To start, any photographer needs a camera. Basic DSLR costs around $1000, but professional grade camera might cost $3000 and more. Most photographers have 2 camera bodies, in case of emergencies. Lenses can cost anywhere between $500 and $3000. Add to this lighting equipment (which can cost thousands), and other endless tools, such as memory cards, hard drives, reflectors, stands, posing props, backdrops and more. Photography gear is expensive! And it needs to be updated or replaced every few years due to wear and tear or simply being outdated.
Photography is a small business, therefore photographer pays for insurance and business taxes. Also as self-employed people they don't get any benefits or pension, so they're paying for it themselves.
When it comes to editing it's not free either, as professional photographers pay monthly or annual fees to use their editing software which costs at least $200 a year. Additionally to provide quality editing photographer needs good computer with calibrated monitor and fast speed internet to upload large files. If the retouching is being outsourced, there are fees for retouching services. Then there are online storage fees such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Website hosting fees can get pricey, not to mention that photographers pay for their own marketing and advertisement.
Most professional photographers also have one big expense such as studio, and that can cost anywhere from few hundred dollars for an occasional usage and couple thousands to operate a full time studio.
Now I want to talk about how time consuming it can get. What might seem like "just pressing a button" can actually turn into countless hours of labour.
Taking photos is only one part of photographer's job. But there are many other tasks which require time and effort in order to guarantee quality service and results.
Communication with clients is important. Outside of an actual scheduled consultation sometimes back and forth communication between a client and a photographer can take hours. There's a good reason behind it though, as a good photographer cares to ensure that their client is well prepared and is comfortable with the process from start to finish.
Sometimes additional time is needed to get to and from a location.
Taking pictures itself can take several hours. A lot of people get nervous when their photo is being taken, therefore a good photographer won't rush the process, allowing clients to take their time to relax and become comfortable in front of the camera.
After the pictures were taken they're being loaded into computer, then culling and selection process begins, which can take several hours. Not to mention actual editing of final images, which can take 10-30 minutes per photo. Some photographers also create print orders and deliver physical products.
So as you can see - all in all it can take a lot of hours to accommodate just 1 client. It might be irrelevant to mention, but it is still a fact - photographers often don't get to spend time with their own family during weekend and holidays, because this is when they're needed most.
ART. EDUCATION. EXPERIENCE.
When you hire a photographer you also hire an artist. That beautiful portfolio you see on photographer's website didn't happen overnight and didn't come from sheer talent alone. Every photographer spends years learning and perfecting their craft, ongoing...often investing in courses and tutorials so then they can produce consistent results which is what you want to see when you're hiring a photographer.
There’s a category of photographers who support their photography hobby by having a full time job. But when photography is a full time career - it has to sustain itself. Oftentimes, especially at the beginning stages, photographers can only afford to cover their business expenses, so it's important to understand that not everything they charge would actually go into their pockets.
You might find full time photographers who charge very low prices, but they’re likely not creating a custom experience, or giving you the time and care you deserve, because in order to be sustainable they have to take high volume of clientele, sometimes several people a day. They are often overwhelmed and eventually get burned out, go out of business OR raise their prices to be able to afford to BE a photographer in a first place.
So there you have it. I hope you found this article informative and it clarified a few things about photography industry. As always, I am here to answer any questions you might have.
If you're considering hiring a professional photographer check out last week's article "How to choose a photographer": http://www.puremuseportrait.com/blog/how-to-choose-a-photographer
Have a great week and stay healthy!