When one first approaches professional photography, often, one of the first questions that comes to mind is “How much does it cost?”
One of the most beneficial questions to ask is not the cost in dollars, but rather to ask what benefits you will receive.
Just about everyone owns a camera these days and it can be difficult to identify who is a Professional photographer and who is not. Professional photographers devote many hours and a good deal of finances in providing our clients with unique custom photographs. There is a vast difference between what we provide versus the little photo shops in the mall or your local mega store designed for drop-in photo sessions which show little to no personality.
The local Professional Photographer is often a small business which has many expenses without the benefit of the financial backing or safety net of a large megastore or corporation.
Licensing fees (yearly)
Taxes (paid several times a year)
Insurance on our equipment
Equipment: repairs, lens’, lights, light modifiers and stands, wireless triggers, tripods and professional camera bodies that must be replaced regularly for reliability.
Computers: we must upgrade regularly (often annually) in order to maintain the computing power required to process and edit the numerous (and very large!) files we deal with on a regular basis. These upgrades are more costly than a computer used only for web browsing and social media.
Backup programs and drives: we would be just as devastated as you if we lost your images through any means beyond our control, so we religiously back up in several locations.
Software: the average professional spends about $1,500 on editing software which must be learned and maintained with constant upgrades. We often use several programs to achieve the high quality product we present to our clients.
Education: For the professional photographer education never comes to an end! It is ongoing through various sources such as workshops. New software is developed with features we must learn, cameras constantly evolve with new features to be learned, and every shoot provides us with obstacles that we are able to overcome with the knowledge gleaned through both learning and experience- all for your benefit!
Samples and equipment upgrades
Hours away from our families as we research unique products to offer our clients, learn the ordering procedures of various vendors (framing to printing to boutique items) and keeping up on industry standards.
Professional services: such as forms and accounting
Aside from expenses there is the subject of time invested per session.
It’s common for the client to assume that half the time invested by the photographer is the actual photo session, and perhaps an equal amount of time invested in editing the images, but in reality so much more time is invested.
An approximate breakdown of time invested per session is below:
Communication with client: 30 min to 1 hour
Planning the session, cleaning and testing equipment, scouting the location, posing ideas: 1.5 hr
Photo Session: 1 hour (or longer)
Image Selection: 1-2 hours
Professionally editing images: 4-8 hours, dependent upon many variables and # of images
Placing orders for your prints, canvas’ and products: 1-2 hours
Photo book/album design and ordering: 1.5 hour
Uploading images to galleries and/or creating a custom CD: 1 hour
Total: 11.5 to 18 hours invested by the photographer per session
Not included above are the behind the scenes day-to-day tasks of running a small business such as web page and social media maintenance, keeping books and records, keeping up with industry standards and practices.
Why is professional photography a worthwhile investment?
…because life is remembered in pictures…
Your photos are your precious memories to be treasured for a lifetime and a heritage to be passed on to your loved ones. They are worth so much more than just a snapshot here and there printed at the local drug store …and they should include the family picture-taker who is often absent.
Like many wives of professors I have been called upon by my husband to take head shots over the years as needed for professional use. Below are two such examples. The one on the left was taken several years back with a standard point and shoot digital camera, when I had little understanding of the art of portraiture. I was pleased with it as it was one of the better shots; I remember enjoying a few compliments. The photo on the right is a head shot taken with my DSLR after some extensive education in the art of photography and photo editing.