Making Money in Photography the Old Fashioned Way

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

If there is any real “secret” to any successful professional photography enterprise, it’s establishing practices that protect your cash flow and help your operation grow. Here are some suggestions to help insure profitability no matter what kind of photography you do.

#1. Adopt a pricing/packaging policy that ensures you’ll make money. While this may seem obvious, its seems that too often new photographers set their prices based on what their competitors charge without analyzing what their own overhead and out-of-pocket costs may be. And your competition may be subsidized by a spouse or trust fund. Are you?

#2. People sometimes ask me when and how much to raise prices. I always tell them as they gain more experience and deliver a higher quality product they should gradually and slowly raise prices until they get price resistance… then stop.* That’s why it’s important to maintain an up-to-date Rate Sheet and Schedule of Costs that you can display on your website or e-mail to potential clients. See Number 3.

#3. Most of your work will come over the telephone, that’s why being able to quote rates and prices quickly and easily is important. It’s a good idea to keep all your studio’s forms and product information in a binder or tablet so you can quickly quote rates to potential clients.

#4. Here’s one rule you should never forget: “Every exception you make to any of your policies costs you money.” When someone tells you “give me a deal on this one shoot, and I’ll throw a lot of work to you in the future” don’t do it because it has been my long, sad experience that that future day never comes.

#5. Don’t begin any assignment without a written agreement specifying what you’re going to do and what the client is going to do, including the method and timeliness of their payment. Never.

#6. Get advance payments for work involving all on-location photography. Ask for a 50% advance on or before the day of the shoot. I believe that wedding photographers should collect 100% of the amount due before the big day. Once the loving couple returns home from their honeymoon, they’re broke.

#8. Don’t sign an agreement with anyone other than the party for whom the work is being done  unless you can bill that party directly.

#9. Some photographic consultants will tell you that it’s OK to wait 120 days to get paid but my banker disagrees. If you’re willing to live with that kind of payment schedule, so be it but you should be charging a high enough day or hourly rate to cover the time value of the money while waiting for the check to arrive.

#9. Be original; don’t be like everybody else. When that happens it reduces your photographic services to the commodity level and all commodity purchases are based on price alone. All photographers are different and it’s important that we express this difference to potential clients.

*I recognize that in the “everything is free” world we live in that for some people any price over $0.01 is too expensive. And not matter what you tell these people to explain how you have to make a loving, it doesn’t matter to them.

If you’re interested in learning how I shoot portraits and use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio and on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere that’s available new from Amazon.com for $22.78 or $13.75 used, as I write this. Interested in learning how to improve your business check out my portfolio reviews for charity (announcement forthcoming) or participate in my mentoring program.