This is a topic I find myself circling to pretty frequently. I am constantly wondering what other photographers (especially photogs in my area) are charging, mostly because I'm nosy AF! But also because as a photographer with a very budget friendly charge system, I'm always curious how photogs find their clients.
I've been told by other photogs (in different cities) that my pricing is too low and people are wary of that. However, I have never once heard that from a client or a prospective client! I am however, NOT. PAYING.MY.BILLS.ATM. In fact, it is pretty common that people stop responding to me and never book once they learn my pricing. This is what makes me we want to talk about this topic.
Now before we get into it, I want to clarify that I am not intending to attack anyone that maybe can't afford photography services or anyone that doesn't really have a feel for how service based/freelance services work! I'm really not trying to attack anyone at all! But I feel like it is important for people to understand why photographers charge what we do!
1. We Have Bills
A big reason we charge what we do is because we have bills to pay. For a lot of us, this is our only job. We are putting ourselves in a position where we are available any time of day and any day of the week to take and work on your photos. Now I don't want you as a client to feel "used" to pay my bills. But here's the thing, photography is WORK. You technically are helping people pay their bills regardless of where you are shopping or what services you are paying for! It's just a little more direct when you're hiring a freelancer. We have homes, phone bills, car payments, groceries, PLUS business costs on top of all of that to pay for. We sometimes have inconsistent work which means we have inconsistent income. When you hire a freelancer, you're helping us survive!
2. Our Gear Costs A LOT
Now I would love to say that it's our talent that matters, not the equipment, but at the end of the day, you as a client are not going to be happy if I show up and start snapping your wedding photos with my Iphone. We put a lot of money into our camera set ups. We have to purchase AT LEAST 1 camera body, multiple lenses, lens filters, external flashes, memory cards, spare batteries, tripods, camera bags, back drops, lighting, etc.
Totally throwing myself under the bus here, my gear is pretty much as cheap as it can be. I shoot with a Sony a6000 (approx. $700CAD) and a sigma 30mm f1.4 lens (approx. $450CAD) for the most part. I do however have other lenses, multiple batteries, multiple lens filters, a backdrop setup, lighting, an external flash, external hard drives, a high performance computer, a monthly subscription to adobe programs, a website, and way more than I care to remember at the moment. I even had to recently purchase a back up Sony a6000 because mine decided to throw a fit and the buttons stopped working. These are things that ADD UP. A lot of them are monthly expenses or at the very least require upgrading throughout the years.
3. Experience and Quality Costs Money
This is IMPORTANT. Photography is no different from any other service based industry. The more we learn and the better we get, the more we deserve to earn. I'm going to base this portion off of my own experience with the assumption that most photographers are on the same page and can relate to this.
I have invested countless hours into my craft. When I say countless I mean it. I became interested in photography and started giving it a (very half hearted) go when I was 14ish. That is (quite a bit) more than a decade ago. Over the last 2 years I've been watching videos and reading articles and practicing and teaching myself new things about photography EVERY SINGLE DAY.
That's right folks, I am doing something every single day that helps me to benefit my career.
Style is important. I'm going to use a makeup reference here because I'm a certified MUA and I think the average person will follow this well. You would never pick a makeup artist to do your wedding makeup if their portfolio was terrible and they were clearly untrained and put no effort into their artistry, so why would you do that with a photographer? I've worked hard to create my own style. How I shoot. How I interact with people. How I edit (HUGELY IMPORTANT). These are all things that take work. And not just one time work. But consistent work. My edit style has changed (for the better) so many times I can't even tell you.
These reasons are only a handful of the reasons we charge what we do. We do not just "click a button" and take your photo. If you hire someone that is doing that, run! We spend anywhere from 15 minutes to 12+ hours with you (not accounting for travel and prep time). After that, we drive home where we import all of those images onto our computer, cull through to get rid of the blurry, unflattering, and duplicate photos. After that, we edit.
Editing. Takes. Time.
Now I LOVE editing so in my tiny brain, I always think I'm not working on images long. This is untrue. I probably spend on average of about 5-30 minutes per photo. PER PHOTO. If I am providing you with 10 photos from our session, that is a minimum of an hour (taking into account load time and other fun computer stuff). A common misconception is that you are only paying us for our session time, but in reality we are spending an additional hour or so ensuring your images are perfect. Essentially, if I am charging you $100 for 1 hour, I am actually charging you $100 for 1 hour of session time, plus an average of 20 minutes travel time, plus an hourish of editing, plus however long to cull. While it feels to you like we are profiting $100 an hour, we're actually "making" more like $30 and hour and that's not including the money that goes to CPP and business expenses!
I hope this helps everyone to understand our pricing a little bit better. We aren't trying to put you into debt when you book a session with us, we're just trying to survive and pay our bills so that we can continue providing our clients with the best work that we can!