How to Charge for Your Photography

How to Charge for Your Photography

Next in our series of starting an equine photography business is to figure out what we need to charge for our beautiful pictures and oh yeah our time. Yes, you should get paid for your time as well as your products.  Many new photographers want to know what others are charging and base their fees on those numbers.  While it is great to know what the competition is charging, it does nothing for sustaining your own business.  Your costs may not be the same as mine, and I know my costs are not the same as others in my industry. We each have our own CODB and we need to know what that is. So today we are going to get into another portion of our business,  (sorry no shooting yet….we will get there, I promise), we are going to be figuring out our cost of doing business or CODB. You only thought that doing a business plan was scary, this work is going to show you what you need to make in order to make a living. I know when I fist did all of this, my eyes must have glazed over and looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights. We are going to try to make this as non scary and painless as we can.CharlySRS_9627

CODB – what is it and why do you care?   Your cost of doing business is the result of an equation. (Yep we are doing math here, so hang on!) The equation is not that bad.

Non-reimbursable expenses (A), plus your desired salary (B), equals your total annual costs (C). Simple!


First, how much do you want to make a year this is what you want to make as take home pay. (as if you were receiving a paycheck from an employer, and get to take home and spend how you want) $50,000 a year? 75,000 a year? more? Don’t sell yourself short, but also don’t think you will make as much as Bill Gates in your first year.

The addition of your non-reimbursable expenses, these are the costs associated with keeping the lights on and the doors open. Rent, computers, phones, internet, insurance, gear, office supplies, etc., fall into this category. Beware this is going to be a fairly large number for some of you.  Grab a blank sheet of paper and lets make a list of what our non-reimbursable costs are: office/studio

phone (cell and/or landline)

photo equipment (cameras, lenses, memory cards, etc.)

equipment service and repairs (let’s hope not…)




vehicle expense (double check with your tax advisor on what you can include in this one if you are using a personal vehicle for work)

office supplies and furniture

postage and shipping

professional development (workshops, etc.)

advertising & promotion

subscriptions and dues

insurance (business and equipment)

legal and accounting services

taxes and licenses (business and self employment)

office assistant (I wish…)

utilities (other than you phone since we listed that earlier)

travel and entertainment

Your list may not have all of these, or it may have other things not listed here.  The important thing is to include all that you can think of that you will spend to run your business for the year. Some of these thing will take a bit of figuring out, but again put in the time and work, so your outcome will be a realistic number to work from.

Lets try an example:

A= desired salary    $75,000/year

B= total expenses     $75,000/year

$75,000 + $75,000 = $150,000 per year expenses.  So our CODB is $150,00 per year. This is what you will need to make annually just to keep your business going and does not include any savings for your company.

Yep that is a BIG number.

So let’s break it down into some bite size pieces.

You can break it down by month, or week, or by session or horse show. Let’s do it weekly to see what that looks like. So out of 52 weeks in a year, how many will do you want to work? Be sure to include time you want off for vacations, being sick, time for workshops etc. One month off should give you ample time so lets use 48 weeks as our magic number.

So $150,000 codb, divided by our 48 weeks of work time

$150,000 / 48 = $3125

This means that in order to make your $150,00 per year codb, you need to bring in $3,128 each week.  For equine photographers this can be made by shooting ranch/portrait sessions or horse shows or a combination of the two (there are other ways, such as commercial, but we will keep it to just these two ways for simplicity).

Lets use ranch/portrait sessions for our example.  Lets say we can do 3 ranch sessions a week  (remember we need to include email time with the customer, phone time, editing time, travel time etc.). This means we need to make $1,012 per session each week.  This is where our next topic of cost of goods sold or COGS will come in, as this $1,012 per session is just to pay you, and cover your expenses, it does not cover any products for your clients.  SRS_7300

Lets see what  shooting horse shows looks like.  Lets say you shoot three horse shows a month that are each 4 days long, this means you are shooting 144 horse show days a year (this does not include edit time, travel time etc….these are just the days you spend shooting, adding these thing will put you about 250 days a year.)  In order to determine what we need to make each day shooting it will look like this:

$150,o00 / 144 days of actual horse shows = 1,042 per horse show day.

Again this only covers what it will take to pay you and your expenses and does not cover the cost of products that your customers may purchase. So when you are shooting horse shows on spec work (a topic we will cover later on) it can be very daunting, since sales are not guaranteed.DizzyLizzyGirlSRS_0343web

Our next stop will be figuring out our COGS, so stay tuned!







Things Change and Change Always Happens

Things Change and Change Always Happens

So I went on a rant about “pro” horse show photographers poaching horse shows. (if you missed it go here)  Now while I am not going to rant (okay maybe a little bit) I am going to point out some things about the MWAC’s (Moms With A Camera) and others at horse shows and well everywhere. Perhaps MWAC is not the best term as that has an awful lot of negative connotations around it. (Thanks to MCP Actions’ Guest Blogger for pointing that out.)

Things change and change always happens.  Technology has made digital cameras more readily available with their prices coming down and technology going up.  It is the way of the world, and yet many photographers are trying to fight this change.  I have news for you guys – you can’t.   Whenever you have technology come down in price, then the amount of that item out in the general public goes up.  Remember the time before cell phones??? (yeah I am old – get over it…) The only ones who had them where the elite business people.  Prices started coming down and then we saw lots of adults who had cell phones, prices came down some more and now they are every where.  Even grade school kids have them!  So what makes camera equipment any different? News flash….it’s not.

So now we have a whole lot of people running around with the entry level DSLR to the pro level cameras.  And all of a sudden everyone wants to be a professional photographer….”I have always wanted to be a photographer”, “Now that cameras are cheap I can become a pro” and the list goes on. Really I am not against this!!   What I am against are those that do not have enough respect for those that are professionals and trying to make a living with their photography. On the flip side, I am also against those pros that bash on the newcomers.  Now before you start throwing things at your computer screen or screaming at me about this, hear me out.

All of us, not just a select few, but ALL of us had to start somewhere.  Each of us had to learn how to use our cameras, how to sell ourselves and our work, even how to price said work.  Each of us has done some kind of photo work for free (or dang close to it – so go ahead and admit it) to get photos in our portfolios or just to learn.  There is a time, a place and a way to do this.  Am I an expert at how those things need to get done? Heck no, but I do know there needs to be some respect from the up and comers towards the pros and from the old pros to the up and comers.

Instead of tearing down the new photographers, lets give them some advice and guidance.  Point them to a local meet-up  group, offer mentoring sessions, or workshops don’t just start telling them how awful they are.  Will some of these new photographers turn you down? Of course!  There are always those out there that feel they know everything. Not everyone is open to learning new things.  And there really is plenty of photography work to go around. If you are a professional, you better be on the cutting edge of your field (horse show, portrait, weddings, pet, etc.) both artistically and mechanically. That is what sets you apart form the up and coming photographers.  Now, I did not say drop your prices, if your work is good and you have great customer service skills you should be ok. I also did not say that poaching horse show is ok – it is NOT.

New photographers, most of you could stand to take someone up on mentoring, or perhaps take some business courses at the local community college…..what?? Business classes??  YES!!!  (or the SBA) If you are going to do portraits, horse shows or whatever kind of photography and plan on making any money at it, then you need to remember that it is a business!  If you want your photography to be a hobby, then pay attention to what else is coming in this post…you may learn a thing or two.

Many new “pro” photographers think that the photography world is just point your camera and take pictures, everyone will love them and buy them. Guess again, while you may post your pictures on Facebook and get 30 people to like the photo, and your mom telling you how great it is, it may not really be that good.  Our Moms love us, remember those finger paintings you did in grade school that she showed to all her friends…..yeah, she still does that, only now she uses your photos. Now, I am not saying you don’t take great shots, perhaps you do, but our friends on Facebook and elsewhere may see our work though rose colored glasses. And yeah it stings when someone critiques your work, but you will learn from it and grow from it, so be open to it.  Heck be brave and ask for honest criticism, you may not like what everyone says, but someone may give you some great insight on how to make your shots better.

And remember those business classes I said you should look into?  Trust me most of a photographer’s work is not and I repeat is not taking pictures. It is running your business.  There are invoices to be done, websites to maintain, gear to be cleaned and taken care of, there is bookkeeping, oh and the editing, ordering and delivering of your wonderful photos.  How many new photographers out there are running around shooting kids, or weddings or horse shows with out insurance or a business license???

Business licenses are required! You need to collect sales tax according to your local municipality, none of us like it, so suck it up and do it. You want to be a “professional” remember?

As for insurance, it may not be required – but it should be. Again you want to be a “professional” right? (here is where you hobbyists may want to pay attention) Let’s say you are going to shoot some children’s portraits for a friend.  The park sounds like a fun place, there could be some cute shots on that little rock waterfall or the jungle gym.  You have made all the time and date arrangements. So off you go to meet mom and child at the local park. Oh, look the little water fall would be soooo cute… you prop said child up on the little rock waterfall, and they slip and crack their head open.  Now we have blood everywhere, a screaming child that needs stitches and a mother in a panic.  Oh no worries, it was just an accident, or so you think.  Next day you are slapped with a lawsuit for the medical costs. Wait you don’t have insurance?  Hope you have a large bank account, because this is not going to go away cheaply.  I hope I have made my point. If you can get sued for something, eventually you will.

How about pricing?  You think you are not good enough to charge for your photography?  Well then you are not good enough to be a professional yet. Here is where mentoring and business classes will pay off.  Knowing your COGS is paramount to running a successful business.  If you want to price like Wal-Mart then you have created an image like them – cheap. This I think is what worries many of the older professional photographers. The new photographers that will do a session for $50 and give the customer all the images on a cd. Guess what pros, if this scares you, then you are going after the wrong customers. Think about it, do you want a customer who is so price driven that they do not care about quality or customer service?  No, this goes back to you better be an amazing photographer, who because of their artistic abilities and knowledge of how to make great pictures can command a customer that is willing to pay for it.

Horse shows – my favorite and least favorite place to see newbies that want to be pro. There are ways to go about shooting at a horse show, just showing up and shooting is not one of them.  If there is an official show photographer, they are usually contracted in some way shape or form.  And depending on the location of the show are required to carry a minimum of a 1 million dollar liability policy.  The hours of a horse show tend to be horrific (and many times the weather as well), they stand in the arena all day and many times into the night to make sure everyone has pictures of them.  Lunch? Bathroom Breaks?  Don’t be silly, the horse show has to keep moving along. Now along comes the new photographer who wants to shoot horse shows, they stand ringside (many over the officials shoulder – yep have had it happen, a lot) and happily shoot away. Many listen to the pros camera to see when to actually take the picture. (yep had that happen too…) Next thing you know they are handing out business cards to everyone or emailing them and giving the pictures away.   I will cover all of this more in another post – just wanted to give you guys a little bit of insight…(so stay tuned!)

Bottom line, there are going to be more and more new photographers coming into the photography world. The price of technology has allowed this to happen.  It is not a bad thing, it may be scary if you are not sure about your work. But if those things scare you, then you have bigger things in your own business that you need resolve. It is a small world, we all need to play nice and really why not continue to change and move forward by helping and respecting each other.

Of Horse Shows, Photographers and Poachers

Of Horse Shows, Photographers and Poachers

Being a horse show photographer has its wonderful moments. Then there are the moments where I am embarrassed and mad to be one. The Scottsdale All Arabian Horse Show is going on right now, and while the horses are beautiful and stunning to see, should other pros be there shooting it?   Rick Osteen and Howard Schatzberg of Schatzberg Photography are the “official” photographers of the horse show. Their work is amazing, they have done Arabians shows for years and have honed their craft with the utmost perfection. I know they are required to carry a hefty insurance policy naming no less than 3 organizations including city and counties as additional insureds, have overhead of employees, etc. and are there trying to make a living. I know these things because I have shot at this facility and have been required to provide the same things. On any day of the show you can stand beside any of the arenas and see countless “pro” photographers ringside happily shooting away.  Now don’t get me wrong shooting for your own personal enjoyment is one thing (people should be allowed to shoot their family – an entire barn? I don’t think so). However many of these self- proclaimed professionals are shooting and sharing on Facebook, as well as tagging anyone in the picture.  Which in essence means that they are selling their photos for $0.  Many are even handing out business cards to the people they are shooting to get them to buy the pictures (I  found one who has this blurb on his website: “Due to the sheer size of the event, I am afraid that I was not able to cover every arena and every horse at the event.” followed by a list of all the classes and photos from those classes for sale).  Here are these self-proclaimed “pros” who are coming into Rick and Howard’s work place to steal work and customers from them. Now I know many of you are going to say that the show producers should take care of these “poachers”, others are going to say that is the way it is now in the horse show world, my comment to those is “if they are professional, shouldn’t they behave that way?”

The poachers are not having to fork out money for insurance, employees at the show and cover who knows what other expenses that the official has to.   I have even found them trying to be sneaky at horse shows I have been the official at. Want to know something else???  Let me walk you through a scenario that could happen…. Perhaps Mr. Poacher scares a horse, causing the rider or the horse to get seriously hurt.  Someone happens to see Mr. Poacher with his pro equipment and says “That guy with the pro equipment caused this accident.” While Mr. Poacher may or may not get sued, I can just about guarantee that the facility and the “official” photographer will.  It is surely going to be assumed that the pro was working for the “official” since he was supposed to be the only pro there. Still not getting it?  How about this one? Let’s say you are the “official” food vendor for a sporting event, now I pay my entry fee into the park and proceed to sell hotdogs and hamburgers (heck I may even give them away).  Are you going to be ticked????  You bet, you have been required to have insurance, permits, employees etc., and here I come and cut in on your profits without having to provide any of the things you have.  The horse show photographer is no different!

The Scottsdale show is not the only horse show with this problem, just about all horse shows have this problem.The International Andalusian & Lustiano National Championship show was no different. Unfortunately there the “official” photographer Kristie Nichols Puckett of Moonfyre Photography, had to deal with a photographer who came in on a “media” pass.  While media passes are not bad, they are supposed to be for magazines, etc.  Not for that person to shoot hundreds of photos and then turn around and offer them for sale on their website or post them all over Facebook with people tagged… rather than buying from the official, they got free photos. This happened at the Scottsdale All Arabian Show in 2012 as well.  The person that was shooting for Arabian Horse World has all of the photos they took on their website for sale. So they got to go to the show – no insurance, no employees, etc. and shoot whatever they wanted for the magazine and then turn around and sell the photos. Were they the official? No Osteen-Schatzberg were. Not only is that unethical it is pretty immoral in my book as well.   I wonder if these photographers realize that they could be sued over this infringement?

Unfortunately I have found that this happens in other sports as well.  It just makes me mad and disgusted. Why do we as professionals insist on screwing each other?  Perhaps you may not be aware that at some point one of those people you have poached may need a second shooter.   Guess who they will not be calling???? And can you guess who’s names will be drug through the mud?  You “poachers” would not like someone coming to your horse show and behaving the way you are at the shows you are poaching….so how about we all grow up and behave professionally?





End of Season Sale

End Of Season Sale

Hi Everyone!!!


We are getting ready to delete old galleries to make room for the fall shows!! So to make your choices a bit easier for you we are offering 15 images on a CD for $250.00. They are fully edited images that you can print, email, use on Facebook, or a multitude of other things. About the only thing you can not do with them is change them or resell them.


This offer is only available to the galleries that have a “Year End” tab in the pricing section. If you happen to choose an image that is not in a sale gallery, you will be asked to choose another image. Once you have placed your order via the internet, we will email you an order sheet on which to list your deisred images. Simply email the form back and we will get started on your images. Please note that due to high volume it may take 3-4 weeks for your order to be completed.


This offer is only good until November 1, so be sure to get your orders in, because after that this deal will be gone.




S. Sylvester Photography


Cool Day In The Pines 07/23/2011
Copper State Horse Show in Flagstaff, what a nice day in the pines at a wonderful show.  Anna and Penny do a great job, and in my opinion could noCopper State Classict have picked a better location!  Cool weather, lots of pine trees and many friends to catch up with.
While it was cool, I did manage to get a bit sunburned on my face.  I forgot that they make this stuff called sunscreen…..duhhhh!!!
Check out all the pictures at  I look forward to more Flagstaff shoots!!