THE COST OF PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY

February 19, 2020


Breaking down the cost of professional photography – Pro-Tip


Digital photography has opened the door for many people who have a nice DSLR to take up photography. With the use of a delete key and filters and presets for editing, many believe that they can start charging for their work. Now, understand, we all start somewhere, I get it, and I certainly was one of those people, you can read about my start here. But there is a significant difference between a pro and an amateur photographer, and that difference is what makes a pro worth what they charge.


So why is it more expensive to hire a pro? When you book a session with a professional photographer you are hiring someone who knows how to use their equipment to make you look amazing, who has a creative eye for unique shots, and who can make you and your family feel comfortable in front of the camera. But, you’re not just paying for their talent and equipment, you’re also paying for their training and knowledge, software, preparation, and time!


TIME: Pros are not only paid for the time they are on location, but also for the time they spend preparing for the shoot. They spend time corresponding with clients through emails, texts, etc. They have to clean and pack their gear for the session and unpack it after. They have to drive to and from the location of the shoot. After the session they have to download and edit the pictures. Once the images are edited they have to upload them for storage and sharing. It also takes time ordering and delivering images. For every hour spent on location, I average about five to six hours of work before and after the shoot.


EQUIPMENT: Professional equipment is not cheap and can’t be bought at Target or Costco. A professional camera can cost anywhere from $1500 to $3500. Most photographers have at least two cameras, a primary and a back-up camera. High-quality portrait lenses also cost anywhere from $1000 to $3000. Flashes and lights run upwards of $500 each. Not to mention the stands, memory cards, and camera bags, etc.

HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE: To ensure that your pictures have accurate color correctness and your skin tones don’t look green, yellow, orange, or blue, pros must have professional editing software which isn’t cheap! They also need to use a high-end monitor and calibration tools. They are also paying for their website, an online gallery to deliver your images, and business management software which they use to send contracts and invoices. Backing up photos requires cloud subscriptions or in-house servers. This totals an average of $800-$1000 per year!


STUDIO SPACE: To maintain a studio space, photographers must have backdrop stands, lights, backdrops, and props. None of which are cheap. Just one basic studio set-up (one backdrop, lights, stand, and props) often runs $1000 or more. Those with storefronts or studios outside their homes must also pay their rent/ lease, utilities, etc.

ONGOING LEARNING: Professional photographers invest in their trade. They are continuously taking classes and learning and growing. Depending on the class format, it can cost up to $2000 a year in education!


HIDDEN COSTS: There are several additional costs professional photographers have to pay that you don’t see. They have to pay state and federal taxes on their business, license and insurance fees. Many hire an accountant and lawyer to manage their business expenses and contracts. In total, a $250 photo session equates to almost $42 an hour, but requires thousands of dollars in professional gear, training, and technology.


When you hire a professional photographer, you hire an artist. Someone who has spent years perfecting their craft. Someone who has invested a lot of money into capturing beautiful memories for you and your family to enjoy for years to come.

Good photography is expensive. Photographers invest thousands into the tools of the trade, often giving up time with their families to photograph clients.  The spend many more hours preparing and editing images, beyond the time you actually see them shooting. It’s easy to look at photographer’s prices and think they are drastically overcharging you, but the reality is, they are spending a lot of money upgrading and maintaining equipment.


When you need to hire a photographer, it is important to not just look at price, but to consider whether the photographer knows how to use their camera, light the shot, set up the pose, and make you feel natural in front of the camera. Consider whether that photographer has the experience and the tools to do the job right. Every photographer starts somewhere, and hiring a newbie is a great way to save money. But, be sure to check out his/her portfolio so you don’t end up with buyer’s remorse.

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