The Cheerful Photographer Blog » Wedding photography

What’s behind?

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Why do photo reportages cost what they cost?

 

Leaving to one side the quality of the service and of the product and the fact that we are talking of artistic and creative work, and focusing merely on the figures, there is generally little knowledge of what the job of a professional photographer involves.

 

Let’s look at the figures:

 

Firstly, from the amount paid by the client, we have to subtract 21% VAT, which goes directly to the Tax Authorities.

 

Then, from the quarterly profit obtained by the professional photographer, we have to subtract a further 20% for income tax.

 

That is, from the amount paid by the client, we have to subtract 41% in tax alone.

 

This is not entirely accurate, because the VAT reclaimed for professional expenses has to be deducted from those tax amounts. But if we add the pro rata payment of the fixed amount of more than 4,000 Euros per year* (regardless of the earnings obtained), payable as social security for self-employed workers + tax consultancy the result could be more than 41%.

 

(*In my case: self-employed national insurance rate: 286,55 €/month + tax consultancy fee 69 €/month  -self-employed workers have to submit sixteen tax statements per year- = 4.266,60 €/year)

 

This is the tax system for self-employed workers in Spain. In other countries it is rather different.

 

Secondly, we have expenses related with the profession and with the specific job.

 

Being a professional photographer requires spending thousands of Euros a year on equipment. For example, a professional lens can cost 2,000 Euros (the next one I want to buy is even more expensive than that).

 

To be precise, in addition to purchasing new things, we also have to regularly renovate our equipment: camera sensors die after about 100,000 shots (one wedding   = about 5,000 shots) and computers and software also  need to be replaced by more advanced models in order to cope with the enormous volume of files a photographer uses (one wedding, without editing = approx. 100 GB).

 

This means that a great part of the profit you obtain from your work goes on expenses such as these.

 

Other annual expenses related with the profession (in my case, without having a studio/premises) are:

 

Online image of the company: annual fees for hosting, domains, design and/or website/blog updates, online antivirus… (If you want a good personalised corporate image designed for you  -web/blog/logo- you are looking at paying out between 2,500 and 5,000 Euros).

 

Advertising: paying directories/blog fees (an average of 200 Euros a year per directory). In the case of foreign directories, the expenses cannot be taken off tax (in my case, of the three paying directories I’m currently listed on, two are American).

 

Participation in competitions: Awards bring publicity. But taking part in elite competitions means paying for every photo you submit. This adds up to a few hundred Euros (an average of approximately 600 dollars) a year that are not tax deductible.

 

Training: workshops, webinars, books… In the case of workshops, most of the expenses are not tax deductible because in many cases they won’t give you an invoice for it. A professional workshop costs an average of 400 to 600 Euros. One given by tops figures can cost more than 4,000 Euros.

 

Peripherals: external hard discs for storage (in my case, approximately four new units a year –at approximately 100 Euros per unit – to store and keep back-up copies of all the work), memory cards and batteries (a card costs around 50 Euros in the cheapest places and you need about 7 or 8 new ones a year), etc.

 

Repairs and servicing of equipment: from things that break or break down, to the annual cost of a good IT professional (I wouldn’t dream of leaving the health of my work tools in the hands of an amateur).

 

As to the expenses of a specific job, for instance, a wedding:

 

From the amount remaining from subtracting the percentage of tax, we must also discount the fees of the assistant or assistants + the album + the packaging…

 

If, for instance, the wedding or shoot is outside my city, even if the couple pay for my travel expenses, this means a minimum of 3 days out of the office (two days without working in the office) plus possible maintenance costs those days, compared to a local or nearby wedding, which requires me to work for one day only and with no additional maintenance expenses.

 

I’m sure I’m forgetting many other expenses (such as, for instance, equipment insurance, approximately 300 Euros a year) but I don’t want to write a thesis on accounting. I simply want to give an idea of how a company like this works.

 

One more fact: self-employed workers don’t get a payslip every month. All we receive on the dot are our social security bills and our quarterly tax bills. We pay rent and invoices with the income from the jobs we do for our clients. To say this might seem unnecessary, but many people don’t really stop and think about it …

 

As to the work:

 

There are still people who think that being a photographer involves taking a few pictures for a while and then going out and partying.

 

It is indeed a beautiful and enjoyable profession.
But most professional photographers work 7 days a week and if you are a wedding photographer, you don’t have summer holidays, perhaps even no holidays at all.

 

People often think that being self-employed and working from home is a piece of cake because of the flexible timetable and not having a boss. Of course it has its good things, but you need to experience it to understand how enslaving and lonely it can be. No company succeeds without many hours’ work and full dedication, however artistically talented you may be. You either get up early and spend many hours stuck to your chair, or you’re unlikely to get anywhere.

 

The main thing is to understand that, of our total work time, barely 10% of it is spent taking photographs. The rest is administrative and post-production work. In other words, we spend 90% of our working time in front of a computer, except for meetings and shootings.

 

What is enjoyable is precisely that 10%, the social and creative part of the job: dealing with clients and taking photographs or researching new ideas.

 

The remaining 90% is routine, often not very motivating work in front of a screen.

 

The computer work has two main facets: editing, which has tedious aspects (selection) and more pleasant aspects (developing and retouching), plus putting together galleries, slide shows, album layout …

 

Plus the enormous load of administrative work: mailing, info, advertising, marketing, contract, invoices, quotes, blogging, timings, banking, translations, suppliers, logistics, etc. etc. These are tasks that take up a great deal of time but are necessary for the operation of any company.

 

I hope that this information gives you a better idea of what this profession is like. Please take a look at the chart below, which shows in graphic form approximately what I have just explained above.

 

 

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graficopinthis

Source: Internet.

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Epilogue

 

Being a professional photographer implies:

 

  • Many, many, many hours of post-production for the jobs (selection, developing, retouching, galleries, slide shows …)
  • Learning / knowledge and ongoing updating of the different software packages;
  • Learning / knowledge of computing and networks;
  • Knowledge of cameras, lenses, flashes and other gadgets;
  • Knowledge of composition and visual language;
  • Knowledge of lighting;
  • Knowledge of processing techniques, colour management, etc.;
  • Meetings / interviews;
  • Location sessions;
  • Photo sessions for reportages or weddings (which can be any day of the week or year, regardless of calendar holidays);
  • Having an updated website and blog and managing them (blogging: updating, writing, translating, ordering, installing plugins, trouble shooting, backup copies …);
  • Frustrated struggle with computer and software problems (or paying others for them to fix them);
  • Making constant backup copies of the work (it’s not an obsession, imagine a client who loses their wedding photos because I have a problem with my computer …);
  • Investment in storage;
  • Creating (or paying others to design) and maintaining a corporate image;
  • Constant presence in social networks;
  • Updating details on directory lists;
  • Taking part in competitions to gain ‘prestige’ and publicity;
  • Devoting time and resources in advertising so that clients can find you;
  • Having notions of marketing (this is different from the previous point);
  • Knowing what SEO positioning means and what you need to improve it (or paying someone to do it for you);
  • Networking;
  • Replying to many emails every day;
  • Devoting a great deal of time to jobs that don’t finally come off;
  • Being in permanent contact with clients and answering all of their questions;
  • Being permanently connected to the Internet;
  • Drafting contracts;
  • Preparing invoices;
  • Preparing rate cards and quotes;
  • Translating them into other languages;
  • Keeping the accounts for the quarterly tax statements;
  • Organising work trips;
  • Organising sessions or reportages (styling, locations, timings, etc.)
  • Being very organised and methodical.
  • Looking after the equipment (cleaning, servicing, reviewing / antivirus, defragmenting, formatting, calibrating monitors …)
  • Designing the layout of albums;
  • Preparing (and designing) the packaging for the deliveries;
  • Solving all the problems and inconveniences with suppliers you work with;
  • Searching for and thinking of details to offer your clients something special others don’t offer;
  • Being permanently coordinated with other suppliers / professionals;
  • Devoting time to ongoing training (workshops, webinars, books, tutorials…);
  • Viewing works;
  • Being in permanent contact with other artistic forms as a source of learning and inspiration (painting, exhibitions, talks, cinema, music..);
  • Getting people to feel at ease in front of your camera;
  • Knowing the tricks to bring out the most beautiful and flattering side of every person;
  • Having some knowledge of styling;
  • Being creative and original;
  • Doing your back in from carrying the equipment;
  • Doing the rest of your body in for the sake of getting a good shot;
  • Tiring your eyes in front of the computer;
  • Giving in to cellulite as a result of working long work days in front of the computer (in the case of female photographers);
  • Etcetera…

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