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Let's talk "affordability"!

Let’s talk about a question I see a lot on Facebook groups!

“Can anyone recommend an “affordable” photographer”? Not trying to pay an arm or a leg”

First of all, I don’t accept body parts as payment 🤣

All joking aside- “affordable” is a relevant term. What is “affordable” to one person may not be to another.

You may think Olive Garden is affordable, but to some it is a luxury and to others it’s cheap.

The most important thing is to get out of the thinking that it costs photographers little to nothing to do their job and that they love it so it’s not "working". That couldn’t be further from the truth- and honestly it’s something that my own family doesn’t even understand.

While, yes, it is fun- photography IS work and I regard it as such. There are days where I wake up and don’t want to go to work just as you do at your job.

It costs A LOT of money to do this job. Let me breakdown SOME of the costs.

1- self employment tax- 15.3% of my income

For example if you book a $500 session with me $76.50 immediately goes to taxes. So now I am at $423.50

But we’re not finished…

2) Fees to accept credit cards- it’s roughly 3%. That’s -$15 so now we’re at $408.50

3) gas/mileage- the IRS standard for mileage for wear and tear/gas is .67 a mile. On average I drive 60 miles to and from a session. That’s $40.20. = $368.30

3) I have an assistant that communicates with you and does all clerical work. It would be too much to handle witjout her. Subtract that and now we’re somewhere around $345.

So that $500 is now $345.


Let’s do monthly subscription costs to do my job:

1) Adobe Lightroom (editing software) $21 a month

2) HoneyBook (to send your contracts and invoices) $10 per month

3)Cloudspot (to host your galleries for you to download) $45 per month

4)PPA membership (equipment insurance) $30 per month

5) High speed internet $100 per month

6) Staff Pay ranges from $250-$1500 a month

7) Marketing (so people can find me to book me) $300-$600 per month

8) cell phone (we will do a prorated amount for business which I’d say is 50%) so $50

9) part of my car payment (50% for work) so 50% of my car payment- $330

So on average I pay $1486 just to operate. That’s around (before I take out employee pay) 4  $500 sessions just to break even. More for smaller sessions and pay out the costs.

But let’s take a deeper look at how I break down this $500 session.

We already know that after the costs were down to $345.

A $500 session takes time.

Roughly an hour for the initial booking and conversing back and forth/drawing up contracts, roughly an hour session, an hour drive time, and 3 hours culling and editing. That’s 6 hours at $57.50 an hour. And that’s after I’ve essentially done 4 sessions for free to pay what it takes to run the whole thing so really less. We will call it $40 an hour if you add in the free hours.

BUT I have $20,000 in CAMERA GEAR

$5,500 in computers for editing

$2500 in accessories (flashes, memory cards, batteries, harnesses, bags)

And that doesn’t include yearly fees like for my CUA license for the National Park, website hosting and security, email, or education (which this year alone I spent around $1000 on)

All in all after it’s said and done I make around $30 an hour.

Walmart managers make more than that to put it into perspective. I have to live on that, retire on that, pay insurance on that- I don’t get that company matched 401k, the dental health and vision, the Christmas bonus, the quarterly bonus, the sick time, the holiday pay, or any of the perks that come with a 9-5.

$30 an hour for ART that I’ve spent 15 years of my life learning, growing, and honing in my skill. To meet strangers in the middle of the woods.

To capture memories you will cherish FOREVER.

Think twice before you ask for someone “affordable” and if you see someone advertising cheap sessions- they do not invest in equipment, education, etc nor do they do this full time- it’s just their side gig and you are

probably sacrificing quality.

Someone that was a past client said to someone I know this year “I wanted to hire Chelsey, but she’s out of my price range so I hired someone else. I spent $180 and I hate every photo”.

Is it better to throw away $180 or INVEST $500 into your priceless memories?

Support small businesses and female entrepreneurs!

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