If you talk to many professional photographers, you will get considerably different stories when it comes to professional photography prices and services. With so many new digital photographers in the marketplace, there can be a lot of confusion regarding what a true professional photographer is and what they can do for you.
People call photographers all the time to ask questions about prices. In all too many cases, hiring a photographer comes to down price. Potential customers look at sample photo galleries online to decide what level of photographer falls into their budget.
Many calls and emails we receive regarding professional photographers are asking about event photographers, wedding photographers, senior portraits and family portrait prices. There are so many variables that go into a shoot such as location, the travel involved to get to a photo shoot and the length of the shoot itself.
“Professional Photographers” can have prices as low as $50 for senior portraits or $5000 or more for a wedding photographer. The “cheap photographer” may not be the best bet because someone working for $50 probably isn’t a true professional photographer. Many of our customers are really confused by the prices associated with photography so I have tried to shed some light on the subject here.
Your buddy with his $500 Camera is Not a Professional Photographer
A professional photographer is not your neighbor who has made a trip to the camera store and bought what they think is the latest and greatest DSLR camera. Even if they have the best professional photographer’s camera, that does not make them a professional photographer. If you decide to go that route, you may regret that decision and you can’t re-shoot a wedding and senior portraits are images you will have for a lifetime.
Using an experienced photographer is the best way to go. Also, keep in mind that there is time involved. Even if you only need one shot, it will take time to find the best shot, ensure the best lighting and in the case of senior portrait photographers, wait for the subject to change outfits.
Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of professional photographers’ equipment. Good companies only use high quality DSLR cameras, specialized lenses, professional memory cards, and lighting along with the customized software for image processing. Professional photographers’ customers benefit from the latest professional technology being used in the photographs.
Something else that falls under the time umbrella is the time it takes to produce the image. Some things that go into a photo shoot are; setting up the equipment in advance, downloading the photos and going through them after the shoot, digital touch-ups to the photos, deciding which photos are best for prints, burning the photos onto DVDs or CDs, sending them to the lab, and many, many more things.
I think most would agree that there is a great value you get from working with professional event, school, youth sports, senior portrait and wedding photographers.
Keep in mind that true professional photographers shoot for a living. Photographers should be trained professionals who then go through specific training and shoot methodology before they are able to work for a studio.
The Cost of Photography Services
Whether you’re a Marine Corps Unit looking for a Marine Corps Ball photographers, a senior looking for senior portraits, a couple looking for a professional wedding photographer, the big question is always: How much is a professional photographer going to cost me?
There are a few things to ask yourself when choosing a professional wedding photographer. Is there a price value on your wedding night memories? Most customers say no. What about senior portrait prices? Senior portraits are another important part of a person’s life, signifying moving from one chapter of their life to another. Isn’t it worth paying a bit more to hire a true professional senior portrait photographer to know you will have great photos to cherish for a lifetime? The price of the photos could range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars depending on the photographer but the value sometimes cannot be measured.
When choosing a professional photographer for your photography services it is best to make your decision based on value, not just the cheapest price. Think of it like you would consider any other important purchasing decision.
Pricing for Event Photography
Something to think about when considering event photographers is event photography pricing. Event photography covers a wide range of photography services, thus the pricing for event photography services will vary depending on the type of event. Many event photographers charge Marine Corps Units just to come out to do their Marine Corps Ball photography. In 99% of the cases, good companies do not charge the Unit to come out for their Marine Corps Ball. They make money when Marines and guest make purchases. In most cases, good companies actually donate fundraisers to the Marines to help with the costs associated with their Ball.
With event photography for corporate parties, there are many different pricing models that come into play. Many companies hire a photographer for a flat fee based upon the number of people at the event. In some cases, companies pay for a specific number of photos in advance. One customer knew they were going to have 100 couples at their event and paid us up front for 1 5×7 for each couple and allowed them to purchase more if they wished.
When considering an event photographer, think about if you want on-site printing or prefer to have the photos shipped directly to the customers. All of these things play a significant role in the cost for your event photographer.
Why on earth do most Wedding Photographers Prices vary so much?
With most photographers, once you throw the words “wedding photographer,” prices go through the roof. The reality is there are a vast majority of wedding photographers whose prices are extremely high. As a matter of fact, Wedding photography in general can seem overpriced at times. You may Google “Wedding Photographers” and find the website of a photographer whose work impresses you…until you see their price. Then if you even think about keeping the original images, or negatives, the prices can be insane. That is why good studios now have “Keep Your Image Pricing” for senior portrait and wedding photography. Digital photography has revolutionized the industry and many of the wedding photographers out there haven’t come along for the ride.
A good, ethical photographer’s goal should not be to just part you from your money! Professional photographs are a wonderful way to capture your memories. Choosing the right photographer is important and the photos they take can be priceless.
You should never be pressured into paying more than you can afford to pay for wedding pictures, but you shouldn’t assume they are a rip-off or some sort of scam. After the guests are gone, the gifts are opened and the honeymoon is over, aside from your marriage, your photos are what you have left. Good professional photographers will provide you with photos worthy of becoming part of your family’s history. To learn more about our wedding photography service visit our wedding page.
Photographers do a lot more than just showing up and taking pictures. Below is a list of just a few things that are relevant to ALL professional photographers.
Expenses Incurred by Most Professional Photographers
Advertising – While it is nice to get referrals from existing customers, typically that don’t bring in enough revenue to support a sustainable business. Advertising is expensive. Web advertising can range from $100 per month for a small photographer, up to a few thousand dollars a month for a larger photography company. Other advertising costs include print ads, ads on event planning websites and Google AdWords and other pay-per-click advertising. At any rate, you can be assured that 99% of professional photographers spend a considerable amount on advertising which has to be paid for.
Taxes – Just like anyone else, photographers pay taxes on their income. Not only do they pay income tax, they also have to pay sales tax. For school photographers, event photographers and youth sports photographers it is really cut and dry, you pay sales tax based upon the tax rate for the area in which you shoot. For our studio, that is Temecula, the Inland Empire, Riverside County, Orange County and San Diego County, basically all of Southern California. That takes an average of 8.75% of their fee right off the top of the sales amount. In some cases, in many areas of the country, California included, wedding photographers are required to pay sales tax even if they are charging a flat fee for their service. Many photographers think that sales tax doesn’t apply to “photography services”, like wedding photography or event photography where they get paid a flat amount. In most cases they are wrong and can run into trouble with the government if they do not comply.
I personally know of a case where a San Diego event photographer did many of her events for a flat fee and thought she didn’t have to pay sales tax. When she was audited, she had to pay sales tax for a considerable amount of her previous events, which nearly put her out of business. Think about that when you are considering a photographers price, as much as 40% in some cases could be being paid in taxes! So if you are paying someone $1000 fee, as much as $400 of it could be going to the government.
Equipment – Professional grade, DSLR camera bodies cost as much as $5,000. Lenses are typically more of a cost for a photographer because they need many of them to get the right shot. There are special lenses for portrait photography, event photography and all sorts of specialty lenses that photographers carry in their bag to make sure they have most potential shots covered. Professional photographers’ lenses can EASILY cost $1,000 or more. Some lenses can cost as much as $5000 or more depending on the type of photography they are designed for. Professional sports photographers’ lenses are a small fortune.
This equipment wears down just like any other piece of electronics (that is what they are these days, electronics). High volume photographers can wear out cameras in a couple of years. The average life of a camera is 100,000 to 150,000 shots. At a large studio, just in youth sports photography and school photography business, studios may photograph as many as 50,000 kids per year. At 2-3 shots per child, you can see how fast that can break down equipment. With wedding photographers it isn’t quite that bad, but a wedding might have as many as 3000 shots taken, which can still add up quickly. Add to all of that thousands of dollars in lights, flashes, tripods, camera bags, memory cards, batteries and the hundreds of other miscellanies items that professional photographers need and you start to get an idea of how expensive being a professional photographer can be.
Insurance – For sports and school photographers, liability insurance is a must. It is recommended that these types of photographers carry at least 2 million dollars in liability insurance. Equipment insurance is even more expensive. A large photography company could have $100,000 worth of equipment or more, which is a few thousand dollars per year to insure.
Other costs that effect photographers pricing
Sales and Prospecting – For school photographers and school photographers, the vast majority of their time is spent is sales, marketing and prospecting. This involves a lot of time. Just finding prospects that they can market to takes hours out of every day. Once a prospect is found, time is then spent trying to make contact and set a meeting to present their products and services. Driving to the meeting and meeting with customers can take an entire day. For wedding photographers, time is spent with the customer before the wedding then again after the wedding showing the finished products. If you add to that a custom wedding album, you can see that the majority of professional photographers’ time is spent doing everything but taking pictures.
After a shoot, many photographers hours editing, color correcting and touching up images. For youth sports and school photographers, there will be HOURS of data entry of the customers’ orders. Unlike photographers who only shoot weddings or senior portraits who typically deal with 1 customer at a time, youth sports and school photographers deal with thousands of customers a month in many cases. Additionally, youth sports and school photographers have multiple “layers” of customer interaction. For youth sports photographers, their main customer is the league or organization, who makes the decision on which photographer to choose, but the customers who make the purchases are the parents in the league. A good studio will also assign a dedicated customer manager to each league or school to make sure they have everything they need to make sure their picture day is a success.
Talent– True professional photographers are artists. Anyone can learn the ins-and-outs of a camera and memorize all of its functions. Professional photographers have a “photographer’s eye”, which enables them to see the right shot and take it. Really good images aren’t just properly exposed, they are something to remember.
We hope this article helped shed a little light on the things to consider when comparing photographers’ pricing.