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Finances for Photogs #1 Setting Goals


I’m a planner at heart, and goals really make me feel happy inside. I love a good spreadsheet or two! When I took the business full time three years ago, my goals were something that helped it be so much less scary! Having set goals helps you gauge your success (in more tangible ways than “oh, I was featured here, or I have x amount of Instagram followers”). The thing is though, your goals should be intentional and specific. They shouldn’t be based on what you see other people shooting every year or what anyone else says. Your yearly goal should be based on what YOU need to make to be profitable. Having tangible goals that you’re able to meet is what will help you succeed as a business. If you don’t have a solid foundation to build on, you’re not going to be able to build a business that will pay your bills.

finances for wedding photogs

I personally have three goals in my head at all times:

#1 My main goal for the year which will allow us to live a little bit more comfortably, pay off extra bills, etc. This is ideally what I’d like to make and the amount of weddings I’d be comfortable shooting. I’d be happy to exceed this goal by 1 or 2, but that’s not a big deal.

#2 My “break even” goal that will just pay our bills and keep the business afloat. This goal is key because it’s really important to know exactly what you will need to book in order to survive. If you’re thinking about going full time with your business, you need to be sure that you know your “break even” goal for the year. I actually really love knowing this goal because it helps keep me sane. This number is usually a bit smaller, and it helps keep things in perspective when I might be in a valley booking season. I know that I only have to book this goal minimum to survive and it helps ease some of the stress that can lie in the unknown of being a business owner.

#3 My “half year” goal, which is the amount of weddings I’d like to have booked by the end of the current year for the next year. This goal is typically half of goal #1. I created this goal because it helps keep my anxiety about the next year low, AND it helps keep me on track. If the year ends and I haven’t reached this goal, I know I need to rethink some things and come up with a strategy to start the new year stronger.

How do I come up with each of those numbers? I start by thinking about what I’d like to make that year and then work backwards from there:

#1 Start by thinking about how much you’d like to make this year
What do you need to make to pay your bills? And the fun part…what would you LIKE to make to make life more enjoyable? Want to take a vacation this year? Start saving for a home? What $$$ do you need to make those goals happen? Come up with an ideal number for what you’d like to make this year. Obviously, if you exceed that, that’s great, but this will be the number you’ll shoot for.

#2 Figure out your projected expenses
Adding up any recurring costs (web hosting, image galleries, studio management software, etc) is a good place to start. I also suggest sitting down to figure out exactly what it costs you to shoot each wedding from any gifts you send, to your gas to and from shoots, products, etc. I also include the approximate prices of any gear that I’m thinking about buying. You’ll also want to guesstimate your taxes and set that amount of money aside. 30 percent or so is a great place to start, but you can look up your tax bracket on the IRS website. I’d say that guesstimating about 50 percent of your income going back into your business is a good starting point. You can always go back and fine tune this based on any things you’re anticipating investing in for the business this year (new camera body, promo film, etc)

#3 Use those two numbers to calculate what your goal will be
Once you know what you profit from each wedding, it’s easy to come up with a specific goal of weddings you’d like to book for the year. Let’s say you make a profit of $1000 per wedding after taxes and expenses. So, if you want to pay yourself $2000 a month, you’ll need to book 24 weddings for the year.

Those three simple steps should help you figure out what your goals for the year should be. Once you have your goals nailed down you’ll be able to set your pricing more easily based on the amount of weddings you’d like to be photographing as well as the demand for your services. I think of my goals, the demand for my services, and my pricing as though they were objects on a scale. Each one of these things has to be properly balanced for things to run smoothly.

Once you know what each wedding costs you and what you profit from each one, you can make more educated decisions about any potential discounts you may or may not offer and you can increase (or decrease even…we’ll talk about that soon in another post!) your pricing with confidence. If you set your goals in place, based on the above formula, you’ll also be able to tell if your business is actually profitable or if it’s costing you more to be in business than you’re making.

In my next post about business finances, we’ll talk about how to make sure you’re able to stay afloat and make ends meet during the slow season!

Megan Kelsey Marcus

Wow!! This is a GREAT post!!! Thanks for sharing, Katie! :)

Cape May NJ Wedding Sneak Peeks

This past weekend was absolutely perfect! The weather was great and we had a FRIDAY wedding, which we loved! I’ve noticed that Friday weddings are becoming a lot more popular over the past year or two. They either mean a double header weekend for us, or a weekend off! We enjoyed the latter this weekend and I can’t really express how important it is to schedule time off for yourself during busy season. To me, that’s the key to staying sane and still continuing to be able to be creative week after week.

Amy and Mike were kind enough to bring us out to Cape May, NJ for their wedding over the weekend and we were so thrilled to be a part of it! It was the first time either of us had visited that particular part of the New Jersey coast and we loved it! Cape May is one of the most quaint, adorable seaside towns I’ve ever been to. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you guys later this week!

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Washington DC Wedding Photographer

Rain on a wedding day is never ideal, but when it clears up just in time for portraits and the clouds give me diffused light to work with, I don’t hate it! The timing was perfect for Mary Kate and Todd’s big day this past Saturday. When we started portraits after arriving at the American Pharmacists Association for their reception, we were rewarded with that beautiful, clean, overcast light that I love so much! And it suited their classic wedding day style very well, too!

Mary Kate and Todd’s wedding day was the perfect way to kick off the Fall season! Mary Kate radiated joy all day, their ceremony was touching and heartfelt, and they ended the day with a fun rooftop party with a live band, cotton candy, and sparklers! Doesn’t get better than that:)

Enjoy a few of my favorite images!!

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Venue: American Pharmacists Association // Planner: Heidi Harrington // Flowers: Family Friend //


Her dress is gorgeous! Great pictures!

Old Town Alexandria Engagement Photos

Sunday afternoon was THE nicest day so far this month. It was beautiful, and the perfect day for an engagement session! It was a treat to have an excuse to be outside exploring Old Town Alexandria! I’ve shot several engagement sessions there before, but it’s still so charming that it’s easy to not get tired of it. I never feel like I’m not able to be creative because I’ve photographed there too many times. There’s one little nook that I’ve shot in now at every season and I have to say, I think this indian summer is my favorite! The light and greenery were perfection!

Callen and Brian are such a fun couple! They were naturals in front of my camera. I kept asking them if they’d been practicing poses ahead of time! They share a natural chemistry and a love that’s very evident in the way that they interact. I could have photographed them together all day!

Fingers crossed that we have just as beautiful of a day for their January wedding! Here are some of my favorites from our time together Sunday afternoon!

Hair and Makeup by Ryan of Blend Event!

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For Photographers: Pricing Albums

Maybe it’s just me, but pricing always seems like one of the trickiest parts of running your own business. And when it comes to albums, it can get especially tricky! Album costs, your time spent working on them, your market, and a ton other factors go into coming up with that specific number. You want your clients to have an album when they walk away from their experience with you, but you also need to charge enough to make a decent profit and make it worth your time and effort.

As I’ve mentioned before, I use Align Album Design for many of our albums. They’ve come up with an easy quiz to help you evaluate your current pricing and see where you can make improvements. It’s only 3 questions! It’s super quick! Once you’re done they email you with your album sales strategy alter-ego and some feedback on whether or not your pricing lines up with your values. I took it myself and it was really interesting to see the results! Click here to take the quiz now! (Follow the link in the upper-right-hand side of the screen.) And when you get your results, come back to this post and share them in the comments! I’d love to hear whether you think they are accurate and if the feedback provided was helpful!

I can’t have a post without something pretty to share too, so here are a few of my favorite spreads from one of our most recent albums. Emily and Cameron’s wedding experience with us ended with a beautiful navy leather album designed of course, by Align.
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Did you like this post? Check out the rest of the For Photographers Series