Why Do Photographers Charge So Much?

January 16, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

One question that photographers often face is “Why do you charge so much?”  In reality, most photographers don’t command an hourly rate much higher than that of a plumber, electrician, or HVAC contractor.  And the plumber, electrician, and HVAC contractor has the luxury of coming back if they don’t get it right the first time.  That is often not an option for photographers, especially in the case of weddings or group portraits taken at family reunions.  That “hourly rate” can often be misleading as for every hour you see your photographer peering through the lens of his or her camera, he or she will spend more than twice that much time in preparation and post processing.  Let’s look at a typical scenario for a simple portrait shoot.

  • 10 to 15 minutes for the initial phone consultation
  • 1 hour (or more) for an “in person” consultation.  GOOD photographers want to meet their subjects face to face before they show up to shoot.  If they are shooting in the client’s home or office, it’s important to get the “lay of the land” so to speak.
  • 10 to 30 minutes checking gear and testing.
  • 2 hours for the actual portrait session.
  • 1 hour to upload and cull the images.
  • 30 minutes backing up the images
  • 1 to 2 hours in editing, retouching, and enhancing
  • 30 minutes preparing for the sales session.
  • 1 hour for the sales session.
  • 30 minutes preparing images for the lab and the ever-present bookkeeping.

By the time it’s all said and done, the photographer has put in a considerable amount of time that comes out of the fee for the 2 hour shoot. 

Consider the experience factor.  Professional photographers generally have years, if not decades, of experience under their belts, and an eye that can immediately discern and remedy problems that might result in a bad photograph.

Also consider the cost of the equipment involved.  Cameras, lighting, reflectors, filters are all quite expensive and have a finite life span, especially when used commercially.  Now days, we also have to factor in the price of computers and software as well.  Picasa may be fine for your snapshots, but professional photographers use programs such as Adobe Photoshop that cost hundreds of dollars.  It should also be noted that programs like Photoshop don’t run very well on lower end computers.  Plus there is the cost of redundant storage of images.  Remember, when a professional photographer takes your photo, he or she will archive that image forever.

Then of course, there is the cost of doing business, which seems to go up every year.  Licensing, insurance, transportation, bookkeeping… it all adds up.

All in all, a professional photographer is a bargain, especially when you think about the fact that what you receive will last a lifetime: photographs of cherished memories.


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