Photography, once a niche art form, has become an integral part of our everyday lives. However, the cost associated with professional photography often raises eyebrows. I have been asked many times “Why is Photography so expensive?”
So I thought I would share a bit of my history as well as a list of what goes into photographers pricing.
After 6 years in business, I was busier than ever. Shooting most weekends and many nights. I was charging (what I felt) was a fair price and people were paying it. I felt like I was finally successful. However, I really didn’t know what I was making per hour.
That next year, I kept track of all my hours and every cent I spent. At the end of the season I took my income and subtracted all my taxes and expenses. Then I divided that number by my hours and I almost cried. I was making $9.25 an hour take home. See, I had left an accounting career years back where I was not only making $20+ an hour take home but I didn’t have to work weekends, I had a 401k, great health insurance and I was salaried. When I ran these number it was a big moment for me. I felt so discouraged.
I sat down with my husband and we decided to stop shooting weddings. Many would question why I didn’t just raise my prices. Sometimes question that too. I think it was because I didn’t have the confidence in myself as a photographer. My pricing felt comfortable and raising it scared me. However, I was also exhausted, constantly sick and found the stress and anxiety of wedding days not to be great for my personality. So we made the decision and I have never regretted it. I got healthier, stronger and more confident. I figured out what is a priority in my life and what my boundaries are for my business and personal lives.
Below are just a few factors that go into how I set my photography collection pricing.
1. Equipment Costs:
One of the most significant reasons why photography is so expensive is the cost of equipment. High-quality cameras, lenses, tripods, lighting equipment, and accessories can be incredibly pricey. Professional-grade cameras from leading manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, and Sony can cost thousands of dollars, and premium lenses can be just as expensive. I have always had two more more camera bodies, lenses and batteries on me.
2. Changing Technology:
Technology is constantly evolving. Cameras and computers become outdated relatively quickly, pushing photographers to upgrade to the latest models to stay competitive. As a result, many photographers find themselves continually investing in new gear to maintain the quality of their work. The rapid pace of technological advancement contributes to the overall expense of photography.
3. Maintenance and Repairs:
Cameras and lenses, like any other technology, require regular maintenance and occasional repairs. Cleaning, calibrating, and servicing equipment can add to the overall cost of photography. When equipment breaks down, repairing or replacing it can be a significant financial burden, especially for professionals who rely on their gear for their livelihood.
4. Software and Post-Processing:
Post-processing plays a crucial role in modern photography. Editing software like Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and premiere are essential tools for photographers. The cost of acquiring and maintaining these software subscriptions can add up, especially when combined with the need for powerful computer hardware to handle the resource-intensive editing processes. Furthermore, photographers often invest in various plugins, presets, and other software tools to enhance their editing capabilities.
5. Education and Training:
To excel in photography, one needs to invest in education and training. Courses, workshops, and tutorials provide valuable insights into the art and science of photography. Learning to use the equipment properly, understanding composition, and mastering post-processing techniques are essential components of becoming a skilled photographer. These educational investments, whether through formal education or online resources, come with their own costs.
6. Marketing and Promotion:
For photographers who aim to establish a professional career, marketing and promotion are essential. Creating a strong online presence, building a website, investing in advertising, and attending trade shows or exhibitions all come with their own financial requirements. Building a client base and maintaining a reputation often require ongoing marketing efforts and financial commitments.
I think this one surprises many. However, it is one big reason why Photography is so expensive. With Video for instance I have to license the music which can cost $50-150 per video depending on the license and song. It is truly a huge cost but worth every penny to find the right song for your videos.
8. Insurance and Liability:
Photographers need to safeguard their equipment and protect themselves from potential liability issues. Camera gear can be stolen, damaged, or lost, making insurance coverage a necessary expense. Additionally, photographers working with clients or in public spaces may require liability insurance to protect against accidents or disputes.
On of the biggest reasons for why Photography is so expensive is the amount of taxes a self employed person pays. We have to pay our portion and the portion that your employer pays.
10. Hidden Hours:
It isn’t just the drive and the time spent shooting that should be considered. When I talk about hours, I am adding hours such as shooting, driving, editing, answering emails, session planning, updating the website, marketing on social media, blogging, bookkeeping, sending packages, prepping prints and the list goes on and on. When you run a business alone you wear many hats. Your time is valuable so any amount of time spent working on the business has to be considered.
If you outsource any of the tasks in #10 there is a cost to do that as well. You get more of your time back but you will pay money for that in return. A decision all photographers are faced with at some point in their career.
12. Printing and Display:
Photographers often need to invest in printing, framing, and display materials. High-quality prints, frames, and gallery space can be expensive, but they are essential. Most of my packages include proof prints because I believe so strongly in the power of having your images in a tangible form. There is something so special about being able to flip through prints, hang them on your walls or fridge or share them with friends and family.
13. Unpredictable Expenses:
Photography can be unpredictable, and unexpected costs can arise. Weather conditions, sudden equipment failures, and other unforeseen circumstances may require additional investments to ensure a successful shoot.
I knew when I made the decision to come back to family photography I needed to know what my numbers were and set my pricing to reflect them. I wouldn’t be able to offer the lowest prices. However, I am not the most expensive either. I ran the numbers and the hours and made my pricing a business decision. I NEED to make $X per session to be make a fair hourly take home wage.
Every photographer will have different expenses, taxes liabilities and desired hourly wage. The seemingly high cost of professional photography can be attributed to a combination of factors from this list. I hope understanding these facets allow my clients to appreciate the value that a professional photographer brings to capturing your unique family moments. Photography is an investment and you get what you pay for. I know that it is really cliche, but it is true. I’m not saying that photographers are good because their prices are high, but their prices are usually high because they are good and profitable.
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