Prior to my photography business I would have asked the exact same question. I mean, we come, we take a picture, and that is it right? Nothing could be further from the truth.
As my business continues to grow every year, which I love, but along with that comes many uncomfortable conversations about money and pricing. I have been growing my business for several years now and still I struggle with setting pricing. It’s even more challenging when potential clients question or try to negotiate the quote that I provide.
Equipment and the cost
of running a photography business
For me, photography is my business. It is my bread and butter; how I pay bills, put gas in my car, food on the table, etc. Photography is a hobby for many people, and truthfully that is how my business came about. I had a hidden talent that I didn't even know about. It took me a couple years to see myself as a business owner and that this is my business. With the technology of phones taking better and better pictures, or someone that invests in an expensive camera, it feels like everyone is a "photographer." There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking photos for fun, I think people should, but it does make it challenging for those of us who are trying to generate income and grow a business.
Because this is my business, the majority of what I earn goes directly towards my business expenses. Photographers need to set aside approximately 25-30% of our income for taxes, which means a large portion of what we charge will never touch our pockets. The next largest portion of our income goes to our equipment and rent (if the photographer has one).
For some perspective, I sat down and made a list of all the things that I spend money on to keep my photography business running.
2 Nikon D750 full frame camera bodies - $1700/ each
24-70 2.8 mm lens - $1600
70-200 2.8 mm lens - $2350
50 mm 1.8 lens- $220
flashes- SB 910 -$500 ; SB 700 - $330
strobes and soft boxes - $1000
camera stands - $150
6 memory cards - $35 - $50 each
Photoshop/ lightroom fees - $127/ year
3 external hard drives - $100 each
camera bag - $150
advertising - $500
shipping cost - est. $250/ year
packaging supplies / printing supplies - $1500
travel time/ gas/ parking fees- $950/ year (generous estimation)
lap top and desktop - Mac laptop - $2000; Mac desktop $3000
cleaning and calibration - $250/year
gallery viewing sites / storage - $360/ year
Website fee - $400/ year
That is a grand total of $19,257
This does not include taxes, insurance, unexpected camera repairs, rentals, assistant or second shooter fees, website design (if the photographer chooses to hire someone), studio or office rental, etc.
So many unseen hours
When deciding my session fees and package pricing, in addition to thinking about the bills that I have, I think about how much time it will take to bring you the best possible photo experience. All photography has many unseen hours. This can include research, shopping for and/or making props, model calls, scouting locations, creating shot lists, emails, phone calls and much more. This is all before I take a single photograph.
Once everything is prepped and planned. out, the time I spend shooting generally takes anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on what and who I am photographing. During that time I am thinking through every detail, the light, the location, the background, the pose, the angles; all this and more to create that perfect image that you desire.
After your shoot, it’s time for post processing. This process starts with culling, which is going through every image that was shot to choose the best ones for editing. This can take a few hours depending on how many photos were taken. Then it’s finally time to edit. Post production time can greatly vary depending on the kind of photography, but for most of my shoots, I will spend about 2-3 hours editing a session, this is not including any adjustments that need to be made after the images are delivered.
I absolutely love what I do, but as you can see, it takes time to execute a quality shoot.
Photography takes more than just time
Speaking of things you can’t rush, when you hire me, you are not only paying for my time, but also for my experience and knowledge. I have invested in several photography forms of education and have spent countless hours learning my camera and how to take better images.
Every session is a learning experience for me. Each one helps be grow as a photographer. The more experience I get, the better I can serve you. This is why you should expect that a photographer’s price will grow over time. Not only will their expenses increase, but their expertise will as well which means that their services are worth more.
You are also paying for my creativity. When you hire a photographer, you hire them for their specific style and creative ideas. It’s important to look through their portfolio before hiring
them to make sure that their style meshes well with your vision and style for the images you want captured . Creativity has value.
You are paying for my personality. You don't want someone who is abrasive, irritated and just
doesn't love what they are doing to be taking your pictures. If I am a creep you don't want me around your children, right? Your photographer should be personable, friendly, engaging, and doing everything in their power to make you comfortable during your photography shoot.
At the end of the day, the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. It’s true. I’m not saying that photographers are good because their prices are high, but their prices are usually high because they are good. Photography is an investment. As with anything you want to invest in, you may need to set aside money or save up, but purchasing quality will be worth it in the long run. Remember that I am on your side, I love creating beautiful images. So let’s make some magic together.