Happy Thanksgiving

Honest to goodness, I am most thankful for my husband and my photography business.

I really don’t mean to be to sappy for you folks who hate this kind of thing but I’m not a liar and I truly am more thankful for my husband than anything else on this earth.  He keeps me sane, makes me laugh, and makes life so much sweeter.  I am particularly thankful for the fact that we grow closer together and more in love every day.

Joshua, I love you and am so incredibly thankful for you!

I am also most thankful for a job I love and the best clients in the world!  I have adored each of my clients this year.  Each of you brought me so much joy both during the shoot and throughout the editing process.  I am so incredibly thankful for you and absolutely do not take you for granted!  Thanks for such a perfect year of photo fun!

What are you most thankful for?

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6 Tips to People Photographers

Advice to Photographers
Some quick words on photography business.

  1. Ask Lots of Questions
    The best sources to start gathering info for your photography career are other photographers. Some photographers may let you down, they may even be rude, but most photographers will kindly chat.
  2. Get Shot
    In order to best understand your clients you need to get in front of the camera at least once a year. And not just any camera, you need to hire a fellow professional. Why is this important? If you don’t put yourself in your client’s shoes you might not realize that some of your requests are confusing, or that their questions actually aren’t stupid, and that maybe you need to change your direction during a shoot. This is crucial research for your business. Besides, you’ve gotta have some good pictures of yourself anyway right?  My husband and I do an anniversary photo shoot every year and I often have portraits done every now and then as well.
  3. Research
    Not only is getting in front of a camera important but reading some books, blogs, and essays is also of the utmost importance. You need to know how to fairly price yourself for your skill level, how to put together effective and balanced packages, how to invoice, how to build a fail safe contract, how to properly correspond to clients, how to build an effective and beautiful website, how to prepare for taxes… and that just scratches the surface.
  4. Invest in the Good Stuff
    Almost every photographer starts out with a starter DSLR and a kit lens. But when you are thinking of launching a photography business plan to upgrade as quickly as possible. And, until you do, price yourself accordingly. Better equipment gets you a higher price. More importantly though, better equipment delivers better work. But lets be clear, a better camera doesn’t make you a better photographer. The framing, posing, and editing is all up to you but the equipment makes the difference in image quality.
  5. Professional Branding
    Hire a professional. I got my branding wrong the first time and had to do it all over the next year. The second time around I actually hired a pro to help me put the pieces together. Branding is a lot of work, don’t do it twice! So, in order to do it right the first time, hire the professional who knows how to brand and have them help you, even if it’s just with the concept.
  6. Do Work for Free
    This is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your photography business. Getting paid for doing what you love stifles creativity. Going from session to session like routine produces stagnant material. You want each of your clients to have fresh, creative material that they will cherish for a lifetime, not the same shot you’ve done a hundred times over. It is so important to fuel your creativity. I just recently started doing this again and the change I’ve seen in myself and my work is insane! However, it’s important to note though that the free sessions to be doing are those that you request the models for, rather than gifting an originally paying client their session. Why? If you ask for the models you have all the artistic freedom. And artist mind needs room to wander and experiment so that artistic freedom unleashes creativity.  One of the other ways I encourage my creativity is by doing “A Photo A Day,” makes me pull my camera out every day 🙂

Kelly Moore Bags

I got my first Kelly Moore bag last Christmas.  I get so many compliments on it and I love it!

I’ve never been one to get the standard items in life so when I was looking for a camera bag I was bent on finding something more than just the practical black camera bag.  I found a few companies but ultimately liked the designs and quality of Kelly Moore the best.

This year my little bro got me a purse.  It’s my very first “grown up” purse!  I had specifically hoped for this bag because of my a Photo a Day posts.  This bag allows me to carry my camera with me every where, so I don’t have to result to my iPhone anymore, while keeping it handy and protected.

My criteria in choosing…

  1. roomy enough for my camera and an extra lens or my flash
  2. pockets for all my goodies (I have been a pocket fanatic since I was a wee little one)
  3. camel color (because it goes with everything)
  4. not so big that my back would break

I chose the 2 Sues Bag because it filled all of my criteria, it’s snazzy, and has all sorts of great perks – the built in wallet, the iPad sleeve, and all the glorious pockets… to name a few.

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Why so much for wedding photography?

I am tired of clients declining my services in favor of hiring a family friend or a company that doesn’t care about them or their needs for $750.  I am tired of feeling like I have to defend my prices to myself and others.  I am tired of feeling the weight of the financial burden of being a self-employed photographer.

The fact is, the joy of being a self-employed photographer is that I mostly get to work from my in-home studio and I’m doing what I love, but the woes are many.  I work until a job is done and when a job is done there is always one in line right behind it (this means 9-5 begins to look ideal as I often spend 10+ hours a day and a lot of weekends working).  While I work clients are calling upon me to finish faster despite the fact I’m still well within my deadline.  And with all of this I am scraping by to pay the bills because December – March is the SLOW SEASON.  This means $50 – $200 portrait sessions are attempting to pull the weight of all our bills (roughly 10 – 40 of these would satisfy that need), but there are business expenses to be looked after as well.

So, now I seek to educate my readers in hopes of more considerate client to photographer dealings. I hope I don’t sound angry or mean because I am not, I am just disheartened.

Before I divulge, thank you so much to my brides and other clients who love and appreciate who I am and what I do.  I am ever so grateful to you and the joy your support and encouragement brings me and my family!

Why so much for wedding photography?

This first section of data was taken from a blog by Nikki Wagner because my statistics are in a significantly lower price bracket but I still have these expenses and needs and yet I still get complaints.

“Dear Bride,

I am a wedding photographer in the Erie, PA area. Wedding season only last about 4 months here, so I photograph an average of 20 weddings per year for an average of $2,500/wedding (which totals about $50,000/year).

  • That being said, I am a small business owner, so I pay all of my taxes, totaling about $15,000/year, which leaves me with a gross income of around $35,000
  • Of that $35,000 I pay $600/month in rent for my small house and garage which I converted into my studio (which is where I would be editing your wedding images).$35,000 – $7,200 = $27,800
  • Then I have my car, which I would use to get me to and from your wedding, which I pay $400/month for the lease, plus $200/month in car insurance. $27,800 – $7,200 = $20,600
  • To get to your (and my other brides) wedding consultation, second wedding pre-consultation, the wedding itself, and to and from the printers I spend $840/year in gas money. $20,600 – $840 = $19,760
  • I also have $500/year insurance in case you sue me, or if any of your drunk guests would happen to break any of my equipment. $19,760 – $500 = $19,260
  • You also probably found me through my website, which I pay $30/month for hosting, and another $30/month so that you can view your photos online and share the images with your friends and family. $19,260 – $720 = $18,540
  • Or perhaps you found me through my advertisements in the newspaper or local bridal magazines, or a bridal show that you attended that I paid to have a booth at. $18,540 – $1,000 = $17,540
  • I also pay $250/month for my own health insurance in case I were to get hurt at your wedding. $17,540 – $3,000 = $14,540
  • I pay $200/wedding for a second shooter for your wedding, so that you can have more images and different angles, as to make sure you get the best images possible at your wedding. $14,540 – $4,000 = $10,540
  • I also need to have a new pair of shoes ($100) every season because my shoes get worn out and dirty from season to season. $10,540 – $100 = $10,440
  • I need high speed internet so I can upload all of your images online, my home phone for my business and my cell phone so I can communicate with you. $10,440 – $2,500 = $7,940
  • Oh yes, and I also pay a lawyer to make sure my contracts are iron clad and an accountant to make sure that I am paying all of the taxes I need. $7,940 – $500 = $7,440
  • Sometimes I attend workshops and seminars to teach me how to better my business, and make my client happier (that would be you), as well as keep up on the trends and learn new techniques so that I can make sure you have the best quality images available.

That would technically leave me with about $7,000/year to feed myself, buy groceries, pay for my heat and electricity, clothe myself, etc. But, usually I end up reinvesting whatever I have left on upgrades and new equipment.”

-stats from Nikki Wagner

Now for stats by me…

For your wedding I bring my high quality professional equipment to ensure your wedding images are the best I can make them.

  • I have two Canon 5D Mark II cameras (I keep both strapped on me all day to ensure if one fails I have a back up) = $4,000
  • I also have high quality lenses to capture your low light special moments:
    Canon 85mm f/1.2L lens = $1,200
    Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens = $1,440
    Canon 35mm f/1.4L lens = $1,330
  • I have lighting equipment to give you great family pictures:
    Light stand, light box, external battery packs: $1,000
  • I have brilliant flashes to capture all the moments at your reception
    Canon 580EX II = $650
  • I also have multiple battery backups and memory cards and a bag to carry everything in = $1,000+

After spending 8-10 hours at your wedding, I then come home to my home office and spend about 20-25 hours editing your images, creating your album, blogging about your wedding, posting pictures on Facebook, ordering your prints and burning your DVDs.

  • I edit your photographs using a 27-inch iMac computer = $2,500.
  • I edit your photographs on Adobe Lightroom ($200) and Adobe CS5 ($400).
  • I buy custom DVDs in bulk for $300
  • I archive all of your photographs on a 2TB external hard drive = $220.
  • I also have office expenses as far as buying paper, staples, envelopes, packaging, filing cabinets and files, etc…
  • I also spend time and money ordering your prints and albums, paying for shipping, going to the post office etc.
  • Lastly, but certainly not least, I am fully educated with a bachelor’s degree and that came at a price of $300,000 +

TOTAL INVESTMENT:  $315,000 +

All of that being said, I’m constantly pinching pennies, and take on many family portraits, senior portraits and any thing else I can get in order to make ends meet.

Photography is my passion and my livelihood, and it is also expensive. Yes, it seems like a lot of money for one day, but one day isn’t all I spend on you or on my business. I know you will spend thousands of dollars on a wedding dress, flowers, a venue, and on catering which you are going to have for only one day. The photographs I give you will be the only thing you have to remember of that one day for the rest of your lives.

I do feel insulted every time a bride scoffs at my price.  I hope you can see why in light of the full description of what my financial life looks like.  I understand every bride has their budget.  So brides, please know when you set your budget to factor this information in when deciding how much you will spend on your photographer and know that we are in charge of your memories of this special day of yours.  And please know that there are people behind that camera and though our goal is to serve you we do have feelings.  When you insult my work or my price I take it personally because I do consider my photography art and art comes from the heart.

Sincerely,

Kaia Calhoun

Blog post inspired by Why Wedding Photographers’ Prices are “Wack”