Darbi G. Wedding Photography
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3.21.2008

Why do photographers (gasp) charge so much?

Many people question why photographers charge what seems like so much for the digital files on a disc (and albums, etc.). Let me try to explain it to you.

People tend to forget that photographers need to make a profit, or else they wouldn't do it. It's a business. We all work to make money, right? Yes photographers are lucky to have found something we love to do that we can make money doing...but does that make it any less important to be able to provide for ourselves and our families? No! ;)

So if photography is our business, we have real business expenses. Expensive equipment, expensive software, expensive maintenance fees for sites, gallery platforms, marketing, accountants, sample products, workshops to learn even more and bring clients even better work, assistants and so forth. Plus all the boring stuff like utilities of the actual office/studio etc.

Before digital, people bought prints, and that is where photographers could turn a profit. Now people want files. And photographers will usually sell them to you ... but for a price.

We can't just give art away.

Look at it this way—a typical wedding is 8-12 hours of shooting. Then after that, processing the images and getting them ready for viewing ranges from 20-40 hours. (Depending what else is in packages like slideshows, albums, blogging, etc..) Add on to that the cost of doing business. The cost of time. The cost of something that should be considered ART.

Lifestyle sessions only last 2-4 hours...for shooting. But there is more than just showing up with a camera. Marketing, communication with the client, processing, uploading, blogging, packaging, etc.

And of course the 25-35 percent we lose to taxes, just like all other working folk.

So let's say a wedding photography package is $2700. Nearly $900 goes to taxes, another $900 goes back in to the business, that means the photographer "makes" $900. Factor in the time of shooting, the time of processing, uploading, meeting with clients, communicating with clients, burning discs, finetuning files, and all the other in-between things that aren't worth listing......it results in $22/hour (if all of the above takes at least a week to do, a minimum of 40 hours...which usually takes more....). Compare that to other CAREERS out there. You'll see it's not that much.

So enter the digital files. Why put all that time into the art, when you basically only got paid to shoot and process, but not for the art itself? (to see examples of what is the difference between a picture taken and a picture processed... go here) For lifestyle sessions, I charge $350 for the 100-200 images on a disc, print ready. That's a bit more than a dollar to $3.50 each...for ART. If you were to buy a 4x6 print of those same 100, that would be $1000 in my pocket. Using print prices, each 4x6 is $10 (through me) for $750 that I charge for wedding images on disc, you'd only get to buy 75 4x6s before you spent that amount. By buying the files, you can make whatever size, however many times...16x20s... 11x14s, you name it. The value far exceeds the cost.

Also...another thing most fail to consider: Target, Walmart, Walgreens, kodak.com and other similar retailers that offer print services have sub-par print quality. I've done print tests, and there truly is a difference between those and the professional labs that photographers use. We calibrate our monitors to those printers. We ensure it comes out looking like it's supposed to.

When I release my files, I run the risk of having my name attached to less-than-my-best work because the skin tones might be too orange, a sepia tone that might be cringe-worthy could be used, a crop job might screw up the composition of the photo or a black and white rendition ends up flat and boring. By allowing clients to print whatever they want, to actually have the files, we are allowing clients to change a picture from the way we, as artists, intended it. It'd be like buying a painting and then painting over it in parts.

Photographers have no quality-control once the disc is in the client's hands. Most photographers will relinquish that control. But again...they do so for a price.

As for albums, the wholesale price is typically 1/2 to 1/3 of what the photographer charges. It takes a lot of time to lay out an album, re-edit the photos, design it, upload it, communicate changes with the client, make the changes, reupload and then finally send off to the printer. So for the 12x12 that I charge $1,250 for.... remember that 1/3 of the remaining amount after the cost of the album itself and shipping... goes to taxes. 1/3 goes back into the business. 1/3 goes to our pockets. So again, that is maybe $250 in my pocket... for 15-20 hours of work.

Bottom line is... the pricetag looks pricey. But when you realize the ESSENCE of photography is ART AND BUSINESS... we're not making fortunes. We're TRYING to make a living. HUGE difference. :) If you have any questions as for what goes into the development of the images, don't hesitate to comment here or shoot me an email.

6 comments:

Sarah Alston said...

This is FANTASTIC! Thank you so much for putting into words what I've been struggling to say!!!

Kirsten Alana said...

Wow - this is the best pricing explanation I have ever read. Bar none. I wish I had this on my site for clients to read. What amazing and good information!!!

Amanda Basteen said...

I love this! :)

Jessica said...

What a great article! I've seen photographers write this idea many times but you have managed to do it while sounds happy and positive.

Leah H. said...

As a future bride, I was shocked at how much photographers cost. Like many others, I thought it was just point and shoot, but this makes me appreciate what exactly you guys really do. Thanks so much!

Karen said...

This is a fantastic article! May I post this on my blog and credit you?

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