Why does Professional Photography Cost More?
In this digital age where everyone has digital cameras, scanners and home "photo printers", when people upload their photos to a local drug store website and pick them up a few hours later, we hear this all the time - How in the world do Professional Photographers charge $85 for an 8x10 when they cost just a few dollars at the drug store?
Simply put, you're not just paying for the actual photograph, you're paying for time and expertise. First, let's look at the actual time involved. If you don't read this entire page, at least read this first part.
For a two hour portrait session:
- one hour of travel to and from the session (you can take this part off if your session is in studio, but then add in all the expenses associated with that)
- one or two hours of shooting
- 30-45 minutes of setup, preparation, talking to the client etc.
- 30 minutes to load the photos onto computer and separate backup drive (2 - 4 Gb of data)
- 30 minutes to back up the files on an online drive
- 3 - 4 hours of Photoshop time including cropping, contrast, color, sharpening, saving a copy for print and a copy for the internet and backing up the edited photographs.
- 2 - 3 hours to talk to the client, answer questions, receive their order and payment, order their prints, receive and verify prints, package prints, schedule shipment and drop package off at Fed Ex.
- Also consider the rent/mortgage of studio space, insurance, utilities, etc.
You can see how one two hour session easily turns into more than ten hours of work from start to finish. So when you see a Photographer charging a $250 session fee for a two hour photo shoot, you are not paying them $100 / hour.
For an eight hour wedding:
- I won't bore you with the details, but an eight hour wedding typically amounts to at least two to three full 40 hour work weeks worth of time. Again, if they are charging you $4,000 for an eight hour wedding, you are not paying them $500 / hour.
Now for the expertise.
Shooting professional photography is a skill, acquired through many years of experience. Professional photographers are continually investing in their education through workshops, conventions, Professional Certification and enter yearly Photographic Competitions.
Even though a decent camera now costs under $2,000, professional grade cameras are upwards of $3500-$4000 and the lenses are around $2500 each. Taking professional portraits involves much more than a nice camera. It takes thousands of dollars of lighting equipment, investment in photo editing software and again, education in editing, digital painting, etc (retailing to $5,000 and up) and even more if investing into a studio that on average requires monthly payments to maintain.
Most Professional Photographers take years to go from buying their first decent camera to making money with their photography. In addition to learning how to use the camera itself, there is a mountain of other equipment involved, as well as numerous software programs used to edit and print photographs, run a website etc.
And let's not forget that you actually have to have people skills, be able to communicate, make people comfortable in front of the camera - and posing people to make them look their best in a photograph is a skill all by itself.
Think of it this way - the next time you pay $150 to get your hair done, a pair of scissors only costs $1.50. But you gladly pay a lot more to hire a Professional. Or when you go to an upscale restaurant, the chef may have paid a few dollars for the ingredients for your meal, but you will happily pay the $100+ price of the Professional Service that comes with that upscale experience.
What about the cheap studios at the mall?
Please don't compare us to the chain store studios. But if you must, consider all of the time and work that we put into our photographs, compared to what they do. Good luck getting a two hour photo shoot at a chain store. Not to mention they won't come to the beach! And of course, look at our work compared to theirs. You definitely get what you pay for.
The truth is, most of the mall and chain store studios lose money. In fact, not too long ago a well know chain store closed 500 of their portrait studios because of the financial drain they were putting on the company. What the chain stores bet on is that you'll come in for some quick and cheap photos, and while you're there, you'll also spend $200 on other things. They don't have to make money, they are just there to get you in the door and out quick, so they can move on to the next customer.
We hope that those who have taken the time to read this page will have a better understanding of why professional photographs cost so much more than the ones that you get from your local chain or drug store. Every photographer has their own special skill set to bring into the industry. Photographers are artists and we are here to capture you and your family in a unique yet timeless way so that your legacy will live through your photographs for generations to come.
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