Prior to jumping down the photography rabbit hole myself, I often asked myself this question. Why are professional photos so bleepin expensive? I mean its not like its that hard to point a camera at someone and snap a few photos right? (it can be actually). At Blam Photography, my mission statement is “to Capture the Beauty of an Ordinary Life” Part of this mission statement means that I need to recognize that we are being hit with a recession, job loss is high, and professional photography is a often deemed a luxury item. I get it! I really do, when you are looking at your monthly budget often times something has gotta go and things like photography may be up on the chopping block first…even if you really really want them done.
As a photographer, I am often faced with one of two scenarios the first is I am asked knock my price down and the second is that people ask for photos and when I tell them my price they change their mind and no longer want them. This is not to shame people who are asking for a better deal (hell I do it all the time too!) But putting a price on your art is incredibly difficult and there are a lot of factors to decide.
- An Hour shoot isn’t an hour shoot.
- I spend an average of 4-5 hours behind the scenes on top of the actual shooting time. This includes the time spent building client relationships, answering questions and booking the session, and post-photo processing. I aim to keep post processing minor. I am not going to shave 30lbs off you, make you taller or make it look like you child is smiling when they aren’t. I’m just not. My goal is to capture the beauty of an ordinary life and you know what? Ordinary people are not perfect and that is amazing and wonderful and should be celebrated. My post-processing consists 99% of adjusting lighting and colour. 1% may be to brighten eyes a tad or remove a large bruise on your shin if you asked me to (my rule of thumb is if its always there it stays in the photo if you have a bruise, scratch or large pimple that is very temporary I can remove it in the photo for you). Keeping my post-processing minimal helps me keep the photos natural and real and cuts costs. So when I charge $75/hr (which was my portfolio building blitz price) its a lot closer to $15 for the hour.
- Photographers have to cover costs just like any small business
- For example, professional photographers have professional gear. I was optimistic that I would be able to take enough sessions this summer to purchase a better camera but unfortunately its not in the cards. Gear alone can will cost thousands and thousands of dollars. This on top of software licence fees, website fees, business licence fees, and don’t forget we pay taxes on any income we make too! Photographers have to have insurance as well. Also consider that photographers have typical small business expenses too (gas, vehicle upkeep and maintenance, stationary etc.) I also have to pay for babysitter if a shoot is booked and my husband has to work (his schedule changes frequently at the last possible second so this happens a lot). So when I charge $75/hr and book 5 sessions a month. I am actually in the hole about $311 after I pay the costs associated with my buisness (that doesn’t include things like I need a new camera and had to buy a new computer…)
- Education isn’t free
- I often refer to myself as a “google educated” photographer and often tell my clients you get what you pay for. I did not go to NAIT for photography, I went to MacEwan for Psychology. While both start with a P and end in Y the fields don’t have much over lap. But just because I didn’t go to NAIT doesn’t mean I have learnt everything I know for free. My growth is slower than someone who attends NAIT I’m sure but my photos are constantly changing. The “before” is an edit I did several years ago. I no longer have the original file (and if I did it would still be crap because I wasn’t shooting in raw yet). So I saved the photo off facebook and tried to re-edit it. Partway through I got so mad because while I still think its a great photo of a good friend of mine, the image quality is terrible (and it was before putting it on Facebook), and I was trying to fix a photo that I had previously kinda mutilated…I mean did no one else notice she was red? (so if I was in the negative before taking a class or two…taking a course would really put me in the hole).
I don’t want to be one of those photographers who says, “Well photography is a luxury that only people who can afford it should get to have in life” (I see this ALL THE TIME). But I also can’t afford to give my photos away for free all the time (because doing so isn’t free its actually costing me a lot of money….even discounted sessions as outlined above cost me money). I do enjoy giving away free shoots from time to time for people who really deserve it. I do believe with my entire being that EVERYONE deserves professional photos of themselves and their family. I aim to get family photos done once a year myself because I LOVE looking back on them. (look how much we have changed in the last 9.5 years!)
Photo Credits (Top Right Kristi Livingstone, Second Row Right & Last row right Kirsten Anderson, All of the Third row and the middle shot in the last row Raevan Photography)
The point of this post is this. When photographers are charging $3500 for a wedding, that isn’t money in their pocket. They did not just click a button all day and get paid $3500 in one weekend. This summer I had a goal to get this website up an running and the motherboard on my computer fried and took all my photos down with it (including photos of my kiddos). In order to build up my portfolio a bit I offered portfolio building blitz sessions whereupon I charged JUST enough to cover costs and maybe buy myself a coffee after. I am SO eternally grateful so everyone who booked with me this summer. I will NEVER judge someone who asks for a deal. I totally understand that money is tight and I really do my best to keep costs low and help families where I can. If you have been thinking about getting photos done, don’t let this post convince you otherwise because that is the opposite of my intent. I just wanted to mention, that photography is expensive because like any business it is expensive to run. The higher the quality of image, the higher the behind the scene expenses are as well.