So you want professional photos?
People hire professionals to ensure a certain quality in the product delivered and the experience of the services. Photography is one of those things that you get what you pay for in most instances. While you can get a good deal and still get amazing photos, if you want high-quality product, you need to pay high-quality prices. Photography skills are on a spectrum, so you can find something that works for you in your budget. As a general rule for wedding photography, most photography budgets are 10% of the overall wedding budget. So, if you plan to spend $20,000 on your wedding as a whole, it is a good idea to allocate $2,000 for photography services. Now, depending on if photos are a high or low priority for you and your significant other, you can go above or below this price point. This guide to photography pricing will help you learn the many factors that a photographer may consider when deciding on their prices.
A Guide to Photography Pricing in 10 Reasons
At the end of the day, photographers are creators, artists. While there are some very real business reasons that explain a large part of the cost for photography services, you have to keep in mind that you are also paying for the art that they make. Their unique perspective and creative vision should be part of why you are booking with them. There are different types of photography styles, some that leave more room than others for artistic interpretation. Keep this in mind along with the other reasons explained below in this guide to photography pricing when receiving quotes for services.
Reason 1: Time Spent
It's easy to forget about all of the time that goes into photographic services as a whole. If you are booked for a 30 minute session, that may not seem like a lot of time, but when you start adding time for all the other tasks that go on behind the scenes, it really starts to add up. The prep time before a shoot can sometimes be one to two hours by itself. This includes everything from responding to your inquiries, creating an invoice for you, sometimes making a photography schedule (for events), and drafting your contract. Then to consider the length of your photography session, which typically ranges from 30 minutes to 10 hours for some weddings. After the session is over and all of the beautiful photos have been taken, then you have to consider the time it takes to upload the files (professionals shoot in RAW files which are huge and take time to upload), time to cull through the gallery and remove any duplicates, photos with people blinking, and outtakes, time to edit the photos, and lastly, the time to build your personal, online gallery and then share it with you.
REASON 2: Travel
Depending on the location of the session or venue and the location of the photographer's home or business address, you may incur travel charges. These charges would cover gas, accommodations, rentals, and any fees relating to travel. For example, if you are planning a destination wedding, your photographer will need to book flights and hotels and pay airline fees and additional insurances to ship their equipment to the destination. Of course, you may want to hire a local photographer, but they may still have their own fees associated. As a general rule, photographers often do not charge for local travel up to a certain amount, like with JDolly Photography, you won't be charged if the location is within 25 miles of me.
REASON 3: Staffing
Depending on the package or add-ons that you choose to purchase for your session, you may also be paying for additional staffing for the photography services. This is usually a second shooter or an assistant, but could include both. Some weddings I've seen have also had a third photographer, but that is typically much more rare. Another example of additional staff, could be an outside resource that is not an employee of the photographer but an outsourced agency or freelancer. If your photographer only does basic photo retouching but you are wanting some additional services, they may charge a fee to send the photos out to another entity. It's always a good idea to communicate your wants for additional coverage and staffing at the beginning of the inquiry process. If you're wanting heavy skin smoothing and drastic changes, then you may want to select a photographer that shows in their portfolio that they can accommodate this in-house.
REASON 4: Artistic Vision
Like I stated before, your photographer is a creator, someone who provides a unique artistic perspective in everything that they deliver. This is something that you are paying for as much as any of the other business oriented reasons. This includes their editing style, but also the style in which they shoot or pose. The way one photographer frames an image may be different than another. Finding a photographer whose style matches with your own is really important. You are paying them for their services and their vision, so asking them to change that vision to better match what you are wanting is never going to work out well. If you want a fine art style for your photos, then do not hire a documentary style photographer.
REASON 5: Software, Storage & Equipment
Software and storage are a business cost to the photographer that needs to be paid for through the profits that they make delivering photographic services. Your photographer will need to purchase storage for the photos as well as the software they need to edit, cull, and more. This includes an SD card, but also typically means online or cloud storage as well. Most photographers use two methods of storage for extra safety, including external hard drives and cloud storage through Adobe, Google, or some other cloud storage provider. Your online gallery, USB drive, or hard copies, all require some type of software or storage as well. The most typical software that photographers use are subscription based and so they are never just bought and done. Adobe, for example, offers different levels of subscription for the different applications and storage needed. Some general examples of equipment most photographers use are their camera, backup camera, lenses, tripod, lighting equipment, computer, and more. For film photographers, there is even more equipment needed. As technology advances, some equipment will become outdated. So, while a photographer can use the same camera or lens for years, there may come a time eventually where they will need to purchase new equipment to replace the old. This professional equipment ensures a higher quality product for the client. Due to some special requests from the client or if the photographer simply doesn't have much equipment, they may need to rent specific items to deliver the quality they are promising.
REASON 6: Legal Documents
Most professional photographers have a number of legal documents that they require to be signed for every client they work with. The most common legal documents you can expect to receive from your photographer are the contract, print release, and invoice. The contract protects both you and the photographer from any misinterpretation and clearly explains all expectations from both parties. This also details all location and services information so that there is no confusion. Every photo that is taken by the photographer is solely owned by the photographer themselves, regardless of whether or not they were paid to take the photos. That is how copyrights work here in the U.S. So, most photographers will either include a print release in the contract or send a separate print release document to be signed. This gives you all the permissions you need to use, share, and print your photos. While some photographers also sign the copyrights away to the client, this is not common practice. The photographers often need to retain ownership of the images in order to use them for promotional and marketing activities. After all, no one would hire a photographer that had no portfolio because they didn't own any of their pictures.
REASON 7: Prints & Albums
Some photographers include a print credit, specific prints, or even an album in their packages or offer them in addition to their services. Typically, a photographer's lab will be an extremely professional, high-quality lab that produces high-end results. They will always be more expensive than your average CVS or Walgreens simply because their equipment is better. The cost to print using their labs is higher and that can be reflected in the cost of your photography services as well. If you are ordering an album from your photographer, there may be an additional cost due to creating the album. It takes time and effort to curate an album from start to finish and so, your photographer may charge you for that.
REASON 8: Additional Sessions
Depending on the services you booked your photographer for, you may have more than one session where you will be having photos taken. For a wedding photography package, you may also purchase a bridal portrait session, engagement session, wedding shower coverage, or rehearsal dinner coverage. Each of these sessions require their own degree of time, editing, scheduling, storage, and delivery, resulting in a higher overall cost.
REASON 9: Experience
One factor that photographers consider in their pricing is their level of experience. We all know someone's cousin who had a $200 photographer shoot their wedding and while the photos may have been nice, they weren't professional or at the same level as photos from a $5,000 photographer. When it comes to photography, you do get what you pay for. A photographer just starting out with starter equipment, is not going to charge the same as someone with 20 years of experience, fancy equipment, and wedding know-how. Photography itself is something that has to be learned and practiced. While you can of course have talent, it is a skill that comes with experience and practice. Someone who has never shot a wedding before, may not understand how to create a timeline for the couple or how to work with other vendors. Figuring out what level of experience you are comfortable with will help determine your budget.
REASON 10: Longevity
The final main factor in this guide to photography pricing, is the fact that your photos, in theory, will last forever. While film photography does run the risk of getting lost or damaged, there is still the potential that those photographs will last a lifetime or more. With digital photography, this is almost a guarantee. With files on hard drives, USBs, computers, and in the cloud, if you lose your photos, there is a good chance they can be recovered through one of those storage platforms. When you have your photos taken, you're creating photo memories that you will have for years, if not your entire life. This longevity is something to consider when looking over your quote from your photographer.
Find the Photographer that works for you
There are many factors that a photographer considers when deciding on their prices as I have explained in this guide to photography pricing. Photographers need to cover the cost of doing business, charge for the worth of their artistic vision, and charge for their experience level. Many of these costs are incurred to ensure that the client receives the best possible service and experience that they can deliver. Because priorities, preferences, and level of experience varies from one photographer to the next, this results in a range of options and price points to choose from. You can find a photographer in your budget that meets your needs at the end of the day.
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