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.”
This always makes me so sad, and just a little bit frustrated, too. When I see this, I personally feel that this implies that this person thinks 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 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 and luxury service while at the same time looking for the lowest price will almost never give anyone good results, as just about anyone skilled at their job will charge for their time and according to their worth. If you’re sincerely looking for beautiful, expertly crafted, timeless images, captured by someone confident in their abilities with lots of experience, you’ll likely have to pay accordingly.
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 holding mini sessions in the near future! So many photographers hold 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. They typically announce them 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 come down on their prices because they’re out of your budget. Even if they’re not holding mini sessions for a while, I’m sure any photographer would be much happier to be asked about mini session availability rather than be told that what they charge is, in someone’s opinion, “ridiculous”.
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 entirely off of their cost of business added to their cost of living, and I can guarantee that professionals never just arbitrarily make up prices for the sake of charging “an arm and a leg”. Pricing is carefully calculated in order for us to pay our ever-growing cost of business and still be able to bring home enough money to support ourselves as self employed business owners. You can’t expect to pay $50 for an entire portrait session, complete with edited photos, unless you’re being photographed by someone who is trying to build their portfolio and may just be starting out. 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 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. Just please, don’t claim that that those who charge what they’re currently worth are asking for a “ridiculous” amount of money.
A photographer’s cost of business alone is higher than most people would consider, with all of our equipment, software, gallery hosting websites (so that you can so easily download your photos at a moment’s notice), keeping our websites, blogs, and online portfolios up and running, marketing, branding, insurance, and so much more going on behind the scenes. While your hour long session may seem to look so easy on our end, or appear like we’re just there to press a button for a little while and then go home and call it a day, there are so many years of hard work, intentionality, trial and error, and practice that go into learning this skill in such a way that makes it look so simple. Now, add that relatively short amount of time that you were in front of the camera to the hours upon hours that it takes for us to actually edit your session. This is tedious and incredibly time consuming skilled work that takes days of 10+ hours at our computer every day to finish. At the same time, we must still find time to balance our relationships, social life, and everything else that it takes to be a healthy and functional person. While this is not meant to sound like a complaint, the reality is that this is a whole lot of work. In my own case, in addition to my digital work, I shoot a lot of film, 120mm to be exact. My personal style and aesthetic heavily relies on it, and it’s not a cheap way to shoot by any means. Film and subsequent film developing, scanning, and processing by a professional photo lab is expensive, and while I whole-heartedly believe that the gorgeous and timeless look of genuine film is absolutely worth the price, this cannot be an out pocket expense for a film photographer, so we have no choice but to charge accordingly. Just based on the cost that it takes to shoot film, you can generally expect to pay a little more for a film photographer than one who shoots only digitally, although that’s not always the case.
The overarching theme here is that sometimes I think people forget that no matter how much we love 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 allow me to continue to do what I love so much. I love being let in on the most important moments of people’s lives, and being 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, but 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 to be solely concerned about money, or “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,