While scrolling through the Facebook newsfeed today, I read something that I see time and time again… “Looking for a great, reasonable photographer”. For those that don’t know what this means, it implies, “I’m looking for a top notch photographer but they need to be really cheap”. Now can we go into the dictionary on what reasonable means really quick? It means fair/inexpensive. So we can officially all agree that this person is looking for a cheap photographer, but if they’re so great then how are they cheap? Let’s take a look!
There’s just a few reasons why you will find some cheap photographers.
1.) They aren’t really photographers. They are just starting out, some even keep their camera in auto mode. They took a few good photos (after 1,000’s of bad ones) and now they want to say they are a professional. Guess what? I was THAT person! Yup! However, I was super cheap and as I grew as a photographer I continued to charge a little more here and there. Why? Because my expenses changed and I realized what I was doing to the industry, I’ll explain later.
2.) They don’t know that they can make a living wage or they don’t believe in themselves because everyone has told them that no one will book with them if they change their prices. Here’s the thing, time is money. When a photographer spends 1-2 hours preparing for your shoot, 2-4 hours at your shoot, 6-20 hours editing your shoot then they have invested 9-26 hours for ONE session… just one! Now factor in their camera, SD card, any monies they have invested into themselves to learn this art (I’ve paid thousands of dollars for classes) and anything else (lighting, reflectors and more).
Let’s take a quick look at the 6-20 hours. Some sessions are easier to edit, some sessions are harder and you never know which will be which. So were going to break this about half way to about 13 hours on 1 session (and this truly is on the low end). Here’s a break down:
$50 session - $3.85 per hour
$100 session - $7.70 per hour
$250 session - 19.23 per hour
Okay, we’ve now established that your photographer can make a decent wage at $250 per session, right? Well, not really. Let’s go ahead hit the 3rd point.
3.) The photographer wants to protect themselves. They want to become legal since this is their full time job. This means they will pay 30% of all income back to uncle same… right off the top!
$250 session - 30% taxes = $175
Now, we need business insurance incase something happens; a camera falls on a child or such. We also need to continue to purchase the SD cards that are $50-200 per card to save your images. I never reuse my SD cards. I keep the original photos on them incase something happens to your digital files or mine and we need a backup. Which brings me to my next point. Photographers need to edit your images! That requires a computer, calibration kits and editing software. As you know, these are not one times purchases, they need purchased every couple of years. Color is so important when editing and you cannot have a messed up computer!
Next we will take a look at all of the time they’ve spent to advertise that they are photography business and are open for shop. Hours upon hours of time marketing for themselves, because they don’t make enough to pay someone to market for them!
So… let’s say this photographer gets 3 clients a week times 10 months out of the year (2 months are simply too cold and it helps include holidays). This is a full time photographer so remember that this is their sole income.
3 clients a week X 4 weeks per month = 12 clients a month.
12 clients a month x $250 session fees = $3,000 a month
$3,000 income a month x 10 months of the year = $30,000 a year
$30,000 - 30% taxes = $9,000 = $21,000 a year
Let’s take a peak at some common expenses:
Camera - $1,500
Lens - $1,500 (just one!)
Computer - $2,000
Editing software - $130
SD cards - $500
Lighting - $100 (this is a very low number, mine is around $2,000)
$5,730 mine come to about $40,000 - $50,000 per year so trust me when I say this number that we’re using is super low.
We’ll leave out any education, advertising costs, any gas, driving your car to and from locations/ appointments, having an actual studio location, studio props/backgrounds/setups, and more.
I also did not include business insurance ($600 per year for me), additional editing software ($500 per year for me),
$21,000 income after taxes - minimum expenses of $5,730 = $15,270
Now let’s break that down per session:
$15,270 divided by 10 months of the year ( remember that we took a 2 month break for slow months/holidays/weather) = $1,527
$1,527 per month divided by 4 weeks = $381.75 per week
$381.75 divided by 3 session per week = $127.25
$127.25 per session divided by 13 hours = $9.79 per hour
Wait, you mean that the $250 I paid to the photographer for 2 measly hours only gives them less than $10 per hour?!?!? Yup!
Now for someone who is established and has a studio with expenses that are similar to a second mortgage and studio equipment then it’s even less!
For someone who has taken a chance and opened up a storefront / commercial studio, I spend about $800 per month to keep the doors open, then add the extra costs (it didn’t come filled with the coffee maker, chairs, lighting, slew of jewelry/hats/jackets/scarves for clients to use and products to show). If I charge $250 per session, I would literally make less than $5 per hour.
That’s $5 for working during the evenings when my family is together and doing fun events. That’s $5 to work around everyone else’s schedules to accommodate my clients. Do you know how many people want a Monday through Friday 9am session? Not many! So go ahead and take away my weekends people!
Side note: this is not me complaining but merely trying to explain why it’s impossible to charge $250 per session and still make a living. It’s absolutely impossible!
So while I understand that everyone has a budget, everyone wants a great photographer at “reasonable” prices, I want you to take a step back and realize that photography is an art. It’s something that cannot be rushed with good results.
So for those of you who say, “I only need 1 or 2 good photos!” or do you offer mini sessions?
Nope! Why? Because I’m not spending that much less time on your session. Also, if we spend 30 minutes together, you are just warmed up to the camera (and any kids). 30 minutes in is when we start seeing the best images! What happens when you don’t get the outcome you wanted for the photos? You demand a refund or will you forfeit the monies paid? I already know this answer!
So no, it’s either a full session or no session because I value my time and your time!
Yes, you’re right. I chose to be a photographer. I picked this lifestyle, which is why I’m NOT complaining but explaining. There is a difference. I am simply educating you on why choosing a $250 photographer with all edited images is really depriving that person of succeeding. They will never be able to support themselves or their family, they will never make a living income. So while $250 seems like a lot, you tend to get what you pay for.
I am so incredibly thankful for all of my clients because we work so close together to make their sessions amazing! I can spend the time to make the session and amazing, unforgettable experience. Truth be told, by the time I get their products/prints in their hands, they are not just a client, they are a friend.
When you take a look at your photos 10 years from now, you’ll remember how much fun we had at your session. It’s important to me and I’m sure it’s important to you too.