Why Does Professional Photography Cost So Much?
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
As my first day on a production set rolled to an end, my mentor and I loaded up the SUV and headed home. A few minutes into our short trip she turned to me and said, "Today was a success! We for sure got 15 shots." Young and inexperienced, this first-time photo assistant didn't have a clue what she has just uttered. A few minutes later, my brain put the pieces together, and I was shocked! I thought to myself, "We had worked all day capturing thousands of images, and this lady only gets 15? What a rip-off!" It wouldn't take me long to learn exactly why professional services like photography and media production have the sticker price they do.
I say this to sympathize with my clients who genuinely don't understand the cost of professional photography. Although I know what goes into crafting commercial imagery, most of my clients do not. Few have seen a professional media production set and almost none have witnessed the work behind the scenes.
Since I spend a lot of time educating my clients on the value of professional photography, I have gathered a shortlist of the top reasons why working with a true professional is worth the extra cash.
5 Reasons Why Professional Photography Cost What It Does For Only "A Few Images"
1. Every Photo Should Be Different
Many photographers will deliver a client 100-150 images from a 30-minute session. I don't know about you, but I don't even want to look through that many photos. Every delivered image from a session should be different. Whether it be the expression, pose, lighting, or wardrobe, each image should be unique. If you are truly working with a professional, this is why their pricing might seem high for so few photos. A true professional only sells the number of "deliverable images" captured in a set time frame. With my workflow, I can capture 5 unique, deliverable images per hour.
2. Edited Images Cost More
You may hear many "photographers" talk about Lightroom presets or filters. Although these are useful for processing thousands of images, this is not editing. Lightroom and filters only enhance tones, accuracy of colors, and exposure for images. Editing is the use of a tool like Photoshop to touch up flyaway hairs, skin imperfections, yellowed teeth, and other distractions. A cheaper photographer is cheap because they do not have professional skills to edit images, they can only color grade photos. When you pay for a true professional, you get edited photos. Want a magazine ready shot like the one on the right? Your images will need to be professionally edited in order to reach their full potential.
3. Equipment Required
Professional photographers use a lot of equipment. Many times I show up on location to hear a client say, "Wow! Our last photographer only brought a camera." I respond, "They were not a professional!" In order to craft one MCC quality image, we use an average of 10 thousand dollars worth of equipment! Cameras, lenses, strobes, modifiers, scrims, reflectors, backdrops, neutral density filters, and editing software are just a fraction of the many things required on almost every shoot. When you hire a true professional, you get production quality images without the cost of a production set. I use the setup above to craft professional headshots of a single subject. I only charge $250 to craft your image with over 12 thousand dollars worth of equipment. That sounds like a deal to me! We cover the cost of buying the latest and greatest equipment so you don't have to.
4. Type of Images
Not every shot is created equal. No pun intended. Every image has an intended audience and purpose. If the audience is your family or friends, your images might not require a production set and team, but if potential customers or magazine subscribers are your audience, your images might need the extra pizazz. Simply put, more cost more. A natural light setup will cost less and take less time. A production set using strobe lighting and modifiers will cost more and take more time.
This beautiful image on the right was crafted with strobe lighting and the help of an entire production team. When pricing professional photography, make sure your budget reflects your message and intended audience.
5. Experience of the Photographer
Although I am still a young gun in my field, I have had the opportunity to work alongside industry leaders day after day. My rates are currently nowhere near those of my amazing mentor, but they do not reflect those of an amateur either. A true professional has taken the time to learn their craft to the best of their ability and have all the tools needed to produce their highest quality work. Every creative is at a different point in their journey, and that has a direct correlation to what they can charge. There is a photographer for every budget, but all are not equally skilled.