Why do photographers cost so much, and why should we avoid free or discounted work?
People often view us photographers as mere shutterbugs where our work only involves clicking a shutter and maybe a quick edit. However, that is not the case. When hiring anyone within a professional capacity line of work, we truly get what we pay for. As I usually always live by – quality over quantity – in many areas of life, I strongly believe this applies to my line of work as well. I have dedicated many years of my visual art skills to get to where I am today, but mainly – I have taken almost four years with my business in building it to be the best it can be of itself for my clients, including the long and at times costly process of being (and maintaining) professional accreditation.
I have grown my knowledge, skills and experience; and still do every year, as well as purchase the best quality products and also programs to make the client experience the best I can make it.
While I work full time, I also operate my business after hours. Like many of us, one job sometimes is not enough to get those bills paid, or projects completed, or perhaps – simply enjoying life instead of just living. This makes my extra time extremely valuable to me, and I take in every minute I have spare with gratefulness. Having photographed hundreds of people by now, I see everything as a valuable moment. For me, working as a special events and family photographer means all of my time is after hours – away from my family, missing out on get togethers, choosing to spend my weekends and weeknights earning money while doing what I love to create a better future for our lives. This time is valuable, as the time where families are celebrating – I am working. I love what I do, however, I also need to charge for this time to make a living, and this line of work contains much persistence, passion and dedication. We are always much more than a photographer. In respect of my fellow photographers, I wanted to let people know what we exactly do - and this is only a teeny bit of it too.
I spend much time before a session consulting with my clients, preparing their invoice and contract as well as charging and cleaning my gear, packing and then using my vehicle to head out. I then come home after the session, usually doing a quick wipe over my gear again, pack it up and lock it away. I then back up all of my files to a hard drive, then doing a second back up on the computer itself, and a third on a cloud-based system. A family session alone can take up to one hour before a session in preparation, and up to one and a half hours after in the process of backing up RAW files due to the size. I adopted this process recently of having a tri-back up system to ensure while I am editing, I cannot loose the valuable RAWS.
I then spend time usually after three months of any event/portrait session clearing out the RAWS once they are finished in editing, as they can take up quite abit of room which increases the costs by far when I run out of space via the cloud and hard drives. The only time I do not delete RAWS is if they are still being edited, or if I plan to enter the final images into an industry competition. However, the final edits for every client are kept for as long as possible, usually I keep them for two years on a cloud based service, in addition the online gallery (archived after expiry), and then a hard drive. Storage alone can cost photographers upwards of a thousand or more dollars per year.
Another major cost photographers face are the equipment costs. One lens does not do every job, and therefore – a professional photographer usually has between four and eight lenses in their suitcase to suit any area they may be asked to photograph for. For example, 35mm lens for indoor portraits in small spaces, 85mm prime lens for outdoor portraits, 24-70 lens for events with a 70-200 on a secondary camera, as well as a macro lens, tilt shift lens, and so on. For these lenses we need protection, where every lens we usually purchase UV Protectors made of high quality glass – depending on the size of the lens and quality of the glass for the protector, it can cost upwards of $150.00 - $250.00 for each lens. Then come the flashes and lighting equipment, the expensive memory cards, batteries, chargers, accessories and we also cant forget the computer equipment which requires a high RAM storage to operate our costly photo editing programs.
I have not even gotten to the programs too! Most of these are subscription services, so for me – I have Adobe Photoshop & Adobe Lightroom as my main photo editing systems, followed by my online cloud based storage for personal storage, the contract/invoicing/gallery service, form app, followed by occasional miscellaneous softwares I pay for to keep my computer free of viruses, disk clean ups and so on.
We then need insurance, which can be costly due to the high risk factor photographers have (always out and about with expensive gear), and sometimes we are sending something to the camera shop to be repaired, serviced or cleaned professionally. Small things like USBs, Print Pocket/Slips, USB Care Cards, Product Care Cards, Business Cards and miscellaneous goods every business goes through adds to the list.
Oh, we also can’t forget about that editing time too… and the pain of culling back our RAWS to take out any RAWS that are not useable (sorry blinkers!). Last year, I could spend up to eighteen hours of culling and editing (combined) on an eight to 12 hour covered day. Massive amount of time, which is also included in our pricing (although, sometimes we undercut how much time we spend on editing and culling back to the perfect amount of final edited images).
Our gear needs to be kept up to date, insured, serviced/cleaned, not to mention the long, gruelling process of buying that equipment. Learning from my early start, I bought cheaper lenses and decided the quality was not worth risking – and therefore, started the long process to replace everything only a year ago – and still in that process. The benefit; clearer, higher quality images, lighter equipment on my back – the negative impact being triple the cost, where you could literally buy a car, and that usually means high insurance costs.
We photographers sometimes put our mind and bodies through long labour and mind intensive jobs - carrying heavy equipment over time, for several hours - then sitting behind a computer for several hours. Photography is a passion, where we put our all into it as we love it so much. We love to help people, however, as everyone is needing to feed the family, or pay the bills – we are too. We are much more than a shutter clicker, as often I run to the aid of faint brides with rescue lollies and peppermint oil to help them avoid passing out (spoiler alert… I learnt from my own experience – I fainted at my sisters wedding, and then twice at my own from standing still for so long LOL).
So when it comes to anything business, we may be your friend, cousin, relative, or just simply knowing of each other – but while we sometimes want to say yes – we have to think about how a small discount, free product or service can affect hugely on our business. As it is just so much more than clicking that shutter.