Why are photographers so expensive?

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

It is a question asked often by clients, they might not always say it but you can tell they are thinking it. As a photographer you very quickly get used to being told “I can’t afford that right now", "I will have to save up” or “that’s a bit more than I wanted to spend” and more often than not after one of these conversations, you never hear from that person again. It is hard, especially for me, as I would love to be able to suit everyone’s budget, but the reality is, photography is an expensive industry to be in, and we genuinely just cannot afford to give our work away.

A lot of a photographers work happens behind the scenes, what you see is not all that you get from a photographers service.

Let’s break it down, so for a typical session for me (let’s keep in mind this will vary from photographer to photographer) this is my process:

2 hours per session

1-2 hours travel

1 hour to upload and select our favourites from a session

2-4 hours edit time

Let’s add 2 hours for admin, discussions with client, arranging the session, creating the gallery etc

That could work out at 11 hours per session. And let’s keep in mind that this is just a rough estimate. Some sessions take longer, some shorter. There is a whole host of factors that determine how long a session will take to complete. For me some of these factors are:

Is the dog co-operative during the shoot or do they need more time to adapt?

Do I have to edit leads and people out of every photo?

This alone could easily add another few hours to a session. We do our best during the session to get our photos as close to perfect as we can in camera, this way they require less editing. However sometimes this is out of our hands, if a dog needs to stay on lead, or if the location has a lot of distractions and foot traffic then we can easily double our time needed to edit out all of those so that you are left with the perfect portraits.

So let’s stick with 11 hours, at minimum wage for me (I’m old) that would work out at £95.92 (based on national living wage of £8.72 an hour at the time of writing this blog). So we are practically at £100 if I was to be paid minimum wage for my work. Now let’s take into account that as a sole trader I am expected to cover all the expenses needed to run my business out of this.

So that includes:

Travel/petrol costs

Any parking expenses

Cost of editing software

Business Insurance

Cost of gallery software

And this is at a basic level and not taking into account the cost of my equipment (cameras and lenses are not cheap!), the cost of running my car to get to sessions, Studio management software, phone bill, internet, website costs, work wear, printing costs for products, delivery fees, Paypal charges.

Notice how I haven’t even mentioned my living costs or paying myself a salary yet?!

By the time all of these expenses are eaten into my minimum wage I would have nothing left to pay myself. Does that seem fair? Just because I have chosen to be self employed doesn’t mean I should not be entitled to a bit of spending money at the end of the month like everyone else.

Hopefully now you are starting to see why photographers need to charge in order to make their businesses profitable, because without a profitable business we may as well just be a hobby photographer.

As photographers we invest hours of unpaid time into perfecting our craft so that you get the highest quality work from us. Education never ends for a photographer, there is always a new skill or technique we can learn, and we do that so you don’t have to. You come to us and trust us to capture your precious moments and family time because we can provide a service you cannot do yourself. We are specialists, some more than others, for instance if a photographer specialises in a particular genre of photography, like me with dog photography, we have years of experience under our belt at doing exactly that. I have spent countless hours sat in the mud exploring the best angles and techniques to get the best out of your dog, I have worked with dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperaments which means I am ready to handle most situations.

So for a specialist you would expect to pay a bit more for their services right? Let’s say you had to have brain surgery and you were paying to go private, would you want the top class brain surgeon to do your surgery even though he would cost more money, or would you want the surgery intern to have a go so you can save a few bucks??

My mum always says, if you are going to do something, do it properly! This means that yes you can find a cheaper photographer to do any job, there is always someone out there willing to do it cheaper, but chances are you will get what you pay for (another one of my mum’s words of wisdom).

So if you really like a photographers work, and you respect and value their craft, do not hesitate based on cost, just like L’Oréal…we’re worth it!

Thanks for listening,


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