I was having a conversation with a friend recently, about the business of photography, and that is what inspired this post. He asked me why some photographers charged $400-$500 for a portrait session, and some up to $3,000 for an 8 hour wedding. In doing the math he was calculating $200-$300 per hour for photographic services. Being a law student, he asked me why he was going to school for so long in order to earn that type of money. I decided to break down the costs of what we do, and really explain why things aren’t always what they seem.
The time we spend shooting your event, doesn’t equate to the time we spend on your shoot.
Most people know that photographers edit their images, and we should in order to provide you with the best quality product that we can, but how much time do we actually spend on editing a photo session. Well on a typical portrait session, we will take approximately 200-300 frames. We tend to shoot extensively just to make sure that our images are in focus, free of motion blur, and that our subjects are not blinking, etc. We will also try different lighting and composition for each given scenario. When we return to the office, we will then upload those images to our computers. We shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II, and a 550D, and we shoot in RAW, which means that the files produced by our camera systems are anywhere between 25-35 megabytes per file. We will upload all of these images to our computer, even if we are not going to use all of them. Even with the fastest modern technology, this can take up to 30 minutes to do.
When the images are uploaded, we cull down to our final images we will be editing, which can take 30-45 minutes. After that we tonal correct, color correct, and add creative elements to our images. Next we use software to remove blemishes, smooth skin gradients, and correct background elements if needed. For the 45 shots, we are looking at around 2-5 hours.
After the images are finalized, then we create blog templates, upload to your galleries, and deliver to you by uploading to our server. Add at least an hour or two for this.
Photographers are typically self employed.
Any business has overhead, even a location based photography business. In order to offer the best and most convenient services such as digital contracting, online portfolios, an up to date blog and website, we have to pay fees. We also have insurance for our equipment, as well as liability in case something happens during a shoot. Most of our advertising is word of mouth, but sometimes we offer promotions that we like to advertise to meet new clients. We also pay into organizations and associations in order to keep our accreditation’s up to date. Let’s also not forget about Uncle Sam, who takes his cut.
Photography equipment is EXPENSIVE
In order to offer the best images possible, the best thing to have is knowledge, but after that, you have to have the tools to create the images that you want. Our business started as a passion for photography. In fact, the reason why you are reading this right now is because photography gear is so expensive. When we originally started this business, we did it to pay for the equipment we were purchasing to create the images we imagined. We use around $20,000.00 in equipment, in order to offer you the best images possible. While nothing replaces the how-to knowledge of creating a beautiful image, you need to have the tools to accomplish it. Most of you know how technology works, and staying up to date is paramount to us in being able to create images efficiently. Aside from camera’s and lenses, we need to purchase storage, memory, software, computers, backdrops, filters, and props.
Education is EXPENSIVE
While gear is important, education is more important. We are never satisfied with what we know and we are always trying to improve. While you can get a lot of info for free via the internet, it is no replacement for in-person knowledge from experts, books on the subjects you are looking to learn about, and other means of professional education.
While we try and offer the lowest pricing available to our clients. We want to stress that just because someone is priced lower or higher, their skill level isn’t always going to correspond. That being said, a professional who has established him or herself understands the costs associated with running a business and will charge accordingly, where an amateur who just purchased their first camera will likely charge less. When it comes to wedding photography, there are only so many moments, and not only must you capture them, but you must capture them the right way. What good is a first kiss if it is blurry and out of focus? Training and experience is crucial when it comes to these matters, and I recommend choosing someone that shows consistency and quality in their work.
The point I am trying to make is that when all is said and done, a typical portrait shoot, which can last approximately 2 hours, ends up being around 10 hours worth of work. When you deduct operating expenses, you can see that photographers earn a more modest salary then people think. If you have any questions regarding our wedding photography, please feel free to contact us using the form above! We offer wedding photography in Los Angeles, Santa Clarita, and all of Southern California.