After speaking to a number of semi-pro and professional photographers, it seems that there is growing frustration among them when it comes to photography prices and services. As the number of digital photographers continues to increase, it seems there are a lot of misunderstandings as to what a photographer can do for you.
Hiring a Photographer
Individuals and companies of all types regularly call the photographers listed in the Citynet Magazine Professional Photographer Network to inquire about prices and services. Ultimately for many, the choice of whether or not to hire a photographer comes to down price. If they do choose to hire one, they must evaluate the great photos in their online portfolios and decide who they can afford. Since this is the type of thing that is rarely stated, I feel it is time to set the record straight.
Amazed at the Price!
A popular reason for many calls and emails received by photographers is to inquire about basic headshots, event photographers, model portfolio photo shoots and their respective prices. The truth is that the range of photography prices is highly variable and depends on many factors such as location (in studio versus traveling to a location) and length of time needed for a particular session.
Pricing can be as low as $50 up to $500 or higher for a portrait session alone. In my opinion, any photographer selling their services for $50 probably isn’t much of a professional, although that’s not to say that the job cannot be done properly. Still, many people are absolutely amazed at the fees associated with photography so let me explain what is involved in the process.
Your Boyfriend with His $300 Camera is Not a Professional
First of all, a professional photographer is not your boyfriend grabbing a point-and-click camera on the fly. If you want that, simply ask your boyfriend, best friend’s cousin, or grandmother to take your photos and you’re all set.
Second, a photographer’s time and experience are valuable. You’re not simply going to someone’s place of business and asking him/her to “just take a few pictures.” It does not work that way. Even if you only need one shot, it will take time to find the best angle, prepare the lighting, and possibly choose the correct outfit for that one memorable photo. A photographer will give you advice on what to wear, make-up, and so on. They have done this before and guide you as needed. That’s why professional photos look professional and the photos you took using your aunt’s camera with your closet, computer desk, wall, bed, and carpet in the background of a poorly lit photo will not look all that great.
Third, I assure you that professional photography equipment costs a lot more than your best friend’s camera. A high quality camera, specialized lenses, memory cards, digital software, tripods, umbrellas and lighting, and colorful background are professional-grade and are quite expensive. You benefit from the latest professional technology being used in the photographs, and used properly at that.
Next, the time it takes to produce your one headshot is more than the actual sitting session. It involves setting up the equipment in advance, blocking off time for the photo shoot itself, uploading the photos and going through them after the shoot, digital touch-ups to the photos chosen for printing, burning the photos onto CDs, bringing them to the photo lab, returning to the photo lab the next day to pick them up and then waiting for you to pick up your prints or mailing them to you. You may have lots of time on your hands but you should always be aware that photographers are busy running a business.
I think most would agree that that is a lot of work for a small fee, hence the great value you get from working with professional photographers. Moreover, I assure you that one of the biggest pet peeves of all photographers is people who do not show up for the photos and are too inconsiderate to call and let the photographer know that they cannot make it. Photographers don’t get paid in those circumstances (unless a small booking deposit was requested) but still took time to set up the shoot and possibly turned someone else down during that period of time because it was pre-booked.
Finally, a professional photographer does this for a living. If it were that simple, many photographers would not count on gigs to be their livelihood. Again, this is not your father lending you his camera to take a few photos. Photographers take pictures for a living and you must understand that when making inquiries about pricing.
The Cost of Photography Service
Whether you’re a model or actor in need of fresh portraits and portfolio shots, a couple looking for a professional wedding photographer, an event coordinator with a big production coming, there is always one question on your mind: How much?
Can you put a price on lifelong wedding night memories? I’d have to say no (unless you get divorced but that’s a whole other story!). The price of the photos and video might be several thousand dollars but the value is much more since you will get more benefit out of the photos than the paper the photos are printed on will cost.
Let me re-iterate the price versus value issue. The cost of a bottle of water is typically about $1 and its value to you is a dollar because that is what it is worth to you to quench your thirst. If you are walking through the desert, you may be willing to pay a lot more for that bottle of water because its value is now much higher than the cost. How does this relate to photography? Spending a few extra dollars for a photographer who takes an outstanding photo and gets you the acting role of a lifetime is worth more to you than the measly cost of the gig.
You should purchase photography services (and anything else you buy) based on value not price. That thinking can change your life, I assure you.
Stock Photography Pricing
One final point, regarding stock photography pricing. Stock photos are those that photographers amass and sell. It could include a visit to the zoo or photos of an office building. There are many websites now selling stock photos, many for as little as a dollar per photo. There is a lot to be said that goes beyond this article but essentially, keep in mind that when you purchase stock photos, it is also not just a matter buying “some guy’s pictures.” Frequently the photos took hours of the photographer’s time, from set-up to uploading to the stock photo selling website. They should be compensated accordingly.
The Digital Photography Services Price List
It’s impossible for me to tell you what to pay as there are so many different factors involved. A freelance event photographer may charge less than one who has to pay rent for a studio, for example. Most photographers have an established photography price list with varying rates which form the basis of their business. They modify them based on specific needs and ultimately it is up to you to appreciate what they do and pay for services (or not).