Why Are Good Photographers So Expensive?

Published by Andrea on

Why Are Good Photographers So Expensive?

Photography is an artform but also a skill. Whether photographers learn their craft at school, online, or on the job, a massive amount of study goes into it. As with any job, the more training your provider has, the more money they earn.

A good photographer is also always improving their skills. That can include yearly training and conferences. Good education can be expensive, but it is so worth it for the photographer’s skill level and confidence, and for the final outcome of your pictures.

The job of photographer is actually several jobs rolled into one. Here are a few of the jobs your photographer does:

  • Researcher
  • Location Scout
  • Photographer 
  • Editor
  • Marketer
  • Copywriter
  • Customer Service Representative

First let’s look at the role of Researcher. Most photographers will send you a questionnaire to fill out, or do an intake call with you before your session. What you don’t see is that the photographer had to research which questions would be most beneficial to ask to get a good understanding of what you need. They then have to write the questionnaire up, post it online, and get it to the customer.

That’s not the end of the research. Next your photographer reviews your answers and prepares an outline of the locations, shots, and styles you’d like for your photoshoot. After that, they should check-in to make sure that their plan works for you and your family. You also get the opportunity to make any changes you want, and finalize plans during this time.

During your consultation, if you have chosen a location to shoot at that the photographer has never been to before, a good photographer should turn into a Location Scout and physically set their eyes on that location. Photographers will do things like: look for places that would be interesting to photograph, and see if the terrain is adequate for strollers, toddlers, and photography equipment. Are there restrooms nearby? Is there somewhere for you to change your outfit? These are all things your photographer should know, so they are ready to give you the service you need and deserve.

Finally, they get to be the Photographer. This is the part that they love. They help you and your family get comfortable in front of the camera, make you look your best, and produce some beautiful work.

After shoot day, they will put on their Editor hat. This part contributes to their overall expenses, or overhead for a couple reasons. First, the editing software can be pretty pricey.  Second, learning photography editing software isn’t something that you can have an eye for. It takes a tremendous amount of study to edit in a way that looks natural and adds to the feeling of your pictures. On average, it takes an hour per image to edit and retouch. Most clients are used to getting at least 30- 50 images to choose from. That’s 30-50 hours of work that is done behind the scenes.

If you have a shoot and burn photographer, your images are then sent to you, and they typically live on your devices or the internet forever. For a boutique photographer, the job isn’t finished yet.

This is when they turn into Customer Service Representatives. Most boutique photographers will have an ordering session with you after the pictures have been edited. This is when you meet in person and see your pictures for the first time! At this meeting your photographer should help you pick the right sized prints to fit your needs. If your plan is to hang your family picture over the couch in the living room what size do you think you should get? Most people think that an 8×10 would look perfect. That is almost never true. 8×10 isn’t as big as you think it is. It’s not your job to know that though, it’s your photographer’s job. They should show you what a properly sized print would look like in your home, I promise you you’ll be amazed at how beautiful it can be when you have correctly sized artwork.

All of that comes out to about 56 hours of work and that’s just for 1 client. Let’s say you find a photographer for $100. That means they are only getting paid $1.78 per hour! On the high end , let’s say you invested $500 into your pictures. Your photographer would be making $8.92 per hour. That is just above the federal minimum wage. This isn’t taking into account the time it takes to write up welcome guides, prices guides, advertisements, social media posts and then designing and publishing those things. That takes the amount they are being paid per hour down significantly.

Good photography is an investment, because the photographer invests in you. Even though so much of that work is done behind the scenes, there is still a massive amount of work being done. Some photographers charge lower prices because they don’t realize how much work they are putting in, don’t have the training or skill level to justify a higher cost or, are trying to win your business while cutting themselves short, which is not sustainable. 

The next time you wonder why your photographer charges so much, please remember the amount of work that goes into helping families memorialize the special times in their lives.