"Why do photographers charge so much for a few photos? That seems awfully high for one hours work."
Over the years I have heard variations of this sentence uttered (and I'm sure I've said it myself before I became a photographer) and I can understand why - at first glance, the price of a photography package from a decent photographer can seem a bit excessive. Several hundred dollars for a one hour shoot and a handful of photos? Get out of here! Unless you are high powered executive or a world famous actor, most people don't get paid a hundred dollars or more an hour to do their job, so what makes photographers so special? However, what I think a lot of people don't realise is that a) photographers aren't getting paid the full amount from the packages they offer - we have to pay for resources such as the prints, cds, etc and b) while the shoot may last for only an hour, a photographer works for a lot longer than that behind the scenes.
In order for clients to understand what it is exactly they are paying for when they purchase a photography package off a professional, I thought it would break it down, using my own business as an example.
Let us start with the expenses side of a photography business. My portrait packages all include prints as well as digitals, so I have to pay the photo lab I use to print and deliver the photos that my clients have chosen. From there I then add them to my client's cd of digitals (the cds which I also have to purchase) and then mail the whole lot off to my client (which means I have to pay for postage). If you have chosen a wedding package that includes an album - well let's just say that those things are not cheap, and is a large
expense that we have to pass onto our clients. And these are just the costs directly involved with a photography package - there are also the indirect costs, such as the electricity I use at home when I am constantly on my laptop editing photos, internet usage for when I upload my photos onto my site for my clients to view, the costs to license my business name, run my website etc... the list goes on.
The second point that I raised is that, in the case of a typical portrait shoot, what you are paying for is more than just one hours work. For starters, when one of my clients pay for a "one hour" portrait shoot, while they may only experience a single hour, my work doesn't stop there once the shoot is over. I go home, transfer the photos onto my computer, then onto my editing program (which can take quite a while as an hour long shoot can produce upwards of 150 photos). From there I have to go through the photos and cull any which aren't worth the cut before the editing process begins - and all photos require some level of editing. So the "one hours worth of work" has now extended out to at least a week (of several hours in a day, usually from straight after I get home from my day job). So if you decided to charge a relatively inexpensive price of say $150 for a portrait package, that price has gone from $150 an hour to less than $15 an hour once you include editing time - less once you take away the price of the expenses that I mentioned earlier. That is minimum wage or less. I am sure that everyone, given the choice, would want to work for more than minimum wage - we all have to make a living.
Now sure, it is possible to get cheap photos done - if you explore the buy and sell pages on Facebook, you can find people offering photos for as little as $50. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for - some of these dirt cheap offers are either from people who are just starting out and want to build their portfolio (fair enough) or people who have a decent camera and think that that is all that is required to earn a little extra pocket money, and honestly, in a lot of these cases you really are better off getting a friend to take some photos for you for free because you will more than likely get photos of the same quality. Despite what people think good photography requires more than just a good camera (how many times have photographers heard that their photos are good because "they must have a decent camera"); we have spent a lot of time learning how to use light to our advantage, how to work with people to get the poses we want, how to utilise photoshop successfully and a whole host of other tips and tricks to produce high quality photos.
"...photographers don't work 9 to 5 like most regular jobs - work can be irregular so we have to be able to earn enough to make our effort worth while..."
Compared to a lot of other professional photographers, my packages are quite affordable, partly because I have always believed that photos shouldn't just be for the rich and partly because I can afford to do so for two reasons. Firstly, I don't use a studio (I work strictly on location or from my client's houses) so I don't have to pay for any rent, additional elecricity costs, land rates etc; and secondly I have another full time job as my main source of income (for the time being anyway) so I don't need to charge a lot of money to... well to live really. One thing that people need to remember is that photographers don't work 9 to 5 like most regular jobs - work can be irregular so we have to be able to earn enough from the jobs that we do get to make all our effort worth while.
I love being a photographer. I love capturing the connection between people and producing work that my clients would be proud to display on a wall. But at the end of the day I want this job to be a career, and not just a hobby, and to do that I have to charge an appropriate amount.
So all that I ask is the next time you glance over my prices and you're initial reaction might be to ask "why so much?" maybe take a peek at this blog post and see that when you purchase a photography package, whether through me or anyone else, you are paying for more than just an hour's work.