What Does It Take to Make a Photography Business Profitable?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015/Categories: Photography Business Tips

Eighty-five percent of US photographers go out of business within three years. If you're like most photographers, maybe that's not a huge surprise – no one knows better than you how hard you have to hustle just to break even on your business expenses.

But sometimes, seeing those numbers in one place can give you the clarity you need to do more than make ends meet. And that's why we put together the infographic below.

Shooting for Profits

(Click the image to see the full-sized version.)

Let's take a closer look at some key findings and how you can apply this information to your photography business.

The Big Picture of Your Business Expenses

Chances are you didn't buy all your photography essentials in one fell swoop. Like other self-employed photographers, you probably acquired your equipment piece by piece over time, and you may still be saving up for that new lens.

Nothing wrong with that, but it's important not to lose track of how much you've invested (and continue investing) to keep your business operational. Turns out, all those bit-by-bit expenses add up to a small fortune.

For example, a photographer may pay…

For a full breakdown of common expenses, check out the infographic.

After adding up all the photography equipment costs, business setup expenses, and business training fees, the average photographer may spend about $9,530 to $14,780 just to get the business up and running.

To maintain it? That runs about $13,130 a year. If you're a wedding photographer, all those business expenses average a cool $27,730 a year.

Gig Goals to Offset Expenses

As you can see in the infographic, if a portrait session brings in about $200 plus $387 per photo package – a total of $587 per client – studio photographers need…

  • 23 sessions to break even on business expenses.
  • 51 sessions to make minimum wage.
  • 72 sessions to earn the median salary for a photographer.

Wedding photographers make an average of $2,814 per client, which means they need to shoot…

  • 10 weddings to break even.
  • 16 weddings to make minimum wage.
  • 21 weddings to earn the median salary for wedding photographers.

The takeaway? When pricing your sessions and packages, you should aim for profits of at least 35 percent of your gross sales to keep your business lucrative, according to a PPA Benchmark Survey.

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