Good photography is expensive. There are no two ways about it. As a newborn and baby photographer I so often see parents on Facebook groups that I’m a member of asking for recommendations for photographers in my area who “aren’t a rip-off” or who are “reasonably priced”. A sentiment that seems to be mainstream among everyday people. I used to get rather depressed by these sorts of Facebook posts as what inevitably ensues are a list of around 50 photographers in my local area who charge next to nothing for everything the parent is looking for – all the digital files, fully edited, ready to print out cheaply at their local Officeworks. Truth be told I have even been mentioned by name in these groups as being “expensive”, and “not reasonably priced”. Yes, I know that I am expensive. And here is why:
1. The costs of being a professional photographer are high!
The jump from being a hobbyist photographer to a professional photographer is a big one. As a hobbyist, outside of the cost of a USB to give to your client, there are virtually no overheads. No professional membership fees ($500 p.a.), no insurances to pay (around $3k p.a), less need to update your camera equipment and props (as an example, I dropped a lens last month… bye bye $5k), no real need to have a dedicated space to work (rent, $25k p.a.), ongoing training and education (I just spent $2000 on another baby photography conference this year. I also went last year). This list is by no means exhaustive but it gives you an idea.
When photography is your main source of income and you need all of the above and more to make your business professional, you need to cover the costs of all these things and more before you even open your door. Not to mention the fact that if you are running a business where photography is your only or main source of income, that you actually need to make enough money to be able to provide yourself with a reasonable income otherwise what’s the point of running a business right?
2. Newborn and baby photography takes a LOT of time
Many people have the misconception that newborn and baby photography is simple. It’s just a matter of putting a baby on a blanket, snapping a few photos, and putting those files on a USB.
In truth, newborn sessions take a LONG time. Not just for the face-to-face interaction with your client, but in all the behind-the-scenes work that goes in to that session. Here’s a list to give you an idea of just how many hours needs to be factored in to each client’s costings:
– Answering enquiries, sending emails and price lists, phone consultations (30 mins)
– Preparing and setting up for newborn session (45 mins)
– Newborn session (3 hours)
– Packing up newborn session (45 minutes)
– Hand-washing props and blankets – read – washing baby poo out of stretchy wraps, not the most fun job in the world! haha (45 minutes)
– File upload, image selection, first round of editing (2 hours)
– Preparing and creating online gallery, slideshow, and uploading sneak peek (30 minutes)
– Consultation with clients, answering pricing questions, receiving order (30 minutes)
– Final edit of all images – hand retouching of each image – read – removing every tiny imperfection by hand and making sure each image is perfect (3.5 hours)
– Placing product orders, designing custom birth announcements (45 minutes)
– Receiving orders, re-packaging, tying pretty bowls, writing thank you cards (30 minutes)
– Going to the post office, sending packages, or driving them to my clients’ door if they’re local (30 minutes)
All up on average, I’d estimate that there are about 14 hours of work that go in to each and every session that I do. And this is just time only, not factoring in the cost of all the above expenses and actually wanting to leave enough at the end of the day to provide my family with an income (read: send my 2 kids to school, pay our mortgage, expenses, and be able to do nice things for them).
3. I’ve spent those years charging nothing to get to where I am today
Please don’t think that I’m criticising photographers who are just starting out and charging very little. When I first started, I used to charge $150 for all the digital files on a disk. At that time I had virtually no experience and was just wanting to earn a little to recoup the cost of my equipment to allow me to do something that I really enjoyed. Things are very different now. My work has improved dramatically, I now have 2 children and time away from them is precious. The great thing about photography is that there are so many photographers out there at different stages – some just starting out, some at the peak of the industry – and we all charge according to our experience and the quality of work we can deliver to our clients. Not everyone can or wants to spend a lot of money on newborn photography and that’s completely ok. There is someone out there for all levels of budget.
I spent thousands of dollars getting to where I am today on many in person workshops, mentoring sessions, conferences, and online photography courses. I have learned so much over the past 5 years and continue to perfect my art (as all good photographers do – you are always learning and improving). For the first few years of my business I made virtually nothing – everything I earned was put back into my business purchasing props and equipment. My days as a beginner photographer are gone, and so are my beginner prices.
4. Giving the best possible service to my clients – you get what you pay for
To make enough in photography to actually earn a decent living, there are really 2 ways to go about it – cheap with lots of clients, or more expensive with less clientele. It has always been important to me when I started my photography business all those years ago that customer service was a big priority for me. I want to be able to provide my clients with beautiful images, at sessions which are never rushed, and to have super fast turnaround times for editing and products. I know many photographers who charge a lot less than me for similar work, but to make ends meet are focused on getting as many customers through the door as possible. Many of these people are waiting up to a month after their photography session to see their galleries. I aim to get galleries out to my clients within a few days. Charging more allows me to be able to limit my maximum number of sessions to 2 sessions a week and to give every customer the attention they deserve.
Are you a photographer? What is your business model? Or are you a parent looking for a newborn photographer? What is important to you? I’d love to hear your opinion.