Understanding CODB - For Photographers


That is, Cost Of Doing Business which means, all the expenses incurred by a firm or sole proprietor in producing and selling goods or services.

Are you a photographer? Have you run your CODB?

If not, and you aren't sure how to get started, I recommend this automatic calculator I created for photographers, and I also I run a facebook group for photographers where we aim to educate photographers on charging their worth, help them become legal businesses and also offer help with all things photography. I was not charging based on my CODB and have since made some big changes!


The calculator is available for purchase here

Request to join the group here

If you're just starting out, still learning, portfolio building, you should not be charging just yet. If you're past this stage, aiming to be a professional photographer, possibly make this your career, why are you not charging your worth?

Have you looked into whether or not your city/town requires a business license and what the requirements are? Did you know that photography is a service that requires sales tax and you must pay taxes on the income like any other job? Are you charging tax? If not, you're probably not paying it either and if the CRA found out, can you afford the consequence?

There are also a lot of great posts in the group and other places about becoming a legal business.

What is a legal business? It is any activity or enterprise entered into for profit, and that is licensed and pays government taxes. If you're not doing photography for profit, it would then be a hobby which is an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure. Learning and understanding the different between the two is crucial.

People have come to expect unreasonably low, near non existent prices for photography services because there are so many people who just don't understand or feel confident enough to charge their worth. Or there are those that consider themselves a business but don't properly conduct as such and it impacts the legitimate businesses.

Clients won't value our service, talent and skills if we don't.

You're not doing a minimum wage job flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant and customers don't often bat an eye at spending $100 or more on one meal to feed the family, often doing this multiple times a month. How many clients do you have that always have perfectly done nails, or regularly filled eye lashes and hair highlights? I can't tell you how many people I know that spend hundreds, thousands even on tattoos every 6 months but refuse to pay my price for my professional services. Why are photographers allowing our services to be considered less valuable than any other professional service?

Don't get me wrong, any hard working person doing what they have to do to earn a living is highly respectable and all jobs deserve acknowledgement and respect, but why are you accepting less than a teenager working part time after school for some spending money? Why are you accepting less than minimum wage for your time and talent? After all, even the 14 year old just starting out working their first job is paid for their time and often receive benefits too.

You don't, you have to pay out of pocket for that. Everything you have and need, you are responsible for.

You're a talented artist that puts in hours upon hours into learning and perfecting your skills, spend hours on your sessions, investing hundreds and thousands of dollars into equipment and education so that you can deliver a quality product and service that a family will enjoy for years, something that will be around forever. Heaven forbid a house fire and all is lost, especially those photos of your parents, your grandparents or the growing kids as babies that can never be replaced. Photographs are not something anyone takes for granted when they are they have left of a loved one. This IS the most priceless thing for anyone, yet has the most insulting view on what it's actually worth in terms of dollars, especially knowing what people are willing to spend on other services. However, photographers are also encouraging this kinds of thing by charging so little so how are clients supposed to know any different? Not only is it our job to provide exceptional service, but also educate our clients so that they understand why professionals charge what they do, and why they need to.

You CAN do this because you enjoy it, you CAN do this and believe everyone deserves to have professional photography, but NOT at your expense and NOT at the expense of the industry that is valued less than a minimum wage fast food restaurant job. Or, like another photographer puts it in a recent blog post of hers, toilet paper. Something everyone buys, an item used to wipe the behind and gets flushed away but the average household will spend over $150 per person on this each year. Why are you charging less than the price of something people use to clean their tushie?

You will burn out, you will grow to dislike doing photography when you're trying to please everyone and cannot make a successful and profitable business, if that is your goal. If all you want to do is simply snap some photos for fun, by all means do so but don't charge for it. If you want to earn an income from photography, do it the right way. Doing what you're doing will always make photography the side job to the day job, you will always need a main source of income because you cannot rely on or earn enough with photography if you're charging next to nothing for the time put in.

One of the most common pieces that many photographers seem to forget, and often our clients as well, is that while doing anything related to our business, we are putting in time. Do any other job for a living, and you receive an hourly wage for the time put in, not just the results. In our industry, our time does not end when the client's session ends. We put many hours into their session that they don't physically see, yet often forget.

Skilled trades, laborers etc such as home builders, roofers, plumbers, electricians, painters, mechanic's - they all charge by the hour, many charge just to quote you a price on the job before they even do the job. People don't devalue the industry and ask those workers to negotiate their prices and do it all for under $100 and if they did, they'd be looking for a new person and would never get the job done. These skilled workers are educated and trained and would never do their job for free, their education cost money, they know their worth. Why would you be different?

Often people don't bat an eye at paying the price to have a leaky pipe fixed or having their furnace properly installed because they value those services and see the labor put in and need the job done right. Everyone wants a safe home to live in, and everyone wants amazing photography yet don't want to pay for the services as they equally deserve. And it's great photographers that truly do a good job that encourage that mentality because they're willing to do so much for so little.

The difference between you and the skilled trade worker in today's world?

People don't always pay a photographer a livable, respectable wage because they don't have to.

People pay other skilled professions what they're asking because they have to.

There will always be ridiculously cheap photographers but if you claim or aim to be a professional, you should not be one of them. Why compare yourself to that of a minimum wage job, especially if you're an educated, trained and skilled artist that has bills to pay and a family to support?

I get it, I was you once. Everyone starts somewhere, everyone starts at the bottom but it's your choice if you stay there. How can you expect to make something work, if you don't fully understand the steps necessary to do that?

Part of the learning process in becoming a professional photographer is researching and figuring out how to properly price your work so that you aren't running yourself dry.

This is my current CODB and mine is not based on photography being my only income, photography is part time for me. This is based on supplementing my other income to bring me up to a somewhat comfortable level for myself although $50,000 is really only a small amount over the Canada poverty line, it's not enough for most families these days.





Now, what would it look like if I removed my other income? With today's cost of living, this is still barely enough to be comfortable for most households. As a single person with no children, for me it is comfortable but this will have to change at some point.




Surprised? Wait until you do your own CODB! This is definitely not what so many people are charging for photography, and it's not necessarily easy to obtain either, but if I'm going to be successful in BUSINESS, I need to get serious about my worth and charge for it!

Now, what kind of changes are you about to make in your new, existing or growing photography business?


Drop a comment below if you've been enlightened and are ready to get serious too!


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