Understanding Photography Pricing

January 10th, 2024

Why does photography cost so much? It’s the million-dollar question. We all have decent cameras in our pockets and apps that can turn lacklustre images into showstoppers. But the latest and greatest smartphone doesn’t replace a professional photographer. 


Professional photography—and that first word is key—is an investment. When you hire a photographer, you are purchasing a service as well as a product (one you’ll have for years, at that). You are also hiring someone with years of experience and expertise; someone who knows how to bring your concept to life—not to mention, a pro understands the ins and outs of photo retouching to enhance your images and make them shine. It’s so much more than pushing a button, slapping a filter on the image, and calling it a day. 


 Here are a few key points to keep in mind when you’re discussing the cost of photography. 


The service extends beyond the shoot
Opening a quote from a photographer—or any creative professional, for that matter—can cause sticker shock. You only need a few images, so why are you paying such a high price? A photographer’s rate takes multiple factors into consideration. 


The shoot itself is a fraction of the quoted price. The photographer may only be shooting for an hour, but there’s plenty of prep work done before the shoot even begins. Your photographer will likely do a virtual or in-person consultation with you, create a mood board (depending on the needs of the shoot), and even source props, if required. After the shoot, then it’s time for image culling (choosing the best photos) and retouching (each image can take anywhere from a few minutes to hours, depending on the project). And there’s post-shoot file management, gallery delivery, print product ordering (if required) and invoicing. When it’s all said and done, a one-hour shoot equates to hours of work for the photographer. 


Every photographer’s pricing structure is different, depending on their level of experience and the session they’re quoting for. For example, portrait pricing is often quoted per hour with a certain number of images delivered, while commercial photography can be priced with a base creative rate, a price per image retouched, and even usage fees if the job requires. Some commercial photographers choose to charge per hour, though, so it will vary depending on how their pricing is structured. And weddings are another ballgame entirely, with photographers offering set packages that outline the number of hours they’ll be shooting and any print products included. Some packages even include engagement sessions as part of the fee.


Photographers are business owners too
Photography isn’t a quick skill to master, and it’s certainly not a cheap one to get involved in. Professional-level cameras cost thousands of dollars, along with lenses, lighting, accessories, computers, software, the list goes on. It’s an investment for the photographer, too, and each shoot adds wear and tear to this equipment.


Photography is an art form, but it’s also a business and should be treated as such. Photographers need to cover their cost of doing business beyond equipment, even if they work from home. They may require things like equipment or studio rentals, a roster of subscriptions to keep their business running (software, website hosting, gallery hosting, business management tools, just to name a few), travel, accounting fees, assistants, utilities, insurance, and education to stay at the top of their game. Each photographer’s cost of doing business is different and factors into their price, and the rate the client sees is what they need to charge to stay in business and earn a profit. 


You get what you pay for
As with any product or service, you truly do get what you pay for when it comes to photography. Photography can capture memories that will be cherished forever, or it can be the boost a small business needs to increase its brand awareness and client base. Regardless of the genre, photography is worth investing in if you want to see exceptional results. There will always be cheaper options, but this can mean disappointing photos and having to reshoot to achieve your desired outcome—which will end up costing more in the end. 


Professional photography isn’t a conventional career path, and photographers are in it because they love what they do. This shows in their work, their lasting relationships with their clients, and the experience they provide during each session.

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