pay $1500/month in mortgage. $1100/property taxes. Utilities less than $300/month. Subscriptions and taxes vary.
We work 200 days a year.
We are the only Savage backdrop paper supplier within 200 miles. We really wanted our own stock to pull from without shipping individual rolls. Then started selling to the community. We also rent our studio to other photographers. The majority of our profits are still from shooting.
An average shoot for us is an 8-10 hour day averaging $3500/day in studio. Unlimited licensing around $2000.
Our biggest recent shoots:
1. For a cannabis company, we worked one week in Denver 10 hour days and made $33k in profit. Unlimited licensing.
2. Every month, we shoot 2-3 days in studio for a snack cake client and make $2500/day rate +$2000 in licensing + $500/styling = $5000 all profit per day. 8-hour days. That’s the cushiest job because we work with the same creative director and just have fun. Unlimited licensing.
Our worst-paying recent shoot: Headshots. $150/headshot. Thank goodness we stopped doing headshots this year. I mean, it’s easy to do in 20 minutes, but it costs our soul.
We don’t shoot video anymore.
The most valuable advice we have heard is from Art Streiber’s seminar at the Palm Spring Photo Festival. “Work on your systems.” I will bend over backward for a client but never forward.” “The product should be as good or better than what was in the client’s head.”
The worst advice we got was that you have to be in Los Angeles or New York to make it in this industry.
For marketing, SEO is everything. We also put out promos, but I find most of our best jobs come from Google.
I’ll retire when I’m dead. Irving Penn worked until 94.
50% of my income is from Commercial, 25% Editorial, 15% events, and 10% product. My roots are in photojournalism.
My clients are mostly local and statewide, with a handful of national clients. For one of my national clients, I travel with them 6-10x year. And they are an amazing organization. I’d jump through hoops of fire for them. I do not have anything in the Fortune 500 range. I have found out over time that the bigger the client (or agency) and the bigger the budget (and crew) translates, to bigger headaches. I prefer smaller clients who know exactly who they are and exactly what they need.
I am an army of one. But I do hire contractors, mostly HMUA and photo and lighting assistant. I also hire out some post work.
I work from home, but I do rent a large RV-sized climate-controlled storage unit that I share costs with my husband, who is in video production. We keep a lot of overflow equipment there. Plus, it doubles as an excellent studio for when I do product photography.
Nearly all of my monthly expenses I run through my business: advertising, healthcare, insurance (equipment, business and workers comp, health, dental), car repairs, gas, cell phone, etc.. Any recurring monthly cost gets run through my business.
My average monthly expenses range about $1500 – $2000
I run nearly all of my expenses through my business. I pay myself a meager weekly salary that equals to a whopping $30K a year. After expenses and my weekly salary, any leftover money stays in a business savings account for any just-in-case needs. Right now, I have about $40K in business savings.
In 2022, my expenses were higher than usual. I upgraded to the Canon R5, an R-series lens, a new laptop, and additional Profoto lighting and grip. I also had surgery which was costly, even after insurance, and that kept me out of work for about six weeks. So grossing $128K with being out of work for six weeks isn’t too bad for where I live. It’s just my husband of 17 years and me. We have no children (only pets). I have no business debt, and aside from our mortgage, we have no personal debt. Both of our vehicles are paid off. We live frugally and are at the point in our lives where we don’t need not want *stuff*.
For most of my photo shoots, 100% of my profits stay with me. It’s usually just me at the shoot. On larger shoots larger, or when there’s budget, I hire an assistant and occasionally HMUA . My assistant (photo grip) is usually my husband, so I don’t pay him. I do contract out some post work, but I do the vast majority myself.
I typically work 3 days a week. If I can book 5-7 full and/or half-day shoots a month, I’ll be happy. While over the last 2-3 years, my client list has been smaller, I am shooting higher paying jobs for the ones I do have. Work less, make more. Isn’t that what we all strive for?
My clients run the gamut: local and national publications, city and state government, small ad agencies, healthcare, industry, interior design, and B2B. I consider myself a generalist. I don’t specialize in one thing. In a small market, you have to be versatile.
Over the last five years, I’ve seen a steady 10-15% increase in my gross income. Covid didn’t affect me at all. In 2020, I saw a 14% increase from 2019.
I also teach yoga, but that’s two days a week and only if I doesn’t conflict with photo work. I make very little teaching yoga, and that goes to my personal slush fund. I don’t teach for the money, I teach because I love the practice as well and the amazing yoga community where I teach.
I do have a minimum of what I’m willing to take a shower and put on real pants for. The average half-day shoot (four hours) with equipment and post runs about $1800-$2200. For a full day (eight hours), if it’s just me, about $2300-$2700. If I have assistants or HMUA, then around $3100 and up. As far as licensing goes, it’s really hard to get people/agencies to pay licensing. Too many young and inexperienced photographers who give away their work ruined that a long time ago in my region. However, everyone pays a little something, even if it’s minimal. But I do charge a larger, more reasonable fee — and I often get it – when I have a bigger client who understands and respects the value of why I’m charging it. That number varies based on the job and need. For most, I often lump it in with my post-production costs when I estimate a job based on the information they give me when they first reach out. I don’t have cookie-cutter days or jobs. Every job and client is different.
I was hired by a local, small oil company to photograph seven of their better-looking gas stations at sunset in two states. The original job was only to provide seven digital images. They were opening a new HQ and wanted to have large prints made for their office. The original job was for $3K. After I photographed and proofed the photos, which they absolutely loved, they asked me my advice on getting prints made. At my own expense, I sent them three options for prints: a basic, lusture finish 8×12 print, a print with a metallic finish, and an actual metal print with a high gloss coating. They loved the metal print demo print so much that they asked me to take care of the prints. They ended up buying 3-4 prints PER station.
So an initial digital file-only job of $3K snowballed into 24, large metal prints to the cost of just over $17K. My only real expense was the $2K I paid to a digital retoucher who edited out power lines, cleaned up oil stains from the parking lots, etc., I charged back to cost of the metal prints, plus a 20% markup for myself. Since that job in 2018, I’ve photographed three more locations, and they’ve bought six more metal prints.
I can honestly say I haven’t had a *worst paying job*. I just turn away work where the money, need, terms, don’t align. If someone seeks me out, and really wants to work with ME and they have a budget $1000, I’m happy to work with them, but they must bring their photo needs and desires to a reasonable level for that budget.
I am married to a man who shoots video. I also work with him as a producer, teleprompter operator, PA, and the occasional grip.
Know your worth. It’s OK to say no. Turn work away when the budget isn’t there. Because once you work for cheap, they’ve got you. It’s incredibly difficult to go up on your rates. Also, you don’t have to have always have the latest and greatest gear. Refine your skills with the tools you have. As my photojournalism professor taught us, “It’s not the gear, it’s the person using it”.