Is a Professional Photographer worth the money?
“A CAMERA DOESN’T TAKE A GREAT PICTURE ANYMORE THAN A TYPEWRITER WROTE A GREAT NOVEL.”
~ PETER ADAMS
"The added attention and quality that a professional photographer gives, is worth every penny; your portraits will be admired by your family for generations to come - worth hiring a professional?
We think so to...."
In this digital age where everyone has DSLR cameras, mobile phones with cameras, scanners, and home “photo printers,” we hear this all the time:
“How do professional photographers charge so much for an 8×10 when they cost much less online?”
The customer is not just paying for the actual photograph;
They’re paying for their time, expertise and the investment that the photographer has put into their business to create a successful company.
We have undertaken, at huge expense, years of personal one to one training by some of the photographic industry's finest photographers; these include location and studio lighting specialists, business mentors and also specialists in posing women, men, newborns, children and families. Training never ends and we continually refresh and revitalise our creative skills. All of this has cost thousands of pounds but is worth every penny.
Here are a few of the jobs required for the average custom portrait session and the costs soon mounts up:
Photographers time - “time is money” true for all businesses.
16-18 hours for a 2-4 hour portrait package may sound unbelievable but here is a list of some of the tasks required;
- Phone calls, emails and Pre-consultation via Skype or FaceTime.
- Equipment preparation and cleaning.
- Make up and hair styling for two - advice and the pamper session.
- The portrait session - 2-4 hours
- Download cards and create back ups.
- Choosing selects/culling.
- Retouching and enhancing images
- Prepare image files for client viewing.
- Review and Order session at studio
- Design album/wall art/collections.
- Prepare images for print, upload and order with pro lab.
- Create client gallery online and send links and passwords.
- Receive and review prints, album, wall art from lab on return to studio.
- Package ready for client pick up or arrange courier, archive images and back up again.
So, we have looked at the photographers time and not even considered the time allocated for marketing the business or accounting activities, handling follow up calls and enquiries.
Now lets look at running costs and other variables:
- Telephone, mobile and Broadband costs.
- Equipment insurance, Public Liability & Professional Indemnity.
- Costs of studio/premises, electricity, rent, buildings overheads.
- Accountants fees.
- Public Relations and Marketing costs (print material, email marketing, social media).
- Cost of goods, high quality Boutique products.
- Cost of purchasing and contingency for replacement every 3 years of camera bodies, lighting, generators computers and external RIAD drives for archiving.
- Depreciation and cost of purchase for high end lighting equipment, professional cameras, L series lenses, light modifiers, backdrops, props, Apple iMacs, iPads, external RAID hard drives for backups and archiving.
- Cost of software subscriptions, Creative Cloud memberships and professional associations.
- Website design and updates, cost of web hosting and website protection to comply with EU laws.
- Ohh yes, not forgetting the photographers salary.
This is just scraping the surface of the costs involved but you get the picture.
So, you can see how a one-hour session easily turns into an eight-hour day or more from start to finish. So when you see a photographer charging a £150 session fee to hire/commission them for a one-hour photo shoot, the client is not paying them £150 per hour.
And don't forget the products you order are not free...
Ordering via your photographer's chosen professional print lab will ensure your wall art and albums are true to colour and printed with inks that stand the test of time.
Professional studios also invest in examples of their products to show you, which are not free either.
Offering a professional photography service is a skill acquired through years of experience and training. Even though an entry level DSLR now costs under £500, taking professional portraits involves much more than just a nice camera.
So what are the real costs a professional photographer has to allow for, in the normal running of a successful business?
In addition to the financial investment, photographers actually have to have people skills to make subjects comfortable in front of the camera. Posing people to look their best is a skill by itself.
For example, posing a woman who is not a professional model, requires a great deal of knowledge, confidence and proficiency, which takes years to learn and implement. You could argue that posing is a more important skill than actually knowing how to use the camera. Lighting your subject is just as important, photographers use different lighting techniques for a range of styles of portraiture. So much training goes into learning how to light people. Lighting a woman for beauty, will be different to lighting children or families. A poorly exposed photo can be saved, but a badly posed or lit photo cannot.
Sadly, we often hear horror stories from our clients about voucher sites and photography. Vouchers and coupons, offering discounts and savings have their place, but only if pricing is transparent and there are no huge hidden costs. Customers should know what they cover, so they don't leave feeling that they've been held to ransom and ripped off. Not good customer service at all... Beware the deal that is too good to be true...
The high volume studio business model, also has it’s place. For a very cheap price you can run in, shoot some quick photos, and be done with it.
But you get what you pay for…
Professional Photographers are just that— professional. A personal photographer often becomes a friend, someone who documents a family for generations with professional, personal photographs of cherished memories and documents your life with images.
Maybe we need to help clients look at it this way:
A pair of scissors costs £1.50 at the supermarket. Still, most people will gladly pay a lot more to hire a professional hair stylist to style their hair.