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Monday, October 15, 2012

Why Are Photographers So Expensive?

It's Free to Click The Button, Right?

"You're not giving me any prints, so it's not costing you anything to take a few pictures for me, right?"  And then she handed me $1 for my efforts.  Little did she know, I spent half an hour taking, editing, and formatting those couple of photos for her.  McDonald's would have paid me more.  Time to set prices.

If The Photoshoot Takes An Hour, Aren't Photographers Making $100+ An Hour?

I spend about 15-20 hours on every session.  
  • I prepare by driving around, hunting out locations, searching and memorizing posing ideas for the particular session, buying and making props, answering questions and preparing paperwork for my client.
  • Then there's the actual photo shoot.
  • Editing photos to make them look beautiful online and when printed takes the bulk of my time.  Probably 12-15 hours on average because I want the images to be as perfect as if they were to hang on my wall.
  • Preparing the online viewing Gallery and the flash drive with the session images.
  • Delivering the flash drive and holding a print order session.
  • Ordering and delivering actual prints.
Still, You Take Home a Lot of Money, Right?

That's what I thought a year ago.  Then I met the IRS.  And the City Tax Commissioner.  And the State and the County, everyone wants something!  Allow me to break down a photographer's expenses:
  • $5,000-10,000 in professional camera equipment.  This is often the camera body and lenses alone. 
  • Then come the lights, tripods, reflectors, photo editing software, lens cleaners, camera bags, memory cards, external hard drives...oh, and a computer is pretty helpful too!
  • Yearly business licensing fees
  • More fees, taxes, and fees - just to be legal!
  • A certified Accountant come tax time. 
  • Start up logo and advertising costs.
  • Then the IRS takes 20% of my profits.
  • 10% will go to tithing as well, though I don't begrudge that.  Maybe the IRS should take a page out of the Bible and promise blessings to those that pay their taxes.  Then I wouldn't grumble so much about their cut. :-)
  • Education!  Any photographer worth their salt is constantly learning and improving.  Mentoring, classes, and workshops are not cheap, but if you find the right ones, they are worth the investment!
So Why Are You Doing This?

At the end of the day, I think I get paid around $4-5 an hour.  Someday I'll probably raise my prices, but for now, one of my motivations of actually getting licensed as a business was to (legally) provide beautiful, affordable art for my clients.  When I saw this engagement photo, I was blown away.  It clicked for me that that's exactly what photography is - art. 

And when I saw this photographer's family portraits, I was in awe.  I asked myself, how much do people already spend to hang a beautiful art print on their wall?  Now, what if it was a gorgeous image of their own family?  Priceless.

This is what I aspire to.  And this is when it made sense for me.  We all have choices in how we value or spend our money.  If someone could capture an image like this one below for me, as well as others of my family in the same session, I would gladly give up 2 or 3 date nights of nice dinners and movies to hang this on my wall and keep it forever!
Now I understand the value of a good photographer. 


About Me

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Thanks for visiting! A Davis County, Northern Utah photographer. Carrie Plastow Photography specializes in children and family portraiture. Please contact Carrie for any questions.

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