I decided to move the updates from the post on “How Much Money Do Commercial Photographers Make?” here and add a few more that have been submitted:
My individual gross revenue* from assignment and stock photography was $362,000
I had $57,000 in out-of-pocket assignment expenses*
I had $120,000 in fixed overhead* costs
My net profit* on my photography was $185,000 ($362k – $57k – $120k)
I’ve been in business for 24 years (started out as a photojournalist working for newspapers and wire services, now I shoot portraits for magazines, corporations and ad agencies). I share facilities, staff, equipment, supplies and insurance with a number of other photographers. The number I quote above was my share of the fixed overhead.
While it’s useful to know what “the budget” is for a particular project, and to know your “cost of doing business” as background when you’re putting together an estimate for a job, those numbers don’t have any impact on the value of a project for a particular photographer. They simply determine whether the photographer is going to be too expensive for the client, or whether the job is going to be too cheap for the photographer.
The value of commercial photography is dynamic. It changes moment to moment, and varies widely depending on who the client is, how unique the photographer is, how busy the photographer is, how badly the client wants that photographer, how badly the photographer wants the project, how much time, energy, and money it will take to accomplish, and of course what the usage is. A smart photographer is going to take a fresh approach to each estimate, just as they would expect to take a fresh approach to the assignment itself.
gross revenue* is the total amount of money you collect in a given tax year
out-of-pocket assignment expenses* are your actual costs for subcontractors, travel, props, rentals (that are specific to an assignment)
fixed overhead* are the costs for your rent, utilities, business insurance, supplies, portfolio, advertising, accountant, etc.
net profit* is what’s left over after you pay all of your business expenses in a given year – it’s what you pay income tax on
2009 kinda sucked, I made 30% of 2008!
My billings were $90,000
My net was $54,000
I am an advertising & editorial photographer, lifestyle & portraits
stopped assisting in 2002, so been in biz 8 years.
2010 is starting out much better……… knock on wood.
as a commercial photographer who has made between $600,000- 1,000,000 in fees every year for the past half dozen years, i think there are aspects of how you run your business to keep it lean and minimize overheads. as previously talked about, running a corporation allows you to fund and write off capital investments, cars, flights, employees, production and even some ‘entertainment’ pre tax. so it becomes very difficult to judge the true bottom line of where your company expenses end and where your personal income begins. the lines are perfectly and legally blurred. so determining your actual salary is not an exact science.
again, as stated, we all try to make it look as though we make as little as possible and write off as much as is legal, but be for warned, when you then go and try to buy your 2 million dollar dream loft in tribeca, it will really work against you as although your company has billed much, your personal salary will appear to be much smaller. this is a good catch 22.
keeping it lean and not ‘doing an annie’ is critical. for example, i run a still life studio where we have preagreed flat rate fees on studio, cameras, digital capture. so if i use 1 flash head or 20 it is the same price. clients love it cause there are no surprises, but i love it cause there is no cataloging of what was used. no studio manager spending endless hours logging in equipment and then making invoices. people cost money.
i also suggest not doing your own production. in my experience, there simply is not enough of a margin to be made (if at all these days) in doing production and it is a waste of a photographers time to attempt to suck 10-15% out of a budget. you are a photographer. be a photographer. if you are making 50K fees on an ad job and the production is say another 50K, it is simply not worth trying to make another 5K out of the production. as you are holding a lot of overhead which if it goes wrong and/or over budget, you and your business will be held responsible. not to mention the headache. production is for producers.
I am a commercial photog in Brooklyn shooting editorial, publishing, some advertising and now doing video producing with partner. I have been in business for myself for 6 years. I do not have a studio, or employees, so overhead is fairly low. I still feel like an “emerging photographer” :) This year has been better a bit because of video work, which is new to my business.
2009 – gross fees: $113k, net will probably be 40-50k – hopefully I can get all my deductions so I am not taxed crazily. I am not incorporated. The past few years have been approx gross 70k fees and net 30-50k.