My income is 80% Weddings and 20% Commercial Photography. My business is structured as an LLC but taxes as an S-Corp.
My commercial clients are smaller businesses. I work with a lot of commercial video teams that bring me on to take stills alongside video.
Studio space – $300/mo
Equipment upgrades – $5,000-10,000 a year
I have a Roth IRA that I contribute a little bit to, and then I also have a small real estate investment portfolio. The goal is 10 houses in the next 8 years (I currently have 2 houses at the moment). After those 10 houses, the goal is to continually scale.
Realistically working roughly 160 days a year.
General increase of income year over year from 2018 until 2020. I still did roughly 100k in 2020. while in 2021 I photographed more weddings than any year prior and had an income decrease to 90k. 2022 picked back up with work, I shot less weddings but more commercial work and brought my average business income back to 95-100k.
I have two houses (3 rental units total). I live in a duplex and rent out the other side which covers 80% of my mortgage. I live for next to nothing because of my real estate income, which averages to about $400 a month take home. It’s not much at the moment, but I plan to scale and purchase another house within the next 12 months.
An average wedding is around 8-10 hours of coverage, and they are usually 30-90 minutes away from my home. Average wedding couple spends around $5,000. Take home after paying assistant and taxes is around $2,500.
Commercial projects are roughly 8-10 hour shoots with 3-4 hours of editing. My day rate is between $2,500-3,000 depending on the scope. Historically there have been few expenses per project, so take home is roughly that full amount.
Best shoot was for a local internet provider asking for photos of local spots in two nearby cities. Pay was initially $3,000. For some reason they dragged their feet on payment for three months. As an apology they added an extra $2,000 making the total take home $5,000 for about 6 hours worth of work over 3-4 days.
The worst paying shoot was for an education company. They wanted studio layflat images and then 2-3 headshots. The payment was $1,700 for 40 images. After I sent a contact sheet, they chose to select only headshots and lifestyle portraits of the owners. Which meant 40 heavily retouched photos. I outsourced the editing for time. After outsourcing and studio / light rentals, take home was around $1,000 for 8 hours of work.
I do not shoot or offer video.
I am strictly word of mouth. I have a wedding website, and have yet to build the commercial photography website.
Best advice was to learn how light moves, and hire an accountant.
Worst advice was to shoot destination weddings for free or next to nothing.
When quoting a commercial photography project, quote a number that makes your stomach turn. The worst thing they can do is say no for this project. Then when they have a project that has the budget you quoted, they’ll likely remember you and come to you. We all know higher price is often higher perceived value.