Explaining to a Hobbyist Photographer How ROI Works for a Professional

I want to take a few minutes to talk to all of you about why I’ve been editing photos a whole lot less these days.

I’m not saying that photo editing is bad. But instead, indeed it’s honestly essential. I’m saying that true masters of photography work at least 80% in camera and the rest is all done in post-production of some sort. Heck, I’d even sometimes argue even less is done is post. I want you to think about this almost like swimming as hard as you can to keep your head above water.

Editor’s Note: This was originally a script for a YouTube video I planned. But I seriously hate YouTube’s politics and algorithms.

But let me find a way to make this relatable to many of you folks out there who don’t have a full-time job as a photographer. I’m pretty confident that that’s most of you. Let’s take your job right now. And let’s say that on a yearly basis you get paid $100,000. Now if you have a specific skin condition or if you’re a specific orientation, you may get less pay because that’s America. So let’s cut down that to already $75,000. Now, you do your job every day. And you look at what you get steadily. But suddenly, you have to take on more and more responsibilities at the same pay. You find yourself doing the job of people that are both above and below you. What would you do? You’d quit and find another job, right? There’s, unfortunately, nothing you can do to change it. Or, you’ll supplement your income with photography. That’s cool.

Now let’s say you’re a full-time photographer. Let’s say your standard for a specific gig is $8,000. If you’re based in NYC and own an LLC, after taxes what you’ll actually be getting starts out at $4,000 approximately. But that’s not even counting in your expenses. You have to cover rentals, book a studio, maybe some assistants. So less money is coming to you now. Then, think about your time. Now your client is going to talk you down in price. You’ve got a bit more flexibility here. If you go down in price, then you start doing less as a result. You’re going to spend more and more time for less and less money. So, what do you do? You have the power to spend less time. Instead of spending 10 hours on a shoot and then 5 hours in editing, later on, you decide to cut that time working on the images by a third and instead opt to get it right in camera. That saves you a lot of time and money that you could otherwise spend drumming up more business.

What would you do? You’d quit and find another job, right?

Me

In the same way that a full-time employee doesn’t want to do more work for less money, a full-time photographer doesn’t want to do more work for less money. Let alone, when you’re all done working in the studio or on a set, it’s so nice to say to yourself, “Oh wow, it’s over. I’m done.” Then just send out your invoice and, hopefully, they’ll pay you on time. In most cases, most full-time employees get paid on time. But for photographers and freelancers, that isn’t always the case.

It’s just fair for everyone.

And that’s it. We’d love to hear from you. Why spend an excessive amount of time on something that doesn’t need it?