I would say that 60% of my annual income comes from my commercial clients. Both larger ad campaigns and bigger brands to my small business clients. 25% is editorial, and 15% are my fine art sales.
I have never had another job, and sometimes am in amazement that I have made it work as a freelancer for this long. The hustle is real!
I am located on the east coast, but also have worked with clients around the US and globally over the years.
I am not represented and never have been. However, I do now use a temp rep on some of my larger jobs to help me bid them out!
No employees, just an incredible team of general contractors when I need them!
My monthly expenses are approximately $2200. I don’t own my own studio and rent when I need one for product etc. Most of my work is on location. I do not overspend on gear. I don’t have to have the newest of everything when it hits the market; I USE my gear. I also charge my clients for my equipment when it is used; I think that is a mistake so many of us make.
I would say I average about 12-15 days a month shooting, and the rest of the work week is spent editing and marketing. For the past two years, however, I made a commitment to myself to try and keep my weekends open, for the most part, for personal time. It has been the best decision I have ever made, and wish I had done it sooner!
I have great clients because I work a lot with small businesses. They are excited to be able to build their brand identity, and it ends up always being such a collaborative, creative endeavor. My bigger brand clients are how we all experience, great, but a lot of moving parts. The navigation of that can get challenging at times, and we often feel like the “button pusher,” but those jobs are what make it financially possible to pursue less lucrative opportunities.
My income after covid went up about 15% for some reason and has stayed that way for the last three years.
An average shoot for me is 8-10 hours. I charge my creative fee that either incorporates the license for smaller businesses or is broken out for larger brands plus all expenses.
My best-paying shoot was for a large national brand for two days, and I received 54k. I licensed 40 assets for one-year national use. After expenses, I walked away with about 40k.
We all know that editorial does not pay well, but it has always been such a great catalyst for me to meet independent business owners who then become my clients.
Commercially I would say my WORST paying gig was for health care through an agency. I worked five HALF days (yes, I know, no such thing) with a license for 20 final assets in perpetuity, plus 3 days of pre-pro, rental, assistants, gear for 8k.
I do not shoot video.
I think it is important to note that understanding the market and industry standard is so important. We have all taken gigs for pay that makes our stomach turn. However, we live in a season where clients and agencies take advantage of us because, well, they can. I think it is our responsibility as photographers to educate each other (per this platform Rob) so that we have more of a fighting chance…a rising tide…
The income reflects the changing nature of the client roster over the years.
I am a commercial photographer whose career has mirrored the local market place which is dominated but the home fashions furniture industry. I have had several clients for 10 yrs plus, including power motor yachts and multiple furniture manufacturers and mattress companies. Most are small businesses with gross revenues between $300 million to $2 million.
I briefly had an agent in the early 2000’s.
Never had an employee but had the great fortune of a dependable roster of freelancers. I just recently downsized to a detached garage/office (newly built) at my home from a 6000 sq ft studio. Annual costs for this studio ran about $30,000 a year. That was my largest overhead expense. Everything else is the usual; insurance, vehicles, phones, computers, equipment, etc.
My profit varies greatly from year to year. The key is keeping profit consistent on a job-to-job basis. More jobs you have, the better the total profit.
My number of days worked varies by year and the number of clients. Some years are super busy, and others, you are scrambling. In a typical year, about 35-50 shooting days and 100 -150 pre and post-production days.
My income changed dramatically in the last couple of years. The pandemic was difficult, and the nature of media is constantly changing clients’ needs.
Some shoots are structured heavily, and others much smaller and more personal. In general, my clients are personable, smart, and very much like to control things.
A typical shoot is a large (that is a relative term, I’m sure) production on location, where projects are usually a week (5 shooting days). Overall budget would run from $40k to $80k, and profit would be $15-25k. But also many smaller projects involving one or two days of shooting with an equal amount of prep and post.
Licensing isn’t really relevant for furniture as the product has a shorter life span. It’s more about the overall work you get from a client on a yearly basis.
My best shoot in the last few years was a 9-day project on location with a profit of around $35 to 40k.
I don’t really have a worst-paying shoot, as I keep all pricing consistent.
I do not shoot video.
Cash flow is the key to any long-term success. Stay out of debt. Build relationships. Find a client that needs repeat business, as this will set you on a successful path.
Income by style of photography 2019 (since this varies year to year): 65% commercial / 33% corporate / 2% editorial. My clients are all shapes and sizes (small biz to Fortune 500), but most are in healthcare and finance industries.
I had 2 employees for several years, down to 1 through Covid, and now I have none.
I have a lot of overhead. 2019 numbers: Insurance, gear, studio space, utilities, marketing/promo, wages/payroll, taxes – $275k; yes that is approx what my 2019 overhead looked like; it’s high.
Pre covid I would shoot at least 50 days a year; now it is more like 15.
Covid was awful for my business; my in-house producer and I got PPP which was amazing, but jobs are still way down compared to 2019.
I have some rental property income and have started trying to get more revenue out of relicensing/stock.
An average shoot is all over the place – commercial is usually 10+ hr days, corporate/Editorial might be half days, and pre and post-production takes up the rest of my time.
It varies year to year, but at least 1/3 of my projects include motion.
If you are making great work, spending on advertising really does produce results. Never underestimate how much time and money should be spent on marketing/promotion.
Lifestyle makes up 90% of my income. My clients are Fortune 500 (through advertising agencies) and local small businesses.
My overhead is less than $2k a month for a small space.
I shoot maybe 4-5 days a month on average.
Last year I paid myself about $140k; the year before about $110k.
On average, I charge about $4500 a day for a limited number of images, I will always try to limit Usage to 2 years, but sometimes I give them unlimited if they push for it. Of course, that changes depending on the client and the situation; sometimes I get $3k and sometimes $7k. There is no consistency from client to client.
This past year I shot for a Fortune 500 company for 3 days.
4,500.00 /day for 3 days: $13,500
Unlimited Usage: $6,000
Photography Prep/Scout: $1,500
Image cull: $3,000
Archive images: $1,800
Camera package: $6,000
Lighting/ Grip package: $6,000
All my own gear, all take home. $37,800.00 There was one scout day and probably four 1 hour long Zoom meetings. No motion.
I will usually take projects for small local businesses for $1,000-$1,500 a day to help them out. Sometimes it’s all day and then another day retouching files.
A lot of time, there is a video component, but I don’t make money on it because I hire a DP with a camera.
Always try to limit the number of final images delivered with a cost listed for additional images.
Since I live in my own studio, a lot of my “home” expenses (mortgage, car & car insurance, for example) are business expenses, and that was my saving grace last year.
I shoot a bit of everything all the time because no area alone has been sustainable. Pre-pandemic music (video + photo) & advertising were the bulk of my work. But I had to go back to a variety of projects now to stay afloat.
My clients are all over the world & US. Notable clients in 2021: Tecate Beer/Heineken, Don Julio Tequila. But also lots of local small companies, businesses, and musical instrument manufacturers (I shoot endorsement ads for musicians)
I am guessing, since my invoices tend to be mainly one-day shoots, that last year I shot about 45~50 days but in the past about 75 days a year.
I used to have constant growth, about 5% per year but 2022 I had a drop of about 40% in income.
To make ends meet, I’ve gone back to some photo assisting and digi tech.
Average shoot is 10~14hr days. Photo/Video. Licensing depends on the job; some clients have full ownership (especially if they are small, I usually don’t fight them). Bigger clients like Tecate/Don Julio or some bigger Music labels will pay usage etc. The usage I have experienced recently has mostly been online advertising usage. No print as of recent.
Take-home pay is at the lowest $500/shoot (small clients, 3~5hr shoot sometimes 14hr day), medium (mainly music clients) $1500~$3000, advertising $10k ($5K rate + $5K usage) for Tecate & Don Julio (Digital social media usage – 1 year).
Right now, shoots are 60% video.
Be patient & keep at it. If you don’t love your craft, you will not survive.