In today's world, almost everyone has a digital camera. You can download an image and have it printed and ready to be picked up in under an hour for less than a dollar. So why pay someone $150 for an hour long portrait session? "Do you offer discounts?" I hear it all the time.
I mean, how much does it really cost someone to take your picture for an hour right? Wrong.
Let me start by telling you a story...
As a photographer I am part of several private Facebook groups made of up thousands of photographers and other creatives from all over the world. These groups allow us to to seek advice, ask for/give constructive criticism, or offer support and guidance among one another. These posts and conversations take up about fifty percent of my news feed daily. The other day a photographer posted three images from a portrait session she had recently done. All three were the exact same image only edited slightly differently. She asked for our advice on which of the three edits we preferred.
For the next couple of hours every detail of these pictures were picked apart and discussed by members of the group. There were comments from the overall temperature of the image all the way down to the amount of "pink" in the clients cheeks. Which one was too dark? Which was too yellow? What about the matte finish? The photographer continued to tweak the image throughout the conversation posting newer versions for more feedback. This continued until the photographer produced a final image that everyone agreed was perfect. Yay!
That was several hours of discussion and editing over ONE shot!
We analyze every single picture we provide to our clients. We want to ensure that our work not only matches our brand but exceeds the clients expectations. We want each photo shoot to be better than the last. We stress over every detail resulting in hours of preparation and editing for a "one hour photo session." That doesn't include the time spent with our clients (both the correspondence leading up to the shoot as well as the shoot itself), the time planning for the session (preparing our SD cards, etc), time loading and downloading images, and the drive time to and from the photo session. A one hour photo session can quickly become at least five hours of work. Can you imagine the time involved for an eight hour wedding?!
In addition, there is the expense of our equipment to consider. Most DSLR cameras start around $1,000 and can range up to $5,000 or higher. Each lens can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Then you have lighting equipment, computer equipment, editing software, memory cards, back-ups, etc. Not to mention the money put towards workshops and conferences to help us learn and grow with the industry.
Lastly, the expertise involved with actually taking the pictures. It can take years for a photographer to begin making money from the time they buy their first camera because of all of the practicing involved with learning how to properly use your camera. Shooting in manual allows us to control the lighting, the color tone, the focus, etc. We use different lenses for different shoots to create particular styles. You know the pictures with the blurry background laced with out of focus pieces of light? That is all done in camera by the photographer during the photo shoot. We all start in the same place and the more we learn and grow as a professional we are able to adjust our prices to reflect what we have to offer our client.
We put so much of ourselves into our work that we are emotionally attached to every image we produce. Our fee does not only pay for the hour we spend at the photo session. It pays for years and years of growth, development, time, equipment, knowledge, experience. But most of all... passion.