The number one complaint I hear about photography (in regards to all photography sessions) is "It's so EXPENSIVE!"
I hear it in the form of a question "why is photography so expensive?" and I hear it as a statement "I have high expectations at your prices!" and I hear it as a joke "at these prices I better look like ____(Insert movie star's name here)__" and I even hear it as a passive-aggressive phrase "wow, must be nice to make so much money in 20 minutes!"
And I get it.. it IS expensive. But a lot of things are expensive and we still purchase them because we find value in them. I'm going to break down the actual cost of your session so you can see the value in your session and understand WHY it costs so much.
The best way to think of your session is as an iceberg. You can see some of the iceberg on the surface of the water (the actual time spent photographing your session) but you don't see the much larger portion below the water. Let's go below the surface and I'll show you what you don't see during your session:
Before your session:
Did you know that I do a lot of work before your session? Here are some of the things I do to make sure it runs smoothly:
- Maintain contact with clients to make sure I know what their style is, what type of session they want, what location to choose, be available to answer client questions like what to wear, when the best time of day is, change our session times according to their schedules or life events coming up. There is A LOT of time spent communicating with clients to ensure I know what they want and make sure they are prepared. This is actually one of my favourite parts of my job, I am a lifestyle photographer, and the more communication there is between myself and the client, the more genuine and representative of the clients character and style the session will be.
Research locations. This consists of networking with people, online searches, and scouting an area. Sometimes it means multiple scouting trips to measure how the light changes and how traffic flow changes, which I do in person.
- Creating contracts and model releases. I need to make sure you are covered, and know what to expect, and I need to make sure I am covered if there are changes. I don't like this part, but it's necessary and takes time.
- Arrange child care. Guess what, those adorable little girls I use for all my marketing material and advertisements? They're mine, and they are still too young to stay home alone, so if our session is outside my husband's business hours, I have to find childcare for them or bring them along. Trust me, it's much better for all of us if I don't bring them along.
- Prepare props. I want all my sessions to be unique and representative of the client. That means I am constantly buying new props and backdrops, and my recycled props and backdrops get worn out and need repair or replacement. Finding the right props takes time, energy and money to scout out, shop for, and compile for a session.
- Equipment. Buying and maintaining my equipment is costly. This is one of those times you get what you pay for. Cheap equipment yields grainy, blurry and pixelated images. Cheap memory cards don't keep up with the camera speed to catch those gone in a flash moments you get with children, and they don't maintain quality images. Memory cards often need replacing, even quality ones. Different lenses are needed for different sessions, and the quality is very important. Photographing in a dark house or after hours? You need a flash and studio lighting, softboxes and reflectors. You also need gear to lug all your gear, and maintain your gear and clean your gear. If you are going to have all that expensive gear, it needs to be insured as well. Oh and don't put cheap batteries in your expensive gear. They won't last long enough, be strong enough and you can't trust them not to leak when the gear heats up.
- Sometimes I even need to figure out how to be granted permission to even be at a certain location. That takes time to communicate and I often have to pay some kind of fee (anything from a free session for location owners, advertisements, social media tagging, or a monetary fee).
On the day of your session my costs include:
- Travel to and from the location
- Time shooting the session (I frequently run over session times, especially when photographing children)
- Wear and tear on my equipment, props and clothing (I am constantly getting holes in the knees of my pants from getting down on children's level to photograph them)
- Treats to give as bribes to children
- Child care costs for my own children during the session (which includes the child care provider's minimum, not necessarily just the time spent shooting the session)
And then AFTER the session, the real work begins. My costs here include:
- Time spent culling and editing the session (depending on the session, this can take hours)
- More equipment. Computers, calibrators, card readers, external hard drives to back up on, and colour calibrated print quality printers or fees to send to a quality printer all add up.
- Subscription fees for Lightroom and Photoshop editing software are collected monthly
And finally there are the on-going costs just to keep up a business:
- Workshops and classes
- Studio rental fees
- Marketing costs
- Website maintenance
- Business cards
- Location scouting
- Networking group fees
- Test shoots
- Portfolio building test sessions
As you can see, there is a lot more that goes into your session than just 20 minutes of photographing. It's a real business with real costs and real value.
This business is my passion, and I do try to reduce rates often with sales and mini sessions to make sure there is an affordable option for everyone, but it is important that you know why your session costs what it does and where the value is. My hope is that once you see your final images and know what has gone into making them, you'll see the value you are getting for your money.