Professional Photography for Cients – Part 3 PRICING
If you are like most people out there who are contemplating booking yourself, family or child for a professional photo session, you are no doubt asking yourself why photographers charge what they do. I mean really, all they have to do is gather the group in an intersting pose, point their lens at them and shoot away right? How hard can it be? Come on be honest….you’re nodding your head right now and dying to know how we can justify charging you what we charge…..it’s ok – I won’t judge 🙂 (I used to wonder the same thing).
So why do photographers charge so much?
This question is asked a lot!!! And the answer is quite a bit more complicated than you might think. There are two things that photographers charge for that are usually brought into question: sessions and prints. Sme photographers have all inclusive packages (weddings in particular) that also include the digital files. Many do not have this option at all. Some photographers offer only prints, and few don’t offer prints at all. This makes it tricky to answer the question. There are many “behind the scenes” expenses that photographers incure than many people never even consider.
Time and Travel
It is difficult to put a value on time, but if you find your time valuable, you should find your photographer’s time valuable too. Photographers spend lots of time meeting with new clients, returning emails, and answering questions. In addition to time spent directly with clients, photographers also spend countless hours learining new equipment and techniques. Some photographers are self taught and have taken classes, but any GOOD photographer has invested a great amount of time to become what they are. Photographers also spend hours processing images after their shoots. Most photographers figure that their editing time will be at least double that of a session. That means approximately 3 hours to edit a one and a half hour session, or 16 hours or more to edit an 8 hour wedding. This means that paying $125 for a one hour session (my current price) does not equate to paying a photographer $125/hour. Not even close!
Phototgraphers also do a lot of travelling. Whether it be for sessions, or just scouting out new locations, most photographers know where the best locations are, and where they are not allowed to shoot. Most photographers don’t charge for travel expenses unless you are out of their area (usually anything more than a 1 hour drive), so aything less than that is coming out of the photographer’s pocket. When photographers travel to conferences or photography events, those also cost a pretty penny. Many of the big conferences require flights and hotel stays and ome with a hefty price tag of around $1000 USD just to attend. These are also where most photographers learn the most.
Licenses, Insurance and Taxes
Professional photographers who conduct business legitimately are required to carry a buisness license. Most photographers also carry insurance, usually for their equipment and liability. Most professional photography associations also have fees for membership. Photographers with studios will have even more expenses related to insurance and licenses, as well as the actual cost of running the studio. Most photographers set aside about 30% of their income for taxes…..yes you read that right….30%
Equipment and Training
Have you priced a professional camera lately? They aren’t cheap!! A basic DSLR can be bought for a few hundred dollars but that is not what most professionals are using. Professionals can spend thousands per year on equipment alone. Professional bodies and leses cost thousands of dollars. There are also flashes, memory cards, tripods, camera bags, and various other gear, and it’s all rather expensive. Most photographers also have a backup system in case their primary camera fails. Once you have all of this equipment, it has to be maintained too. Professional photo editing software, like photoshop and lightroom, is very expensive. The free editing programs don’t even compare. Training can also be costly. Most photographers go to classes or conventions throughout the year to keep up with the latest trends and technology – not to mention the hours honing the craft of post processing to ensure that they can consistently produce the results that drew you to them in the first place.
Wait – there’s more! photographers also have websites to keep up, which means paying for domain names and hosting. Advertising is another big expense, and many larger sites charge photographers to list their businesses. There are other expenses like childcare, food, client gifts etc. You may be wondering what some of these expenses have to do with you, and the answer is nothing directly. However, photographers do need to factor in all of these expenses when setting their session fees and print costs. No one wants to work for free!
Why do prints cost so much?
Now that we have talked about expenses, let’s talk about prints. One of the most common questions we get is why we would charge $25 (or more) for an 8×10 print when you can simply go to Walmart or Costco and buy one for one tenth of that. First, the quality of a print that you purchase from a photographer is absolutely not the same as the quality that you get from a machine at Walmart. Photographers use professional labs for their prints, and the quality is excellent. It is one thing to pay $0.57 for a 4×6 print shot with an iPhone, it’s quite another to pay a photographer to shoot and edit a beautiful family portrait and then lose the quality due to a cheap print. Most labs also make archival prints so that they last a long time. You may be able to score a really cheap canvas, but who wants a canvas that will start fading after a year? Second, you are not paying the higher price for the print itself. You are paying for the time and expertise of the photographer. Most photographers don’t make much from the session fees (if anything at all). Photographers are just like everyone else, they need to make a living. I absolutely love what I do, but I realized pretty early that cheap prices can actually make the photographer lose money. They can also undercut the photography business as a whole, so a cheap photographer is hurting both themselves and other photographers in their area.
“My friend has a nice camera” and other cheap photography
Just about any photographer will tell you that at some point a potential client has informed them that they have “a relative with a nice camera” and that they will just use them. This can be a disaster. When someone buys a “nice camera” and doesn’t know how to use it, bad pictures happen. Trust me, I know. Another point to consider is that the “relative with a nice camera” tends to miss out on a lot if they are stuck taking the pictures. The realtive or friend might miss out on the fun, but they could miss out on a lot more too. Professional photographers know when and where to get the best shots, and most of the time we keep lists to make sure that we won’t miss anything.
Chain stores aren’t necessarily a good value either. They might get you in the door with freebies or incentives but thier print prices can be expensive. Furthermore, you probably aren’t paying for the expertise of a real photographer, but rather someone who has been taught a few poses and is being paid minium wage. Comparing chain stores to professionals is not even like comparing apples and oranges, it’s like comparing apples and hotdogs – they are just NOT the same. Chain stores are about making money quickly and getting the client in and out. You don’t get any kind of personal experience, and your options are very limited. If it saves you a little money, you get what you pay for.
Good photography is not cheap, and cheap photography is not good. Now that you know why photographers charge what they do, hopefully you will see the true value in it! I understand that budget can be tight, but professional photography is such a worthwhile investment if you can afford it. I also offer a flexible payment plan – so everyone can afford to have beautiful images to cherish for a lifetime.
Remember, photography is like any other profession, you pay for expertise and experience, and you get what you pay for.