Fear – detriment to the photography industry.

This past spring, I knew the photography industry was getting bad.   I used to take on up to 10 clients per week.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have clients, and I love them as they are quality over quantity; however, going from 10 clients per week to around 2 or 3 after 10 years ago being the “it” newborn photographer of the Baltimore area, well……. you see the writing on the wall.

I began to take some real estate photography through a friend, well through two friends… a long time friend, and a friend who I met through my son’s football team.  I received a blow to my ego having to take it for $150 per house.  That, my friends, is pocket change.  I understand that realtors don’t have a big budget to spend (so this is nothing against the realtors – if they can get it for cheap, they should… I’m a business person too, I get it – go cheap and good because that helps your bottom line).

Real estate photography has been driven down over the years, despite the fact that with amazing professional photographs of a house, the chances of selling that house go up greatly.  The quicker they can turn houses over, the more money a realtor will add to their bottom line.  A professional photographer is worth its weight in gold…… well…. not anymore…. not when everyone is willing to produce good work for cheap.

$150 isn’t that bad, is it?  Consider this….

  • Time to/from the house to be photographed…. avg. 1 hour
  • Time photographing this house……… avg 1 hour (unless homeowners are there, and you have to be polite and chit-chat)
  • Time to pull images from the card, cull them, quick edit them, and upload….. avg 1 hour
  • Admin time (answering emails, making phone calls to book the date, troubleshooting, cleaning/preparing equipment, mapping out location)….. avg 1/2 hour
  • Buffer time (this is the time that you try to tell yourself doesn’t exist, but let’s get down to reality – this time does exist, you just try to make yourself feel better by saying it doesn’t…. this is the time added to maybe having to stand around and chitchat with a homeowner or make a few extra calls that week or the house was further than you thought or the homeowner bumped you from that time last minute, etc.)…. avg 1/2 hour

This is a 4 hour job for $150.  Well that’s not bad, that’s nearly $40/hour.  WRONG.

  • $150 minus $20 gas = $130
  • minus percentage of equipment used (including lenses, cameras, computer, etc.), insurance, etc. (this is your overall figure for the year, divided by your sessions)  $25.
  • minus percentage of advertising budget, website maintenance, etc.  (again, based on your overall yearly figure divided amongst sessions ) $25
  • divided by 4 hours worked
  • subtracting 42% in taxes.  Yes, as a business, self employed, you will pay approximately 42% in taxes as you are responsible to pay your self-employment taxes that normally, your employer would pay.

(these figures are based on a part-time photographer  — a marketing budget and equipment could add up to much much more as things have changed greatly over the past few years as far as marketing vs. return on marketing)

You just made a whopping $32 to put into your pocket for that job.  Is this the salary of a business owner?  I think not.  I don’t know of any business owner who would work for $8 an hour (in their pocket).  And sadly, there are photographers not even charging $150 per house.

Incidentally, this friend took the real estate work back from me, citing it was her passion even though she acknowledged that I was pretty much broke, and I desperately needed the money…. I was hurt at the time, as the slap in the face stung, but in hindsight, it was probably the best thing to happen to me, to pull me from that slump of taking what I could get and not valuing myself.   I knew my photography was worth much more than 8 bucks an hour.

So many photographers get into a trap of thinking they are not worth it…. there is a serious problem with self-esteem among us.   I’ve preached and preached about never stooping to something that is beneath you, yet here I found myself in that situation.  Why?  It was fear.  It was fear of not being able to make my mortgage. It was fear that I would be left with nothing.

That same week, I received a call that changed my perspective on life and what I wanted out of it completely.  More later…..

And if you like these financial breakdowns of what photographers charge, no worries, I have many more 😉

About Jodie Otte

Maryland Newborn Photographer and Child Portrait Artist, Jodie Holstein-Otte, specializes in unique photography of newborn babies, kids, and families. She works on location in Harford, Howard, Cecil, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and other areas throughout Maryland. She uses both both natural lighting and soft studio lighting techniques.