I met with a fellow photographer friend the other day. She was feeling discouraged and fed up. She said "I'm just so sick of having to justify my pricing to potential clients. I'm fed up with every time someone posts on one of the local area Facebook groups, searching for a photographer, dozens of people mention random friends who happen to have a camera (or make photography, a hobby). Everybody is a "photographer". I was surprised by this outburst from this peer because she is the one who rejuvenated me after I had become discouraged and left the photography world for a few years. She is the one who encouraged me to raise my prices and get back out there. She had given me hope and made me realize that my work is of good quality. My work is consistent and my clients know what to expect from me. I put more into my post-processing than most photographers I know because I am a perfectionist and my own worst critic. I go above and beyond and bend over backward for almost anybody. So...with these revelations came a sense of calm. Of peace with myself as a professional photographer. I have to admit though, that lately, I've been feeling just as discouraged as she.
Did you know that 7 out of 10 inquiries are from people who feel our prices are too high? Or they condescendingly want to know what to expect for the money we are asking? Do you go to your stylist and demand to know why she is charging as much as she does? And for that matter, why are you willing to pay $150 or more for highlights that may only last 6 weeks and yet, you're unwilling to pay somebody $200 to capture lasting memories of your children? Why are you okay with spending $5 on an overpriced cup of coffee yet unwilling to pay decent money for beautiful art featuring your babies or of your special day?
I hold this dear to my heart. Photography is a LUXURY item. And with that being said, there are different levels or tiers to choose from in the "luxury" department. Again, for you coffee drinkers, there is cheap coffee or higher end espresso or organic, fair trade you may brew at home and then there is your overpriced Drive-Through and other coffee shops. For the lover of nail and haircare, there are the chain salons, cheap nail salons and then there are the pricier salons and independent stylists. There's almost always a moderately priced luxury brand or item. I'd say 60% of local photographers land somewhere in the moderate level. We're not here to steal your money, we're here to make a living too.
Professional Photographers are business owners. We have business expenses like any other business owner. We pay taxes, pay for insurance, equipment, props, internet, phones, ongoing education, software, advertising fees, etc. etc. Not only do we have overhead but we have spent countless hours educating ourselves, thousands on formal education and shed tears and sweat to make our dreams come true. Yes, we enjoy our jobs but photography isn't just a hobby for us. We are trying to survive just like the rest of you. When you pay a photographer $200 for a 1-2 hour sitting, you aren't paying someone $100/hr. There are close to 10 hours of work involved in the average portrait sitting. Don't believe me? Before your session, most photographers spend about 30 minutes to an hour setting up your session. If your session is on-location, there is 1-2 hours travel time (not to mention gas, etc). After your session, it takes anywhere from 2-5 hours to edit your images plus save onto multiple external hard drives (to ensure your images are safely saved). Another hour or so to upload into an online gallery and then subsequent phone calls and in-person consultations once the images are ready. I've even been known to edit photos on my laptop during road trips and vacations with my family. Often times, we are actually making less than we could at a lower paying job. We do this not only because our schedules can be flexible but because we so enjoy what we do. It's a sad day when we are made to feel as if we shouldn't be making a living off our talent and hard work.
With all that being said, we understand that a potential client may not be able to afford our services. But rather than dismissing our services as too pricy and then sacrificing quality and customer service for the hobbyist photographer who charges only $50 per session, why don't you instead ask your first choice photographer what they are willing to do to work within your budget. Sometimes we offer payment plans. Sometimes, we have upcoming specials or have other options that may suit your needs. And sometimes, you may be surprised to find out that even though our prices may be higher, you will be so much happier with the outcome that it was worth the extra money spent.
And next time you're wanting to scoff at the photographer on the other end of the phone, ask yourself if you do the same to your stylist when a pair of scissors only cost a few bucks. You're paying for his or her talent, skill and reputation.
This post wasn't intended to shame or ridicule, merely to inform and educate. Please remember, we are merely trying to do our jobs and want to do something that makes us happy. We typically want nothing more than to make you happy as well. ;)