Why I Will Never Give Out An Itemized List Of My Business Expenses (And Why You Shouldn't Either) | Emily McGonigle Photography

This post is for my fellow photographers out there.

The other week I was browsing Facebook, as I often do, and I saw a post from another photographer asking advice about what to do concerning a client that had asked for an itemized breakdown of their business expenses. They were inquiring about the cost of a specific element of the service the photographer offered.

Now, this is an interesting phenomenon to me, because on one hand, I understand where the client was probably coming from. They may have suddenly realized how much it costs to get married, and were trying to figure out where they might be able to cut costs. Often times people turn to cutting things that they deem to be "extra" to their booked packages in order to save money. For example, if their package includes a second shooter, they may look to remove that portion of their package.

Hey, I get it. I got married on a budget, and the whole thing was *still* slightly more than we wanted to spend. 


That being said, asking a photographer to break down their business expenses in order to cut portions of their service that wasn't previously added on as an a-la-carte item, is like walking into an Apple store and asking, "Hey, can you give me a list of what each part in this computer costs? I'd like to decide which parts I don't really need in there so I can buy it for less."

You would never do that. That's not how retail businesses work.

Yet websites like The Knot, Wedding Wire, and similar blogs floating around the internet, claim there are ways to get the cheapest [insert vendor] for your wedding, or the cheapest portraits for your family. They all say the same thing. They will encourage all of their readers to hassle and haggle with their photographers.

This is insanely frustrating, because I don't know about you, but my pricing is set based on my monthly business expenses and my personal income needs. These things don't change just because someone is scheduling their shoot on a Monday instead of a Saturday, as many of these sites suggest.


So here's why you should never give a client an itemized list of your expenses:

  • As I just mentioned, literally no other business operates this way. Walk into your favorite store, and question why that dress you love is $100... Ask an employee to give you a break-down of their building rent, their employee payroll, their markup on the dress, the cost of employee health insurance, building utilities, etc. in order to determine if that dress is over-priced or not. They'll look at you sideways and probably just walk away...
  • No one cares that you have care insurance, health insurance, equipment insurance, studio rent, equipment repairs, etc. Unless they're a business owner themselves, most people don't understand that you have to take things like cost of living and reoccurring business expenses into account when setting your pricing. So don't waste your time trying to explain it, because at the end of the day, they're just going to feel like you're trying to get them to pay for you to live "the cushy life" (although, anyone who has ever seen my car, knows I sure as hell don't live the cush life, ha).
  • You should be putting your efforts into trying to reach your target client, because they won't care about how much your car insurance is, health insurance, studio rent, equipment repairs, etc. Anyone asking for an itemized breakdown is just price shopping for the lowest rates and the chances are you're not going to win them as a client anyway. So don't give yourself more unnecessary work to do for no reason. What your target client WILL care about is whether or not you do quality work and offer a great experience (And if your target client doesn't care about those things, then you need to re-evaluate the way you're marketing yourself, haha). 

Everyone has budgets they're working within, and that's fine. Each of us caters to a different part of the market, but it's the motive behind the budget that is important. If it's just a free-for-all of "the lowest bidder wins", you shouldn't be breaking your back to win those clients.


Now, all this to say, I'm not telling you that you can't work with your clients if it turns out they need to work within a different budget than originally thought. Plenty of photographers have a-la-carte services to add onto packages that can be removed. Or they're like me and their *entire* product and service list is a-la-carte. Even if it's not an a-la-carte item, and there's no lower package for your clients to drop down to, if it's a client that you really love and you feel good about cutting a portion of your services and dropping your price for them as a result, then great. If your business model is set up to accommodate that, then that's fabulous. But don't give them your entire expense list. That's just reserved for you and your accountant. ;)


Emily McGonigle Photography is a Nashville Portrait Photographer, and can be contacted for booking inquiries here.