One of the most popular type of messages I receive are enquiries and one of the questions most people want to know (but are always afraid to ask) is “Why are photographers so expensive?”. Having a reputation as a highly priced service, people often attempt to ‘knock you down’ to something more suitable to their budget. However most, if not all photographers aren’t doing weddings and higher price-point photoshoots every day. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. Like most independent sole traders, photographers spend huge amounts of time marketing and searching for clients and I have to admit, it’s hard not to feel slightly deflated when someone will look at the quality of your portfolio, then attempt to bring your price down. I feel, like most creative jobs, that photographers are very undervalued in what they do and that the average joe doesn’t actually realise how much work is put in for you to even notice us, never mind booking us for an event or project.
With digital business presences booming and most people turning to a laptop rather than a phonebook when they need to find a service provider; it’s no surprise that websites cost money. That’s right, you read correctly! Websites COST money and it’s fairly normal to spend hundreds, if not thousands of pounds on Website Development and hosting alone! It’s very important to understand not only the aesthetics of your website, but also the psychology and flow of your digital hub. Designing and maintaining a website alone can be a full time job and for most photographers- we take photos, we don’t build websites- so outsourcing is usually the most time-effective and efficient way of doing things.
2. Editing Hours aka “Hidden Hours”
One of the most frustrating things for me personally, is when people take photographers at face value. People assume that your job is to “click a button” and that your camera does most of the work. In reality photographers, including myself, spend hours editing photoshoots, especially when it comes to something important… like the biggest day of your life. Reviewing and sorting your images can take a couple of hours alone, then to select the best of the best and take them into programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom, can take a few hours alone. Obviously every photographer has their own unique style which is one of the reasons I love my job, but to manipulate and enhance an image to a point where we are proud and happy with the quality of our work can take at least half an hour per photo.. and say you’re “only getting 50 wedding photos”.. well that’s over 25 hours work right there (give or take time, as each image is different). Working 9 – 5 every day, with no breaks.. that’s over 3 days work of grinding away on your computer.
I think it’s easy to justify how much you spend on a haircut, or a new boiler- because you can see the process and you’re present at all times. But when you hire a professional photographer, I guess you only really see around 20% of the process, the rest are what I like to call, “hidden hours”.
Now this isn’t really much of an issue for me because I’m a sole trader- obviously I am working for myself- so legally, there is only me working under Ross Andrew Photography. Say you work for a Photography agency, it might make more sense. When a company is trading, you’ve created a business identity. To maintain that business identity and to keep the business afloat, there are many fixed and variable costs that must be paid to keep the business title. For instance, website hosting, insurance and tax must be paid. Equipment, uniforms and advertising must be continuously upgraded, and these things all cost money. After the time spent editing and marketing yourself to gain clients, it’s important that the Photographer is making enough money to at breakeven (at least!). Even though I love my job and I am incredibly passionate about the quality of my work, I won’t be able to call myself a “Freelance Photographer” if there’s no money coming in. Which I guess is the bottom line. Photographers need to make enough money to maintain the business, as well as make a living.
4. Equipment & Start up fees
Even though I have mentioned equipment previously, and though most people appreciate that cameras aren’t cheap, I wanted to just highlight that if you want to have a serious chance in making a living out of taking photos, you need to have professional equipment. High quality, professional level cameras can start at £1,500 for the body alone (that means, with no lenses). Equipment doesn’t just stop at the cameras, oh no! Lenses, flash units, reflectors and lights are all pieces of kit that many photographers would call necessities. I like to describe equipment to my friends like I would a car; yes they’re expensive and it would be incredible to have the new Ferrari, there will always be a car- more expensive, faster and more modern than your own. But I guess the best thing to do is work with what you have until you can afford to upgrade. I didn’t blink and one day have an expensive camera and all of my lights- I spent years saving and working my ass of to buy new things. Most people overlook the fact that starting a career in photography can be very expensive. Any serious photographer would also invest in recurring paid programs such as Adobe Photoshop to develop their images, which again are monthly or annual payments.. another cost that people don’t factor into account when looking at photographer’s prices.
As previously mentioned, most of a Freelance Photographer’s time is spent attempting to reach out to clients and get their name out their for potential business. Though I’m all for the Digital Marketing movement, this can still cost the same as more traditional methods such as newspaper or radio adverts. Big names such as Google and Facebook are great for pushing your name to target-audiences, but of course they charge a nice little profit to have your Sponsored links appear on your target client’s newsfeeds. Think of marketing as a baby gazelle: if you have a good relationship it will grow nicely along side your business.. but you need to keep it well and nurtured to keep it jumping higher than the rest of the heard and for your business to reap the benefits.
Photography can be expensive on both sides; client and photographer. But I am a strong believer in high quality work, especially when it comes to a project or event such as a wedding; where the quality of the once-in-a-lifetime moment will forever be important. We spend thousands of pounds on marketing and equipment, and often spend hundreds of hours editing. It’s easy to look at a photographers online portfolio or price list and imagine us all driving around in incredible cars, and living in massive houses.. pressing buttons to make money. When in reality, most of our money goes on expenses- and in our spare time we’re probably editing images anyway.
I hope this blog post was interesting for those of you who don’t know much about the photography industry. I am in no way saying I do not enjoy my job, in fact, I love what I do- I would just love for more people to be able to appreciate the time and effort photographers spend on their profession.
I hope you’re all having a good week, feel free to drop me a comment with your thoughts,