Diving into the hidden details of what a photo shoot truly entails!
Modeled above is sopranist Victoria Gydov and my late husky, Lucian As a Photographer of 15 years, I am going to sum up why my photo shoots are "SO expensive." Note that every Photographer has their own reasoning as to why they charge what they charge, or why they do some free sessions all depending on many things, such as their experience, their location and their client reach. The following is my experience and my explanation, which may, or may not reflect on other Photographers (but a lot of it likely will). Over the years my prices have fluctuated quite a bit. There were times I was booking more sessions and had clients that were willing and able to pay higher costs for my time and efforts. There were also times I was scraping by to get bookings and had to lower my prices in hopes to get some paid work. So let me break down for you why I charge what I charge and what is all involved when paying for my Photography services.
Model above is Melynda Moon
How much is my time worth? How much is your time worth? Time (though it doesn't actually exist, it seems to in this human form) is the one thing we cannot get back. Everyone values their own time at a different cost, but over the years, I have come to realize my time is worth, well, a lot. There is only so much time we have to spend with our family, clean the house, enjoy our hobbies and of course, work. I get so many people have to work countless hours at a fast food chain, or retail store, even factory job to make ends meet. I feel for you, I truly do. Minimum wage is at an all time low when rent and food prices are at an all time high. It isn't fair, not by any means. That being said and acknowledged, I have still decided to put a high value on my time and not work for minimum wage. My goal is to work less and get paid more and no, that isn't a selfish way to think, it is a smart way to think. I encourage everyone to brainstorm on how to work smarter, not harder/longer hours. I need to be able to spend time with my daughter (who just turned one), make healthy meals for my family, keep the house from completely falling apart (it doesn't have to be perfect) and enjoy the things I love to do, like attending yoga classes and spending time with my horses.
Do you have any idea how much professional photography equipment costs? Or the fact after so many shutter clicks, the camera will die? SD cards for the cameras will eventually corrupt, lenses break and also need to be upgraded. Did you notice the quality of the images you were given from your expensive photo shoot compared to that of your point and shoot camera, or smart phone (yeah, I know, smart phones are actually getting really nice quality images, but if you compare to a DSLR with a good lens, it isn't the same). Ideally, part of the money from a photo shoot needs to go towards equipment maintenance and upgrades when needed. Some Photographers like myself mainly shoot in all natural light and do not need extra light sources, while others shoot in studio and require more hardware, creating more costs. Computers! Oh, I forgot computers! Keeping them free of viruses, updating and paying for Lightroom and or Photoshop (which can cost upwards of $1000, but many pay monthly to lease the programs). Oh look, your computer died, time to spend another $2000 - $4000. And hey, better make sure you have some back ups for storage so you don't lose those images! That's right, I store your images. I have never trashed any images I have taken in 15 years. Have I misplaced hard drives? Well, that is another story. Overall, photography is an expensive hobby!
Consultations If you have your own business/service, how often do people ask you about booking, spend a few days going back and forth, then ghost you? This happens quite a bit for many. While I am happy and get excited to talk to a potential client about their session, sometimes no results come about. This isn't a complaint, just a fact. I spend a lot of my time in my work with consultations to see if someone even wants to hire me, or not. And of course, once a session is booked with a 50% retainer, I am available to discuss the upcoming photo shoot with my clients as often as they need to. Advertising Working for one's self means we have to do all our own advertising to promote ourselves. Unless of course, you do very well and can hire someone to do that for you (if so, awesome for you!). Spending time and energy posting images, sharing in groups on multiple social media platforms, tagging friends, creating promo images of upcoming mini sessions and even volunteering for community projects all adds up. I quite enjoy advertising for my business, but again, it's quite a lot of time on nearly a daily basis if I want to continue to show up in news feed and have my work and ads noticed. If I choose to pay for an add, of course that adds to money I spend. What do they say, gotta spend money to make money? That may be true, but perhaps not all the time. Word of mouth advertising truly helps a lot! Sessions Alright, the photo shoot is finally about to take place. I book my entire day for one client. Being a natural light Photographer, I need to shoot at whichever time of day ensures the best lighting, which all depends on the location, weather and the time of year. Sometimes I book a couple sessions in a day, but usually those are reserved for minis, not for full sessions. Gas of course isn't cheap and neither is a mechanic to keep my car in working order. For myself and many others, we need someone to watch our child(ren) while we work, which can be another additional cost. Now, once I am at the location, the hour of my expertise photographing my clients is also of value. You are paying for my time to capture precious and artistic moments for you that will last beyond your lifetime. You are also paying for my artistic eye, which is unique compared to all others (same goes for any artist). Props There have been so many times where I have provided props for sessions, whether it being a couch to sit on, a cloak and lantern for a conceptual photo shoot, a wreath, or pumpkins for mini sessions. Heck, I have even planted specific trees with photography in mind! It is great when clients provide their own wardrobe and bring any props they wish to use, but sometimes it isn't justifiable to purchase many, or expensive items for a one time use. Some Photographers invest in props that their clients can use, or rent for their sessions. Some are able to acquire amazing corsets and even mermaid tails for their clients. Over the years, I have offered this on and off and though I do prefer to not be as involved with providing props, I want to create the best images I can, resulting in digging through my wardrobe and house to find interesting items to use. Oh right - and sometimes props require hiring an animal and their human for some fantasy fun!
Type The type of photography one is looking for can make the cost vary greatly. Personally, I charge less for event photos compared to a personal photo session. Though I do not offer newborn photo shoots, I know that they are a ton of work and that Photographers that offer them put in so much time and effort with the initial session and editing afterwards. Boudoir Photographers sometimes include hair and makeup, even wardrobes to use. Weddings are also a huge task, many long hours shooting and work in post on 100s of images and sometimes also requiring a second shooter. The type of photo shoot you are after will be priced accordingly to how much work is involved.
Editing Every Photographer has a different editing process to create their style of art. Some are quicker with their editing, some may do lighter edits that do not take as much time, or use an action on a batch to get images finished quicker. I personally am like a painter when it comes to editing my images. I first go through my RAW files, adjusting light and colour to where I want it. I then bring one image at a time into Photoshop and sort of paint my way through it, using brushes on isolated areas to get the exact effect I am looking for. Through my career, I have been known for having more artistic conceptual imagery with my editing style, however, this hasn't always been consistent through the years. At times I have changed how I edit to a more natural and quicker edit to save time and makes my prices more affordable. But does it look like my style in the end? Eh, not so much. That being said, it doesn't mean an artist can't have more than one style, it is just a different look than what I would prefer to do with my images - a heavy intricate manual edit without the use of actions or batch edits. It can take me an hour up to three hours to create one image of this look (see below for an example). So, how a Photographer edits and how long they take to edit may play a part in their cost.
Pictured above is Luna Peredhill & Coors, the result of conceptual session Images How many images in a package will determine the cost of your photo shoot as well. My packages start at three. Um, three? Yeah, three. I see a lot of Photographers and friends posting 20-50 images of a session. That's all good, really! But personally, I prefer a few WOW images as apposed to flipping through a gallery seeing many images of similar poses and expressions. When I have a conceptual session, I create three or so pieces of art, again with my heavier, time consuming manual painting style of editing. I charge per image. The client also buys shared rights to the image, meaning they receive a high resolution digital image to print for theirself and their loved ones as much as they want (neither the client, or Photographer sells paid sessions to third parties, just an fyi). I do not have clients purchase prints from me, I give them the opportunity to create as many hard copies as they please.
Holley & Nick, a lighter and more natural edit, which is how I do general portrait sessions There may be other points I have not factored in, but it comes down to making sure I make enough money to cover my expenses, my time and profit on top of that. Am I the cheapest Photographer? No, but I am also not the most expensive Photographer. After factoring in my costs, my time and my skills, I set my prices at what I feel is fair to not just my clients, but myself as well. And no, photography is not a necessity, it is a luxury. However, to me it is of high importance, as I want to have moments of my life captured with my loved ones, animals and my experiences. I do not expect everyone to book a session with me, for they may not align with my style, have the funds to spend, or even care to have photos taken at all and all those things are perfectly fine. A huge shout out of love and gratitude to everyone who has worked with me through the years. There are times I take a break from Photography, but I always end up coming back to it. I love what I do and I hope I can continue to book sessions with clients old and new in the years to come. Your support in every way, whether it be sharing my posts, suggesting me to a friend, or booking for yourself means so much!
Mike Jones, tattoo artist, promo image as a heavier, artistic edit (though the papers are real!)