As a photographer I hear time and time again that photography is much too expensive. Photography from the photographer’s end is expensive, and is filled with hidden costs and long hours behind the scenes. In this article I’ll talk about the biggest factors that make photography expensive.
Photos are Irreplaceable
Whether we realize it or not, photographs are some of our most cherished possessions. According to a survey by the ABI, photos are amongst the things people would save first in the event of a house fire. Photos become more valuable with age too. You might not think much of your photos now, but I’m sure you clutch the pictures of your parents and grandparents much closer. The photos taken today will eventually become just as meaningful to your children and grandchildren. Wedding albums from your parents and grandparents are worth their weight in gold and are passed down generations. Photos of the ones we love are immensely valuable. They work as a time capsule, forever preserving family members that are no longer with us. The biggest reason why photography is expensive is because of the value you get from it. On an emotional level, photos are something that you simply cannot replace.
Knowledge, Education, Experience
A lot of photographers (myself included) have gone to college for photography and continue their education throughout their career. Taking photos is simple; taking great photos is very difficult. No matter how good the camera, it’s not as easy as pushing the button and letting it do the math for you. Developing a style and doing good work takes years. Every situation a photographer encounters comes with a new set of circumstances and challenges to face. It takes knowledge and experience to get good photos in near black reception halls with DJ’s laser lights shooting all over the room. A more knowledgeable photographer is someone who can work in more extreme circumstances and still produce amazing work.
Photography is very much a you-get-what-you-pay-for kind of industry. Unfortunately there are no organizations regulating the photography industry. There are no private or government entities that require certification proving a photographer is knowledgeable enough to work professionally. Anyone can buy a camera and start charging for pictures. The barrier for entry in the industry is very low, which means that there are plenty of inexpensive photographers, but not a lot of good work. If you hire a cheap photographer you’ll more than likely get cheap work.
Photography is full of work that the clients never see. Traveling, communication, archiving and backing up photos, and more than anything else, editing takes time. While a wedding package might cover 8 hours of actual photography, editing a full days worth of wedding photos can take 15 to 20 hours. Sure, you can ask “why bother editing them then? Shouldn’t they look perfect right out of the camera?” But for most photographers, their editing is a big part of their style and what makes their photos recognizable. Most photographers won’t give you unedited photos even upon request. It’d be like a chef serving you an uncooked steak. On top of that, uploading and exporting photos, designing albums, and client communication all take hours. Even short photo shoots like high school senior portrait or engagement sessions take more time behind the scenes than actually taking pictures. Photographers don’t get paid for working a traditional 40-hour workweek either. During the winter months we may only have a handful of photo shoots. Most photographers make the majority of their yearly income during the fall, or even during the span of a single month.
Professional photographers offer superior products when compared to amateurs and what consumers have access to. The best printing companies out there require proof that you are in fact a professional photographer before they will sell their products to you. Any photographer worth his salt will also take into account the materials used to print their photos. Cheap photo paper will age and yellow over time. Archival prints are a cut above and will last a hundred years or more. We want you and the generations that follow to be able to enjoy your pictures.
Business Expenses and Cost of Living
Like any other business, photographers have mouths to feed and bills to pay. On top of that there are business expenses such as studio rent, advertising, new equipment, website maintenance, continuing education, and taxes to name a few. With all of those expenses in mind, we still have to turn a profit.
Camera and Lighting Equipment
This one will be short because it is the most talked about. Photography gear is really, really expensive. For wedding photographers it’s important to have two or more of certain pieces of gear. Most photographers also have their gear insured along with business liability insurance. Here is a very short list of kit and what they cost.
Canon 5D MKIII – $2,500
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 – $2,500
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art – $950
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art – $900
Elinchrom Ranger RX – $3,000
iMac – $2,700
This is a narrow view of what goes into a photography business and what makes photography so expensive. The gear costs a fortune and there can be a lot of business overhead, but the photos you’ll get for the price are irreplaceable and will bring you and your family so much joy. I hope you found the information hear enlightening and it gave you a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes!