I get it. We all have bills and expenses, and we live in an age where we spend an enormous amount of time doing things like reading reviews and comparison shopping to make sure that we get our money’s worth. I’m no different. For example, I’ll spend hours on Amazon deliberating over the different vacuum cleaner options available to me before I’ll take the leap and actually purchase one. I need to make sure that what I purchase has value, even if it’s something as mundane as a vacuum cleaner.
That’s why when I was younger, before I had even picked up a camera, I balked when I saw a professional photographer charging $800 for an on-location photo session. I thought, “but they’re only there taking pictures for an hour!”
Now I know better. There is so much more that goes into professional photography than the hour that the photographer is at the shoot. However, because so much of this work happens behind the scenes, people still question the prices of professional photography.
Hopefully, if you have ever found yourself asking this question, this blog will help you to understand the reason that professional photographers charge what they do.
The Costs of Professional Photography
Let’s start with taxes. This was the biggest surprise to me when I started to run my own business. You know those prices that you see when you look on a photographer’s website? Take about 30% away for taxes.
For example, if a photographer is charging $2000 for a wedding package, $600 of that goes straight to Uncle Sam. So really, after taxes in this example, the photographer is actually walking away with $1400 to cover your wedding, with additional expenses taken out after that.
Wages for the Photographer’s Assistants/Second Shooters
Many photographers will have an assistant to help out during their portrait sessions. This assistant is particularly important when dealing with babies and dogs; they end up being the attention-getter, as well as the person who handles holding and dealing with lighting and camera equipment during the shoot. Consider a wage anywhere in the range of $8 to $20 an hour for this assistant, and that will also be subtracted from the photographer’s earnings.
In addition, during a wedding, often a photographer will have a second shooter and even a third shooter or assistant present to get other angles and additional coverage of your wedding day. This also comes out of the photographer’s earnings for the day.
Oh boy, professional photographic equipment is not cheap. This includes cameras (at least two, so the photographer has backups in case something goes wrong with one), lenses, a computer, photo editing software, flashes or strobes, light stands, tripods, memory cards, external hard drives, camera batteries, and the list goes on and on. Considering that a professional camera typically costs at least $1500, and lenses on average also cost at least $1000 per lens, a professional photographer will typically need anywhere from $5000 to $15000 worth of equipment in order to run their business, and will need to update some of this equipment about every three to four years as new technology is released.
While not all sessions require props, and not all photographers will use them, they are part of a photographer’s expenses, as well. Newborn photography is particularly prop-heavy. Those baskets, blankets, wraps, headbands, and miscellaneous other props all come at a cost.
Communication and Pre-Planning Time
Professional photographers will typically spend about 3-5 hours, total, communicating with their clients and planning out their sessions.
This is the most obvious thing you’re paying for when hiring a professional photographer, but it’s still worth considering. When you’re paying for a photographer’s time spent at a photo session, you’re paying for years of experience and time spent honing the craft. Many jobs outside of the creative field pay for on-the-job training for individuals to build their skills and become good at what they do; photographers will typically pay for this training out of pocket, or will put the time in to learn outside of paid sessions.
After your session, a photographer will need to weed through all of the images that they took during your photoshoot, to pull out the best of the best to give to you, their client. For a 1-hour session, a photographer will usually have at least 100 images to weed through, but typically much more, to pick out the photos that capture the absolute best moments and expressions from your session. For a wedding, the number of images that a photographer will be wading through will number in the thousands.
Editing time is typically the biggest shock for people when they learn more about what goes into professional photography. Depending on their work flow, a photographer will usually spend around 10-30 minutes on every single image that will become a final product. This time includes fine-tuning the color and brightness of your images, cleaning up skin, stray hair, and cluttered backgrounds, putting their own stylistic touch on the images, and then saving the images in multiple file formats, backing these files up to multiple data storage spaces, and finally uploading the images to a gallery or to a professional print service to order your prints. For 20 photos, this may be another 10-12 hours spent on your images; for a wedding with 600 images, you can see how the time adds up to days and weeks of editing.
Add in business insurance and expenses such as maintaining a website and perhaps paying for a studio, coupled with living expenses, and hopefully you can start to see why a professional photographer who makes their living off of their art prices their work the way they do.
Yes, professional photography is an investment. However, considering that these are your irreplaceable memories that are being recorded permanently for generations to look back on, professional photography is worth that investment. After all, what is the first thing that you would grab in the case of a fire or disaster? Outside of your family and pets, chances are, it would be your photos.
Do you have any questions about anything in this blog post, or would you like to get in touch to book a session? Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com, or by heading on over to my contact section. I would love to hear from you!