Why Do Photographers Charge What They Do??
“I need a photographer who charges around $50 and includes the digital images in their package. Know anyone??”
How many times have you read (or asked) this question? We are all bargain hunters, looking for the best deals on clothing, food, furniture, and yes, photography.
Why do photographers charge so much? Why do I have to pay extra for the digital files or why aren’t they even offering to sell me the files??
Before understanding photography, I thought the same way, and as a result, I have no professional quality wedding photos to remember that amazing day. It’s a long story, but one that has impacted my desire to help other couples and families not make the same mistake I did.
My journey in photography from the very beginning until now has shaped how I view photography. It has taught be the difference between an ordinary photo and a professional photo. It has taught me how critical post-processing is. It has also taught me see the worth and value of a professional portrait.
Three years ago, when my daughter was just a few months old, I knew I wanted to get our first professional photos taken. I found a photographer through seeing a neighbor’s photos on display. She lived 2 hours away, but I did not care! I was captured by her work, and I knew she had to be our photographer, no matter how much she charged.
I found out her price and planned our session for 3 months later. Yes, THREE months in advance. And we saved! Every bit I received from my birthday, every bit we could squeeze out, I put back. My husband was in school at that time (as he still is) and only working part time at a call center (he still works there). I was a nanny, making just $8 an hour! We had a very tight budget, but because this was important to me, I cut extra spending (those little things you buy that you don’t really need…), saved, and to this day, I fall in love every time I look at our images. In fact, her work inspired me to get to where I am today.
How does all this relate to my photography pricing?
As a mom looking for a good photographer, I know what it’s like to be a bit overwhelmed with pricing. I also know that most of us spend money on things we don’t need. When we cut a few extra things out, it is possible to plan ahead and save.
We also spend money on things we value-like organic food or a certain brand of clothing. Organic food has many benefits, especially compared to the negative aspects of the “dirty dozen”, so we are willing to pay more (to an extent). Certain brands for our children are, let’s face it, cuter. But, clothing or shoes that cost a bit more often last longer, so we are willing to spend a bit more for longevity. We also spend more for a nicer hotel so we don’t have to sleep on dirty sheets or shower in a scummy tub. You also pay more for anything handmade (Etsy anyone???). Here’s my point…
There are varying levels of skills and styles that change from photographer to photographer. Find what you love-do not just base who you choose on price! I am not the cheapest photographer, and I am not the most expensive. And many of us are in the same range. If you love my work, the price will be worth it. You get what you pay for, and I’ve never once regretted choosing our family photographer 3 years ago. She was worth every penny!
So what has influenced my pricing?
Reason 1: I have invested A LOT in new gear. This includes Photoshop, Lightroom and CS6, a new camera body, new lenses, website design, new computer/monitor for faster and quality editing, and calibrating software, among other things. And these pricey items break unfortunately, so there is always extra costs per year I have to anticipate. When the quality of my equipment went up, the quality of my work went up as well. The intrinsic nature of my photos has stayed mostly the same, but suddenly images are sharper, noise is gone, and I am no longer afraid of huge prints.
Reason 2: The time I spent on each session was taking away from my family. I work from right after I get the kids fed breakfast to 10:30pm. Of course, I am not at the computer every second of that time because I am also a full-time, stay-at-home-mom. Honestly it is more difficult to work this way because I do not have a set time to work without distractions. I do not have office hours. What do I do that takes up so much of my time? Most of it is editing, but I am also responding to emails, updating my website, writing blog posts, uploading online galleries, ordering prints and products, watching/listening/reading things to challenge and improve my work, planning ahead with marketing, client phone calls, in person meetings, creating slideshows for viewing appointments, facebook sneak peaks, and planning my sessions, and the 30min-3 hours I spend in a session! If you have been a client of mine this year, you know my goal is to have your photos ready within one week of your session! I want every session to have the magical moments that make you say, “Wow. I am in LOVE with this photo!” I will remove pimples, even your skin tone, whiten your teeth…so yes, my editing does take time! I care about your images, and I will look each one over with the utmost attention to detail to make it my best work possible for you.
Needless to say, all this time spent working left little time for my family. It also made me irritable and impatient because of constant worry, exhaustion, and fear of failure. I had very little to show for my many hours in front of the computer, and it was not worth the price my family was paying. And I rarely have time to edit our personal photos. With pressure around me from some who thought my prices were already too high, and photographers who have been at it for years telling me they are too low (photographers who still say they are too low), I was overwhelmed with the decision. After lots of thinking, planning, calculating, and praying, I changed my prices to what they are now. I may have lost some clients. I’m not sure. What I do know is that I also gained many new ones who valued my work. I personally needed to see the value in my work and in my time, and I made the choice.
“I understand that the session fee is for the time and talent of the photographer, but why am I charged for the print release?
Signing you over the Print Release means I am signing over making any income from your photos ever. I am giving you the ability to print from anywhere you want, even if it’s a place I would never want you to print from. The reality is you will most likely never order prints from me after purchasing the digital files, even if you do see the quality of professional prints. You have to really care about having quality prints that will last for years and have perfect color tones in order see the worth in purchasing prints from a professional lab, and it is simply not worth it to most of my clients, even though my product pricing is low compared to most professional photographers. And that is fine, but I will no longer be giving my images away for free.
“Well, my (friend/a girl I know/new photographer/family/hobbiest) just bought a fancy digital camera and said she’d do my photos for $50.00!”
I was once this friend. I never want to forget where I came from. We all have to start somewhere, and it is your choice. If I didn’t have friends who decided to believe in me at the beginning of my journey, where would I be now? So support your friends! Encourage them in their dreams. But be aware of the difference in quality and experience. You can look at my images and see that I do have knowledge about light and using it to your advantage in a session. I have quality equipment which means you receive lovely bokeh, sharp focus, and great prints at large sizes. I have experienced eyes that can envision a composition and then carry it out. It is all about what you’re prepared to accept. Make sure this is a decision you won’t regret. There are things in this life that are worth investing in, and a good photographer is one of them-whether it is me or someone else.
I am so thankful for all of clients! I want to send a big THANK YOU to those of you who have stuck with me since the very beginning. And thank you to my new clients who loved my work enough to invest in it. Thank you for seeing my worth and entrusting me with your memories. I promise to always care for you more than I care for your payments, to give each and every one of your photos my utmost attention during the editing process, and to always continue to learn and grow so each session you have with me will be better than the last!