One of the biggest debates in the visual content world at the moment is the question of whether the true cost of having an in-house photographer makes financial sense.
One of the biggest debates in the visual content world at the moment is the question of whether the cost of having an in-house photographer/videographer makes financial sense.
In fact, this question can be extended to other areas of content creation as well – videographers and graphic editors are usually on similar financial packages, so we may as well include those roles in the debate too.
Meet Tom – He’s just started a new role as an in-house photographer. Let’s follow him through his first year and see what costs arise.
As mentioned already, videographer and editor salaries are very similar, so this will work for those roles as well.
The true cost
How much does an in-house photographer cost?
Let’s break it down a little. For Tom, we need to consider:
- Holiday pay
- Sick leave
- Training days
- Travel expenses
- Equipment and maintenance
Of course, the numbers don’t stop there. This is not an exhaustive list – you’ll have your own items to add – but it’s a reasonable starting point.
Salaries for a photographer vary across countries, but a reasonable average is currently around ZAR200,000 pa, which is Tom’s starting salary. (Expect to pay more in the larger cities, of course).
At first glance, this may not seem so bad – that’s around R4,166 per week to have him as a professional on-hand anytime you need.
The average employee has 25 paid holiday days per year. Tom gets this, and then we can add on 8 public holiday days for a total of 33 days.
Tom, being an average sort of person in good health, takes 6 days off in his first year for illness and personal reasons.
Again, this is variable, but ongoing training is key to skills development and photography is no different. In addition, many firms hold non-role-related training. As well as a couple of photographic courses, Tom also has to complete staff development and company culture days from time to time – not to mention orientation meetings in his first month on the job.
A reasonable average for all these collectively is around 12 days per year for many employees.
This is hugely variable, as in-house may mean zero travel, if everything is shot on your premises, or it may mean R1,000’s per year if your business needs location shoots.
Travel expenses for an employee will cover transport, overnight accommodation if required, food and, of course, time.
For our example, we’ll say that Tom spends 2 days a month location shooting, but doesn’t stay overnight (as then we’d have to include hotel bills as well).
A single day on location (no overnight stay) could cost at least ZAR3,000 (local return flight) travel and food (the essential minimums). Doing this just 1 day a month is an annual cost of ZAR36,000.
Each night away, even in a budget bed & breakfast, would be an additional ZAR500 minimum per day, in most cases.
Equipment and maintenance
Aside from salary, the largest outlay for a business with an in-house photographer is equipment purchase and maintenance.
The initial outlay for even a relatively basic kit for Tom (camera bodies, lenses, lighting kit, stands and tripods, laptop, external hard drives and software) cost his company around ZAR400,000.
Typically hardware costs can be broken down into the following;
- Camera bodies (x2pro) = ZAR100k
- Lenses (x2pro standard) = ZAR150k
- Lighting kit (Video & Flash pro) = ZAR50k
- Stands & tripods = ZAR30k
- Laptop = ZAR40k
- External hard drives (2x4TB) = ZAR10k
- Software (photo suite + video + commercial music licence) = ZAR5k p/a
The number crunching
So where does that leave us? We’ll let you do a quick sum based on all the above and calculate Tom’s true cost to his employer.
Sadly, for Tom’s company, it doesn’t end there – there are also recruitment costs, (typically 10% of salary but often higher), onboarding and training costs (including the average 3 months it took Tom to get up to speed) and management time, as he does not manage himself. These hidden extras add an additional cost.
Next, we need to calculate the days he worked. Again, using conservative figures, after Tom’s holidays, sick days and the others, we see that he works, on average, a little over 200 days per year.
A viable alternative
So is there a viable alternative? Is there a way to get all Tom’s work done, to the same standard (or better), but for a lower cost?
In a word, the answer is Yes!
Outsourcing your visual content is, in many cases, a far more cost-effective solution, but it depends on who you choose to work with.
And we only show up when you need us – pay for the services you need, not all the additional employee costs that you don’t.
These costs are examples and do not represent industry standards or an official quote for our services.