Early in my photography carreer I was nieve. I had an idea of what I thought I was going to do and then life happened. Very simular to being a young mother, I had an idea of how things should work, and by gosh that is how I was going to do it, so much for reality.
During that time I had several people that had came to me appauled that other photographers required a minimum purchase. A minimum of $350, even $500. I was offended right there with those other photographers. My reaction was very much, “How dare those photographers tell you if you don’t have $350 to spend that they don’t want your business!” I came to the conclusion that I would NEVER have a minimum purchase!!!! I was not that proud. Everyone deserves to get proffessional portraits no matter what their budget!
So my carreer continued, I gave every customer the same level of dedication. I put my heart and sole into what I was doing. I would sometimes spend three or four hours during a session with a graduating senior, or on a boudoir session. At that time sessions were limited to one per day, because I was at the customers complete disposal. I would travel, I would go to multiple locations, I would bend over backwards to make sure I gave 110% of what I had. I had one session fee to cover all sessions, many of those sessions I gave away for free because I was so convinced that their images were so amazing that the customer would buy every single one of them!!!!! Then my heart was broken! Many times it would actually end up costing money out of my pocket for me to create someones portraits.
I would feel like I had failed because I had failed to earn a reasonable hourly wage. If my photography had been better, my customers would be happy to compensate me in a fair amount. Then I realized that it was not my photography that was lacking, it was a comunication breakdown. If expectations were not clear on both sides, somebody would feel like they had gotten the short end of the stick. I started a personal campeign to inform my customers about what they were paying for. I still stand by my origingal perspective that I do not want to implement minimum purchases, I instead decided on having purchasing commitments.
Purchasing commitments helps both the photographer and the customer meet their goals. Purchasing commitments are a breakdown of fees based on how much time the photographer will need to spend with each customer. I have spent many hours calculating how much time is required to complete tasks associated with each customer. I know that for every hour I spending behind the camera I will spend approximately four hours on other related work. I know that approximately 50% of each dollar that I bring in will be used to pay for product that is delivered to customers. I know that 20% of each dollar that I bring in will be used to pay for other business related expenses (electricity, insurance, licenses, etc), that leaves .30 on each dollar to pay hourly wages. I can hear my husband right now, he would say “I don’t care how much it costs you to be in business and neither do your customers. It is your choice to be in business, and it is your job to figure out how to make money.” I know that it is not your responsibility to be my accountant, I just ask that you have an open mind.
I have a hard time with this. Not because I think every customer needs to be aware of my finacial success, however, I have to balance between customers who are willing to compensate me for my time, and building a business model to create a profitable business.
Hence, I created a purchasing commitment. The purchasing commitment is a way for me to determine how much time I will need to spend with you, and how much I will need to make in order to ensure that I get paid. Do to the vary nature of photography the is no alternate way for me to be compensated for time spent with a customer, time spent with one customer creates a custom product that can only be sold to that customer. Do to these same constraints it is only possible to have a certain amount of customer sessions each week.
Think of purchasing commitments as your initial job agreement with your boss. You make an agreement with your boss as to how much money you will be making, sometimes by the hour, sometimes by the week, sometimes by the year. You have determind how much you require of your time and agree to take the job or not. You must consider how much money you require to annalize if the wages will be a good fit for you; how much do you spend on housing, how much to you spend on food, how much does it cost you to go to work. This process is what we call the customer consultation. We determine how many hours you will require us to work, we determine how much money we need to generate from that time, and we come to a mutual agreement.
Consider the following scenarios: You only get paid when your boss is standing in front of you, how much would you need to be paid each time you meet with him in order to provide your needed income. Your boss decides how much to compensate you based one the size of your output work, not on the quality, the cost to produce that item, or the amount of time needed to create that item, how would you determine how much you would need to make? After you complete a certain project for your boss your boss determines how much the project is worth and how much they will pay you, how many projects would you do for $1 per hour before you decided to find a new boss? What if your boss decided to pay one of your co-workers for work that you had already completed, because they agreed to take a lower dollar per hour wage? What if you could only work three hours per week and had to generate a complete salary from those three hours, how much would you need to make for each of those three hours?
I guess I will quit rambling… it comes down to this. If you value what I do please be willing to compensate me, or any photographer accordingly. If you are interested in how much that will be you can calculate based on the following formula. I expect to make a minimum of $15 per hour.
Each hour spent shooting = 4 hours worth of work
Each dollar in revenue = 50% to cost of product, 20% to pay business expenses, 30% to wages.
1 hour session= 4 hours work = $60 (40 is 30% of X) x=$200
Expect to spend a minimum of $200 in finished product for each hour that you spend with us.
I will commit to spending a certain amount of time with you, you will commit to compensating me for me time.
Every time that you try to figure out a better deal, every time you try to figure out how to get something for free, every time you think that professional photographers charge to much , consider what you are asking of them.