Dear Family Photographers,
Fucking enough already.
Or rather, STILL NOT ENOUGH!
If you are charging under $1k for an all-inclusive photo session, we need to talk.
Or rather, you need to talk to your accountant. And if you don’t have an accountant, you need to factor hiring one into your math.
Run the numbers, it’s really a pretty basic equation:
What do you consider to be a livable wage? As in, how much money would you need to make in a year to cover all of your expenses, including the fun stuff (i.e. vacations), the boring stuff (i.e. repairing your HVAC system), and the unforeseen stuff (i.e. a giant hospital bill or a couple of months off of work due to a broken wrist).
Take that number,
Add in the money you want to save for retirement, college funds, etc.
Add an estimate of the running expenses of your business (equipment, subscriptions, education, insurance, etc.)
Add 35% for taxes
Now divide that final number by the number of sessions you can realistically shoot in a year (keeping in mind slow seasons and reasonable time off with family).
That’s your per-session MINIMUM number. If it’s below $900, we want to know how you got there.
And if you’re saying, “but I don’t need full time work…
...my partner makes enough money to support us.”
...photography is just my part-time gig”
…I mostly shoot weddings, so a $350 all-inclusive family session is just a fun way to add a little bonus money during the week...”
WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS NOT ONLY DEVALUING YOU AND YOUR WORK, IT’S BRINGING DOWN THE AVERAGE INCOME OF FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHERS EVERYWHERE.
And you know who we are right?
The vast majority of us are women. Women running their own businesses. Women who want and NEED to contribute to our family income (including plenty of us who are sole income earners).
Running a business for less than a living wage isn’t sustainable. The self-employed work ALL THE TIME. We pay for our own health insurance, we don’t get Christmas bonuses or paid sick days, and we fund our own retirement accounts without matching contributions. These are not complaints - just part of the whole package. BUT if you’re not charging enough to do all of that, why do it?
Wouldn’t it be better to just go get a job you can clock in and out of and keep your photography as a hobby for yourself? Wouldn’t it be even better than that to start charging enough that you could do free sessions for causes you care about or turn down work from people who want you to do work you’re not interested in? Wouldn’t it be the very best if you won the lottery and could shoot only what you wanted, when you wanted, for whomever you wanted and never ask anyone for money ever again? We’d sure love that, too, but we’re working with option B and would encourage you to do the same.
We know that people who are giving their work away will eventually burn out… it’s inevitable. Unfortunately, there always seems to be a newbie lined up behind them ready to take their place. Our clients can’t help but see these price discrepancies and wonder if they’re being taken for a ride, but truly: what family photographers provide is invaluable. When people talk about the things they’d grab if their house was on fire, photos of their family almost always tops the list. Those of us who do this professionally take our jobs seriously: we invest in our craft, our equipment, our education, and our client experience… and we need our clients to invest in us right back.
If you’re one of the people who are making that harder to justify, we’d love to hear from you. We can debate if you’d like, or we can help you strategize on how to change up your model. Please don’t take this the wrong way… we understand where you’re coming from. But the industry needs to change this mentality, and that process starts with you.
The Family Narrative
PS- feel free to re-post/share this if it resonates with you and you’d like to get this conversation going in your own community..