Why Professional Photography Is An Investment

In this digital age where everyone has digital cameras, scanners and home “photo printers”, when people upload their photos to a local drug store website and pick them up a few hours later, we hear this all the time – How in the world do Professional Photographers charge $25 for an 8×10 when they cost just $5.50 at the drug store?

Here’s why.

Simply put, you’re not just paying for the actual physical photograph, you’re paying for time and expertise, the education, the equipment it takes to capture the image in the first place, the computer equipment to ensure it is the best it can be, and the professional lab that a professional photographer uses. First, let’s look at the actual time involved.

If you don’t read this entire page, at least read this first part.

For a basic two hour portrait session on location:

– one hour of travel to and from the session

– two hours of shooting

– 30 minutes of setup, preparation, preparing the client etc.

– 30 minutes to load the photos onto a computer (2 – 4 Gb of data)

– 30 minutes to back up the files on an external drive

– 3 – 4 hours of Photoshop time including cropping, contrast, color, sharpening, saving a copy for print and a copy for the internet and backing up the edited photographs

– 2 – 3 hours to communicate, answer questions, receive their order and payment, order their prints, receive and verify prints, package prints, schedule shipment and drop package off at UPS.

-Time spent on phone calls emails, communications, discussions on product types and special requests. The creation of specific crops, collages, proper resizing for specific products, canvas, metal prints, book designs, and more.

You can see how one two hour session easily turns into more than ten hours of work from start to finish. So when you see a Photographer charging a $300 session fee for a two hour photo shoot, you are not paying them $150 / hour. And that is just spreading the fee over the many hours spent in travel, shooting, post processing. It does not cover the expense of web galleries, professional products and product building and creation, additional editing times, etc. And, don’t forget, professional photographers do not use Wal-mart, so their cost for an 8X10 is not consumer prices either. In fact, many times, when the photographer pencils out the hours, costs, wear on equipment, etc…they are making slightly above minimum wage.

That is just for a small normal portrait session on an ideal outdoor location. Many times, there is not an ideal outdoor location. And if it’s an in-studio session, there is the specific lighting equipment, building overhead, backdrops and props that are involved.

Imagine just the TIME invested in your wedding. That’s not taking into account the professional level prints (there is a HUGE difference between a local one hour lab and a professional lab working specifically with a photographer and their color specifications, textures, mounting, protective sprays and more. And there is the graphics artists back in the studio, who is working to ensure your images are the absolute artistic best they can be. And, if the photographer handles that part of the business as well, that’s additional hours for him or her to work after studio hours are closed. And the computers and programs it takes to ensure that the best technology is at hand to work with your images.

– I won’t bore you with the details, but a eight hour wedding – outdoors – typically amounts to at least two to three full 40 hour work weeks worth of time. A quickie shoot and burn amateur service just doesn’t provide you with the professional attention and detail let alone professionally printed prints, albums and other products you deserve for your wedding day.

Now for the expertise.

Shooting professional photography is a skill, acquired through years of experience. Even though a low end professional camera now costs around $3,500, taking professional portraits involves much more than a “nice” camera.

Most Professional Photographers take years to go from buying their first decent camera to making money with their photography. In addition to learning how to use the camera itself, there is a mountain of other equipment involved, as well as numerous software programs used to edit and print photographs, run a website etc. And equipment and programs fail. Computers have to be replaced and upgraded to continue to provide the top quality products and

images expected and deserved.

And let’s not forget that you actually have to have people skills, be able to communicate, make people comfortable in front of the camera – and posing people to make them look their best in a photograph is a skill all by itself. And, the ability to help you actually ENJOY your wedding photography! If you’re enjoying yourself, it shows in the images!

And, honestly, there may be a person or two in a wedding party who might make the photographer’s day a bit more … stressful …than it needs to be as they do everything to focus on capturing the proper moments. There is frequently friend of someone at the wedding who is busy distracting subjects with their little camera. Someone who just doesn’t like the photographer for whatever reason…the color of the shirt they are wearing, or one of my all time favorites.. “I just don’t like the photographer’s orange hair…” (Sorry babe! But’s a cool shade of red! LOL) Trust me, that just made my day! LOL There can be someone who might have imbibed a bit much at some point of the day and thinks that bugging the photographer as they work is fun. And sometimes, there are individuals to be photographed who just don’t want to cooperate and make things harder not just on the photographer themselves, but also draws things out on the wedding party, which in turn causes more stress and delay on the bride and groom as well.

Think of it this way – the next time you pay $X to get your hair done, a pair of regular scissors only costs $1.50 (But your professional hair dresser has a more expensive pair!) But you gladly pay a lot more to hire a Professional.

When looking for a wedding photographer, consider the fact that this is one of the top 3 special days of your life…along with the birth of your children and their wedding day. The cake gets eaten, the DJ goes home, but the wedding images are the lasting physical memory to last a lifetime and to pass on to your children and their children. Are you really willing to have a hobbyist or amateur who doesn’t have the experience, the proper equipment (It takes much much more than just a camera!), the knowledge, and the desire to capture your wedding day?

And many wonder why actual files cost what they do. In a nutshell, when a client gets a file with a printing release (I will discuss copyright vs printing release on another day!), that photographer has given up the possibility of creating any income from that image as the client will undoubtedly make all the 20 cent prints he or she wants from a local lab and disperse them to who ever wants them. In other words, that person can print those files as many times as they want without any additional income going to the photographer who created the file. That income is part of how photographers make a living. So, files are priced accordingly. And, if you look around the US and beyond at real professional photographers, they do not offer files often, and when they do, there is a price to it. $25-$65 a file is considered quite economical for professional files. A client may not see it that way, however, it is. Professional photographers offer packages that offer X number of files per package. Above and beyond that, for additional files, there is a fee per file. Any photographer who “throws in the copyright of all images on a cd” is not a professional. They don’t even understand what copyright is!

It’s like buying one gallon of milk at the grocery store. One is bought, not the entire cooler, although the client has the choice to buy more than one. In many cases, the professional photographer actually chooses the exact number of files to full fill the package and none other are even seen by the client. To this point, About You Photography has given our clients the choice of what images to full fill their package with with the option to purchase more files if wanted, and even to purchase physical prints through our website at a reduced pricing for the wedding party and guests.

I know that I’ve heard people say that my pricing is expensive…but really our pricing is on the low end of the scale. What I offer for $2400 would cost as high as $7000 in most other states. And considering ND is one of the few areas in the country that is actually doing well economically, (No more of that “But we’re in ND” because there are so many people out there who would LOVE to be in this state now!), the fact that we have not raised our prices shows our dedication to our clients.

It’s certainly something to think about!


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