In this digital age where everyone has digital cameras, scanners and home “photo printers”, when people upload their photos to a local drug store website and pick them up a few hours later, we hear this all the time – How in the world do Professional Photographers charge $55 for an 8×10 when they cost just $1.50 at the drug store?
Simply put, you’re not just paying for the actual photograph, you’re paying for time and expertise in creating the image itself. First, let’s look at the actual time involved. If you don’t read this entire page, at least read this first part.
For a two hour portrait session:
- one hour of travel to and from the session - two hours of shooting - 30 minutes of setup, preparation, talking to the client etc. - 30 minutes to load the photos onto a computer (2 – 4 Gb of data) - 30 minutes to back up the files on multiple external drives plus DVD’s - 3 – 4 hours of Photoshop time including cropping, contrast, color, sharpening, saving a copy for print and a copy for the internet and backing up the edited photographs - 2 – 3 hours to talk to the client, answer questions, receive their order and payment, order their prints, receive and verify prints, package prints, schedule shipment and drop package off at Fed Ex. - For local customers, we meet them at our studio to review the photos and place their order. Meeting and travel time averages 2 hours.
You can see how one two hour session easily turns into more than ten hours of work from start to finish. So when you see a Photographer charging a $300 session fee for a two hour photo shoot, you are not paying them $100 / hour.
Now lets look at the expertise in creating the image itself. Did you know that the average 3-4 day “workshop” in the photography world will cost the photographer an average of $1,700 for the workshop plus air fare, plus food, plus hotel, plus, plus, plus, easily adding up to $3,000.00. And this does not take into account the cost of the time spent away from the studio and most importantly the time spent away from my family. This year alone I have done 3 absolutely top level, small, personalized, intense workshops. Make no mistake, getting “good” is not an accident, it takes a huge investment of time and money on the part of the photographer and it involves a lot of practicing and a WHOLE lot of dedication to be The Best. That why SO many photographer either do not partake in top level workshops or will only do “local” workshops that in my experience are only valuable to the brand new photographer. A photographers price is going to be your first clue as to their experience, education and talent level.
For an eight hour wedding:
- I won’t bore you with the details, but an eight hour wedding typically amounts to at least one full 40 hour work weeks worth of time. Again, if they are charging you $4,000 for an eight hour wedding, you are not paying them $500 / hour. The typical wedding will have 40 hours of work going into it after the wedding in post processing and editing time, upload time, back up time, album design time, revision on the album design time, etc., etc. In addition, all of the little “things” you want in the package, the album, the proofing, the prints, the parent albums, are not only expensive for the photographer to buy, but also require a lot of time by the studio to handle and produce.
Now for the expertise.
Shooting professional photography is a skill, acquired through years of experience. Even though our camera bodys average $4,000-$5,000 for just the body, and most of our lens are in the $2,000 category, taking professional portraits involves much more than a nice camera.
Most Professional Photographers take years to go from buying their first decent camera to making money with their photography. In addition to learning how to use the camera itself, there is a mountain of other equipment involved, as well as numerous software programs used to edit and print photographs, run a website etc.
And let’s not forget that you actually have to have people skills, be able to communicate, make people comfortable in front of the camera – and posing people to make them look their best, yet completely natural in a photograph is a skill all by itself.
Think of it this way – the next time you pay $100 to get your hair done, a pair of scissors only costs $1.50. But you gladly pay a lot more to hire a Professional to actually do the job.
What about the cheap studios at the mall?
Please don’t compare us to the chain store studios. Apples & Oranges!!! But if you must, consider all of the time and work that we put into our photographs, compared to what they do. Good luck getting a two hour photo shoot at a chain store. Not to mention they won’t come to the beach! And of course, look at our work compared to theirs. You get what you pay for.
The truth is, most of the mall and chain store studios lose money. In fact, in 2007 Wal-Mart closed 500 of their portrait studios because of the financial drain they were putting on the company. What the chain stores bet on is that you’ll come in for some quick and cheap photos, and while you’re there, you’ll also spend $200 on other things. They don’t have to make money, they are just there to get you in the door.
We hope that those who have taken the time to read this page will have a better understanding of why professional photographs cost so much more than the ones that you get from your local drug store.