Last week was a very bad week. My wife, my son and I all had terrible toothaches at the same time. It was just unbearable. We had to find a dentist to accomodate the three of us as soon as possible. So we started calling dentists in our area but none of them could accomodate us. Ok Ok... to say the truth, none of them fitted within our budget: $45 for the three of us. Yes, you heard me right: $45. Well, it is really all we could afford. So we just kept calling until we found one that fitted within our $45 budget. Awesome! Three teeth extractions for only $45 which comes down to $15 each. That is a heck of a sweet deal. So we were on our way.... but wait.... should we really trust a dentist that would charge us $15 for a tooth extraction including the consultation and the after-care? Would any of you trust him? Will it look like something like that:
Or something like that:
I guess all of that sounds scary right? But remember, you always get what you pay for ... and it's the same for everything including professional photography. Professional photographers as dentists or any other specialized profession are business owners and even if we don't spend as much time as dentists for our education or equipment, we still have to charge a certain $ base amount in order to run our business. This cover the costs of our equipment, the cost of education, our time and expertise. Let's have a quick look at each of these items.
Even though a semi-professional camera now costs under $2000, taking a professional portrait involves more than having the latest camera. It also requires thousands of dollars in expensive lenses, lighting equipment and editing software. Besides that, the camera and all the bells and whistles are just tools, you need to know how to operate everything efficiently while creating a visually pleasing family photo. There comes the next item: the cost of education.
Nowadays, the Internet is filled up with thousands of tutorials on every subject including photography. Some are free and others aren't. Even though most photographers jump in the trade by passion and learn on the field, at some points we all had to pay for courses, workshops or photography diplomas to really understand the theory behind what we do. We also have to constantly update our skills through costly professional workshops through professional associations such as the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) or the PPOC (Professional Photographers of Canada).
But the only way to replicate the same quality of photos to your clients is through hours and hours of practice. And this leads us to our third item: our expertise.
This is the most invaluable asset of every photographer on which you can't really put a price tag. Shooting professional photography is a skill. Some photographers take longer to learn it while others learn fairly fast but as in any profession, there is no shortcus. It is only after hours and hours of field practice (and endless nights editing photos on your desk) that you can perfect that skill which includes: developing people skills, learning to communicate clearly, making people confortable in front of the camera, learning to pose them to make them look their best, learning to light them appropriately, learning how to work in difficult lighting situations and much more...
One of my client said to me last week: "Wow... $79 for an 8x10? That is quite expensive. You must make lots of money Patrick!". I wish I was making as much money as he said but the reality is that most people don't realize what it is involved in producing one print. So without wanting to bore you, I will just give you a quick breakdown of what it involves time-wise:
- 30 minutes to prepare my equipment for the session
- 1 hour of travel to and from the session (sometimes more)
- 30 minutes of setup, preparation, talking to the client etc.
- 2 hours of shooting
- 20 mn to pack my equipment
- 45 minutes to load the photos onto my computer and back up the files onto two hard drives
- 4 to 8 hrs of Photoshop time including cropping, contrast, color, sharpening, saving a copy for print and a copy for the internet and backing up the edited photographs
- 3 hours to meet with the clients to present their photos (including traveling time)
- At least 4 hours to talk to the client, answer questions, receive their order and payment, prepare their files for printing, order their prints, receive and verify prints, package prints, schedule shipment and drop package off
You can see how one 2 hour session easily turns into more than16 hours of work from start to finish. So when you see a Photographer charging a $79 for an 8x10, you are really paying him $5/hr and that doesn't include the cost of printing or gas, etc."
Professional photography is not cheap and will never be. However, due to the increasing number of "new photographers" entering the field and placing unrealiscaly low value on the craft, people are confused. However, keep in mind that the same way you would be worry about trusting a dentist willing to extract your tooth for $15, you should be worry also about a photographer wanting to charge only $60 for the photo session and gives you all the edited digital files on a CD.
P.S: The article was written by Patrick Diagou, owner of Connexion Photography. Connexion Photography is a Vancouver based photography studio specialzing in maternity, baby and family photography. We also do corporate headshots. We cover the lower mainland which includes: Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam. Delta, North Vancouver, Langley, White Rock, West Vancouver, New Westminster, Maple Ridge, Richmond, Pitt Meadows