Good photography is expensive, but it's expensive on both sides. Professional photographers spend thousands on equipment and business expenses, often sacrifice evenings and weekends, and spend many more hours working than the time you see them photographing. It's easy to look at a price sheet and think that photographers make a lot of money. But, in reality, much of it is spent on expenses and overtime.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (USA, 2019), photographers make a median salary of $36,280USD per year, or about $17,44USD per hour.
Photographers have many expenses to start and maintain their business. Here are some of them.
- Photography equipment (cameras, lenses, drone, flash)
- Equipment accessories (batteries, memory cards, tripod, stabilizer, bags, filters, maintenance, etc.)
- Computer and its accessories (monitor, calibrator, wires, etc.)
- Processing software (Adobe suite, Da Vinci, Metareal)
- Monthly subscriptions (CRM, billing, email)
- Business expenses (registration, annual payments, accounting, etc.)
- Sales fees (Stripe, Paypal, bank account)
- Liability insurance
- Online education, workshops
- Transportation to photoshoots
This is an overview of the most common expenses as a photographer. These can run into the thousands of dollars per year, not including basic photography equipment (cameras, lenses, accessories) which can easily reach $25,000.
2. Working hours
When you pay $250 for a one-hour session, it does not mean that the photographer is paid $250 per hour.
In fact, it is not uncommon for photographers to spend more than 3 times the duration of a session working. So, the one hour session is in fact a minimum of 3 hours of work (this is an example, it can vary widely depending on the photographer and the type of session).
Here are some reasons why a session can take so long:
- Communication with clients
- Confirmations and signatures for a session
- Preparation for a session
- Transportation to the session
- Time on site
- Return transportation
- Uploading and backing up photos
- Sorting and processing images (the time is generally equivalent to the duration of the session)
- Export, upload and backup of final images
- Creating a private gallery and sending the images to the client
We also have to spend a lot of time in the back-end of our business, even without considering the sessions. The website must be constantly updated as well as social networks, education is ongoing, bookkeeping, client management, photo archiving, content creation, etc.
3. Experience and expertise
No, we don't just push a button.
Chances are, your photographer has taken several years to perfect their craft. We spend a lot of hours and money educating ourselves, practicing, making mistakes and learning from them, and continuing our education to provide the best service possible.
Studying photography is also beneficial, although it is a big commitment. The DEP in photography that Laurianne Pilon took is a full time 18 month program. The teachers are experts in photography and almost every subject is covered. It's a program that focuses on practice so we can see the constant improvement.
Here are some reasons why professional photographers charge their rates, although it is different for each photographer. Then there is the photographer's reputation, years of experience, training, publications, awards, and more.
Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!
Trevor Brown - Unsplash