I apologize in advance if your name is Charlie.
Every professional photographer that I know has run into this problem before: Uncle Charlie brings his Canon Digital Rebel or other consumer-oriented DSLR to a wedding, gets in the professional’s way, and occassionally nags the professional about what gear or settings he’s using. Or a family hires Uncle Charlie or another friend to shoot their entire wedding/event themselves.
What’s important is what Uncle Charlie doesn’t know, not what he knows. It’s the professional who knows what Uncle Charlie doesn’t know–and that’s precisely why you should hire her, even though it will be more costly. Professional photographers are expensive. As they should be.
Here are ten reasons why professional photographers charge what they do:
Professional photographers are running a business
. While they love to take pictures and hope to make their clients happy, they are also in it to make money. These guys have made a CAREER out of photography, just like you are a doctor or an accountant. They aren’t your average Uncle Charlie who likes to take photos of his wife’s flowers or his dog on the weekend. They are good at what they do and they do it, or are thinking about it, 40 hours a week.
Professional photographers buy, obviously, professional equipment.
And that stuff isn’t cheap. They don’t drop in at Best Buy on their way to the movies and pick up a $500 DSLR with a kit lens
like Uncle Charlie did. A professional camera body alone will run anywhere in the $1500-$3000 range or the more professional $5000
range. For one camera.
And then there are lenses. Boy oh boy. A single professional lens can run anywhere from $1000
. Some are even more
. Yes, that’s oftentimes more than the camera itself. These lenses are fast, sharp, and you WANT your photographer to have them so that he can give you the best photos possible. And that’s why he needs you to pay him just like any other professional.
Add in professional flashes and other lighting equipment, tripods, bags and cases, filters, backdrops, and other accessories, and you’re looking at a multi-thousand dollar investment right off the bat.
…then they need backup equipment for when their primary camera or lens fails and they still need that shot of you throwing the bouquet so you won’t sue them. Think double of almost everything.
(Did I mention that while lenses stay useful for many years, digital camera bodies need to be replaced every two or three years to stay competitive?)
Professional photographers continually educate themselves
by going to workshops, joining professional organizations, and following the work of professionals better than themselves.They attend seminars and conferences led by these people. None of this is free–a single weekend photography workshop can cost over $1000. But they usually include lunch.
Professional photographers never use auto mode. They know their cameras inside and out. They know how fast their lenses are and the limitations of their gear. And because of it, they aren’t just snapping a picture. They are creating a photograph
. A work of art
. This is something that you cannot learn on the weekends; it takes years of experience to know how to compose a photograph properly (or interestingly), how lighting works, and why they need to ask to meet you for a portrait at sunset instead of at noon. They aren’t just pushing a button for you–they are recalling an entire body of experience, and that is what you are paying for.
Professional photographers don’t just go home from your event, dump the photos on their computer, and burn a disc for you. They spend hours upon hours to create just one photo. Their time
includes, but is not limited to:
- answering e-mails and phone calls–they are, usually, their own secretaries
- meeting with clients and driving to/setting up events
- processing the images
- retouching the images–didn’t you know that removing that pimple or nose ring takes time?
- meeting a client to preview the results of a shoot
- framing/finishing the images
- packaging and delivering images
- following up with clients to make sure they are satisfied…and begin marketing again
Not to mention the time to take the photographs themselves.
And they (hopefully) aren’t just doing this for you. They’re doing it for their other clients as well. You may think you’re paying for a two hour shoot, but expect the photographer to work for many hours on top of that.
That said, they are more than just photographers
. They are CEOs. They are secretaries, marketers, accountants, salespeople, production workers, buyers, negotiators, janitors, networkers, organizers. They are doing the jobs most businesses pay other people to do for them.
And sometimes they sleep.