January 28, 2019

Why is photography so expensive? / Perspective of a Birmingham Photographer

Obviously I think photography is important, but even before I decided to turn my passion for photography into a career, I felt that way. Let’s think about why it’s important.

  • Photography is the ultimate record keeper.
  • Photographs are one way to make us feel beautiful and important.
  • Although we may forget little details about our children or even ourselves as we age, photography creates an indelible, tangible memory.
  • Our memories would be altered without photographs to refer to.
  • Photography as an art form is a beautiful way to escape, if even temporarily; this is true about the experience of the creator and viewer.
  • The photographs we create mark the important moments in our lives.
  • Photography gives us a means of communicating with one another.

Now that we’ve thought about why photography is so important in our lives, let’s think about why it’s so expensive. It’s not an unreasonable question to ask by-the-way. If I didn’t already know the answers, I would question it myself.

  • TIME
    • Email correspondence- An average of 15 emails per client is normal for a photo session, from the initial interaction to the post session conversations. / An average of 50 emails is the norm for a wedding photography client, from the first contact until the gallery is live and any products have been delivered. (My most emails to date from a bride-93!)
    • Texts- I’m available if clients need to ask a question with a more immediate response.
    • Meetings- It is unusual for me to meet with a portrait or family session client before the session, but I do have a face-to-face meeting with wedding clients. There is a meeting in the beginning and one about a month before the wedding. I set aside roughly two hours for each of these meetings including travel time.
    • Contracts- Creating contracts has certainly gotten easier with online options and templates, but it still takes time to personalize each one. I spend about a half hour creating a contract.
    • Photographing- The time photographing a portrait or family session depends on the session purchased; it is between 60 minutes and 120 minutes. Wedding days are anywhere from 6-12 hours, depending on the clients’ needs.
    • Editing- I’m a perfectionist so I’m certain this isn’t the same as all photographers; I spend a minimum of three hours editing 60 minutes of images, so that means for a 120 minute session, I can expect to spend close to six hours editing. So if I spend three hours editing 60 minutes of images, that means for a 10 hour wedding day, I’ll likely log in THIRTY hours on my computer making sure your wedding gallery is gorgeous! (I know my editing time is excessive; it’s one of the things I continue to try to improve upon.)
    • Marketing/Promotion- This is probably one area I wasn’t anticipating would be such a major time trap. I post to Instagram once a day, sometimes twice. I post to my Facebook business account several times a week, nearly every day. I also have a private Facebook group for clients of BANG Images, so I put a little time into that as well. And since I was a teacher for 15 years, it’s hard to completely give that up, so I have a Facebook group for photographers because I try to mentor when I can. I update my portfolio on my website with new images regularly. I try to blog once a week, more if I have the extra time. I create promotions to attract new clients and to encourage past clients to return.
  • EQUIPMENT / TOOLS
    • Professional photography gear is incredibly expensive.
    • Photographers usually have a minimum of two cameras, two flashes, multiple lenses, batteries, compact flash or SD cards, possibly lighting equipment, tripods, maybe even backdrops and stands, and storage cases.
    • Let’s not forget the equipment needed to edit and store your lovely photos. Computers and external hard drives are costly.
    • Most photographers use editing tools like Lightroom and Photoshop, both of which require subscriptions.
  • TRAINING
    • Many photographers, although not all, have been trained and sharpen their skills by going to workshops and taking online classes. I have a degree from a university in photography. I am a member of several photography groups and I have been to a couple of workshops. I enjoy learning from talented photographers!
  • OTHER FEES (LICENSES, INSURANCE, TAXES, SUBMISSIONS)
    • Professional photographers have several business licenses for their city, county, and state.
    • Most photographers pay for insurance to safeguard themselves and their equipment.
    • Photographers are small business owners and as you may know, self-employment taxes are pretty dear.
    • I think it’s a good idea to challenge myself by submitting to different blogs and magazines. While some of these are free to enter, many require a fee to participate for a chance to be featured. Being featured communicates to the public that the photographer is respected in the photo community, can set and reach goals, and that the photographer is interested in bettering themselves as an artist. (Personally, I chose this business because I am driven to create artistic photographs for people who appreciate them-not because I thought I’d make a lot of money as a photographer.)
  • EXPERIENCE
    • You will research to find the best photographer for you and hopefully you’ll connect with someone with experience. Not that new photographers are incapable of doing good work, but it’s like with any professional you hire-you want someone that is good at what they do, but it’s also important that they are experienced. (I took my first photography class in 1994. I’ve used a camera four or five days a week ever since.)

There are so many reasons why photography is important, and there are probably as many reasons for the expense of photography. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.” There is a lot of truth to that. Don’t waste your time or money. Hire an experienced photographer you trust that you know creates beautiful photographs, proven through their online presence and portfolio.

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