You’ve decided to book a professional photographer, but um, why does it cost so much?
Your chosen photographer shows up, photographs you for x amount of time, and that’s it, right? Not quite.
While it’s true that most photographers do charge based on time, the part of their work that you are actively involved with as the client (i.e., the photo shoot) is only a small part of the photographer’s job. While expressing costs to you in a time-based way is a convenient way to convey to you what you will get for your money, the “one-hour photo shoot” doesn’t encompass all that your photographer is doing behind the scenes to complete the job and deliver your images to you.
So what exactly do photographers do besides show up and photograph you for x amount of time? From the moment you send a message or email to a photographer to inquire about their pricing and services, their work begins. Responding to your emails, coordinating schedules, planning details for your shoot — it all takes time. Additionally, prepping for a photo shoot may require location scouting, keeping a close eye on weather forecasts, checking sunrise and sunset times, and wardrobe consultation and advice.
On your end, the planning is all set. You’ve agreed on a location and a time and you’re feeling pretty confident about how your photo shoot is going to go down — yay! That’s what any experienced photographer hopes for. However, our prep work isn’t even close to being done yet. We need to make sure we know how to direct you (yes, even for candid shoots, some direction is usually involved to get those gorgeous images you’re after). Besides prepping ourselves to be sure that the work we do for you is consistent and high quality, we have to make sure our gear is up to the task, too. This means we have to clean our lenses, charge batteries, format memory cards, and make sure we have ample external memory to store your images.
The day of your shoot has arrived and everything went as planned — woo! So, now is your photographer done? Not even close! After your photo shoot, your photographer’s work is nowhere near done. Before we even think about editing, we have to cull your images. This means that we review all images created during your photo shoot — yes, every single one — and select only the best to edit and present to you in your final gallery. No matter how comfortable you are in front of the camera, there will be plenty of closed eyes, missed focus, near duplicates, and mid-chat expressions to sift through…and that takes time.
Phew, now that the best of the best have been selected, the editing can begin! Of course, all photographers work differently and each person has their own workflow, but most professional photographers will edit their images to some extent. A fresh from the camera RAW file is designed to capture as much information as possible, but is not designed to look nice straight out of the camera. All that information equates to huge file sizes, which means we’re constantly buying new hard drives and more cloud storage to keep all your precious memories protected! RAW files are generally flat and kind of lifeless, so your photographer will have to do some magic to breathe life into your photos before they turn the final images over to you. Again, this takes time, not to mention pricey software.
Have you ever received a promotion or a bonus at your job because you consistently worked hard and your skillset reflected that? Photographers do that, too! While most of us don’t have bosses to let us know when we’ve earned a raise, we do work hard at our craft, invest in education, gear, and software, and practice, practice, practice to continually get better at what we do. This takes time and money. It also means that at times our prices will go up in just the same way your salary goes up depending on how much work experience you have. (Inflation and increased cost of living affect photographers, too!)
Finally, it’s important to remember what the final product is. As photographers, we hope you see the images we make as more than just photographs. We hope they serve as memories for years to come and that they are images you’ll print, frame, hang up in your home, show friends and family, but most of all… simply enjoy as a reminder of a feeling or a time in your life that will never happen again and that you never regret investing in.