Why does photography cost so much? Photography is an art that requires a lot of knowledge—way more than I knew when I first picked up a camera. Running a photography business (and trying to turn a profit) requires a lot of equipment, time, and patience.
Last year, I attended a workshop presented by Kevin Vandivier (LIFE, TIME, USA Today, National Geographic, Texas Monthly), Skeeter Hagler (Pulitzer Prize winner), and Kelley Toombs (creative, design, and art director for over 25 years). In addition to taking time to critique my work, this group of professionals also took time to critique my pricing structure. I was scared.
At this point, I was charging $3 for a 4X6 action shot. They were alarmed that my work was so inexpensive. I rallied back that I wanted to be able to share these “moments” with these high school athletes and if they were too expensive, people would not purchase them. Then they explained this: I choose the value of my work. If I value one of my shots at $3, then that is the value. The client will also place a $3 value on the picture. Then, the client will expect the same thing when looking at work from another photographer. I must value my work.
At the beginning of last school year, I compromised and raised my prices to $6. This is more in lines of what I have actually paid for action shots of my own kids from other professionals. However, I offer the print at a discounted rate during the sporting season and for a short time thereafter. If the print is purchased within that time frame, then my customer automatically receives a $2 per print discount.
I value my work… my art, and I hope that you do too.
Here is a simple breakdown regarding my photography company:
- $5,000 — Equipment: This is a rough estimate, but covers my camera, lenses, strobes, and miscellaneous equipment.
- $1,000/Annually — Federal Tax: Since I also work for an employer, it’s impossible, at least for me, to get an exact dollar amount on this. But, this is my estimate on the self-employment taxes I paid on behalf of Ata-Girl.
- $600/Annually — Printing Lab: This is what I spent at the lab in 2011. That doesn’t count what I had printed at the Wal-Mart lab before making the change to using the pro lab all of the time, despite the lack of convenience.
- $550/Annually — Insurance: In short, this insures my equipment, property and bodily damage.
- $500/Annually — Storefront: This includes charges to process credit card payments and to run my storefront.
- $500/Annually — Software and Office-Related Purchases: This is about what I spent on software, data cards, backup drives, ink, paper, envelopes, postage, blank DVDs, etc.
- $100/Annually — Domain Registration and Web Server: This is the only means of advertising that I currently pay for. That could change in the future.
The things that occupy my time are:
- Photography: I would estimate that, on average, I spent about five hours a week shooting sporting events.
- Editing and Post Processing: For every hour I spend clicking my shutter button, I generally spent another three to four hours editing.
- Uploading to Storefront: This doesn’t take too much time, but generally about 20 minutes for each event.
- Processing Orders: I make a final review of the picture, double-check for composition and color. This normally takes about an hour per order which I do about every other week.
- Administrative Duties: I do mundane things like prepare a sales tax return four times a year, file my federal tax return. In regards to the Internet, I write blogs to promote my business, send out ezines, and engage socially via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
- Continuing Education: As often as I can, I attend seminars and clinics, I watch webinars, tutorials, how-to videos online and read professional magazines. In general, I try to absorb any information that I can that relates to photography.
Now, having said ALL that, please don’t take this as a complaint. I am not complaining. I wish I had enough work to do this full time and be able to support my family, but that’s not the case. The only point I am trying to make is this: My work is art and it is valuable. It takes a lot of resources to produce a $6 quality keepsake for you — $4 if you buy it early.
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I am a San Antonio-based wedding photographer and I cater to outdoor-loving couples who prefer to have all the realness captured on their wedding days. I am the wedding photographer for the outdoor adventurers, the romantics, the laid back, the snugglers, and those who wish to capture all their realness.
I am absolutely in love with capturing the kinds of weddings where there are more hugs than handshakes, the dance floor rumbles all night long, and chairs are pretty much rendered useless after dinner. Whiskey bottles are passed around, most of the wedding party has been best-best friends since kindergarten, Grams is likely to lose her shoes and your partner is much more emotional than you are. These kinds of weddings are my jam!
I started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. I enjoy documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I love being a part of people’s journeys and consider myself privileged to document their legacies.
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I am a published author (purchase my book here), a podcast host (listen here) (watch here) and a WPPI-C certified professional, full-time wedding photographer. I specialize in a 10-day image delivery, same-day prints, same-day slideshows, Italian handcrafted wedding albums and I have a mobile meeting space.
When I’m not behind my camera, you can find me hiking, cycling, backpacking, camping, enjoying water sports, listening to music (Elvis and Prince), hunting for arrowheads, reading audiobooks, occasionally eating a few glazed donuts (my only weakness to sweets) and then re-starting my keto diet about every 10 days. The most important things in life are for me to see my two daughters happy and to create a family history my grandparents and grandson would be proud of.