My income is Action/adventure sports-70%, Video (growing)- 10%, Commercial-10%, Editorial-5%, Licensing/stock sales-5%
My clients are NZ based companies, Small/medium businesses and medium to large events companies but I’m looking to expand to the US market.
Major costs (NZD): $600/ year to for website hosting/platform, $175/ month for business insurance, $85/ month for an accountant, $100/ month for networking groups.
My retirement is a mixture of past life teaching retirement funds that are building passively with no new contributions and a personal stock portfolio, but no direct plan related to the photography business yet.
In 2022, I worked 92 days.
My first year I operated at a loss of nearly $5,000 NZD. I was only working $2-500 jobs with the occasional licensing deal and stock image sales, and had A LOT of startup costs (nearly $35,000 worth). So year 1 was difficult because I needed to accept a lot of those lower paying jobs to prove myself in the industry and build my portfolio. I was constantly pitching for jobs, and turned away because I didn’t have enough experience and I didn’t know how to price myself correctly, or near the market average.
By year 2, I had a much better portfolio, and was able to start charging the industry average rate, if not better. I had less expenses, earned more, and profited nearly $20,000. I was able to live primarily on small drawings from the business income.
I am a former teacher, so I have used a lot of my contacts in the industry and my own teaching experience to help gain some work from schools (rebuilding websites, new photo libraries etc). This has helped pad my bank account during the transition phase to full time photography and during the slow or shoulder seasons between adventure sports seasons.
I would also substitute teach 1 day a week when I needed it, and that would cover my bare minimum costs (food and gas). I still maintain my teaching license in year 2 of the business, but plan to phase that out soon.
Average adventure sports event shoot (editorial style):
It’s never just a ‘day rate’ for shooting adventure sports. There is always a pre production day/days, packing and planning gear. Event days can be 1 hour of travel or more (sometimes flying the day before). Average event is 6 hours and then post processing is faster for me then most. I can shoot an average of 5,000 photos per event, and cull and deliver a few hundred final edited images in a half a day. For editorial style events, I always keep licensing terms limited to ‘promotion of the event’ on social media or websites, and make extra money off of separate licensing deals with sponsors who want to use the image for something else. I charge out for travel and editing time and my gear on top of daily rate, so take home pay usually is pretty high. Probably take home an average of $1300 NZD per event shoot, but that usually covers 2 to 2 1/2 days of work.
My best shoot so far was 4 days worked for a large events company, shooting their “hero marketing images.” Had to deliver 5-10 images each of the 4 days within 3-4 of the event each day, and then 100+ overall final shots. Each day was about 6 hours on course, 3 hours editing post event day. So 9 hour days each day. I maintained copyright, images could only be used in event company portfolio in all promotions (digital and print) to promote the event. Sponsors of the event could only use the images to promote sponsorship, anything else would be separate negotiation per image. Travel covered between locations all 4 days, and back home (~$600). $30 for meals each day. $1490+ tax daily rate (included editing and admin time because I wanted to win the job). Overall pay $6,500 + tax, take home pay about $5,000.
lowest paying job was $150 +tax for 4 hour event photography. 2 of those jobs back to back earned me $300 for the day, but after expenses and taxes, maybe walked away with $200. Photos were to be used to promote the event on social media and company website. Sponsor had access to them as well, but only for event promotion.
I have started offering photo/video packages for small to medium businesses looking for higher quality imagery. The video work makes up maybe 5-10% of my work at the moment, but steadily growing.
I have chosen to mainly only shoot RAW clips as add-ons for businesses that want them. I have tried going for bigger projects, but normally have the help of a video production agency to assist in the planning and execution of shots.
I mainly market on Instagram, LinkedIn and my website. A lot of my potential customer base are athletes from races that want to buy photos of themselves and post it to social media, or they are small to medium businesses or agencies that live off of the LinkedIn atmosphere.
I chose to put thousands of hours into learning how to code and properly design my website, so that the experience was engaging, and many types of visitors to my site would engage. I built a portal for athletes to buy their photos, stock photos and prints to be sold, and for people with potential project ideas to contact me if they wanted.
Putting time and effort into a strong and visually appealing website has done more for my business than anything else.
Best advice. Do less. When things feel like they are getting hard and you have tried everything…just take a step back and do less. It is almost like the law of opposites will bring you what you were looking for the entire time…you just need to give it time and space and it will work out the way you originally intended.
Worst advice. Don’t bother fighting for your images.
Challenge yourself to speak up. Challenge yourself to become seen, find creative ways to get people’s attention. If you want something bad enough, then go after it and keep going after it.
Realise that in this digital age, your photos STILL have enormous value. Don’t ever let companies try to tell you they can’t pay you a certain amount for your images because they are ‘just using them for social media.”” For a lot of companies, digital is their ONLY way to market nowadays…so your photos mean a lot more to them then you might realise.
Make sure that you do your research on what your photos could potentially be worth. Learning about licensing is KEY to being able to stand up for what you and your photos are worth…so don’t underestimate that.