The WORK of Professional Photography


In an effort to help customers understand professional photography pricing, I’ll be writing some posts to explain the work involved in producing contracted photography products and services. 

The pricing formula is based on three basic factors:

  1. The photographer’s technical skills and effort needed to competently capture an image in the camera
  2. The photographer’s creative ideas and effort applied before, during, and after the photo shoot
  3. The duration of time required to produce the products and services the customer has bought 

The following is a list of what happens after all the images have been captured in the digital cameras at an event. It’s a series of relatively short-duration tasks. But each task much longer than most people would think. Collectively, the tasks add up to a lot of time.

1. Load all the equipment in the car (cameras, light stands, umbrellas, softboxes, accessories).
2. Drive back to the office/studio.
3. Unload the equipment from the car.
4. Power-up and login to the computers.
5. Create the event’s file folders on the computers.
6. Transfer the RAW images (see note below about RAW images) from the camera memory cards to the new file folders.
7. Copy the RAW images from the production computer to the backup disk drive.
8. Examine every image and delete those that fail the quality or usefulness criteria.
9. Develop the RAW images (exposure, color correction, light touch-up, white balance, crop, sharpen, vignette)
10. Develop some RAW images for black and white
11. Select the developed RAW images that I want to actually deliver to my Client (click the images)
12. Execute the step on the computer to start the conversion form RAW to JPG (high resolution for prints)
13. Execute another step, just like above, but this time set the parameters for smaller, (lower resolution for the web = faster loading)
14. Copy both sets of JPGs to the backup disk drive
15. Create the label design and customer/event-specific DVD/CD label
16. Print the CD/DVDs
17. Burn two DVDs , one for each set of images for the customer.
18. Copy both the high-resolution and low-resolution images to the flash drive.
19. Create the pages for the Image Index Portfolio.
20. Print the Image Index Portfolio pages.
21. Design and print the Cover Page and Binder Spine for the Image Index Portfolio
22. Hole-punch the Image Index Portfolio pages. Insert pages in the binder.
23. Place the CD/DVDs in binder sleeves;
24. Place the Flash drive in a binder envelope
25. Upload all images to my Zenfolio site (gives other Event guests an opportunity to view or order digital images or prints)
26. If personally delivering the CD/DVD, Flash Drive and Image Index, drive to the customer’s office to deliver them.
27. Invoice the unpaid balance
28. Email the invoice. Mail the invoice
29. If mailing the package, place in large mailing envelope, create/write the mailing label
30. If mailing the package, drive to the Post Office, at the post office, weigh the package, buy the postage, place the postage on the package, drop the package in the delivery slot.
31. OPTIONAL: Transfer images from computer to iPhone, text messages images to client

All this work takes more than just a couple of hours. It doesn’t matter whether I do the work or pay someone else to do it, time is involved.

In addition to the cost of time, there are job costs such as the CD/DVD media, the flash drive, print paper (for the image index), printer ink, and if mail is involved, the cost of the envelope/packaging and postage. Plus the cost of the gasoline used to drive to to and from the event venue or photo shoot location, the drive to and from the customer’s office to deliver the products, or simply the gas used to drive to and from the post office to mail the envelope/package.

There’s also the cost of the camera equipment, computer equipment, and computer software. That technology changes and depreciates rapidly. The cost of usage and depreciation can’t be avoided and has to be factored into every job.

And finally, other business expenses include the cell phone, liability insurance, accounting and legal fees. And probably a dozen other miscellaneous expenses related to sales, marketing, and administration that I can’t remember right now.

The point is that time is money. And the photographer’s time is just as important in the pricing formula as his skill in creating a vast quantity of quality images.

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