Most of the time, the first thing anyone asks me about when they contact me is for my pricelist. How much will their photography cost. And sometimes, I know that the price tag might cause a bit of stinger shock. I understand. I am not the perfect fit for everyone, and I know this. My feelings aren’t hurt.
I wanted to provide a breakdown of what goes into our costs, because I think it is a really important thing to understand. Your custom photography is one of the only things that remain unaltered and true to it’s state as life changes. You have your memories and maybe a few other mementos but your photographic memories document a small piece of precious time that 50 years from now, will bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart. Something that you can enjoy today and for future generations.
So while it is easy to think that you’re hiring your photographer for just a couple of hours of time at your shoot, you’re not.
The digital revolution has brought amazing flexibility and ability to control various factors during the image taking and making process. Photographers, the hobbyist, the professional, the amateur all benefit from this ability to manipulate pixels. However, with flexibility comes a price. Digital camera equipment is still considerably more expensive when you factor in its’ lifespan, the need for additional resources for processing those images, the time it takes to get a usable image and the effort that goes into creating a work of photographic art. We all know that you can go to the local Big W or Harvey Norman and pay a $2 for a print â€“ as a client you may wonder why you may pay upwards of $50, $70, $90 for a custom photography print.
Photographers hear this statement every once in awhile:
“How in the world can you charge $50 for an 8Ã—10 if it costs me less than $2 to print at x store?”
The truth of the matter is the answer to this question is multifaceted. Much of the cost of a photographic print produced by a professional photographer has a lot to do with the time, equipment costs, artistic vision and reputation of the photographer not to mention expertise and the usual costs of running a legitimate business. The cost of TIME Approaching it from a time standpoint, let’s imagine that you have hired a photographer who has work that you love. This photographer is traveling an hour to your destination to photograph your session. Here is an example of a time break down (used with permission):
- booking time: 30 minutes to one hour (client contact time + paperwork)
- pre-session prep time (30 mins â€“ 1 hour, includes equipment and back up equipment checks + packing)
- up to one hour travel time TO session
- 15-30 minutes prep time at client’s home
- 90 minutes-2 hours with client photographing subject
- up to one hour travel time FROM session
- 45mins-1 hour sorting & uploading time from digital cards from camera to computer
- 30-45 minutes time spent backing up the original images
- 2-5 hours editing time to present you with a diverse gallery of edited images
- 1-1.5 hours prep time getting ready for ordering & uploading gallery
- 1-2 hours time with client for ordering images
- 1 hour sorting through and checking order
- 30 minutes-1 hour prep time for packaging & delivery
- 30 minutes-1 hour getting order shipped or delivering
- any additional phone time or time needed for add on ordering, shipment issues, quality issues or client liaisons
- … and of course the skill, artistry, expertise & time of your photographer
In this example, the time spent per client can range from just under 13 hours to 19 hours â€“ dependent on the photographer’s level of service. This is time dedicated only to ONE session. When the photographer charges $150-$300 for the photo shoot (aka SESSION FEE) you are not just paying for the two hours of session time, you are paying the photographer for 12-19 hours complete time for your session.
The COSTS of Maintaining a Custom Photography Business:
Regarding equipment costs, a good quality professional camera with a selection of good optical quality lenses and digital storage mediums and computer set up can run from $10,000-$30,000 costs dependent on the photographer. Even though you can purchase a really good quality digital SLR for about $2100 there are still other costs related to photography. A good lens for portrait photography can run from $900 to $2500. A dependable computer system with software loaded for business and creative usage can run $2500 to $8000 dependent on the photographer. Then come lab costs for specialty products. A good photographer knows their professional lab is an integral part of their success. These labs often cost more and offer a range of products that allows the custom photographer to continually offer new, innovative products for the discerning client.
Then there are all the other things that go into running a proper business:
- Paying employees
- Ongoing education â€“ courses throughout the year both locally and across the country with some of the best photographers around
- Marketing, magazines, research, blogging, posting on forums, and a long list of similar tasks
- Association membership fees
- Software upgrades & computer maintenance
- Equipment maintenance & repairs
And the one I feel most passionate about?
- Camera Gear â€“ I use top quality Nikon gear & Apple Mac hardware. If there is a specific need for your photo session that I don’t have, I hire it. I have a lot of nice gear because I want to capture the BEST photographs I possibly can, and I want to be prepared for any situation. I also have backup equipment.
I know there are photographers out there that only charge a bare minimum or anyone can pick up a digital camera today and shoot pics, but what you receive from them in the end varies wildly. Some of them hand you the photos straight from their camera, and you take them to a lab and print them yourself. Never mind if the color is off, you’re in shadows, the photo looks messy, or anything else. There is no enhancement at all to the image files in the digital darkroom. I don’t know how they do it â€“ they must have a weekday job to pay the bills, because there is simply no way that I can crunch the numbers and do the math to make it work. That means that the time they have to focus on you is limited. Most likely, they are not paying themselves. They have no backup gear in case anything happens to their camera at your session. They think a few dollars is great for their time â€“ and they ignore everything else that goes into taking care of you. They can’t afford quality gear to produce fantastic images* because they are not charging enough for their work.
You’re not just paying for said hours of photography. There’s so much more than that. Hopefully, this page helps to clarify that. Need more info?
Please enquire for more details and availability, as I take on a limited number per month. Prices are subject to change throughout the year, and are normally modified quarterly. Reserving your date now will lock you in at my current rates. Please contact me to learn more.
Part of the magic of taking great photographs is within the person holding the camera â€“ I am not a gear snob but I know this, having nice gear helps. Having a variety of lenses and knowing how each lens impacts the photograph that you envision inside your head helps even more in making that vision a reality. I love my camera and my lenses, and with them I can achieve any photograph I see in my mind.
I get comments all the time such as “you take such beautiful photos – you must have an fantastic camera” … but a tool is only as good as the hands & vision of the person who uses it.
So I liken it to this …
There was a story circulating about the guy who traveled around the world and came home to have dinner with friends. He brought all his photographs to show his friends. The wife said, “wow, These are beautiful … you must have a great camera.” He didn’t say anything, just smiled. When it was time to go and say goodbye, he thanked the hostess for dinner adding, “the dinner was delicious, you must have great pots and pans”.
Well you get the idea … so when people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes and thank God for the wonderful gift he has given me to see.