Minimum wage

Started Jun 25, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Michael Thomas Mitchell
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Minimum wage
Jun 25, 2012

We sometimes discuss on this board the true wages for photography services. A recent Living Social offer really illustrates what I believe has become rampant in our industry: specifically, the one-hour family location portrait session for next to nothing.

(Note that I am linking to this ad because it was already distributed by Living Social to its vast number of recipients.)

http://www.livingsocial.com/cities/580/deals/234676-60-minute-on-location-photo-shoot-with-prints

Here are the basics:

"Pay $45 for a one-hour on-location family photography session for up to five people, with one 8x10, one 5x7, and three digital images (a $90 value). You'll also have access to an online proofing gallery and have the option to purchase additional prints. Choose a location within 25 miles of 30141." (Includes TWO photographers)

With two large prints and three digital image files, plus online proofing, additional sales potential would seem low. Certainly, nothing more is guaranteed. And Living Social gets their cut, too!

So, let's do some math.

They sold 20 sessions in all at $45 per session. That's $900 gross. Now let's deduct expenses. There's print costs. Twenty 8x10 and 5x7 prints, even cheap ones, will run about $30. (Being nice here.) Then packaging and shipping, add another $40 (still being nice here). Our gross is down to $830. We'll assume that gas must be purchased to get to these locations. They'll go up to 25 miles away, so let's average it at 15 miles (pretty generous considering that they specify an entire zipcode rather than a specific address). Assuming urban driving at 15mpg, that's 2 gallons of gas, or about $7 per job for a total of $140. Our gross is now down to $690. At this point, I can tell that the wages are already going to be so low that I won't even bother with equipment costs or other expenses, such as internet, phone, office equipment, insurance, taxes, etc. In addition, I have no idea what Living Social's cut it. Ten percent? Twenty? Who knows... I've never used them. So with disclaimer, I won't even factor them in the calculation... the point will made anyway.

So now, we come to labor. We'll be very conservative and say that three hours is sufficient for each job, which would include transportation to and from the location up to 15 miles, the hour shoot, preparations, setting up the appointment, processing the pictures, posting them online, making prints, and delivery. So, 60 hours in all. But there's also two photographers. If we ONLY pay one of the photographers for transportation and shooting, we add another 40 man-hours, for a total of 90 hours.

Now we've got a gross of $690 (and a VERY generous one at that), with 90 hours (again, very generous) labor, giving us an hourly wage of (fanfare please): $7.66. Current federal minimum wage: $7.25.

Realistically, by the time all is said and done, and all those other real expenses are considered, this is probably a break even proposition. But the really bad thing is that volume sales don't matter here. In fact, they revenue is so small on a single-job basis that more volume would just mean more work at sub-minimum wages. And while there MIGHT be some potential up-sales of additional prints or digital files, they've already given away so much that there may be little room for revenue growth. And potential future clients? Well, maybe. A big gamble, though, and a LOT of work for so little potential return.

I'll note, too, that even the regular price of $90 per session, the picture doesn't get much rosier. A lot of work for very little money. Oh well, I guess they do at least get to enjoy their "passion".

Or maybe I'm just really missing something here.

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