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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> How Much Does An 8X10 Cost?
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06/17/2008 08:35:11 AM · #1
We all know we can have an 8X10 printed for a couple bucks... but what does it really cost?

I've never seen this question answered so well as Ann Monteith answered it in her blog. This is how Ann explains the cost of an 8X10:

Q. How do you justify such high print prices now that photographers can do the printing themselves?

A. I've heard this question asked many, many times. In fact I've been told by numerous photographers that they are reducing their prices to be more competitive now that they can do the work the lab used to do. My response is always the same: This makes no sense, particularly when you consider that digital images typically are more expensive for you to produce than the film variety. Inevitably, I get this argument in reply: "But it costs me only a few dollars for the paper and ink. My lab charges were so much more."

Well . . . in my studio, my husband shoots film, and I shoot digital, and I can prove that it costs more for a digital 8x10 than it does for an 8x10 produced using film whether you use a lab or not simply because it takes more TIME to produce it. Whenever a photographer takes on production work . . . or when you hire someone who does production for you . . . you must establish a time charge when pricing.

The figures shown below are from an exercise I did recently for a Studio Management Services class. It was based on charging $30 an hour for production time. This is a very reasonable figure, as if you have an employee doing the work, you want to make some profit on that employee's work; and $30 an hour is the rock-bottom figure any owner should be charging for doing his or her own production work. Owners can simply make more money doing work that will grow the business. Production is merely a by-product of studio growth, so you need to put your efforts toward the things that actually propel growth.

COSTS FOR INITIAL 8x10

$ 7.50 . . . Acquire & backup 50 RAW+JPG images (15 min.)
$ 2.50 . . . Import images to ProSelect (5 min.)
$ 20.00 . . Prepare 25 images for presentation (40 min.)
$ 5.00 . . . Retouch 1 image for 8x10 (10 min.)
$ 2.50 . . . Produce hi-res image in ProSelect (5 min.)
$ 2.50 . . . FTP image to lab (5 min.)
$ 2.50 . . . Backup finished print and file order (5 min.)
$ 3.00 . . . Lab cost for 8x10 print
$ 2.50 . . . Lab shipping
$ 1.00 . . . 8x10 mount
$ 2.00 . . . Digital media charge
$51.00 . . Total Cost of Sales (excluding packaging)

Note that only $8.50 of the costs for a first 8x10 are "hard costs" for the goods that go into the portrait. The remaining $42.50 is made of of time charges billed at $30 per hour. Everyone's workflow varies, so you need to work out these costs and charges for yourself. (For the record, I believe most studios are better served when they outsource their work to a lab. But that's a subject for another day.)

The premise used for this 8x10 costing example is as follows: All presentation and production accomplished in ProSelect, using Ron Nichol's Production Retouching Palette controlling Photoshop. Production time charged at $.50 per minute or $30 per hour. No time charge for RAW conversion or color correction on the assumption that RAW+jpg mode allows images to be viewed in jpg version, converting only the RAW image that is selected for the 8x10 before it is retouched.

So what should the 8x10 price actually be?

Studio Management Service's 2006 Benchmark Survey recommends that home studios can be viable at a 35% Cost of Sales (requiring a mark-up factor of 2.9); however because studios in a retail location typically incur higher overhead, these business need to operate at a 25% Cost of Sales (requiring a mark-up factor of 4.0).

At a $51.00 Cost of Sales, here is the math for the two scenarios:

Home Studio: $51.00 X 2.9 = $147.90
Retail Location: $51.00 X 4.00 = $204.00

You can spread this price out between a session fee and a print fee, or you can spread it out over numerous prints in a package, since duplicates and additional poses do not incur all the initial costs. That's your choice. But what won't work is to charge only for the hard goods and not for you time. If you do so, you're likely to have more business, because your work will have a very appealing price; but the business you get will not be profitable. In short, you simply won't be able to pay your bills or take out a salary. You'll have the rough equivalent of a very expensive hobby. Remember: Time is Money . . . even for photographers. Charging for your time is the ONLY way you will be compensated for your time, talent, and business investment.



06/17/2008 08:48:55 AM · #2
add:
matte 7.50
backing 3.00
frame/glass 40.00
time to cut & assemble 10.00
60.50 ...

for a boring simple frame ..
06/17/2008 08:50:19 AM · #3
Those figures don't include the use of equipment such as camera, lenses, lights, reflectors, backdrops, software and hardware. All of which have a limited life and require upgrading/replacing on a periodic basis. Additionally, there is also time spent for the clean and care of your equipment.

To sum it up... photographers will always be perplexed by the difficulty of making a decent living doing what they love and customers will always be perplexed as to why it costs so much.
06/17/2008 08:53:05 AM · #4
Originally posted by Trinch:

Those figures don't include the use of equipment such as camera, lenses, lights, reflectors, backdrops, software and hardware. All of which have a limited life and require upgrading/replacing on a periodic basis. Additionally, there is also time spent for the clean and care of your equipment.

To sum it up... photographers will always be perplexed by the difficulty of making a decent living doing what they love and customers will always be perplexed as to why it costs so much.


The final multiple (2.9 for home based, 4.0 for commercial space) is what covers equipment and overhead expenses.
06/17/2008 08:59:06 AM · #5
$1.00.
Oh, you want an image on that paper?

This is also why many folks don't appreciate the concept of 'packages' and 'average sale'. You prolly can't get $148 for an single 8x10, even with a session fee included. You might work really hard trying, or have a 'new business model' where you give them a CD instead of a print - you're not saving much on the total cost of $51 with that BTW.

Let's take the info from the initial post:

COSTS FOR INITIAL 8x10

$ 7.50 . . . Acquire & backup 50 RAW+JPG images (15 min.)
$ 2.50 . . . Import images to ProSelect (5 min.)
$ 20.00 . . Prepare 25 images for presentation (40 min.)
$ 5.00 . . . Retouch 1 image for 8x10 (10 min.)
$ 2.50 . . . Produce hi-res image in ProSelect (5 min.)
$ 2.50 . . . FTP image to lab (5 min.)
$ 2.50 . . . Backup finished print and file order (5 min.)
$ 3.00 . . . Lab cost for 8x10 print
$ 2.50 . . . Lab shipping
$ 1.00 . . . 8x10 mount
$ 2.00 . . . Digital media charge
$51.00 . . Total Cost of Sales (excluding packaging)

The bold items are the cost for an additional image - editing, printing. $9.00. Backing up, etc takes essentially no more time for 1 file than 100. Preparing 25 files for proofing is already in this cost scenario anyway.

So if you sell an 8x10 for $51.00 (to cover your costs) and have a session fee of $40 and the client buys only 1 image you've made $91 - not enough to cover your $148 'average cost'. If you offer a package, say of 2 poses and 6 prints your 'cost' is $51 for the first and $9 for each additional pose , and $4 for each additional print (no retouching needed on more prints of the same pose). $84 is your cost. You're markup should be 2.9 to 4 - I've been told 3.3 works well so lets use that - you should get $277 for that, so perhaps round it to $299 so you have room to cover packaging, or offer an incentive or bonus or some such. You're gross profit is $215 for that client.

If you can get each client to spend a bit more then you're profit can go way way up. It takes no more time for the session whether they buy 1 pose or 10. It takes essentially no more time to package an extra pose, to sell an extra pose, etc.
So lets add framing to this - to use a figure in this thread, $60.50. If you take the 3.3 markup on that you get 199.65 - so lets say $199.95 for a framed 8x10. As an incentive to buy the framed print you offer them 10% off the whole deal. Saves them $50! That's an easy sell don't you think?

Your sale before the deal was $299 and profit $215. Now it's $299+199 - 10% or $448. Your cost is 275.50 for a profit of 303.50 - and that includes the time to put the frame together, materials, etc.

If you can shoot and sell 10 clients a week (2/day) you were getting $3,000 in sales a week and $2150 profit. Now you're getting $4,480 a week in sales and a profit of $3,035 - about 30% more profit that goes in YOUR pocket - your expenses are paid for labor, gear rent, etc on the initial sale of $299. You don't have to bring any more clients, add any more staff, shoot any more pics or even edit any more pics! Just up your average sale per client.

With the frame and discount it's

Message edited by author 2008-06-17 09:27:42.
06/17/2008 10:05:40 AM · #6
And with all that in mind... I shall go back to ordering prints. :)
06/17/2008 04:04:19 PM · #7
Afternoon bum(p).


06/22/2008 04:19:16 PM · #8
a more realistic look at the cost of an 8x10

Message edited by author 2011-03-01 12:46:47.
06/22/2008 04:47:50 PM · #9
I have to agree with Skip on this one. The time allocations seem unrealistic and/or unjustified, especially in that it assumes you are only getting a single 8 by 10 out of a session.

I think it would be more reasonable to extract any fixed costs (backups, pre-processing for presentation, etc) into the cost of the sitting fee. Assuming that you are going to do these steps regardless of whether the client ends up buying prints, they are more the cost of the session than that of the first print.



Message edited by author 2008-06-22 16:51:14.
06/22/2008 05:50:36 PM · #10
I used to work as a PC tech a while back, and "babysitting" is charged. Installation of windows or any software, is pretty much automated. Installing windows takes 45 minutes to an hour, with about 1 minute of actual clicking or entering info, the rest of the time, you're watching the screen. Cost to customer - $75 minimum. Time is money. The client might question getting charged for an automated process, but its part of the complete job overall. I've never had a 15 minute wait downloading and backing up 50 raws before, so I can see Skip's point about possibly needing a new system, but just because you're babysitting portions of your workflow, doesn't mean you don't charge for that time.

I personally would charge, but I wouldn't include it in a list to show a client. I'd roll it into other things. But for getting our own personal cost breakdown, I'd definitely include that time in my figures.
06/22/2008 06:14:56 PM · #11
Where is the cost of equipment use? You need more horsepower, so you go out and buy that $10,000 machine, to speed up the process. You charging for that?
I am not sure what would be right and what would be wrong. Just finding what is competitive and people will pay is how I look at it. I worked it out for myself, considering a fixed amount for my time and go from there.
06/22/2008 06:16:37 PM · #12
Originally posted by wsl:

...Installing windows takes 45 minutes to an hour...


Ya, right. That's if everything goes well.

I did some network consulting once. We were not able to touch someone's system without a full backup was done. It was a couple hours before I actually began troubleshooting.

Time is money.
06/22/2008 06:21:29 PM · #13
Originally posted by wsl:

I used to work as a PC tech a while back, and "babysitting" is charged. Installation of windows or any software, is pretty much automated.

Software installation (or other "trouble-shooting") requires human monitoring and occasional intervention.

Once someone has set up their customized workflow for batch-processing images, it should not require such monitoring. The two cases are not really comparable.

I agree, the batch processing should be part of the sitting/overhead, not a part of the cost of printing any particular image; once done, any number of print images will require further processing, but all will take advantage of the pre-processing already done.
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