Why is photography so expensive?
Updated: Jun 26
If you are in the beginning stages of planning your Sarasota wedding you are probably searching around for the perfect photographers to capture you're wedding day. Or if you’re graduating high school soon you are probably looking for a senior portrait photographer. During this search you might feel a little sticker shock and asking yourself “why is professional photography so expensive??”
Let me start by saying you are right, a true and professional photographer isn’t “cheap”. A wedding photographer that has years of experience can range from $3,000 to upwards of $12,000. And a portrait session (senior or lifestyle headshots) will be anywhere from $500 - $1,500. So you are correct, photography can be expensive. But here is why a professional photographer charges that much for one photoshoot or wedding. You might be thinking “all they do is show up and click a button. They shouldn’t be charging this much.” Here are a 5 reasons why you need to think of your wedding or photo session as an investment rather than just a simple cash transaction.
1: YOU’RE PAYING FOR A PROFESSIONAL
A photographer who’s been shooting weddings and sessions for several years is going to be far more skilled and experienced than someone that is just starting out. When you choose a photographer that has shot 100s if not 1000s of weddings, senior portraits, and business branding sessions you will have someone that not only has the correct gear for the job but also knows how to use it correctly. Their editing will be constant and you’ll know exactly what you can expect when they deliver the images to you. If you choose someone with very little experience and who is just starting out they might have a hard time being constant when shooting and editing. They often struggle to find the right light and how to pose their clients in a flattering and genuine way. I know this first hand because I had to learn all of that when I first started 9 years so. It took me a few years to really perfect the style I was trying to achieve. If you have a clear vision for how you want your photos to look make sure to choose a photographer that constantly shows the same type of editing style on their social media, website, and blog.
2: RUNNING A BUSINESS ISN’T CHEAP
Running a business costs money even if you don’t a have staff. And professional photography equipment can quickly add up! Here are just a few numbers on what gear costs and what it costs to run a photography business.
Camera bodies $2,000 - $3,500
Lenses $700 - $2,000
Flashes $150 - $300
Memory cards $30 - $80
Lightroom presets (to edit your photos) $150+
Camera bag $300+
Film rolls $20 - $50 per pack (5 rolls in a pack)
Film lab (develop the film) $15 - $50 per roll
(keep in mind you only get 35 shots per roll of film)
Business Items and Services:
Online galleries $20 - $50 per month
Website $50 - $150 per month
Editing software $20 - $50 per month
Insurance $50 - $75 per month
Cleaning and calibration of equipment $100+
Taxes 30 percent
Just based on those numbers you can see it costs a lot of money to run a photography business. There are also several little things that a wedding photographer will have in their bags for your Tampa wedding day. For example styling kits (ring boxes, ribbons, flowers, marble dishes, trays, flat-lay boards) all of those are used for your detail shots! We have these things with us so we can create beautiful photos of the invitation suite, rings, heirloom items, shoes, etc and each of those items in my style kit cost money.
3: THERE ARE A LOT BEHIND THE SCENES HOURS
When I charge you $500 for a one-hour headshot session here in St Petersburg, Florida, this doesn’t mean I’m making $500 an hour. At the very minimum, I spend closer to three times that amount of time on one session. Now it is true that you might only see me for an hour the day of your shoot but in actuality this is typically how my day goes when I have a photoshoot scheduled.
Planning the shoot and consolations with clients
1 - 2 hours
Travel time to the location
30 minutes to 1 hour
1 hour+ session | 8 hours+ wedding
Traveling back home from the session
30 minutes to an hour
Loading the photos on to my computer
1 hour+ session | 2 hours+ weddings
Culling, editing, retouching
36 hours+ session | 100 hours+ wedding
Load the images to your online galleries
People have said to me things like “My goodness, you make a ton of money in one day for taking photos.” Any small business owner (no matter what kind of business they own) will tell you it’s just not that simple because so much more goes on beyond what you see. In addition to the photoshoot or wedding we spend countless hours culling and editing, replying to inquires, creating wedding day timelines, helping seniors plan their outfits, coming up with concepts for lifestyle headshots, blogging, and scheduling social media content. It’s much more than just showing up with a camera and taking pretty pictures.
4: MY PRICES AREN’T RANDOMLY SELECTED
From a clients perspective I can see where it might just look like numbers on a page. You could look the investment, see the $3500 or $5000 for you wedding photography and think “She just pulled those numbers out of a hat," but it’s so much more involved than that. We have take into account CODB (costs of doing business) and how much it will cost us personally to shoot a wedding. For example; travel time, (especially if the wedding is outside of the Tampa / St Pete, Sarasota areas), if your photographer includes a second shooter, engagement session, albums, etc. When we create our wedding package prices and our portrait prices they are very carefully calculated based on all the above stated factors.
5: NOT HIRING A PROFESSIONAL WILL COST YOU MORE IN THE END
I get it, when you are looking at the investment of a true professional photographer its hard to wrap your head around the number. But at end of the day it's the one tangible thing you take away from your wedding day. Your dress will end up in a closet, the flowers will die, and the cake will be eaten. Yes, photography can be expensive, but it’s expensive on both sides. I can’t tell you how many people have told me their biggest regret from their wedding is having “uncle Bob” (aka a family friend) take their photos instead of hiring a professional photographer. Those are moments you can’t get back, moments that without photos are easy to forget. We spend thousands on our gear and business expenses, we often sacrifice our evenings and weekends for clients, and spend many more hours behind a computer screen than the time you see us shooting.
The point of this blog post is to educate clients on why our prices are set the way they are. But also to help you see that after all the hard work we put into our business we deserve a chance to make a living, to support our families, and hopefully put some back for retirement.
Nina Bashaw is a Tampa, Florida based fine art luxury photographer that specializes in senior portraits, lifestyle headshots, weddings, and elopements throughout the southeast and is available for worldwide travel.
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