The Average One-Hour Portrait Session
First, lets look at the actual work involved:
Travel to the session
Setup, preparation, talking to the client, etc.
Shoot the photos
Travel from the session
Load images onto a computer
Backup the files on an external drive
2-4 hours of Adobe Photoshop time, including cropping, contrast, color, sharpening, and backing up edited photographs.
2-3 hours to talk to the client, answer questions, receive order and payment, order their prints, receive and verify prints, package prints, schedule shipment, and ship.
Possibly meet clients at the studio to review photos and place order. Meeting and travel time average 2 hours.
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 professional photographer charging a $200 session fee for a one-hour photo shoot, the client is NOT paying them $200 per hour.
The Expertise and Cost of Doing Business
Shooting professional photography is a skill acquired through years of experience. Even though a DSLR now costs under $1,000, taking professional portraits involves much more than a nice camera.
Most personal photographers take years to go from buying their first camera to making money with photography. In addition to learning how to use the camera, there is a mountain of other equipment and software programs used to edit and print photographs, run a website, etc. And don’t forget backdrops, props, rent, utilities, insurance, etc!
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. You could argue that posing is a more important skill than actually knowing how to use the camera. A poorly exposed photo can be saved, but a badly posed photo cannot.
The Chain Store Photo Studio
Chain stores do have their place. For a very cheap price you can run it, shoot some quick photos, and be done with it. But you get what you pay for.
Consider the time and effort that a personal photographer puts into photographs, compared to a chain store. Store sessions last just a few minutes, while a professional photographer takes the time to get to know the people, makes them comfortable, makes them laugh. If a baby is crying at a chain store, they often don’t have the time (or patience) to wait because everyone is in a hurry.
The truth is that many chain store studios lose money. In fact, Wal-Mart closed 500 of their portrait studios in 2007 because of the financial drain. What chain stores bank on is a client coming in for quick, cheap photos….and while there, spending $200 on other items. They are there to get you in the door.
The Real Deal
Professional, personal photographers are just that – professionals. No different than a mechanic, dentist, doctor, or electrician. But a personal photographer often becomes a friend, someone who documents a family for generations with profession, personal photographs of cherished memories.
Maybe we need to help clients look at it this way: A pair of scissors cost $1.50 at the drugstore. Still, most people will gladly pay a lot more to hire a professional hair dresser to cut their hair.
The added attention and quality that a personal photographer gives is worth every penny.
We hope that those who have taken the time to read this page will have a better understanding of why professional photographs, created by a Personal Photographer are so expensive.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.