While my blog is usually used for the purpose of showing off my sweet couples and as a place to display my most recent work, I couldn’t think of a better home for this long and very personal photography related opinion than right here, on my journal.
Recently, I’ve seen far too many posts online by people that are looking for a photographer who “doesn’t charge an arm and a leg” or someone stating that they “aren’t looking to spend a ridiculous amount of money.”
As a photographer who knows what goes on behind the scenes of running a photography business, this always makes me so sad, and a little bit frustrated too. When I see this, I personally feel that this implies that the person using these terms to describe their opinion of what photographers typically charge mistakenly believe that professional photographers are charging more than they’re actually worth, or that they don’t believe in the value of professional photography to begin with. While I completely understand that not everyone has the extra room in their budget to afford professional prices, it should be acknowledged that photography is, in fact, a luxury, and not at all a necessity. Actively seeking out a professional luxury service while at the same time looking for the lowest price available will almost never give anyone good results. Anyone skilled at their job will charge for their time, talent, expenses, and years of experience accordingly. If you’re sincerely looking for beautiful, expertly crafted, timeless images, captured by someone confident in their abilities, you can expect that this won’t come at a “low” price.
With that said, if there’s a photographer who’s work you absolutely love, but may not able to afford right at the moment, see if they might be planning to hold mini sessions in the near future! So many photographers offer mini sessions on specific days and locations for less coverage time and less final photos in your gallery, but also at a much lower price than their regular sessions. This is beneficial to both photographer and potential clients alike! They typically announce mini session marathons on their website and social media pages as well, so keep an eye out for those if there’s a photographer who’s work you like to keep up with. This is a great option if you’re on a budget, but still want quality results and gorgeous photos, and certainly a much better alternative to the hurtful and mildly offensive tactic of asking a photographer if they’ll offer you a discount on their prices simply because they’re out of your budget. Even if they’re not holding mini sessions for a while, any photographer would be much happier to be asked about mini session availability rather than be told that what they charge for a regular session is, in someone’s opinion, “ridiculous”.
So, why do photographers price their services at a rate that some may not consider to be “affordable?” In my own experience as a photographer, with close friends in the industry, and being a part of so many creative groups, I can safely say that just about every professional photographer bases their pricing off of their demand, skill and experience level, and most importantly, their cost of business. Cost of business is a general term that covers so many expenses for us—insurance, permits and fees, equipment and equipment maintenance, marketing, branding, education, website and gallery hosting, editing software, profiles and presets, a vehicle, vehicle maintenance, and gas to take us to and from sessions, office space and equipment, batteries and memory cards, film, and film processing, just to name a few. And that’s not even including all the countless other aspects of running a successful photography business that don’t necessarily cost us money out of pocket, such as our time corresponding with clients, photographing sessions and weddings, and the days worth of time it takes to edit them! Professionals never just arbitrarily make up prices, and there’s actually a lot of careful calculation that goes into setting prices for services. Pricing that takes our high cost of business into consideration allows us to remain in business and continue to provide service to our amazing clients, while still bringing home enough profit to keep the lights on!
With all that being said, what can you expect to pay for professional photography? What’s a standard rate for someone who will offer you high quality imagery and an amazing photography experience? While this varies from person to person based on location, experience level, style, photography format (do they shoot digital, film, or both?), and demand, for my area of work, which is in and around Atlanta, Georgia, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300-$700 on average for a portrait session, and $2,500-$8,000 for wedding coverage for a professional photographer. While it may seem that there’s a huge gap in those starting and end average prices, there’s a reason for this, one of them being that someone who shoots only digital may have a much lower cost of business than someone who shoots film or both film and digital (also known as a hybrid photographer), since shooting film is very costly. This doesn’t mean that the difference in price between a digital or film/hybrid photographer indicates that one is “better” or more professional than the other, but it does mean that you can expect to invest more for a more costly service. Photographers who only take on a very limited number of clients per year in order to offer a very personalized experience may also need to price their services higher than someone who happily takes on a much higher amount of clients, and neither is better than the other. It’s all up to preference and the way each individual chooses to run their business, but can ultimately affect how much your investment with a photographer will be.
While there’s a wide range of pricing out there, some pricing is objectively too low to get quality, professional results. You can’t expect to pay $50 for an entire portrait session or $500-$1,000 for full day wedding coverage, unless you’re being photographed by someone who may be inexperienced and in the beginning stages of building a portfolio. While there’s nothing wrong with this (it’s what I did when I first started portfolio building, so I can definitely relate), people tend to compare these beginner prices to that of highly experienced professionals, who would never be able to pay their own cost of business, let alone make a living, off of that price range. In fact, a professional photographer would likely be losing money by charging so little. If you don’t feel that a long-time professional’s work and experience level justifies the price over a beginner’s, that’s perfectly fine. In fact, I’m grateful that I had clients willing to pay me anything at all when I had first expressed my interest in portrait photography back in high school. Supporting a beginner is beneficial to their growth as a photographer! But please, don’t claim that that those who charge what they’re currently worth at their professional level are asking for a “ridiculous” amount of money.
The overarching theme here is that sometimes I think people forget that no matter how much love and passion we have for our craft, this is still a job. This job can at times be so challenging, but is also always a thousand times more rewarding. I am so incredibly thankful to have met some of the most amazing clients-turned-friends who invest in me and allow me to continue to do what I love. I’m honored to continually be let in on some of the most important moments of people’s lives, and to be trusted to capture them beautifully and authentically. It makes my heart so happy to have clients that value my time, and appreciate that I put my entire self into my work to provide them with photos that they’ll love and cherish forever. Similarly, it makes me almost just as sad to continue to see that there are so many people who don’t understand the value of what a photographer really does, from the time you first reach out to us, to the many hours of work that follow to bring you photos that make you happy each time you look at them. As cliche as this sounds, we as photographers really do care about you, and 99.9% of us aren’t in this industry for the money, or to “charge an arm and a leg.” The type of person that this career path attracts is usually one that you can expect to really become emotionally invested in you, not just as a client, but as a friend.
I sincerely hope that the intention behind this post is as apparent as I’d like it to be, and that I, along with every artist who is passionate about their craft, continue to be blessed with the opportunity to work with people who see the value in their art and continue to fuel their love for what they do.
All the love,