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The ridiculous prices of a photographer – Insider’s secrets & tips on how to get a good deal

So, you contact a photographer to get some photos of your family, you know, those you are actually in and those that aren’t blurry.  I mean, you just want a few, maybe just an hour-long session.  Thinking making $50/hour is quite a good pay and you know there’s some editing time after so if you pay $200 for the session that’s a pretty sweet profit for the photographer, right? I mean he/she just clicks the camera a few times and then emails you a link to the digitals (because any product is so pricey and you can just run to Walgreens and save yourself hundreds of dollars, correct?).  Plus, you know there’s a neighbour’s cousin’s friend who shoots family sessions for $50 including four 8x10s plus a USB drive with dozens of photographs.
So why on Earth, if you’re not out of your mind, would you hire someone who charges you not $50, not $200, but $600 or more!?
Any photographer has to be so loaded right?

portrait, candid, documentary, photography,

Yeah, well, let me spill the beans here, I will not hold back telling you precisely how it is.  So I got a camera, watched some YouTube videos for a tutorial, paid for the camera in a couple of sessions and everything else is gravy, just squeezing those poor client’s wallets dry for the fun of it.  As many will assume.
Allow me to list some of the expenses of a single photographer business, someone who is trying to be budget savvy and not pay for unnecessary expenses where there is no need for them.
Here are some annual expenses (rough, though often minimal amount), again, this is from a very careful spender, myself: 
  • GEAR Though the initial cost of getting set up with professional level cameras and necessary hardware equipment is thousands of dollars there is a constant need to update, upkeep or repair the equipment. It may not be every year a photographer buys a new camera or a lens but one year there may be no spending, another year 3 thousand dollars.  Let’s have a great year and only count:
  • ……………………………………..……………………………………………………………………………………..$ 1,500

 

  • DRIVES Essential and constantly growing cost, hard drives have to be good quality, backed up to other hard drives and replaced frequently.
  • ……………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………..$  250

 

  • INSURANCE Liability, business, damage
  • ……………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………..$  600

 

  • Online gallery hosting
  • ……………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………..$  250

 

  • Website hosting
  • ……………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………..$ 100

 

  • Software licensing
  • ……………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………..$  500

 

  • Minimal promotional materials and rare marketing
  • ……………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………..$  300

 

  • Rental equipment for specialized jobs
  • ……………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………..$  800

 

  • Memberships in learning and support groups
  • ……………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………..$   200

 

  • Professional development and constant learning costs
  • ……………………………………..……………………………………………………………………………………..$ 1,500

 

  • I am not even mentioning the need for a fast processing computer, phone and internet bills or God forbid rental cost if there is a studio involved. Add $1000s to the previous number yearly!

 

  • TOTAl (minimum!) ……………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………..$ LOTS

Mama love, fall, love, motherhood, Mom and son playing together

And here are additional expenses that come with every photoshoot: 
  • With every session happening the life of equipment is decreasing, nothing lasts forever!

 

  • Gas cost

 

  • Childcare

 

  • Time for the shoot + times approximately 20 = the actual time invested by the photographer.

 

  • The physical and mental energy loss may seem like a dull thing to mention here but I know how tiring just a 90-minute session is on anyone’s body (crawling, climbing, kneeling, constantly changing position, chasing kids) and never mind the computer hours afterwards.  Personally, I need at least two very early nights after a few hour shoots

 

  • Time away from your family while all this is happening
baby, candid, photographer, family, durango, candid, documentary
Since I promised you the know-how of getting a good deal, here are my suggestions: 
  1. If you want to find someone who will do your family photography for $50 – $100 congratulations, take the offer and run, it’s essentially like going to a charity thrift store, finding a good deal on something on their half off day and then haggling with the cashier to get the price down.  Well done, you’ve achieved the lowest price possible ensuring no party involves benefits.  The thrift makes hardly anything and you got yourself a product of uncertain origin, future and quality.
  2. On a more serious note, there MAY be occasions where you get a great deal from a great photographer because he/she is looking into expanding portfolio or happens to be a very talented beginner in the business who launches unbeatable prices with fantastic results.  They do exist, I’ve been there myself, everybody has to start somewhere.  Count your lucky stars, grab the deal while it’s there and please show kindness to the photographer by respecting the conditions of such great deal.  Watch out for emerging talents because let me tell you, they will quickly learn the value of their time.
  3. Sometimes even the very top photographers in the industry provide chances to be photographed for free.  There will be terms and conditions for sure, sometimes the photographs may be taken by the photographer’s students under the master’s supervision, sometimes it may be videoed and used as a promo and sometimes, the teacher photographer simply wants a new specific material for personal projects.
  4. Follow your local, or nationwide, worldwide even, photographers you like,social media plus Instagram (some great photographers I know are not necessarily active on both but generally it’s at least in one of those hotspots) and watch closely because brief offers with limited spots do happen in photography world as do model calls where you pay little or no money, contests and special occasions including last-minute searches for clients because due to other client’s cancellations is where you MAY strike a deal.
  5. More often than not any photographer is flexible and willing to work with you.  If you do not see payment plan options, do ask, it may be a possibility. Or maybe you own a print shop and can agree on a swap deal with the photographer you like.  Maybe you’re a babysitter and you can ‘owe’ X amount of hours of babysitting in exchange for the photographs of the same value, cake maker, videographer, business consultant,…  I am not saying everybody will be up for that but if you love someone’s style and you feel you can’t afford the chunk of money required, don’t be shy, reach out and search your options, photographers are people too.
boy, outdoors, outside,rain, candid, photographer, family, durango, candid, documentary
Photography is a specialized skill, it takes many years of hard work, learning, making mistakes, learning some more and always learning and growing.  It is not a standard purchase and should be considered a luxury item.  Is it for everyone? Sadly no, but neither are other luxury items like a nice handbag you don’t need or a pair of Gucci sunglasses.  Do you need a luxury handbag or sunglasses? Well no, should be the answer, do you want one? Well, that’s another matter. Can you afford one? A different topic entirely.  Having your photographs taken is indeed a luxury, but it’s more, it’s an investment.  It is a process and indeed a product that is like no other.  You are paying for essentially something very priceless.  You are preserving what may become one of the most prized possessions for the whole family for years to come. But your why is for another discussion.
So, yeah, I feel better now putting this in words now because you know, I can almost guarantee you that any good photographer puts in more energy, love, emotion, devotion that they can ever get back in the profit they make.

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