In an age where everyone can do anything they want thanks to owning the tool and then watching 10 minutes of Youtube videos, we have people who believe they are makeup artists, but don’t wash their brushes cashing catastrophe, cake artists who still don’t know about securing the pastries and the properly named blog “cake wrecks”, and thousands of people holding entry line DSLR cameras who feel that because the own a tool, they are now professional.
Most of these people operate under the books. They have no licenses, certifications or learned skill sets and they are killing creative industries by teaching people that crap is worth something and that crap pay is “okay”. I’m sorry, but $18 for 3 dozen cupcakes may be a steal, but know that person isn’t filing their taxes. Want to know how I know? Because a third should go to taxes. So they charged you for $12, but of that $12 comes the 3-6 eggs, the oil or butter, the water, the icing and the cake mixes or scratch products. Even by some miracle they couponed themselves into a great deal, they still aren’t charging the 2-3 hours for making them – that’s about $15 right there after taxes if they had a minimum wage job. So, yes, in your search for a great deal, you just paid someone under the table.
Now some may say that under the table doesn’t matter, but this is why it does.
There are people who charge $50 for 25 images on a disk. I know they aren’t paying their taxes, their insurance or delivering a luxury product. But that’s just it, anything that is a service to you is a luxury product. Someone else making your kids cake? Luxury. Someone else doing your nails? Luxury. Someone else doing your makeup? Luxury. Someone else taking your photos? Luxury. Remember that.
So if person A charges $50 per disk. Spends an hour with you, spends 2-3 hours editing (or lets just compare someone who hands them over without edits) so they spend 1 hour editing, 1 hour commuting/booking/advertising/etc. They have just worked two hours. Of that $50, in the State of Texas, there is roughly $4.00 from that that should have been filed with the state and local authorities for sales tax. Down to 46. Then there is the roughly third of self-employment taxes that should be filed. That brings the person down to $30.36. Let’s say the disc cost 10 cents, they are down to $30.26, although haven’t seen a bulk price down to 10 cents in awhile. That leaves about $15 per hour if they spent two hours on your session. That’s not bad.
But, they still haven’t done the basics: insurance, accounting, training, equipment reinvestment and more. It’s recommended that a person have general liability and equipment insurance, and possibly more depending on their situation. Insurance is roughly $500 per year, although some find less. Accounting depends, but lets say its just $300 a year (which I think is way low and a steal,) training is usually a $200-500+ budget depending on the photographer because you cant learn everything from Youtube, camera equipment and cards see wear and tear and from what I’m told, I should be investing $500-1000 a year into equipment. So my yearly minimum cost is right around $2000.
That $30 I made on session I’d have to offer 67 times before I broke even of basic business expenses.
So no, that person you paid $50 for photos from is not filing. They are not running a business professionally. They are an amateur who you shouldn’t be paying. I’m not saying new people starting out shouldn’t be offering discounts, but there are more photographers charging $50 to shoot and burn and diluting the pool of photography than good photographers who have mastered the craft.
Finally, the product. There are people who will take crappy pictures and price themselves like Walmart portraits. I, and most photographers trying to make a business are not WalMart. We do consultations, help with wardrobes, select unqiue spots. We don’t simply sit you in front of a backdrop and hope for the best. We spend hours afterwards ensuring that your images are beautiful. We do not send you on your way with everything under the sun for $20 because while Walmrt offers a lot of things for cheap because they buy everything in bulk, you are not a bulk client. You are an individual.
All this said, when purchasing whatever product, if you want to support small businesses, please do. But, realize that the price paid does not indicate value. I tell me husband we buy him more expensive clothes because they will last longer and hold up better, but I see not need for our children to have something that will last ten years. They will grow out of it. However, pictures last a lifetime and a lifetime beyond that. Pay for photographers and other artists that when you break down the math they are earning a living, that you can be sure they are paying their taxes and be secure in knowing you really did invest in the local economy.
Photo for graphic free download from Canva, a great online application to build media.