Why Is Professional Photography So Expensive?


It is the question on most people's minds whenever they are looking to hire a photographer for their next big life event or family get-together.  And we are here to break it all down for you, and answer those BIG questions you have about the costs involved with hiring a professional photographer.

Training & Equipment

Every photographer has their own unique level of training, experience, expertise, and quality of equipment, it is important to understand the fundamental foundations from which they have gained these dimensions, in order to properly quantify why they are charging what they are to clients.  If a photographer is new, and doesn't have the experience behind the lens in working with a diverse group of clientele -- understanding how to produce composition, handle camera settings at a moments notice, properly gauge lighting and exposure, and coach clients along the way, as well as mastering their gear -- you can expect to pay lower prices, and essentially become their experimental guinea pig in the process of their portfolio building.  They can definitely meet your lower budget needs, but may produce images that are less than ideal, and give you a questionable experience along the way.  There is that rare occasion you may find a decent "new" photographer that can produce great images and a great experience for you, but believe me . . . it is a rare occasion indeed!

Seasoned photographers know their value and what they are investing in, to produce the beautiful, high-quality imagery that everyone is going ga-ga over on Pinterest and in magazines. They have paid their dues, done their years of free-to-low-pay interning and work to build their portfolios, and know they can give the client not only gorgeous imagery, but an incredible experience every step of the way.  THEY are the ones who know the value of investing their heart, souls and expertise into their clients, and know how to provide an end result that is cherished for generations.  They also know how important it is to invest in the highest-quality cameras, lenses and equipment. The average cost of basic gear for a seasoned photographer is $20,000.  This doesn't even include the cost of maintaining a business.  So if you wonder why a photographer may charge more than you expected . . . just ask them how much their gear costs.

Cost Of Doing Business

A professional photographer has a myriad of business costs involved in being able to provide the high level of client care and imagery that is expected.  There are Studio Costs (which can run between $300-$1500) depending on location and whether or not they lease their studios. Website Costs: which can range from $100-$300 a month depending on providers and professionals hired to maintain them. Editing Equipment: Can cost upwards of $10,000 to procure the right computers and editing software. Business Office Costs: Upwards of $5,000 a year. Professional Camera Gear/Lenses & Equipment: Upwards of $15,000 per photographer. This doesn't even include other miscellaneous costs.  So we are talking approximately $51,600 to maintain a yearly professional photography business for just ONE photographer!  WOWZA!  So in order for a really high quality photographer to even make a meager living, they have to charge the prices they do simply to keep the company afloat.


Client Shock & Dismay - The Newbie Photographer Peril

Our company was procured to provide Master Level Cinematography for a wedding couple a few years back, and because the clients wanted to invest in our Cinematography, but save money on their photographer, they chose a different photographer, which I will label "Newbie Photographer" (for sake of being able to follow story-line) that was within their budget (under $1,000).  Our Cinematographer showed up to the pre-ceremony venue and saw the bride crying and distraught, so he pulled her aside and wanted to see what he could do to help her during this time.  She began to share that the Newbie Photographer from the other company yelled at her and stormed out because the bride didn't want to go outside for photos (due to high temperatures), and Newbie Photographer wanted some key outside photos that they didn't yet have in their newbie portfolio. Instead of going with the flow, taking the photos that the bride desired inside, the Newbie Photographer had a tantrum and made the bride feel horrible!  Not to mention that Newbie Photographer also did not have a quality flash on board their camera, so the chances of "indoor" photos even being decent were a long shot.  Our seasoned Cinematographer had to pull the Newbie Photographer, from a different company, aside and tell them that the way they were treating the bride was unacceptable, and that they needed to meet the bride's needs and stop causing her this kind of pain on her wedding day.  

That is one example of many we have experienced through the years.  Seasoned photographers always put the clients needs and wants first.  They know that they are there to serve, and provide a positive experience for wedding couples.  Low-quality or Newbie Photographers - quite frankly - don't yet know this important aspect, and are there to build their portfolios, not cater to clients.

In the end . . . not only was the bride extremely distraught for most of her wedding day (because of Newbie Photographer), but her final images from Newbie  gave her even greater distress as well --  they were absolutely the lowest quality images we had ever seen in the industry!  THESE IMAGES are what will be part of the clients memories for the rest of their lives, and into the generations. THAT is why it is so important to INVEST in a seasoned photographer.  A seasoned photographer would never ever put a bride through what that Newbie Photographer put her through.  NEVER! So please try to understand that even though you may be on a budget, even high-quality photographers are willing to work with wedding couples budgets if you simply let them know your circumstances, and be willing to accept that you may not get all the coverage and luxury extras that you want -- within a tighter budget -- but your image quality and overall experience will be the BEST! Many high-quality professional photographers can offer payment plans if you don't want to compromise quality, but may have an initial lower budget to work with.  Don't be afraid to ask a photographer that you are interested in, if they have payment options or incentives/discounts if you book with them.  Believe me . . . you will have peace of mind just knowing you will be taken care of every step of the way, with beautiful imagery to cherish.

What Do The Photographers Actually Earn

Here is the very real breakdown of what a professional wedding photographer may earn from a standard high quality wedding package.

Complimentary In-Person Bridal Consultation
8-10 Hours Of Wedding Day Coverage
2 photographers - 1 Master Level & 1 Associate
1 -2 hour engagement session ( 50-75 Images )
Wedding Day Photography Timeline Consultation

Wedding Day Timeline Chart & Presentation PDF
Private Password Protected Online Viewing Gallery
Complimentary Wedding Album Design Consultation
Custom Designed Fine-Art 10x10 Italian Wedding Album with Heirloom Case
Custom Designed USB & Heirloom box For Long-term Storage Of Digital Imagery
Full Licensing Print Release For Digital Files

By the time all of these services are rendered and client receives all images, albums, prints and designs, the total business and product costs add up to approximately $3500.00.  That leaves $1700.00 in profit for the photographer.  That profit of $1700 divided by 250 hours of client service, photography, editing, emails, phone calls, in-person meetings, design services, etc. = an earning of $6.80 an hour.  WOW, if that isn't a reality check!  A McDonald's server earns $8.33 an hour, to give you temporary fast food but your professional photographer is only earning $6.80 an hour to give you priceless memories of your wedding.  That really puts things into perspective doesn't it?!

So Why Do We Do What We Do?

So, why do we still want to cover your wedding, even though you may think we are too expensive, and despite the cost we aren't really making much money?  One word: PASSION! Because we are so very passionate about creating imagery that is appreciated and loved.  It is our life-breath to create artistry that lives on long past we leave this earth.  It is why we work so hard, 14 hours a day/7 days a week, and why we rarely take vacations, and drive ordinary cars, and live in normal dwellings and not mansions . . . it is what we LIVE FOR -- THE JOY and creation of capturing your memories, in a life-giving and loving way.  So when you tell a professional photographer that they are too expensive and complain about the prices, please understand that there is so much more involved in being able to produce those gorgeous images you want.  If you truly understand the INVESTMENT committed professional photographers are making in you, then you will truly understand the INVESTMENT  and trust you are not only making in their artistry, but also the INVESTMENT in your forever memories.

Thank You

If you have had the gumption to read this far, then I know you are someone who truly cares about quality, and really wants to understand what is involved in hiring a professional photographer.  Invest in a low-quality photographer, get low-quality imagery and client care.  Invest in a high quality photographer, then expect a truly wonderful experience from the time of initial contact, all the way to final delivery and beyond.  Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules, and THANK YOU for trusting us with your special day.