It never fails to astound me when people inquiring about professional photography (wedding photography in particular), are shocked that the rate is much more than they’d expected.
It’s not as though the cost to hire a professional photographer has suddenly skyrocketed. It’s not an inexpensive service, it never has been. Pretty much since the invention of the camera, professional photographers have had to charge a within a certain range.
This pricing is to cover the costs of our equipment, our experience, our time and our operating costs, as well as all of the work required to process the images and deliver them to our clients. As with any specialized profession, minimum wage is not an option.
Even after years of being in this business, I’m always amazed when people don’t realize what I assume is a commonly known fact. Professional photography isn’t cheap. Never was, never will be…
But let’s say most people don’t realize that. OK. But when I’m looking online to hire any kind of service provider or even just shopping online, the first thing I check is the price. Doesn’t everybody? And I – as most professional photographers do – list my starting prices on my website, on a very easy to find page called ‘services’.
You can almost always find a list of photography prices on the photographer’s website. If it’s not on a page called ‘services’, it will be on a page called ‘rates’, ‘pricing’, or ‘investment’.
If it’s so easy and simple to find this information, then why are so many photography clients taken completely aback by the cost? Apparently they don’t bother to look at the pricing information available to them, they don’t comparison shop, they’ve done no research and they’ve already arbitrarily placed an unrealistically low value on this service before they begin making inquiries.
This drives me utterly bonkers. It’s lazy, it’s uninformed and it wastes everyone’s time. If you have no idea what something costs, take five or ten minutes to look it up PRIOR to contacting professional service providers with your inquiry.
Here’s the thing. A conscientious photographer will always give a detailed response to an inquiry. Whether it’s on the phone or by email, the average inquiry takes at least twenty minutes to reply to. And the issue of price rarely comes up at the beginning. It’s not something we generally start off with, because there are several things we need to know before we can give you an accurate quote.
Maybe twenty minutes doesn’t seem like that much time, but when we’re responding to several inquiries a day, or a week, it adds up. So when we’ve given our time and energy to you (for free) to answer your questions, to get your details and to describe our services, it’s incredibly frustrating and irritating to be told ‘Oh, that’s much more than I expected’ when we do tell you our rates.
Photography is always a collaboration between the photographer and the person (or people) being photographed. Good communication and a sense of comfort and compatibility are crucial elements to getting the best possible results.
So here are two simple ways to avoid annoying your potential photographers…
1- Do some research before-hand. If you’re getting married, before you contact wedding photographers, take the time to educate yourself about what to expect. Ask married friends what they paid. Read wedding blogs, wedding magazines, wedding boards… If you do, you’ll quickly realize that a wedding photography budget of less than $1000 is wildly unrealistic, as is expecting to hire a photographer for two hours or less.
If you’re hiring a portrait, headshot or corporate photographer, take the time to comparison shop online. Check at least four or five local photographer’s websites and take note of the starting prices. They’ll generally all be within the same range and no, it’s not going to be as cheap as Sears Portrait Studio.
2- Always check the ‘rates’ or ‘services’ or ‘investment’ page BEFORE contacting a professional photographer. This will prevent you from wasting your time (and the photographer’s) if their rates are too far out of your price range.
If you find that all of the good photographers are ‘too expensive’, then you need to realize that you’re underestimating what professional photography is worth, and you’ll have to readjust your assessment of its value.
Finally, here is a breakdown of what it costs to hire a professional photographer…
As with most things, photography prices do vary. There are basically three tiers:
Tier one - The ridiculously low prices of hobby or amateur photographers: If someone is charging less than $200 to $300 per hour, or under $1000 for wedding photography, they are NOT a professional photographer. No grey area here, it’s that black and white.
I’ve written before about the many, many reasons why hiring an amateur or hobbyist photographer is almost inevitably a choice you will regret. I’ll not belabor the point again, as it should be obvious that hiring a bargain basement photographer, will result in very poor quality equipment, poor quality services and poor quality images. When you hire the cheapest photographer you can find, you’re wasting your money instead of investing it. But I digress…
Tier two - The average price of professional photographers in most major cities across North America: For portraits, headshots and corporate photography, rates range between $200 and $400 per hour.
For professional wedding photography, the average starting range is between $1500 and $2000. That’s for six hours or less. For anything above six hours, you’re looking at between $3000 and $4000.
Tier three – The high end prices of status photographers: These are the very well established professional photographers who are almost celebrities within their field or their local area. They can and do charge double and triple the price.
This is because there will always be people who want to pay a squillion dollars to wear designer labels. Those same people want to pay exorbitant prices to hire a status photographer. Starting prices for weddings are usually at least $8000. Portrait and headshot sessions are usually at least $800.
So there you have it. Professional photography isn’t cheap. Deal with it.