Why do photographers charge so much?

“How much do you charge for a photography session?” my client asked.

“They start at eight hundred dollars,” I emailed back. “And what exactly do I get for that?” she responded.”

A pre-session consultation, our session time and a finished gallery with your images” I answered. She wrote back to politely say that that didn’t seem like “enough” for a eight hundred dollar investment, she wanted to cancel her session.

My heart sank. She didn’t say it, outright, but her actions spoke clearly.

She didn’t see the value in what I provide as an artist and photographer. And you know what? That’s not her fault. It’s my own. Because I have never clearly articulated what goes into producing those photos, or what they signify, represent, or create for my clients.

That changes today.

Ever wonder why professional photographers, like me, charge what they charge?

This is why.

Because in order to produce gorgeous photos of you (photos for your website, blog, marketing materials, or personal use or family ~ legacy albums) it requires…

  • At least 3 hours of preparation. (Emailing back and forth with my client, arranging a photo session date and time, holding a consultation phone call to get to know one another and clarify our vision for the shoot, viewing  or creating a Pinterest board and getting and giving feedback on a sense of the style, decor, location and outfit inspiration).

  • One hour {give or take} of location scouting to find the perfect setting, book the venue or hotel room, and make my travel arrangements (if I’m flying to meet a client out of town).

  • One hour {or more} to drive to the session location, plus parking and unloading my gear.

  • Half an hour to set up the camera gear, hunt for the best lighting, meet and greet my client, hold one last conversation about my client’s intention and vision for the shoot, and possibly work through any last minute nerves or anxiety. (Most of my clients are not professional models. Many have never experienced a professional photo session before. It’s important to go meet them where they are and sometimes this means slowing things way down. This is important so we get natural, fully embodied photos.)

  • Two to six  hours {or more} to do the actual photo shoot. Each shoot yields about 300 to 500 raw photos.

  • Another hour or so to travel back home.

  • One - three hours to comb through hundreds of raw photos to pluck out twenty photos that are completely terrific (eyes open, not squinting closed, no stray hairs or strange angles, lovely smile, the right vibe and attitude, everything coming together to express just what it is we were going for).

  • About four - eight hours to lightly and artfully edit / color correct / retouch the selected photos.

  • Another hour to upload the photos to an online gallery, deliver the photos to my client, make any final adjustments my client desires (“Can you make this one black and white?”) and place my client’s orders for album, book, business card or note card printing, if they want hand-held products in addition to digital photos.

All together: We’re looking at about a twenty hour production timeline (and that’s a lowball estimate) in order to deliver a set of beautiful photos.

Eight hundred dollars. Divided by twenty. That’s $40 an hour. That’s less than you pay your manicurist, less than you pay your massage therapist, probably less than you pay your hair stylist or therapist or car mechanic or housekeeper.

But hours and dollars aside, what do those photos actually “do” for you?

On a spiritual, emotional or financial level, what can professional photos “provide”? That’s trickier to quantify, but here’s what I know for sure:

For many of my entrepreneurial clients, professional headshots mean the difference between a customer saying “Yes!” to purchasing a product or service… or not.

The difference between getting a book deal… or not. The difference between attracting high-caliber clients… or not. Professional photos do that. For many of my sexy boudoir clients, professional photos represent the very first time this woman has allowed her naked body to be seen, witnessed, and celebrated in the light of day.

Seeing these photos might be the first time she has felt truly beautiful in her entire life. One woman confessed that seeing her nude photos made her decide to leave a marriage that wasn’t working. “I realized that I am sexy, powerful, and I deserve more than this,” she told me.

Professional photos do that. For many of my family clients and couples, professional photos serve as a precious time capsule of a particular moment that will never be repeated. Engagement. First baby. Five year anniversary.

Two, ten, or twenty years later, these clients are infinitely grateful to have gorgeous, clear, vibrant photos that they can reflect on, share, and enjoy for the rest of their lives. One couple’s 17 year long relationship was completely changed {the wife says saved} by an intimate lovers session we did. Professional photos do that.

Having radiant, gorgeous, professional photos can be a life-changing confidence booster, income booster, and transformational experience.

Is it even possible to put a price tag on that kind of experience? Probably not. But if you could? It would be a mighty big tag.

Am I biased about all of this? Absolutely and un-shamefully.

I love photography. I think everyone on earth should experience a professional photo session at least once.

Hopefully, many more times than that. We live in a world where anybody can snap a selfie with a smart phone — and that’s tremendously cool. I love Instagram just as much as anybody else. It’s a valuable tool.

But there is a difference between snapping a quick shot with your phone… … and allowing yourself to be seen, witnessed and captured by a professional photographer. That’s why professional photographers, like me, charge what they charge.

Whatever you do for a living? I invite you to fiercely, unabashedly and with a whole lot of love, charge a fair and reasonable rate, too. Your work, your art, and the impact you are having on other people…… it’s worth it.


~ Danielle

Blog PostDanielle