Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys.
I love both peanuts and monkeys, but this saying is so true of photography. I thought I’d take this opportunity to address something that comes up reasonably often in my life as a photographer. Why do photographers cost so much?
So here’s how the conversation goes. I get an enquiry from a potential client. Sometimes they’re really interested in my photos, and sometimes they know they need a photographer but aren’t sure what they need. The first question every potential client asks is “what do you charge? And what does it include?”
I reply with my full price list. I include the information about how long the session lasts, and how many digital images they get for that, and the fact that they can have a consultation before the session if they choose. And sometimes this is the end of our conversation. After a bit of head scratching, and a lot of soul searching, I decided to write a post to explain exactly what goes into a session fee.
Restaurants charge more than the cost of raw ingredients because they have overheads. Hairdressers don’t just charge enough to cover the cost of the scissors they use. Taxi drivers don’t only ask travellers to pay for the fuel in their car.
And so it is with photographers.
A Session From A Photographer’s Perspective
Once the session is booked, communication is ongoing between me and the client. An hour over the phone or skype, or a series of emails back and forth to hash out exactly what is required during the session, what photographs are a must. I make notes during this consultation which forms the brief I work from during the session.
I could be driving for over an hour each way to see clients in their chosen location, and then shooting for one to eight hours.
A one hour session results in roughly 200 photos. Eight hours of wedding coverage is close to 1000 photos.
Once I’ve put all the images on my computer I have to sort them to see what’s usable. I then correct lighting and framing to get the best set of images possible. For a wedding this editing and proofing process can take over thirty hours. As I’m doing this I update you, via social media, with sneak peeks. Once the editing is done I spend at least an hour setting up your private gallery and uploading image files, and then notify you that your images are ready. From your private gallery you can purchase high quality prints at a competitive price. Prints are fulfilled by a professional photo lab, so you can be sure of getting perfect colour calibration and paper quality.
I’m still on hand to answer any questions or fulfil further editing requests.
A one hour session results in about 6 hours work. An eight hour wedding is about 40.
In order to provide a perfect set of photos I have to maintain my equipment, and seek training when needed. Out of the fee I charge I have to meet these overheads, and more. Web-hosting, gallery packages, and insurance also have to be paid for. I’m currently training in two different photography courses, and have others lined up. My fee works out at about £10-20 per hour. It takes my brow lady 5 minutes to wax my eyebrows, and she charges £7 (or £84 an hour).
A Client’s Decision to Purchase Photography Services is an Investment
The real question is what a client is looking to get out of the photos they’re paying for. It’s a snapshot in time, a story being told that you can look back on and share with your family for generations to come. It’s a legacy. An investment.
I’ve seen the packages offered by photographers in shopping centres, and those with conveyor belt style studios. They’re very different to what I offer, and the cost of prints is high while the quality is questionable. They won’t leave their studio, get to know you, or value your business on a personal level. My offering is that you get the best, most personal service I can possibly offer, at a price that works for both of us. I think offering all I do for the price I ask isn’t too much. Instead of asking ‘why do photographers cost so much?’ perhaps we should be asking ‘what is the value of my photography investment?’