If you’re here, you’ve probably been searching for photographers and haven’t found one that meets your budget and the expectations of beautiful photography. Maybe you’re searching for a wedding photographer, family photographer, or a newborn photographer. In every case they all come with a high price tag. There’s no way photography can be this expensive, right? All they do is show up for a few hours and take pictures. How can they charge so much? Why is photography expensive?

“I would be ashamed!”

That’s what a friend said to me after I told her about a recent ession. She asked about my pricing and that’s when she said it. That line has stuck with me, and so I decided to write about photography costs. How did I respond to her? I showed her my expenses and she started to understand.  Look, I get it. I do. Before I became a photographer, I asked the same question. “Why are photographers charging so much? Digitals on a disc is cheap, right?” Then I made it my career. Most don’t understand the expense of a photo session, let alone an entire photography business. I certainly didn’t when I started. A lot goes into photography pricing. Cost of doing business, their talent, and their brand or client experience are all factors.

Cost of doing business, or CODB

When starting out as a photographer, I had NO IDEA about how much it cost to run a business. I just thought, “Hey! I’ll buy a camera and a couple of lenses, and I’m good to go!” Hahahaha! No.

Here is a small amount of things a photography business pays for.

  • Equipment (Cameras, Lenses, Lighting Equipment)
  • Insurance
  • Studio rental fees.
  • Business Subscriptions (17hats, Pixieset, social media managing apps, etc.)
  • Website
  • Professional Organization Memberships
  • Travel
  • Computer
  • Editing Software
  • Phone
  • Albums, Prints, Canvases, etc.
  • Marketing
  • Taxes

It adds up quickly, and we need to pay for all of this as well as make enough to provide for ourselves and/or our household. 95% of businesses fail within the first five years. If we want to stay in business, we need to price ourselves accordingly.

Quality Photography

You have two cars in front of you. One is a Honda, the other is a Ferrari. Both are new; never off the lot. Which car would you pay the premium price for? The Ferrari, right? Well, photography is the same way. The only difference is that a Honda can’t become a Ferrari. Photographers can grow in their talent and experience to become luxury photographers. That’s why you may have gotten a $700 wedding photographer three years ago, and today she’s $3000.

What determines quality? Talent and knowledge. A photographer may have a good eye when they start, but it takes time and hard work to mold that talent into something beautiful. For example, here are two photos of mine. One is when I first started, the other was four years later. See the difference?

Beginning Photographer ExampleRoses-Styled Bridal Session-Model Photography-Portraits by Kristen D. Photography

So, the more years of experience a photographer has, the better, right? Yes and no. It depends on what they do with that time. Many will tout, “30 years experience in photography!” yet don’t know how to light, pose a subject, or compose the image. On the other end, I’ve seen photographers in the business for just two years who could charge $5000 for weddings because they’ve taken the time to mold their talent, and did it quickly.

The Client’s Experience

Remember the cars analogy? If you got a chance to drive just one, which would you pick? (I really hope you said the Ferrari.) Driving a Ferrari is an experience. Client experience is important. When I first started, my client experience was book with me, show up, and I give you digitals for $25. (Oh my goodness, I’m screaming on the inside right now! Haha!) Here is a comparison of two completely different client experiences within my own business. It’s so crazy how my business has grown.

2012- “Mother’s Day Special! Includes an 8×10 print!” Booked a session in a local park for about 30 minutes. Delivered about 10-20 images? (Don’t remember the exact number.) Printed an 8×10, delivered it in a manila envelope. Never followed up.

2018- Consultation meeting for styling your session two weeks prior. Hair and Makeup provided. Wardrobe provided. 2 hour photo session with an assistant. I create a beautiful video of your experience. Provide 30 images, professionally printed and matted. Prints housed in an Italian made keepsake box. I follow up one week after your reveal.

Which experience is worth more? As photographers grow, we start to see the value in what we do, and then tend to provide more for our clients. Why? Because we think you deserve it. You deserve the best, and we want to give it to you.

I promise.

I promise experienced photographers aren’t trying to pull a fast one. We just want to pay our bills, provide an amazing experience, and keep our businesses running. Good photography is an investment. Your photographs become heirlooms. Isn’t that worth investing in?

Thanks for reading!!

-Kristen D.