Understanding The Cost of Professional Photography / by Jennifer Evans

15399330_m"Serioulsy?, $$$ for a one hour session?  That's crazy, a doctor doesn't even get paid that! " "Why would I pay $$$ for a session when my sister who just bought an expensive camera can do it for free?"

These are all valid questions and I want to take the time to explain why professional photographers cost what they do...

Before I dive into this, I want to explain how I define "Professional Photographer".

A professional photographer is someone who has spent years mastering the technical craft, produces consistent quality work, maintains reputable business ethics and practices, and earns a living (or a portion of their income) through an established legal business that holds insurance and pays taxes.  A professional photographer IS NOT the lady down the street has a nice DSLR and charges $50 cash to photograph her friends' children.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at why professional photography costs what it does...


Most people don’t realize the amount of time and effort that goes into creating those beautiful images.  To give you a good idea, here is a breakdown of a typical portrait session:

  • 30 Minutes: Booking time (contracts, paperwork)
  • 20-30 Minutes: Travel time to and from session
  • 20 Minutes: Prep time and set up for the shoot
  • 1 Hour: Shooting time
  • 1 Hour: Downloading and culling photographs from the shoot
  • 2-5 Hours: Editing (color correction, cropping, re-touching, artistic editing, resizing, preparing for print, etc)
  • 2-3 Hours: Orders (meeting with client, ordering prints, arranging payments, all the accounting that goes along with this)
  • 2-6 Hours: Design time for custom albums, cards, collages, etc.

In this example, the time involved in a one hour session can range from 9-17 hours!  That session cost covers a lot more than just that 1 hour spent with the client.

15475320_mPersonalized Service

A professional photographer takes the time to know you, communicates with you and asks questions before the shoot and works with you to achieve your vision.  They work with your child to make them feel comfortable and develop a rapport that makes for ease and genuine smiles.  Those $19.99 packages that you can get a the chain store photo shop?  Well, it's a bit of a different experience.

Talent & Skill

Having the ability to get those beautiful posed and candid images isn’t just about the expensive camera.  Professional Photographers spend tons of time learning, researching and training.  A professional photographer does NOT put their camera on Auto mode and snap away.  They understand how to manipulate the camera settings manually to achieve the look they are going for.  Professional photographers also are usually good communicators and have an eye for posing people and getting them to look their best.


Professional photographers are artists.  Look at several photographers portfolios and you will see several very different looks!  Photographers take years to achieve their “style” and once they find it, they perfect it.  By hiring a professional, you are guaranteed that your images will reflect the look and feel that you liked in their portfolio images.

Business Expenses


Professional Photographers invest in professional equipment.  A professional photographer has cameras (yes, they have more than one because a backup IS necessary) that cost anywhere from $3000-$5000, several lenses upwards of $1000 and lighting equipment.  Then add to that the cost of tripods, backdrops, props, memory cards, advertising costs, software, taxes….well, you get the point!

Professional Photographers also invest in computer software to edit photographs, back up images and run their websites.  Professional Photographers maintain liability insurance, pay taxes and have marketing expenses.

Still Not Sure?

It may help to think about it this way….most women will spend anywhere from $75-300 every few months to have their hair cut, colored and styled by a professional stylist even though they can do it themselves for significantly less.  Why?  Because they are paying for the stylist’s expertise, time as well as the experience.11119859_s

Photography is no different…well, maybe a little…. A beautiful image that captures the essence of your family's personality can have a greater impact and last several lifetimes...that haircut and color, well that only lasts a few weeks.

The bottom line, professional photography is an investment.  Whether or not that investment is valuable or not, is completely up to you!Charolotte187-WM