| 12. 16. 2009 |

cost so much???

Custom photography is not for everyone. If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it 1,000 times… “how come this photographer charges X amount for an 8×10 when Walmart sells them for <$3???” I know. I thought the same thing before I started this business. Once I was neck deep in images to edit, cards to design, orders to place, and prints to be packaged and working 14 hours a day to keep things on schedule… I understood. If you want a complete breakdown into all that’s involved in what I do… check out this fabulous article. I am a one-woman show people. I have spent countless hours and invested thousands of dollars into learning this kraft… learning to produce images that would be literally impossible to achieve otherwise. I am passionate about it. I wanted to give 1000% of myself to it… and I did. Somewhere along the way I started spending less and less time with my family… missing my kids while plugging away at shooting, editing, ordering, packaging, book-keeping, etc. When I saw what little profit I actually got to keep and contribute to my family…I broke down… I was ready to quit altogether. I had nothing left in me. I felt I had given all of myself to this business and in doing so… I cheated my family out of what was most important…. me… and for what?? I finally came to the conclusion that my time is worth something… and if I am going to invest my time in something… there must be reasonable compensation for it. Even the Bible says “The worker deserves his wages.” (Luke 10:7 & 1 Timothy 5:18) Life is short. Children are only small once. While I would be honored to capture that  mischievous little smile your 4-year-old makes… I can’t do it at the expense of my own two little rugrats! ;) For those of you who think my work is a worthy investment… I so appreciate your business and I will work hard and do my best to capture images that will knock your socks off!

Some FAQ regarding pricing:

So… once you get a fancy camera and some expensive glass… you’re all set and the rest is profit… right???

Ha ha… please tell me no one really thinks that…. LOL. So after the $8,000 I invested just for the equipment in my camera bag (oh… and let’s not forget the $200 bag)…. there are still so so many expenses for running this business including but not limited to: props, backdrops, backdrop stands, lighting equipment, wireless triggers (with extra cords always sold separately), taxes and other fees, workshops/seminars, website/blog templates, web hosting, prints (of course), packaging (boxes, ribbon, stickers, wrapping paper), branding, design elements, marketing, laptop, printer, software, external data storage, office space/furniture to store all my equipment/packaging, mileage on my car, gas, product samples, a laminating machine (of all things), accounting expenses… just to name a few. Most of what I make…. goes to pay for all this stuff… what’s left over after all the taxes and expenses are paid compensates me for the time I spend: driving, shooting, editing, preparing galleries, designing cards, putting together storyboards, putting in print orders, answering e-mails and phone calls, packaging print orders, making bag tags, cleaning/maintaining/hauling equipment, searching for/aquiring new props…. and, of course, the list goes on.

Session fees??? Why do you have them???

Session fees pay for the photographer’s time and talent only. If a client decides not to order any prints from their session (yes, it does happen), I get at least some compensation for the time I’ve invested. The session fee also includes sales tax. 

Why do you have different charges for different types of sessions?

The different charges are based on the amount to time that will be spent editing. It can take me over 12 hours to edit a family session. For a mini session there is just one subject. The editing still takes several hours but is small in comparison to photographing a family.

Why are family sessions more and why does the basic fee only include 5 people? Why is there an extra charge per person after 5 people?

Many of the sibling/family images you see on my site are actually composites. We all know how difficult it can be to get a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old to both cooperate for a shot… at the same time. Sometimes it’s impossible. Editing family sessions often entails merging more than one image together to get a good shot (for instance, take the picture that Johnny looks best in and the picture that Suzie looks best in and merging them into the same image). Sometimes I can do this and sometimes it doesn’t work… but if it is feasible… I do it!  To do this… and do it well… it takes a LOT of my time. All this detailed editing is included in the cost of the session fee. With each additional person included in an image, the necessity for creating multiple image composites increases…. more people… more work… more time…. greater cost!

Why do newborn sessions cost so much??? They can’t be that hard… right?

Well… if you notice… I give myself up to FOUR hours to do a newborn session. They don’t all last that long… but they can. They require a lot of patience and often require me to block out an entire day. Newborn sessions also require the greatest investment in props. There are hats, blankets, faux flooring, faux wall, a backdrop stand, various backdrops, several baskets, lighting equipment, and the list goes on. It’s a lot of work… and it doesn’t stop there. No matter how hard I try to prevent it… EVERY newborn pees or poops (or both) on my blankets and such. When I get home I have to unload, put away all that equipment, then start washing all of my stuff… many things require hand washing. Many hours go into preparing for the session, doing the session, and cleaning up after the session.

Why do you have a minimum order requirement?

I have minimum order requirements to ensure that I am compensated for the time I’ll be investing. I either have to enforce a minimum order… or I have to increase the amount I charge. So, having said that, can I be brutally honest with you here??? I don’t invest all of my time in a session just so you can get a few 5×7′s  for yourself and a couple for grandma. If that is all you intend to do… go to Walmart! I consider my images art. My images are meant to be displayed!!! They are meant to hang on walls as conversation pieces, or be out on the coffee table in the form of a fabulous custom-designed book, or sent in the form of beautiful press-printed cards that will make you the envy of all of your friends!! I am fully aware that not everyone can afford to spend $400-$800 every few months on custom photography… I wouldn’t expect you to. But if it is something you value and will treasure forever… it’s a worthy investment to make every now and then… and when you are ready to make that investment… I’ll be here! :)

So… if the expenses are so great… and the time investment so heavy… why do you continue to do this???

Well.. because I love it…. the photography part anyways (not so much the business part).  I’m an artist at heart.  It’s the way God created me. If I ever get to the point where I just don’t enjoy ‘the business’ anymore and want out… I’ll quit and use that extra time to photograph my own family. For now I’m going to keep at it and see where it takes me…

If you have any other questions you’d like to contribute, feel free to e-mail them to me… I’d love to address them for you.

bethany: where do you get all the little blankets, hats, baskets, and stuff?

Steph: Well said! (I'm not in business yet, and this sums up many of the reasons for that, it takes up A LOT of time. I dipped my toe in the water and came out scalded head to toe, so I took a step back the beginning of this year. Just wanted to let you know this is a great article, and 100% right on target. I just added your blog to my list of favorite photographers too :)

Andes Lo: Completely agree with you. I am just a beginner and try to get into business. I spent a lot without getting any $$ back yet. But I do understand your passionate about photography. People around always think I am crazy... :P

Audrey: Just had to say, love how you wrote this!! And....amen!! I need to add something like this on my website....then I can just refer them there the next time people start complaining!! :)

christi santangelo: i have read this before and i know it's been on here for a while now... but for some reason, i jjust read it again, and i LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE it... i love the brutal honesty. so so true!

Chelsie: I just wanted to say that this is great how you said this! People don't realize all of the time that goes in to running your own photography business. When I get my website, I'm DEFINITELY adding something like this. Thank you!

Erin: Well said! I too, am adding something like this to my blog, thanks so much for the inspiration! :)

Christina @ Red Corduroy Media Group {Photography}: Thanks so much for your brain-dead simple explanation....It's so hard for some to understand.

Amanda: You hit it right on the nose. I am currently struggling with having time for my own family and it is so frustrating having clients push you to get their galleries up ... especially around the holidays ... and you know you haven't been compensated for your time. I am currently revamping my price lists. Thank Goodness!!

Sammi: Awesome post! If I were to write down my feelings about my business regarding this exact thing, this is how I feel. Thanks for sharing!

Ashley: Hi, Stephanie, I'm looking to take some headshots for my acting resume. I looked at your prices, but wondered do you those and if so, what would be the price?

jimmy mallia: I am looking for a photographer for my daughters senior pictures

Raleigh Wedding Photographer: It costs a lot just to be able to show up and shoot. It's too bad that with everyone running around with cameras nowadays, that more people don't realize the skill and time it takes to make great photos. It takes a lot of practice!

Melissa Jaimes: You said this perfect! As I was reading, I was thinking the same thoughts. I actually charge less than I should right now but I had just listed these prices not long ago and feel I should wait until next year to increase prices. Thanks for spelling this out to help others understand.

Crystal: i totally agree w you on if thats all u want go to wal-mart. I just started, and dk what to charge for session fees. i want to sell packages! not just cds! what should i price them at? I edit everything.please help.

Jamie Corpus: Thank you so much for writing that! I was just googling for something to "explain" the cost break down.. Can I quote you? :)

admin: sure!!!

Crystal McLouth: Thanks for the amazing article. I just can't say it better myself... feeling this exact same way lately! Can I share this on my page?