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The Business of Photography

2007 Benchmarking Survey

Benchmarking is a way of comparing your business with other similar businesses. It is not illegal – all large businesses do benchmarking one way or another. In fact, many small businesses do benchmarking as well, but perhaps not formally.

This benchmarking survey is of Australian studios. Although New Zealand studios were invited, we didn’t receive sufficient response (33) to produce a valid survey. Nor were the New Zealand responses included so as not to skew the results, but having said that, I believe the Australian results will still be of immense benefit to our New Zealand readers.

The reason we benchmark (compare) ourselves with other businesses is to see how well we are performing. Why is this important? Take two portrait photography studios. Both studios have a turnover (total sales) of $300,000 per annum. Both photographers work 50 hours a week. Studio A makes a profit of $100,000 a year and is very happy because the previous year the studio only made an $80,000 profit. Without further knowledge, Studio A would be happy to continue on in life with $100,000 a year profit because it is comfortable.

However, Studio B makes $130,000 profit. By doing a few things differently, by working a bit smarter, Studio B outperforms Studio A.

If you were Studio A, wouldn’t you want to know that it is possible to produce a profit of $130,000 a year from the same business and the same 50 hours a week? If you’re already investing most of your waking life running your business, doesn’t it make sense to do things that work out best for you?

Now, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of reasons why these two studios perform differently and a benchmarking survey is not going to tell Studio A how to be more profitable.

What a benchmarking survey shows Studio A is that it is possible to be more profitable. Once you know something is possible, you’ll investigate and work out how to make it happen.

Benchmarking isn’t just about money and profit, although it is certainly a big component. Benchmarking is also about marketing, job satisfaction and the ability to enjoy your life. Studio A may be more interested in working out how it can reduce the amount of work it does and still earn $100,000 profit, giving the photographer more free time.

The purpose of this benchmarking survey (and this newsletter) isn’t just to help you make more money. It’s to help you make better decisions. You will only make better decisions with better knowledge and this survey will give you some of that knowledge.

With this in mind, my thanks to the 157 photographers who took time out of their busy day to complete the survey and send it in. To the other 1600 readers, you should also thank them for something you chose not to do. Let’s be blunt. We don’t benefit from this calibre of information unless we all chip in and do our bit. I know you’re busy. We all are. If you’re reading this without contributing and you get something out of it, you’re freeloading. Membership fees don’t cover this, only your participation does.

 

Who Responded

Commercial                                            19%                 (21%)

Wedding/Portrait                                   63%                 (58%)

Mixed/General                                       29%                  (17%)

Some photographers ticked more than one box, which is fine. Last year’s figures are in brackets, and perhaps indicate more commercial photographers are now shooting wedding/portrait as well (and hence call themselves Mixed/General). From my knowledge of the industry, we seem to have a fairly representative benchmark.

Where Do They Work

City Studio                        68%              (77% last time)

Country Studio                 33%              (26%)

Again, a couple of photographers ticked both boxes, so I’m figuring they either work on the outskirts of the city, or maybe they have two studios. Again, I expect this is fairly representative of our membership and professional photographers in general. Last year’s figures are in brackets.

Speaking with the professional photography suppliers and industry groups, I am told there are still about 6,000 professional photographers in Australia. Around 12 years ago, I was told there were around 8,000 professional photographers. This evidence is not substantiated by any statistics I can find, but it gives you a ballpark figure for the number of people doing what we are.

What Legal Structure Do Photographers Use?

                                       2007        2004

Sole Trader                     44%      40%

Partnership                     20%      21%

Company                       27%       31%

Trust                              10%         8%

This result is indicative of the type of business photography is: generally an individual person offering his or her services to the public at large. As the studio’s profitability increases, photographers will move to a company or trust structure where there can be some tax savings and protection of assets.

A company pays tax at 30%, compared to a top marginal rate for individuals, partners and trusts of 46.5%. If you leave your profits in the company to re-invest in the business, you have $70 of every $100 left over after tax. In the other structures, you may have as little as $53.50 if your income (per person) is over $125,000 a year. This is a complicated area which I am over-simplifying. If it prompts you to take the issue further, discuss it with your accountant.

A company and a trust (assuming it has a company as the trustee) can be useful to protect your assets, providing a ‘shield’ between you and your customers. If a wedding couple sued for non-performance and they had a contract with a ‘company’, then it is harder (but not impossible) for them to sue the individual photographer (smart lawyers will sue both). Again, if this prompts you to take this issue further, discuss it with your lawyer.

What Format Do You Shoot?

                                           2007         2004

35mm                                   32%         66%

Medium format                     23%        66%

Large format                          9%        16%

Digital - Compact                   6%         3%

Digital - SLR/back                 95%       78%

The transition from film to digital would appear to be complete with 95% of respondents using a digital SLR or digital back. No doubt there are jobs when some of us still use film, but this has more than halved over the last two to three years.

None of the Mixed/General photographers were without a digital camera, whereas a few Commercial and Wedding/Portrait photographers were. I would have thought that it was difficult for Commercial photographers to survive without a digital camera – and maybe it is!

What this means for non-digital photographers depends on your situation. If you’re finding it hard to get jobs, the reason could be that your studio is considered behind the times. You might think film is good enough, you might even scan your results and provide a digital output, but your client’s don’t understand the issues.

Last time I suggested there were two answers if your clients think they want a digital solution. Either you go digital and give the market what it wants, or you show the market that the hybrid film/digital approach is every bit as good (and preferably why it could be better). I think the second option is no longer viable and for the price, there seems little reason not to have a digital SLR somewhere in your camera bag. Keep shooting film if you want to, that’s no trouble, but most of the respondents to the survey have seen the advantages of digital (even if some complain they were pressured into it!).

 

If you are required to provide digital files for your clients, do you:

                                                          2007            2004

Use a digital camera                             95%            79%

Scan from film yourself                       11%             22%

Use a bureau to scan film for you         8%             28%

Given the uptake of digital SLRs, the answers to these questions are unsurprising. Most photographers who own a digital camera are using them, so there is no need to scan film or send the scanning out to a lab. Undoubtedly professional photo labs will be well aware of this trend.

 

Do you employ staff (don’t include yourself, even if a company)?

                                               2007       2004

No                                           38%       34%

Yes, family members only         10%        13%

Yes, part time                           26%        33%

Yes, full time                             26%        21%

No answer                                  -            4%

Is it important to employ staff in order to run a profitable studio. Not necessarily, but I would think it is harder for a photographer to earn a good income without at least having administrative staff. As a business grows, you need someone to take care of issues such as bookkeeping, dealing with clients, making sales, production and so on. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from outsourcing all of these chores to independent contractors.

The point about employing people is to ensure you do what you’re good at. In theory, photographers can make the most money while taking photographs, not while doing bookkeeping or retouching pimples in Photoshop. By using staff to do the ancillary duties, you are free to take more photos (or go for a surf).

One of the most common questions I am asked by readers is how much should they pay their staff. There is no single answer. It depends on how useful the staff member is and what your price structure can afford. However, as the saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. When looking around for staff, don’t automatically try to get someone below the going market rate – you’re probably better paying a little more (in a small studio environment at least) and expecting a little more in return.

 

How much do you pay wedding assistants/stringers per wedding?

                                                 2007                   2004

Minimum                                     $50                    $50

Maximum                                 $1000                   $500

Average                                   $207                    $246

Median                                     $150                    $200

There is quite a range here, but of course, what the benchmark doesn’t determine is how experienced the stringer or assistant is, whether they are an ‘assistant’ who is with the photographer, or a ‘stringer’ who goes to the wedding alone. Does their responsibility extend to handling the entire wedding, or to simply carry your camera case and grab you a diet Coke from the waiter?

 

How much do you pay a commercial photography assistant per day?

                                              2007                    2004

Minimum                                $100                    $110

Maximum                               $400                    $250

Average                                $207                     $189

Median                                  $200                     $170

Commercial photographers are paying much the same for assistants, but there is a narrower range due perhaps to a greater similarity in duties. Country photographers according to our benchmark actually pay a little more for assistants than in the city, but not a significant amount.

 

How much do you pay a full time photography assistant?

                                             2007                      2004

Minimum                           $15,000                  $18,242

Maximum                          $84,000                  $45,000

Average                            $36,491                  $32,522

Median                             $36,720                   $33,000

Full time wages have increased and we’ve caught one high payer. Is this studio paying too much for an assistant at $84,000, especially when the average is less than half this amount? That all depends on the assistant and how much value he or she adds to the studio. It’s a bit like our clients hiring the photographer who charges $100 an hour, instead of another photographer at $200 an hour, only to find out the cheaper photographer took five times as long to complete the job!

If you’re looking to hire staff, don’t forget to add on 9% superannuation and around 2% work cover insurance. Then you’ll need to allow for sick leave, holiday pay, staff amenities and many other unforeseen expenses. Many people add 25% to a base salary to estimate the total cost of hiring a staff member.

 

How computerised is your studio (tick more than one box if necessary)?

                                                                                   2007              2001

I don’t use a computer                                                   0%               2%

I use a computer for accounts and administration          62%             64%

I use a computer as a photography tool                        98%             88%

This shows just how wide-spread digital photography is - hardly any of the respondents don’t use the computer for photography. It also seems odd that some photographers who use the computer for photography are not doing so for administration and accounts. Maybe the question was ambiguous and I would suggest that photographers using a computer for Photoshop are also using it for email, word processing and even accounts. If not, they should!

 

How many hours a week (on average) do you work in your business?

                                   2007             2004

Minimum                         10                 4

Maximum                        88               80

Average                         45                46

Median                           50                48

The photographer who is only working ten hours a week also reports he or she has a turnover of $150,000 a year – I want to meet him or her! The average number of hours worked by professional photographers is much the same as 2004 and still shows that there’s no such thing as a 40-hour week for self-employed people.

The real question is, out of those 45 hours per week, how many of them are chargeable? How much time are you spending behind the camera?

 

How many hours a week (on average) do you charge out/are you working on specific jobs?

                                        2007           2004

Minimum                               2                 5

Maximum                            60                50

Average                             19                19

Median                               20                17

Less than half of our time is spent actually earning money, the other half is spent setting up our studios, marketing, administration or drinking coffee. I’d like to do more of the latter, but the reality is we should all be spending as much time marketing as we do shooting – or perhaps more accurately, someone should be spending as much time marketing us as we are shooting (there’s no reason we have to market ourselves).

The reason for asking this question is to make us all aware of how much time we might be spending unproductively. If you have a choice between doing a few maintenance chores slowly, or doing the same work more efficiently and then having time for a round of golf (or a swim in the pool), which would you prefer to do? A rhetorical question, of course. Setting up systems in your studio to streamline all the non-photography aspects can pay big dividends in terms of time.

Profit And Loss

The financial figures for a photography studio will be of interest for several reasons. First, the gross turnover (total sales) figures give you an idea of how much work a studio is doing. Even though you have no idea how many staff are employed or what prices are charged, it gives you a feeling for size.

 

What is your gross turnover (total sales)?

                                      2007           2004

Minimum                    $16,000      $10,000

Maximum                  $890,000    $600,000

Average                    $230,079    $179,339

Median                      $172,500    $142,420

It is a little hard to confirm that we’re earning more in 2007 than in previous years. Of course, it would be nice to think we were, but we have to acknowledge that our survey sample is quite small and that the improvement is due to a more successful group of respondents.

Last survey, the results moved very little from 2001 until 2004, so the increase to 2007 is welcome. Still, the result gives us an idea of the average turnover - total sales - of the respondents. I also think this is indicative of the AIPP and AIPA, but probably higher than the average studio (because the associations tend to attract photographers who are higher than average themselves).

Now, a salary or wage of $230,079 per annum would be considered very good, but out of this income a professional photographer has to pay all the studio’s expenses. If this includes a full time assistant and studio rent (as opposed to working from home), the income can be quickly eroded.

There are two types of expenses to look at. The first are your ‘variable’ expenses, the expenses you only incur if you get a job (e.g. film, processing, printing, albums, CDs etc). Sales less these variable expenses (called ‘cost of sales’ or ‘cost of goods sold’) equals your gross profit. While the dollar figures involved are not particularly helpful on their own, the percentages are. Let’s look at both...

 

What was your gross profit?

                                             2007              2004

Minimum                             $4,500          $2,500

Maximum                         $700,000       $550,000

Average                          $136,820       $104,840

Median                              $80,500         $60,000

Gross Profit by Discipline

                                      Comm                       W/Pt                      General

Minimum                       $15,500                     $5,000                       $4,500

Maximum                     $495,000                 $700,000                    $350,000

Average                      $158,264                  $147,892                     $96,502

Median                        $100,000                   $80,000                      $66,000

The minimum figures are possibly not for established studios, but the averages are probably about right. The median shows there are more photographers on lower profits and that the high flyers have skewed the averages to be higher than what most photographers actually earn. And the high flyer on $700,000 is possibly guessing his or her results, but I can confirm that studios in Australia certainly achieve figures as high as this – and higher.

Still, what these figures show is that after photographers have paid for film, processing, albums and printing, they have this amount of money left over to pay the studio rent, staff wages, all their other overheads AND their own wages. If the median is around $85,000, this is not producing a great return. The average of $135,792 is more promising.

In terms of improving the profitability of your own studio, of more interest than the dollar values are the percentages. What percentage of your sale price are you spending on your variable costs?

The gross profit percentages are:

                           Comm                        W/P                  General

Minimum              33% (7%)                  7% (7%)           11% (7%)

Maximum            90% (93%)               90% (87%)         88% (95%)

Average              60% (58%)               58% (54%)          56%(60%)

Median                56% (64%)               56% (60%)          56%(51%)

Bracket figures are for 2004.

These gross profit percentages show that out of every $1000 job, photographers are spending around $400 to $440 in materials to end up with $540 to $600 in gross profit. In 2001 there was a marked increase in photographers gross profit, probably due to the uptake of digital photography and the fact that less was spent on film and processing. This year the gross profit has stabilised.

I would disregard the minimum and maximum percentages. Some photographers may indeed be achieving these, but the minimums are not good role models, and the maximums are the exception rather than the rule. Instead, I would be looking at the average rates and seeing how I could improve on these. In fact, there are two steps you should take. First, you should try to improve on the industry average (if you need to); then you should try to improve on your own gross profit percentage from last year. Talk to your accountant to work out your gross profit percentage and set yourself some goals for improvement in 2007.

I would suggest a commercial studio should be aiming for 70 – 75% gross profit (as best practice), and wedding/portrait studios for 65 – 70% gross profit. Note, different studios may include different items in their cost of sales (film, processing, albums etc), so the percentages can be affected.

If you currently have a gross profit percentage of, say, 55%, then you should aim for 60% next year.

So, is professional photography a profitable business? The following figures will give you an overview of how big and profitable our studios are, but observe closely the definition of ‘profit’.

In these figures, we have asked that profit includes the wages you pay yourself as well as any profit left over. For some business structures (e.g. sole trader), this is the taxable income figure that goes on your tax return. For other businesses (e.g. company), this is the salary that the company paid the photographer (and other family members) plus the profit left in the company. In other words, the profit figures include payment for your time working in the business.

 

What was your net profit including your salary (if a company or trust, add back any salary paid to you)?

                               2007                    2004

Minimum                     $0                      $0

Maximum           $376,000             $270,000

Average              $68,539               $62,801

Median                $50,000               $50,000

                            Comm                    W/P                General

Minimum                     $0                 $2000                   $1200

Maximum           $210,000             $376,000               $158,500

Average              $61,838               $77,538                $49,536

Median                $45,000               $55,000                $33,500

Looking at the big picture here, the average photography studio produces $68,539 ($62,801 in 2004) profit for its owners. If there is just one person working, this is okay. If there are more than one working, it’s not!

The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the average wage is $55,000 per annum and this is for less than 40 hours a week. How many hours do photographers work?

To be frank, unless you’re just starting out or winding down for retirement, a standard photography studio in Australia should be aiming to earn a profit of at least $100,000 per annum. Given the extra risk involved, the long hours most of us work, and the need to reinvest into the business (new equipment etc), this is an absolute minimum. And if it’s a husband and wife team where both are actively involved in the business, then push that figure up to $150,000 per annum.

Are these realistic aim points? You bet they are. In theory, the AIPP and AIPA represent the more active and knowledgeable photographers in the country – maybe not all of the top 10 percent, but certainly the majority of the mid-to-upper ranks. We should all be aiming to earn $100,000 a year or more.

As the figures show, some of the respondents are already bringing in over $100,000 in profit, so it can be done. If you’re not reaching this level, then perhaps you need to consider attending more seminars, doing a course in basic business, accounting or marketing, or hiring people to help you grow and develop your business. Don’t spend the next 10 years working 50 hours a week, only to earn a moderate income. If you’re going to spend the time, spend it wisely and invest in yourself by developing the extra skills you need.

Remember, we’re professional photographers. We might know the photography side pretty well, so it’s the professional side we need to concentrate on.

 

How much do you spend each year on advertising/promotion?

                                  2007                    2004

Minimum                    $105                    $800

Maximum               $48,000                $24,400

Average                  $9,693                 $5,708

Median                    $6,000                 $2,500

I get asked this question a lot, but the answers here are relatively meaningless. It’s not how much you spend on advertising, it’s how you spend it. This is a big topic which has been discussed more fully in older issues of

The Working Pro. Suffice to say, unless you’re closing down your business, some form of marketing is extremely important. Whether you pay for it and how much is another matter. A better way of asking the question is as a percentage of your sales income.

 

 

Advertising as a percentage of sales:

                                       2007              2004

Minimum                            0%                 0%

Maximum                          16%              16%

Average                              5%              4%

Median                                4%              4%

Businesses which are well-established may have no need to advertise (although they may do plenty of networking and entertaining), while new businesses may spend large sums to get themselves going. The figures of 4-5% are a good guide if that is what you’re after. 

Copyright And Licensing

With our hard won changes to copyright, are commercial and advertising photographers taking advantage of it and licensing their images to their clients? The response is as follows:

 

If you are a commercial photographer, do you use a contract or agreement for your work?

                                  Commercial            General

No contracts                       17%                   11%

Sometimes                          50%                   44%

Yes, use contracts               33%                   33%

This must be encouraging for the ACMP and AIPA heirarchies. With commercial, advertising and general photographers owning copyright (unless they agree to sell or pass it on to the client), it’s good to see we’re using our legal rights. I don’t see any problems with a lot of people using contracts or agreements ‘sometimes’, depending on the nature of the job. However, there is concern for the 11-17% who don’t use contracts – if this is you and you’re in the lower income bracket, it could be time to start asking yourself a few questions.

If you are a wedding/portrait photographer, do you use a
contract or agreement for your work?

                                          2007              2004

No contracts                         9%                4%

Sometimes                            4%                6%

Always use contracts            87%              90%

It seems wedding and portrait photographers have a clearer understanding of the necessity for paperwork, especially as without it they certainly don’t own the copyright. However it’s a worrying trend that more people are using no contracts, unless more of our members are just turning up and providing everything they shoot for a fixed price? So, when it comes to contracts and agreements, what information is included in them?

Tick the reasons you use a contract – to confirm:

                                                          Comm                 W/P

The job and payment details                    71%               81%

You hold the copyright                            71%              82%

You have licensing rights                         54%               27%

You will invoice him for further usage      25%               17%

Some photographers feel uncomfortable giving their clients a contract or an agreement, so don’t. Give them a letter instead and ask them to acknowledge the letter by signing a copy and sending it back. There are lots of ways to put down the job details on paper without giving offence – indeed, it is more professional to do so for every job, no matter what size.

If you shoot commercially or have your work published, your images may be reproduced without your permission – say by school libraries. VISCOPY collects revenues on behalf of visual artists, including photographers, and redistributes income collected for secondary rights. Perhaps we need to do more on this...

 

Insurance

If you store negatives, transparencies or digital files for clients, are they insured? If your studio were to burn down or you were burgled, loss of valuable images could leave you exposed to a lot of unhappy clients. One way to handle this is to limit your liability in your agreements with your clients, and also to take out insurance.

 

Tick the box if you insure your negatives, transparencies or digital files?

                                                                2007                        2004

Total respondents who answered yes.          12%                     22%

Commercial photographers                         25%                      36%

General photographers                               21%                      21%

Wedding/portrait photographers                 8%                       16%

 

If you answered yes to insurance, what value did you insure them for?

                          2007                2004

Minimum          $5,000            $2,000

Maximum      $300,000         $800,000

Average         $83,333           $71,611

Median           $40,000           $12,500

Benchmark Sample Shoots

When you work on your own, one of the hardest things to guess is how much is the competition charging. There are so many variables involved and price is just one of them. A client might ask for a portrait and one photographer will sell him a passport shot, the other a full studio production. Different photographers have different ideas and different selling abilities.

In previous benchmarks we have presented respondents with a specific scenario and asked for a quote. While this is useful, when presented with a brief, not all photographers quote directly to it. Many have an uncanny ability to upsell their clients to something more elaborate, while others seeming down-sell, making the job appear a lot easier than it really is and charging accordingly.

To see if we could elicit a better idea of how a professional quotes for work, this time we’ve asked the question a little differently: rather than asking how much would you like to charge, we want to know how much are your clients prepared to pay?

Take the first scenario for 10 product shots. Some photographers might believe their clients just want straight photos on a white background, supplied as TIFFs. Other photographers might upsell these clients and provide TIFFs with paths cut around the images. In other words, some photographers are looking at the big picture and selling more than the obvious.

The difference might not seem important to some readers, for others it will be critical. Fortunately, whichever way you look at the question, the answers will give you an idea as to what is going on in the market.

Here are the results.

 

1. Studio product shots – how much are your clients prepared to pay for 10 studio product shots and how much time would you allow?

                       Price                 Time (hours)

Minimum           $50                         1

Maximum       $2500                       12

Average          $660                        3

Median            $440                        3

This shows the range of prices people in Australia are prepared to pay. While some photographers would fly through the ten shots in an hour (or believe they would), others would be quoting on the basis the job takes one or two days. Hopefully the photographer allowing one hour for the job would be providing untouched camera files direct to the client with no post-production offered; one would also hope the photographer taking 12 hours was providing added benefits (such as more post-production), or perhaps he or she is really good at spinning a line! As it turns out, the 12-hour photographer is charging $2000.

The other question asked was frequency. It would be interesting to know if the person charging $2500 for ten shots was charging this regularly or just occasionally. As it turns out, this photographer was doing one such shoot a month, whereas the photographer charging $50 was doing three such shoots. I know what I’d prefer to do! On the other hand, there were a couple of respondents doing two of these jobs each month at $2000, while the photographer shooting 15 jobs like this each month was charging $300.

How does this figure match the other information in the benchmark? The respondents indicated the average number of hours chargeable each week is 19 hours. The answer here indicates they could shoot around nine of these jobs a week. Six jobs at $660 = $3960 per week or $190,000 a year (allowing four weeks off for holidays). This is a little shy of the $230,000 average annual sales figure provided earlier, but may indicate that product shot is not as profitable as other types of work.

Finally, 81% of photographers indicated they would shoot the job digitally, meaning 19% would still capture on film, even though a much larger percent own a digital camera. This, of course, may have something to do with what their clients require.

 

2. Location PR Shot

A client rings you up with a job to shoot some public relations photos. Do you do it as quickly as possible, or are adding extra services into the quote which help your client and allow you to increase your price?

Location PR shots – how much do you charge on average?

Minimum                     $66

Maximum                $1500

Average                  $462

Median                    $375

An interesting response, but one that can show what you’re up against. The photographer charging $66 may have assumed it was a single head shot, while the photographer charging $1500 may have assumed it a full day of work. The problem we have as individuals is knowing exactly what the client is asking for.

It’s true that some photographers don’t ask enough questions, others ask questions but may not understand fully the answers, or ask the wrong questions. The point to realise when you’re in a competitve bid situation is that the other photographer might be looking at the job completely differently. The best way around this situation is to provide a detailed brief to the client and hope that this ensures a similarly detailed brief is required of the other photographer so the client can compare apples with apples.

 

3. Real Estate

Real estate is an interesting market in that there is a huge range in the value of buildings being photographed, as well as a huge range of photography styles and services. Generally, photographers are more likely to be employed when there is enough margin in the property, and these days that means most properties.

 

Real Estate shots – how much do you charge on average?

                     City              Country

Minimum        $50                     $90

Maximum    $8000                   $600

Average     $1011                   $262

Median         $350                   $225

In this case because we are dealing with the real estate market, I compared city and country photographers. This is a good example of how markets can dictate what we can charge – look at the huge difference in the maximum figures, while the averages are almost double in the city.

By the way, there were two city photographers charging $8000, one was doing 10 shoots a month, the other 4 shoots a month. This could make the photographers charging $50 feel a little silly! Of course, these photographers are no doubt tucking into a niche part of the market, but even compared to the average or median, $50 is too cheap. In fact, $50 is too cheap to even pull your camera out – you simply can’t make money at these prices.

 

4. Architectural Shoot

There can be a large cross section in architectural shoots, depending again on the market, the architect and the scope of building works.

 

Architectural shots – how much do you charge on average?

Minimum            $66

Maximum        $4000

Average         $1091

Median            $950

It could be with the low prices the photographers are talking about per shot rates and this could mean their average return from a shoot is much better. Let’s hope so.

It’s interesting that a real estate job will pay more than an architectural shoot - on average! But then again, when you think about it, it makes sense. Perhaps the photographers in real estate are pretty smart!

 

5. Industrial Shoot

Industrial work varies from a single shot for a website to lavish corporate brochures, so the answer to this question should be wide ranging.

 

Industrial shoots – how much do you charge on average?

Minimum                $90

Maximum            $4000

Average             $1066

Median                $800

This is a lot lower than last benchmark, but once again, any photographer averaging $90 is never going to make a living as an industrial photographer, especially if they’re only doing a handful of shoots per month.

So, if you’re looking at these figures and wondering how to use them, here are a few pointers. If you are charging less than the average, there is no reason you have to put up your price. If your business is already profitable, then the survey indicates you are operating in the budget end of the market and this may suit you. However, if your business is not profitable and your prices are below the average, the survey is indicating you should be able to increase your prices and remain competitive in the market.

What if your prices are above average? If you wish to increase your profitability, increasing your prices further may be more difficult because you are already above average. If you do increase your prices, you will probably need to also offer an above average service, assuming this is what your market wants. Otherwise, to increase your profitability, you may need to increase the number of jobs you do rather than the price.

 

6. Family Portrait – how much do you charge on average, and how much time do you spend in shooting, interviewing and production?

                       Price            Time spent (hours)

Minimum           $30                  1

Maximum       $3000                25

Average          $651                 5

Median            $500                 4

Note the price and the time are separate answers and are not supposed to correlate.

The photographer charging $30 on average spent four hours to earn it. Let’s assume this is an error... There are several other photographers charging as little as $60 who said they spent three hours per job. That’s not sensible.

At the other end of the scale, the two photographers charging $3000 on average estimated they spent 25 hours on average. This isn’t great, either.

In the middle were quite a few photographers with $1000 to $2000 averages who were spending three to four hours per job on average. I know which studios I’d prefer to work for!

In terms of frequency, respondents claimed to shoot from one to 40 portraits per week, with the average being five.

 

7. Weddings

For weddings, we asked photographers to look at their price lists and tell us the cheapest and most expensive packages.

Wedding packages – what are the cheapest and most expensive packages?

                            Minimum            Maximum

Minimum                    $385                 $1150

Maximum                  $6500               $15000

Average                   $1949                 $4739

Median                     $1700                 $4250

The top prices show the Rolls Royce treatment. Every photographer should have at least one luxury item to satisfy that type of client.

Wedding photographers charging less than the average should carefully consider how they are marketing themselves.

 

How many hours per wedding would you spend (on average) shooting, interviewing and production?

Minimum           8

Maximum       100

Average         27

Median           24

One might expect that the photographer offering a $15,000 service also allows 100 hours to spend on the wedding, but this wasn’t so: he or she took 30 hours and this service probably doesn’t require that much more time than his or her lowest wedding package on the price list (at $2900).

Commercial Price Information

The following figures will give you a feeling for how commercial photography is charged. Note, just because someone charges, say, $50 to burn a DVD, doesn’t mean that this figure is listed on the invoice. Some photographers charge by the time and expense, others charge by the shot, and still others are only licensing their work. However, this information is useful in seeing how the total price is calculated.

 

How much do you charge for a roll of 35mm E6?

                           2007         2004

Minimum               $15          $40

Maximum            $200         $200

Average               $75          $73

Median                 $73          $65

How much do you charge to burn images to CD/DVD (per disc)?

                              CD               DVD

Minimum                $10               $10

Maximum              $415             $500

Average                 $74              $79

Median                   $79              $40

 

What hourly rate are you charging for photography?

                                   2007               2004

Minimum                       $35              $565

Maximum                     $460              $350

Average                      $163              $194

Median                        $150              $190

 

What is the average day rate you are charging?

                            2007              2004

Minimum               $200             $300

Maximum             $4500           $3000

Average              $1310           $1517

Median                $1161           $1500

 

What is the average hourly rate you are charging for digital post-production (computer) work?

Minimum            $30

Maximum          $300

Average           $114

Median             $100

A few responses were deleted as they were too low to entertain seriously...

 

Does your invoice (which you send to your clients) charge on a time basis, or on a per shot basis?

Hourly basis         75%

Shot basis            42%

Multiple answers were received for this, indicating that some photographers invoice both ways, depending on the job and/or the client.

 

Do you license your work or sell it outright?

Sell work outright  - client has copyright                   33%

License work - photographer retains copyright         71%

This should be seen as a really good result by the AIPP heirarchy given the effort it has put into changing the copyright laws in Australia.

Editorial Price Information

 

What is your day rate for editorial photography?

                                    2007                   2004

Minimum                      $300                   $285

Maximum                   $2,500                $2,800

Average                       $922                 $1012

Median                         $750                  $825

The average editorial rate of $922 is not as good as the $1310 earned for general commercial work. For this reason, editorial is often looked upon as a form of marketing, or as a filler between commercial and industrial jobs which tend to pay a little better.

 

If you are paid a shot rate for editorial photography, how much for a full page?

                       2007              2004

Minimum           $60              $110

Maximum       $3,250          $5,000

Average           $980            $654

Median            $350             $250

This year it was a General/Mixed photographer who quoted the highest shot rate, plus a high day rate, so the editorial is unlikely to be for mass-media titles. This is not to say photographers can’t earn big money for editorial. If you have a unique photograph of a special event or person, you can earn thousands of dollars for a single usage and much more if it is syndicated around the world. However, our businesses can’t rely on these windfall situations.

 

Portraiture Prices

How much do you charge for an unmounted 8x10"?

                            2007              2004

Minimum                $15              $20

Maximum              $500            $220

Average                 $95             $76

Median                   $85             $60

At $15 for an 8x10" print, you might think it will be hard for the minimum priced photographer to run a successful studio, but we need to remember that shopping mall photographers are charging low prices just like this. Having said this, shopping mall photographers have a minimum package you can buy.

Consider the photographer charging $500 for the same print: this photographer needs to have his presentation and image aimed at a completely different market segment to be successful. The minimum and maximum figures can happily co-exist, it’s just a matter of working out where you fit into the market.

As you read through this benchmark, it is important not to latch onto just one or two statistics, but to incorporate all of them into a business plan or a marketing approach. The photographer with the low prices may not feel comfortable charging a higher price, in which case my advice would be to set a goal of improving the quality of the photography first so he or she does feel comfortable, then put up the prices. I know of several photographers who doubled and tripled their prices from low levels like this overnight and increased the number of customers at the same time. It can be done, but it requires the photographer to have confidence in the product.

 

How much do you charge for an 8x10" framed?

                        2007           2004

Minimum            $55            $40

Maximum          $650          $550

Average           $190          $178

Median             $160          $160

 

How much do you charge for a 16x20" framed?

                           2007                2004

Minimum               $85                $108

Maximum            $1790             $1320

Average              $505               $429

Median                 $450              $380

The low prices in this benchmark are hard to understand - there must be very little profit left for the photographer, no matter what the volume. While there are business structures which could do this properly, none of the respondents have indicated a sales turnover which would allow them to do it! Chances are these respondents are just starting out, in which case this edition of the newsletter is undoubtedly a good read!

 

How much do you earn on average for a sitting fee?

                           2007             2004

Minimum                $20             $20

Maximum            $1500            $500

Average               $231            $111

Median                   $97              $95

Both the minimum and maximum fees are valid approaches to portraiture, depending on the print prices. However, if you’re spending more than an hour on a portrait, then the average sitting fee of $111 may be sending your clients the wrong message about the way you value your time. It’s probably important to let them know that really the sitting fee just covers your cost of film and processing (or digital equivalent), and your time is reflected in the print prices if they purchase.

It is also probable that the $1500 and other high prices include prints in the price – it may be that the question was ambiguous.

 

How many portrait sittings do you do each year?

                              2007            2004

Minimum                      3              10

Maximum                1450             400

Average                     88              82

Median                       35              35

The average of 88 portrait sittings is for photographers of all disciplines, whereas photographers specialising in wedding and portraiture had an average of 107 - not that much different.

 

Weddings

How much do you charge on average for one side of an album page?

                               2007             2004

Minimum                  $24               $30

Maximum                $200             $175

Average                 $104               $96

Median                     $97               $95

 

How much do you charge for your smallest guest prints?

                         2007           2004

Minimum               $5             $4

Maximum           $245          $400

Average              $21            $35

Median                $18            $20

Even assuming the cost of the minimum $5 guest print mentioned above was less than $1, when you take into account the time to order the print, write up the invoice and perhaps post it out, there is no way this is a profitable venture. The photographer would probably be better off not offering the service. Mind you, a minimum order of, say, $100 could ensure guests join forces to make a single order. That’s not a bad idea, although with these days of internet commerce, it is possibly unnecessary.

 

What is your average income (total sales) from each wedding (over 12 months)?

                       2007             2004

Minimum          $650          $1500

Maximum       $9,404        $8,686

Average         $3,443       $3,502

Median           $2,950       $3,000

A number of photographers answered ‘$8000’, which makes their response dubious – it was more likely a guess or a wish, whereas the photographer who claimed $9,404 looks like he or she actually worked it out – unless he or she only shoots one wedding a year and remembers how much it was because it was such a good one! Nevertheless, the range gives the lower priced photographers an idea of what some parts of the market will pay. The averages haven’t moved very much in the past three years and anecdotally I hear the wedding market has been getting tougher with more photographers entering this area.

 

How many weddings do you do each year?

                         2007        2004

Minimum                3             3

Maximum           108          100

Average              30            29

Median                25            30

The fact that many photographers are not shooting at least one or two weddings a week indicates a competitive market. It also indicates how important it is to always do a superlative job so that your reputation grows and happy customers are more likely to refer you.

 

What happens to the wedding proofs?

                                                      2007                   2004

Retained by studio                           21%                   18%

Negotiable for a fee                         17%                    14%

Included with the package              51%                    63%

Some photographers offer one service for one package, and another for a different package, hence the total being greater than 100%.

 

General

 

Do you retain ownership of negatives?

Retained by studio                      64%

Negotiable for a fee                   31%

Included with the package        17%

 

If you retain the negatives, how long?

Forever                                                           50%

5 years (as per AIPP Code of Ethics)         29%

 

Do you carry public liability insurance?

$5 million                             25%

$10 million or more            69%

 

Do you insist your freelance subcontractors have PL insurance?

Yes               25%

 

Do you comply with Workcover?

Yes             59%

 

For Health & Safety, do you have your leads tagged?

Yes            23%

 

Are you aware of Master/Servant relationships (not applicable Australia wide)?

Yes            8%

 

Do you comply with Superannuation Requirements?

Yes           63%

 

Are you registered for an ABN/GST?

No                              3%

ABN only                 10%

ABN and GST           87%

 

 

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