The Cost of Professional Photography
Typically the number one reason clients decide not to book with me is price.
And you know what, I’m okay with that. Because I’ve been in this industry long enough to know not only what quality professional photography is worth but also what it truly costs to produce. I value my time and expertise enough to set my prices fairly and appropriately. And finally, not every client values photography the same way, and that is ok.
For what it’s worth, I don’t mean for that to sound self-righteous. That’s really not the place I’m coming from. But far too often, people have this disproportionate number in their heads (like just picking a number that “sounds” like what they want to pay) of what professional photography should cost, and that random number usually stems from a whole lot of misconceptions about all that is involved.
Misconception: The “Fancy Camera.”
First and foremost, there is a huge difference in the quality of images you will get from someone who has been taking pictures professionally for 10+ years, and the quality you will get from your sister’s friend’s cousin who just got a “fancy new camera” last year and is hoping to get into photography (the one who is “totally willing” to cut you quite a deal.) In life, we understand that sometimes you have to be willing to pay for quality; whether it be the art you display in your home, the meal out you enjoy out with a friend, or the car you drive each day to work. So at some point, you have to ask yourself what your priorities are. Do you want truly crisp, beautiful, and professional images that reflect the experience of the person taking those images, or do you want to cut corners and get the cheapest price possible?
Neither answer is wrong, per se, so long as you are really honest with yourself about what you want from those images.
Misconception: Anyone can do it
Photography is a skill and an art form. It’s not enough to simply pick up a camera and shoot knowing if you take enough photos some of them will probably turn out. The best photographers I know have spent years developing the ability to truly see; to see light and be able to make it do what they want it to, to see a moment, something no one else would ever notice, and to see how to best compose that image to create art. Then be able to repeat that over and over again through hundreds of photos at a single shoot… and the shoot after that.
It is a talent that has to be cultivated, just like a musical or writing ability. And often the way that talent is cultivated is through expensive classes, conventions and personally funded projects. Don’t forget the blood, sweat, and tears committed to becoming better over the course of many years. It isn’t something just anyone can do, and so the cost of professional photography often reflects the rarity of that skill and the hundreds (upon hundreds) of hours that go into honing it.
Misconception: how much time and energy goes into a shoot
When most people think about a photographer’s time commitment to shooting a wedding, they imagine it to be handful of hours on the day the photographer is actually present.
Let me give you a more accurate breakdown using a local wedding as an example:
- 1-2 hours spent on initial phone calls and e-mails, education and contract negotiations
- 2 to 3 hours (at minimum) spent in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the wedding to discuss vision and goals with the couple
- 1 hour spent preparing and packing my equipment
- 30 min to 1 hour (each way) traveling to a wedding venue.
- 5 to 10 hours shooting the wedding
- 10 to 20 hours downloading, reviewing, converting, retouching, backing up, and uploading images
- 5-20 hours spent designing, retouching and preparing albums and gifts orders
It’s not uncommon at all for me to spend 60 hours on a single wedding shoot, working hard to create the most memorable and meaningful images possible for the couple trusting me to do so. There are also, not included above, ENDLESS hours required to promote, tweak and improve my business so my lovely customers can discover me in the ocean of choices out there.
Professional photography is a lot like the iceberg you only see the tip of; there is so much more going on beneath the surface that you will never see, but that goes into creating that unforgettable collection of images you proudly display and share for years to come.
How much would you pay for one of a kind, personalized art to display in your home?
I understand that there is an ever-emerging market of new photographers willing to charge next to nothing for the opportunity to build upon their own portfolios. I’m not competing with them, and the truth is, the clients who are interested in working with me aren’t the same clients who would be looking for those start-up options.
Which is not to discount those who are fine with start-ups. Because again, it is all about priorities and what you value most when it comes to your wedding day. I totally understand that.
For a lot of couples, the ones who eventually seek me out, their greatest priority (outside of honoring the vows they are about to make) is having photographs that will miraculously and accurately capture the love they felt on that day and the 1st day they started a new family.
And in a world where you get what you pay for, for those couples, my rates (and the rates of other professional photographers with the same level of skill and experience) make perfect sense.