Why is Photography So Expensive? {Asheville NC Wedding Photographer}

I cannot tell you how many times potential clients have said any combination of the following:

  • You aren’t too expensive are you?
  • Are you one of those $3000 wedding photographers?
  • God, I wish I could afford that

and the list goes on.

It is a pretty frustrating conversation, but I guess I kind of get it? Wait, no I don’t.  Look, I understand that most people consider photography a luxury. Have you ever considered that while being a luxury because most people consider it inconsequential and not necessary for everyday living, perhaps you might consider it a luxury because of all it takes to BE a professional photographer? What does that photographer bring to the table that cousin Jimmy couldn’t? {Remember, you will never, ever, ever look back at a power bill that you had twenty years prior and have heart-strings pulled. Yes, you need electricity to keep your food cold and oven warm but occasionally an event will occur where you will NEED a professional photographer to capture the day.  This of course is another blog in and of itself} (Though Kristen Booth does a fantastic job! HERE)

“OK, so why can Pro Photographer charge so much? They’re just taking pictures!”

  1. Professional photographers are in business and business(es) MUST make a profit to stay alive. {Also, try to remember that as with every business, about 33% off the top goes to Uncle Sam straight out of the gate}
  2. Professional photographers are much more than the “point and click” people. Their many hats also include: Negotiator, make up artist, CEO, accountant, marketing genius, website designer, blogger, driver, janitors, networker, oh yeah and PHOTOGRAPHER.
  3. They spend time year after year in continuing education to expand their knowledge and skill and to learn as much as they can about their industry and the business. They join professional photographer’s associations, attend seminars and training with some of the best artists in the industry.
  4. Professional photographers are not just shooters and order takers.  They don’t work in big box stores for minimum wage.  They are business people and artists and they provide complete client service.  They are your concierge to the art world.  Pros shoot dozens or even hundreds of clients every year. They understand what looks great, how to assemble albums, and how to group multiple images together.  Their ultimate goal is to furnish you, the client with what is best for you, not jut have you sign the dotted line.
  5. Professional photographers know the benefit of professional equipment AND the benefit of backups on said equipment. Tens of thousands of dollars are spent purchasing multiple camera bodies, fast lenses, flash equipment, viable carrying and storage cases…and that’s just for on site photography.  None of that includes studio gear.
  6. Professional photographers spend countless hours producing a professional images for clients. Is that all we do? Well, here is a snapshot of my day and you tell me.
  • Answer emails and return phone calls
  • Check calendar. Do I have a shoot today? Batteries charged and memory cards cleared? If yes: the drive time and costs to and from the shoot location, the time for the actual shoot, etc.
  • Review blog and website stats (What is drawing attention?)
  • Add a blog entry (If I am feeling so inspired)
  • Network the blog link all ovah the place!
  • Process images. Now, this can be tricky.  You can pretty much bank of anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour per image (depending).  How many images are in your package? Am I building an album for you? Add another 4 hours
  • Mount and/or frame images
  • Package images
  • Deliver to client
  • Follow up work with previous clients

Once you add everything up, it would be impossible to stay in business if I only made pennies on each client.  Now, speaking of pennies, where do all those pennies go? Obviously not just in time.

Say you have hired me as your professional photographer for your child’s senior pictures.  “Geez Cat, is $250.00 the best you can do?”

Total – $250.00

  • Uncle Sam – (33%) $82.50 = $167.50
  • Gas within 50 miles of 28801 approximately $10.00 = $157.50
  • Overhead costs per portrait client (I know, I’m giving away way more than I should here) = $45.00 (=$117.50)
  • Time associated with your session = 7.5 hours (see below)
  1. 1 hour on site session with your child
  2. Driving to and from your child’s session (average 45 minutes)
  3. 30 minutes choosing 10 quality images to process and edit
  4. (approximately) 30 minutes per image = 5 hours
  5. process to online password protected photo gallery = approximately 15 minutes
  6. email client for image review

So, you tell me. Is $117.50 worth 7.5 hours of your time? Is that a reasonable sum of money to be paid for a day’s work? Yes, actual work.

Another thing to consider, especially in wedding photography is this: You might be concerned with how expensive your wedding photographer is. “Oh my goodness! I had no idea!” etc. Let’s say you let your budget dictate the actual choice. You choose your wedding photographer purely based on price.

Photo Sally quoted me 4 hours and an album for $800.00

Photo Jane quoted me 4 hours and an album for $2200.00

You haven’t looked at portfolios. You haven’t met either photographer. You are choosing purely on the information given to you here. $800.00 or $2200.00. You choose Photo Sally, of course. Your wedding day comes. Photo Sally arrives, she shoots for you. Let’s just assume that she was personable even, we won’t even factor in any awkward or nervous behavior. Three weeks go by and you finally receive a link to an online gallery for your images. The photography seems acceptable though you wish some of the photos with your wedding party that were backlit…you wish they were a little brighter and, where is the picture of your first kiss? There is a picture of your parents tearing up because they are seeing you in your wedding dress for the first time, at least you think they are because it isn’t quite in focus and these pictures online are a little small and hard to really make out. It’s okay. You pick a handful you’d like to frame at home and a few for your parents to purchase. You’ve already spent $800 and your parents helped so much with the wedding costs already, they at least deserve a couple 4×6 prints don’t they?

You see, the reason Photo Sally is able to provide you with coverage for only $800.00 is because she has only shot a handful of weddings. Not to discount Photo Sally as a person. She is probably even quite nice. Maybe you can even really see how her images really WILL be amazing with more work and practice. Well, it was all you could afford at the time. You probably will enjoy the press printed coffee table book for an album when you open it from time to time, until your soon-to-be children get ahold of it and confuse your wedding album for a coloring book.

Now, let’s say you had an experience with Photo Jane for $2200.00. You thought ahead of time and said to yourself, “My photography is really all I will have for the rest of my life to really remember my wedding day. I will alot a higher percentage of my wedding budget to the photography and cut back on our invitations a little bit.

On your wedding day Photo Jane arrives. Now, of course you have already met during your planning meetings and your engagement session. You might as well be old friends! When she gets to your wedding you see that she has a giant bag full of equipment, lenses and an extra camera body. You happen to comment on it and she tells you it is her “just in case bag of extras. We can’t go missing important moments in cases of equipment failure now can we?” She is precise and friendly when directing your wedding party during the formals session after your ceremony and you see her everywhere at your reception.

Bride and groom's first kiss in WNC as man and wifeThe day following your wedding, you check your email and there is a sweet “thank you” from Photo Jane. Two weeks later you get an email again, this time reminding you of your in person viewing appointment. It is time to see your pictures! Yay! When you come in for your viewing, the images are played from a projector and they are larger than life! That backlit image of your wedding party and perfectly bright, the image with your parents tearing up…oh yeah! IN focus! All of your images are presented with a wonderful soundtrack of music you RECOGNIZE and not some weird elevator business. After you’ve seen your larger than life images, you discuss the options for your album and artwork. About 6 weeks later, your album and prints arrive in the mail with a bottle of wine from Photo Jane. The album is amazing! Archival quality paper, it comes with a cover and maybe even a display stand. When you open it the colors are vibrant and every image speaks TO you. On the card is a personalized “thank you” again…and maybe even a few extra prints because she really enjoyed your work and relationship.

There is a saying “If you think it is expensive to hire a professional. Wait until you hire an amateur.” There is a lot to be said  for that. Maybe Photo Sally’s pictures were SO bad you HAD to hire Photo Jane to retake and style your wedding pictures, let alone fly your wedding party back into town to take them. Pay close attention when you are searching for your wedding vendors. All of them. It is, after all your wedding day. Isn’t the peace of mind of knowing your images are being cared for by a true professional worth even half of the extra cost? So, there are my two cents.  Sorry if I was a little long winded and Thanks for reading!


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