“If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it’s already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer.”
“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
“If you’re a photographer, they give you a camera. If you’re a writer, they give you a typewriter. If you’re an umpire, they give you an unseen object and they call it a strike zone, and nobody seems to agree with you no matter what you call. “
The professional photographer experience
In this digital age where everyone has cameras, scanners, and home “photo printers,” we hear this all the time: How do professional photographers charge £15 for an 12×8 when they cost just much less online? Simply put, the customer is not just paying for the actual photograph; they’re paying for time, expertise and investment that photographer has put into their business to create a successful business.
The average one-hour portrait session. First, let’s look at the actual work involved:
- Travel to the session
- Setup, preparation, talking to the client, etc.
- Shoot the images
- Travel from the session
- Load images onto a computer
- Back up the files on an external drive or cloud solution
- 2 – 4 hours of Adobe® Photoshop® time, including cropping, contrast, colour, sharpening, and backing up edited photographs. Proof photos are also ordered.
- 2 – 3 hours to talk to the client to create session plans, answer questions, receive order and payment, order their prints, receive and verify prints, package prints, schedule deliveries, and post.
- Possibly meet clients at studio or location to review photos and place order. Meeting and travel time average 2 hours.
You can see how a one-hour session easily turns into an eight-hour day or more from start to finish. So when you see a personal photographer charging a £150 session fee for a one-hour photo shoot, the client is not paying them £150 per hour.
Offering a professional photography service is a skill acquired through years of experience. Even though a DSLR now costs under £500, taking professional portraits involves much more than a nice camera.
Most professional on-location photographers take years to go from buying their first camera to making money with photography. In addition to learning how to use the camera, there is a mountain of other equipment and software programs used to edit and print photographs, run a website, etc. And don’t forget backdrops, props, training / personal development, rent, utilities, insurance, etc.
In addition to the financial investment, photographers actually have to have people skills to make subjects comfortable in front of the camera. Posing people to look their best is a skill by itself. You could argue that posing is a more important skill than actually knowing how to use the camera. A poorly exposed photo can be saved, but a badly posed photo cannot.
Consider the time and effort that a professional on-location photographer puts into photographs, compared to a chain store. Store sessions last just a few minutes, while a personal photographer takes the time to get to know the people, makes them comfortable, makes them laugh. If a baby is crying at a chain store, they often don’t have the time (or the patience) to wait because everyone is in a hurry.
Professional Photographers are just that— professional. A personal photographer often becomes a friend, someone who documents a family for generations with professional, personal photographs of cherished memories.
Maybe we need to help clients look at it this way: A pair of scissors costs £1.50 at the supermarket. Still, most people will gladly pay a lot more to hire a professional hair dresser to cut their hair. The added attention and quality that a personal photographer gives is worth every penny.
Source: Professional Photography Magazine/Sally Stone photography