Friday, January 27, 2012

All you wedding planners...

If you have planned a wedding you know how expensive it can be and one of the things that most brides want to spend the extra money on is the photography. Now I'm no photographer, but a videographer (see videos here). I would like to make it my full-time job, but I get a bit nervous that if I charge too much that I won't get any weddings booked.

I was ready this blog and she found an awesome response to a brides cry on craigslist for a "decently priced, exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer." The bride went on to say..."WHY because the word "WEDDING" is involved photographers think they can charge you $ 3,000.00 for wedding photos? Oh, because no bride is going to go without, so they are going to pay it, because they HAVE to. They are ripping people off for all they have!"

Since I'm just 'starting out,' I did my first wedding in August 2009, but have still only done friends and family weddings for the most part, I don't charge near as much. However, if I was doing this as my full time job, I would have to.

David Grupa, a professional photographer, replied to this craigslist post in a very polite and explanitory way. It definitely shows that your wedding venders (at least those that are self-employed) really aren't walking away with that big check you wrote them...(it's a bit long, but explains well)

Dear [Craigslist Poster],

A colleague shared your Craigslist ad with me a bit earlier today. I wish I could say that "hanging out at a wedding and taking tons of photos" is "easy money" as you seem to think, but it's really not. While I agree that professional photography is not inexpensive, try working with a "weekend warrior with a camera" and see the difference. Sure, you may pay less money, but the resulting images will be of such poor quality, you'll be certain to feel "ripped off."

However, rather than tell you about award-winning photography, explain my credentials and attempt to convince you why a talented photographer is worth $3000 or more, I'm going to do some basic math instead.

First, let's talk about taxes. Don't you just hate opening up your paycheck at the end of the week and finding that Uncle Sam and friends have taken about 30% of your hard-earned dollars for federal, state and other taxes? Well, photographers have to pay them, too. That's $900 straight off the top of that $3000, leaving $2100. (You may think that 30% seems like a high number, but remember that since I'm self-employed, there's nobody else kicking in a percentage; the entire tax burden is borne by me.) Since there's no withholding, it's up to me to put this amount away so that I can make my quarterly tax payments on time.

Another huge chunk of the pie is a rather surprising expense to many people. We call it "Overhead" and "Cost of Goods Sold". In this category are visible items like albums, prints, frames and those items you take home. You don't want cheap things that will fall apart or fade, so I'm willing to pay a bit more in the search for a quality product. Remember, "good things aren't usually cheap, and cheap things aren't usually good." The photography industry is a showcase for that motto; really, ask around. (The pages of that "Snapfish" album will fade and discolor before your first anniversary.)

However, there are also other things in this group as well; things that we need to deliver our best to you, but are somewhat "invisible" to people other than business owners. They include our studio rent or monthly location payment, phone, computer, website and hosting, equipment and liability insurances (because we realize that we live in a litigious society), and local business and other licenses. Add in the membership dues to professional associations where we go for new techniques and to stay current so that we can deliver those amazing images you seek, and this Overhead category takes another 30% bite out of that $3000 so that just $1200 remains.

Then there's the equipment we use. Digital has brought some awesome advantages to photographers, but it comes at a price. New cameras and lenses are not inexpensive; we don't photograph with $500 Canon Rebels from WalMart. Since it takes a while to save enough money for this, I put away 10% of each job toward new equipment, equipment repairs, cleaning and maintenance. (Yes, I carry at least 2 working professional cameras to your wedding in the event something happens. A professional will simply pick up a new camera and continue photographing as if nothing happened. Your bargain photographer may panic or worse yet, not even realize that something is wrong. Not sounding like such a bargain anymore, is it?) Subtracting that $300 brings me down to $900.

Since I realize I won't be able to do this for the rest of my life (and I haven't found a sugar momma to support me) I'd better save something for retirement. Financial planners say that should be 10%, so there goes another $300. I'm down to $600 of the original price.

Being self-employed, I have to buy my own health insurance for me and my family. For an individual who's not getting it through their employer, this is NOT cheap. (I'm not going to use the term "WACK", but I think you get where I'm heading.) Another 10%, another $300 and I'm down to $300 "profit" from your wedding.

While I'd like to say that I take the remaining $300 and spend it on me, it's only partially true. As you do, I have responsibilities such as monthly bills, gas for the car, car payment, food, clothing . . . the kind of stuff you were mentioning.

Let's say I spend 6 hours at your wedding, another 8 hours editing your images, not to mention the meetings we've had that last an hour each. When you come back to select the images for your album, we'll spend another 2 hours going through choices and then I'll invest another 4 hours (minimum) designing the perfect album for you, prepping it for printing and sending it to the manufacturer. When it comes back, I'll inspect it and make sure it's perfect, then spend another 45 mins going through it with you when you pick it up. Almost a full 24 hours . . . divided by the $300 I got to keep . . . and I've just made $12.50 an hour. (Which totally blows the "You're making so much money it's crazy" theory.)

On a side note, over the past 36 years I have been photographing weddings, I can't even begin to count the number of ball games and other events I've missed. My kids got used to it; "You know that Daddy works on Saturday", but over the years it took its toll on my relationships as well. I refuse to make those mistakes again; those who refuse to learn from the past are destined to repeat it.

I'm sure you're probably tired of reading, but I hope you understand what I'm saying. Producing a quality product at a fair price IS what professional photographers do; it's always your choice to work with us or someone else. The problem is, what will you give up when you "get what you paid for?"


David L. Grupa
Certified Professional Photographer
M.Photog.Cr., AFS-MNPPA

So, think about this brides, mom's, anyone who is hiring someone that is self-employed for anything really. Remember they don't get a paycheck where their taxes are already taken out and their insurance is paid for. They have to save and pay for all of that with the money you are giving them, so be generous...especially if you LOVED their final product.


Anonymous said...

AMEN!!! Yes I do have a full time job that pays my salary and part of my taxes, but my husband does not and it cost a lot of money in taxes and insurance to keep a business running!! : )

Terry the Domestic Dilettante said...

Amen. I think some bridal choices are sheer insanity ($5,000 or $10,000 or more for a dress you will wear once??? Really????), but don't begrudge the professionals: florist, baker and photographer, a fair price for their services. If you can't afford to pay their rate, you have choices: scale back on other things, do it yourself and/or have friends take their best stab at whatever is too expensive for your budget.

But don't complain when the results are less than professional. You get what you pay for.

I have my own "note to brides-to-be" coming up in next week, so I'll share your soapbox :-)