It’s a price even lawyers balk at charging (although that hasn’t stopped them entirely.) But no photographer could possibly hope to charge $1,000 for an hour’s work, could they?
Wrong. It seems some photographers are making $1,000 an hour, and they’re doing it all day long, netting $8,000 from a single day’s work.
No, they aren’t hiding in Beverly Hill bushes with giant lenses.
And they aren’t flying over rainforests in rented helicopters.
They’re going no further than their local schools where they spend the day creating student portraits.
According to Chris Wunder of PortraitEFX, a photography franchise, schools — both elementary and senior — are among the most lucrative markets for independent photographers.
An average size elementary school generates over $20,000 in sales over the course of a year for the photographer that takes advantage of all the opportunities there: portraits in fall and spring, events and yearbooks… [S]ome of the wealthiest photographers in America are school photographers!
In theory, the figures back up Chris’s high-earning claims. An experienced photographer with an assistant can take a portrait in 30-40 seconds, he says, although some schools require more than one team to work at the same time. Chris himself budgets 90 students per camera per hour.
The portraits then sell for $24-$25 each with take-up rates ranging from 70 percent to 85 percent. (Parents in the Midwest are apparently the keenest to have a professional photo of their children; parents in the southeast, the least interested. Elementary schools tend to bring more sales than high schools.)
Even in a low participation area then, 90 photos at $24 with a 70 percent sales rate would still yield $1,512 an hour. About three-quarters of schools also demand that parents order — and pay — in advance.
Of course, there are expenses. Digital cameras might have made specialized long-roll cameras largely obsolete, taking out one of the biggest expenses of the past, but specialized software such as Camlynx and Timestone can be useful for linking student images, organizing data and collating lab orders, especially at large schools. Photofinishing can take time, assistants have to be paid, and the school will generally demand a rebate which makes up a large part of its annual fundraising efforts. That can range from 10 percent to 50 percent but the average, says Chris, is 20 percent.
The higher the rebates schools request, the higher retail prices are to cover them. Some schools require other services (ID cards, etc) in lieu of cash.
Getting your foot in the door might take a bit of work though. According to Chris,
[m]any schools would welcome the opportunity to use a locally-based photographer, but unfortunately many photographers do not understand the sales model required.
Chris will be teaching a one-day class on school photography at the SEPCON convention in January, and he also sells a DVD that explains how photographers can break into the market.
Photographers who want to get started right away though, could simply try calling their local school and making a pitch.
Photo by waterdesire’sfires.
[tags] make money taking pictures [/tags]