Dear Olivia, Why Do Photographers Cost So Much Money?
Money. No one likes to talk about it. It's an awkward subject that people shy away from as much as possible (particularly if you're British!). But sadly, no matter who you are, it's something that you've got to learn to deal with, and talk about.
I see it come up time and time again: "Why do photographers cost so much money?!" "Oh god, you're too expensive, I really can't afford that." "I know a photographer who will do that for me for free." This doesn't stop at photographers, it's basically all freelancers... Everywhere you go there will be people who say that you're charging too much. It's life!
However, I thought that rather than sit here, in my high chair, and assume that everyone knows why photographers cost as much as they do, I thought it was about time that I actually wrote about it. We shouldn't ever assume that everyone understands how much work goes on behind the scenes, or how many business costs a photographer will have. So let's break it down!
- Consultation: Once you do decide to book a photographer, more often than not, the price you're paying includes a consultation fee. Whether it's for your wedding day, your lookbook or your next ad campaign, generally we want to meet you in person (or via Skype if you're far away!) to discuss what you're after. It's also a great time to get to know one another, and get a better feel for each other. Of course, this hour (or however long you're with us) does count as time that your photographer is working for/with you, so the time for a consultation is included in the price of your photoshoot.
- Location Scouting: Whether you're shooting on location or in a studio, there will be time needed to prepare for the photoshoot day. If the shoot is happening on location somewhere, it might be a case of checking out the venue, or exploring a nearby forest. If it's in studio, it will be a case of finding a studio, getting a tour of it so that the photographer knows exactly where everything is. This just means that, come shoot day, your photographer is already aware of their surroundings, and can proceed with the image making faster!
- Shooting time: This will seem obvious, but obviously photographers will charge for the time they actually spend on the shoot with you! Need I say more?
- Editing: I think people vastly underestimate how long editing images actually takes. We don't just sit at our desks and tweak colours. Editing involved culling images, editing skin (if there is skin involved), colour correcting, exporting various files at various sizes and resolutions, and ensuring that everything is backed up at least 3 times to ensure that your images are safe forever and ever. This is a lengthy process. Personally, I will dedicate on average at least 24 to your images! So, obviously, all of this time get's added to the fee. The longer the shoot, the longer the time spent editing, the higher the price.
- Experience: Now, this isn't a business cost as such, and it's a lot more subjective... but it's something that I think will make sense. Most photographers will price themselves based on their experience. A photographer who has been shooting for 10 years, has loads of kit, knows how to light a portrait perfectly, and has done a three year long degree in photography is going to charge more than someone who has just bought a second hand camera on eBay to play with on the weekends. There's nothing wrong with photographers charging less, not at all. All I'm trying to say is that the photographer who charges more money will (in theory, and there are exceptions to this rule) deliver better images. You get what you pay for. Does that make sense?
- Sending Files, Emails, Follow Ups: A lot of people imagine that being a photographer means we spend our days taking pretty photographs. Sadly, that's only about 20% of what we actually do. I spend an awful lot of time sending emails, following up on other emails, and sending out files (to name a few tasks). All these things take me time, and that's time that I'm working!
- Equipment costs: Camera equipment is expensive stuff. If you've ever looked into the price of a full frame DSLR, you'll know what I mean. But that's only the beginning. We've got lenses to buy, SD cards, laptops, editing software, websites, file sharing software, harddrives... the list of equipment that we need to run our businesses successfully is endless! Those pieces of equipment need to be bought.
- Licence Fees: Licence fees are something which a lot of people, even photographers, don't understand. I think this will need a whole post of it's own, as they're quite difficult to sum up in a few lines, but essentially, a photographer ALWAYS retains the copyright of their images. Unless they sign a contract to state otherwise, copyright always remains with us. What a licence fee is, is the price that a photographer places on commercial imagery so that their client can obtain the rights to use their images for their websites, for brochures, billboards, etc. This is often added on top of the photographers day fee, and will vary in price depending on the client, and where the images are going to be used.
- Education costs: Just as an office job will send their employees out on training courses a couple of times a year, photographers like to continue to educate themselves as well. Why? So that we can remain on top of our game, continue to improve the images we can provide clients, and stay up to date with the latest technology!
- Accountants: Not every photographer will have an accountant, but I do! Why? Because there is nothing that I find more stressful than numbers!
So there you go. I'm sure that I've forgotten something, because the reality is that there are a lot of things that go into running a successful photography business, but I really hope that this is helpful and insightful to some of you. This is by no means pointing the finger at anyone to say "You Need To Pay Us!!!!" I simply wanted to highlight what I don't think many people see, and mention what a lot of photographers seem not to want to discuss. So next time you're thinking of booking a photographer, and you see a price which you think is expensive, think back to this, and try to break down that money into all of these categories. You might quickly realise that it doesn't seem quite as extortionate as you once thought.