Thinking about hiring a photographer for your business, wedding, portrait, or event? Have you contacted a photographer before to get a quote, only to find their price to be astronomically higher than you anticipated? There are good reasons why a professional photographers charge the rates they do, and they are completely right for doing so.
As a photographer it’s amazing how often I get asked if my prices are correct, if I can offer a discount for (insert irrelevant reason), or if I would consider doing a project for exposure. Honestly, it’s pretty insulting to get these types of questions, however, most photographers become numb to these requests early on in their careers. So, if you find yourself wondering why good photographers are so expensive, hopefully this post will give you some perspective.
It’s a fairly common misconception that photographers job just involves clicking the button on top of the camera and some quick edits. In reality, it’s not uncommon for me to spend upwards of 8 hours on creating just one image for a client. For a more complex project, it can exceed 20 hours of total work, just for one image. But on top of the hours spent to create an image, there are many other reasons photographers charge so much that the average person might not think about.
Photography is a service, just like waiting tables, landscaping, or doing someones taxes. There is nothing tangible being exchanged, well at least not anymore due to the digital world. The funny thing is most people don’t see a problem with paying for those services, but when it comes to more creative services suddenly cost is more of an issue.
I always tell people, "If your neighbor owns a lawn mower do you expect them to mow your lawn for free? No. Then why would you expect a photographer to photograph you for free?"
I want to break down the costs of being a photographer, more specifically, my costs of being a photographer. It may enlighten some of you as to just how much more photography is than aiming a camera and clicking a button.
(Obviously) A Camera
While a good camera doesn’t make for a good photographer, having a nice camera is definitely helpful in creating quality images. While some cheaper model cameras sometimes come with “kit” lenses, most higher end cameras are sold as bodys only. My Nikon D600 cost somewhere around $2000 for the body alone at the time I purchased it.
At the moment I have 3 lenses that I use regularly. I have a Tamron f/2.8 28-75mm ($500), a Sigma f/2.8 70-200mm ($1,300), and a Nikon f/1.4 50mm ($500). Each lens serves a different purpose for me, I couldn’t make certain photographs without each particular lens.
For this I’m going to include both hardware and software because you need both for digital photography. I currently have two computer setups that I use for photography purposes. My main set up is a 27 inch iMac with an upgraded 16gb of RAM ($2,300). My secondary set up is a 15 inch Macbook Pro ($1,200). On both computers I have Photoshop CS6 installed (came with two licenses for about $600). I also have my retouching software, Portrait Professional on both computers ($50). This doesn't even include any video editing softwares either.
Not every photographer uses lighting equipment, but I prefer to control my own lighting in order to make images look how I want them to. I have an Elinchrom Quadra Ranger (all in with converter and beauty dish about $800), a Cowboy Studio’s 300 watt portable battery strobe ($260), a Yongnuo speed light (about $60), and two old Norman strobes that were given to me, so I won't add them into the cost, but each cost about $400.
Granted, not every photographer chooses to attend college and pursue a photography career, but that was the route I chose to go. After 4 years of undergraduate that total added up to somewhere near $40,000 of expenses. I also had assistance with this and it wasn’t $40,000 out of pocket, but it’s still an incredibly high dollar amount. Not all of the costs there were directly linked to photography, but you get the idea, this isn’t a cheap career path. It doesn’t stop there though, I’ve also purchased books, and attended lectures, conferences, and webinars, all of which cost money. For the sake of rounding (on the low side), we’ll just call that another $1000.
By now I hope you can see why good photography isn't cheap. I could continue to go on about other costs of doing business that are often overlooked (transportation, gas, time, website costs, external storage, etc), but I think I already got my point across. Paying for a photographer is paying for much more than someone to come just take a picture of you. You are paying for equipment, education, skills, knowledge, and professionalism.
I think it’s time we put an end to asking for free or discounted photography. For photographers, it’s important to know your worth and stick to it. For everyone else, it’s time to start respecting the service that a good photographer provides and understanding that it may cost more than you had initially thought.