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SDP Journal

Why pay for a professional photographer?

May 15, 2017

The advent of digital photography has led many people to take up photography as a hobby. The magic of delete buttons, filters, and simple editing has even made many people confident enough to charge for their work. In fact, an all-call on Facebook for recommendations for family photographers is likely to turn up more amateurs than professionals. Which begs the question– Why pay for a professional photographer when amateurs are often cheaper?

When you hire a pro, you’re hiring more than a fancy camera. You’re hiring someone who knows how to make you look awesome, who has a creative eye for unique shots, and who can make you and your family feel at ease.

So why is it more expensive to hire a pro? When you book a session with a professional photographer, you’re paying not only for their talent, but also their training, software, preparation, and tools.

  • Time. Not only the time on set, but also the time the photographer spends preparing for the shoot, editing the pictures, and ordering/ packaging images. For every hour spent on site, I average about five hours of work before and after the shoot.
  • Camera gear. Professional cameras run at least $1000 each. And most photographers have a primary and a back-up camera. A high-quality portrait lens can cost anywhere from $250 to $3000. Flashes and lights run upwards of $250 each. Not to mention the memory cards, filters, camera bags, etc.
  • Image editing and archiving. That technology to edit pictures costs a pretty penny. And, to assure that your pictures are colored correctly and your skin tones don’t look green or purple, photographers must have high-end displays and monitor calibration tools. Backing up photos requires cloud subscriptions or in-house servers. This totals an average of $2000 per year.
  • Studio space. To maintain a studio space, photographers must have backdrop stands, lights, backdrops, and props. None of which are cheap. Just one basic studio set-up (one backdrop, lights, stand, and props) often runs $1000 or more. Those with storefronts or studios outside their homes must also pay their rent/ lease, utilities, etc.
  • Ongoing learning. Professional photographers invest in their trade. They are continuously taking classes and learning and growing. Depending on the class format, prices range from $200 to $1000 per class.

In total, a $250 photo session equates to almost $42 an hour, but requires thousands of dollars in professional gear, training, and technology.

When you hire a professional photographer, you hire an artist. Someone who has spent years perfecting their craft. Someone who has invested a lot of money into capturing beautiful memories.

Good photography is expensive. Photographers invest thousands into the tools of the trade, often give up time with their families to photograph clients, and spend many more hours preparing and editing images than the time you actually see them shooting. It’s easy to look at photographer’s prices and envision Rolexes and Cadillacs, but the reality is, that money is likely spent on upgrading and maintaining equipment.

So the next time you need a child or family photographer, consider whether the photographer knows how to light the shot, set up the pose, and set up the shot. Consider whether that photographer has the experience and the tools to do the job right. Every photographer starts somewhere, and hiring a newbie is a great way to save cash. But, be sure to check out his/her portfolio so you don’t end up with buyer’s remorse.


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