It’s just a click right….
Not everyone wants or has to have professional photographs taken, I know this. It’s not compulsory, or necessary and not everyone needs a beautiful canvas in their baby’s nursery showing off those tiny features in those very early days. We all have phones with great sensors, so we can do it all ourselves, right? It all depends on what you want. I for one believe that those in-the-moment phone snaps have their place but so do beautiful professionally edited images. They are timeless, printed, tangible and last a lifetime.
Those who choose to use a professional photographer because they want those gorgeously edited professional results usually have the dilemma.. “How much are those photos worth to me? What would I be happy to pay?”
As photographers, we often feel uneasy about quoting prices, and many of us have undercharged for our work because of this. We do however need to make a living, just like everyone else. But we see so many comments and requests on social media such as…. “I just want a few cheap snaps, you don’t need to edit them, I’m happy to take unedited ones” or “My brother in law has a camera and offers all images on disc for £50” You are only clicking a button. Digital photos do not cost you anything. Right?
Here’s what goes into “clicking a button”
Yes, there are people offering services at a fraction of the price, and if that’s the service for you then I am not here to convince you otherwise. If you’re interested in what the difference might be between an “all images on disc for £50″ photographer and the images you can expect from a professional photography business then this might help explain it…
Our Kit: Professional cameras are a big investment and often need replacing every 3 years or so. And that’s not including lenses, of which we need a few. For those cute close ups of your baby’s tiny toes and eyelashes, you need a professional macro lens. You really can’t get the same details using any other lens or indeed a mobile phone. Then there are lenses for just baby and wider lenses which can capture the whole family each costing a small fortune, but they are worth their weight in gold. Good quality lenses produce good quality images, scrimping on such a crucial element would mean less beautiful results and would you expect anything less than beautiful images from a professional? Both camera and lenses require regular servicing and insurance, which comes at additional cost. Lighting for studio shoots or speedlights for those times when natural available light just isn’t bright enough to get a good quality image. Batteries and replacement bulbs also come at a cost.
Insurance: Like any business photographers need insurance. There’s not just equipment insurance we also need professional indemnity insurance, building insurance and public liability insurance. It’s a must for any professional business. For wedding photographers a venue won’t even let you work there without these insurance documents, they’re important and necessary and also quite expensive.
Advertising: Website building, hosting and regular maintenance. Business cards, brochures, Facebook advertising, posters, leaflets. Sure, I don’t have to advertise, but then how would you ever find me?
Tools of the trade: Editing software such as Photoshop and Lightroom come with an annual subscription fee. You’d like to see your images in a password protected secure online gallery? For this service photographers are charged a monthly fee and there are limits to how much you can store in these galleries without having to upgrade and pay more so if you’re ever wondering why we don’t leave your galleries up forever it’s because there are costs involved. When you view a slideshow, the slideshow software comes with a monthly charge and a licensing charge is paid for any music that is played. Photography requires regular training to keep on top of the ever evolving industry that we operate in. I have to invest in regular training both in terms of advancing my photography skills and ensuring that I am practicing safe techniques with you precious little bundles.
Boring but necessary: Book keeping and accountancy costs. Back up and storage software to ensure your images are safe and secure. Payment processing fees. Small things such as subscriptions & memberships to organisations such as BANPAS can soon add up too.
At the shoot: Props such as hats, scarves, headbands, wooden crates, buckets, nappy covers, helium balloons, stands, backdrops, wooden bowls.. the list is endless. There is usually more stashed away than what has been hand selected for your shoot too. Then there’s refreshments and usually plenty of washing required post shoot to ensure everything is perfectly clean for the next little person to use the props and blankets.
Taking photos professionally comes at a cost and these are only the tangible expenses.
Now consider the time it takes to provide a professional service to each client…
At least 15 – 24 hours broken down as follows
Communication prior to shooting: emails, phone calls, pre-consultation, instructions, answering questions, confirmations (1 hour).
Session prep: Based on your requests and requirements I need to work out how to approach your session so that it run smoothly for you once you arrive. You wouldn’t want me to miss a shot you really wanted and I don’t want to be making up the shoot as I go because I want to make sure you get well thought out images. So each pose and prop I would like to cover is planned, I choose backdrops and props which you have either requested or in a colour or style that you’ve indicated you would like. I also have to prepare the work area, setting up the backdrop, making sure everything is clean and tidy and picking up things like helium balloons from the shop in town. (1-2 hours)
The session: (1-4 hours) depending on the type of shoot a session can take anywhere between 1 – 4 hours.
After the session: Cleaning the studio, cleaning all props used (not only the ones soiled) (1.5 hours)
Image selection: (1 hour)
Post production: editing of approximately 30 images (6-12 hours) Does that sound a lot? That is on average 12-24mins per image and given I shoot in RAW and need to convert each image into a beautiful jpeg for you that’s working pretty fast. Any retouching or cloning takes a little longer. Composite images can take hours to pull just one image together as so much work has to go in to seamlessly blending together the component parts.
Preparing online gallery: Using software to create your slideshow (1 hour)
View & Order Session: (1 hour)
Preparing your order: Depending on the order, I then design an album including client approval & changes upload images for print, prepare USB and check products (1-4 hours).
Delivering your Order: Whether it’s packaging up your order and taking it to the post office or delivering it to your door by hand, it takes time to ensure what you receive is beautifully packaged and arrives in tip top condition (30min – 1 hour)
Is this everything? Well.. not exactly. There’s the small case of running a business, on top of working in it. To have a steady income I need to treat my work like the business that it is. So marketing is a must, as is responding to enquiries that may or may not turn into bookings. Writing engaging content for my blog and keeping my social media up to date. It’s what clients expect to see and it all takes an extraordinary amount of time.
Speaking of time, it took me many years of training to get where I am today. Not only did I have to pay for the training, I dedicated (and still do dedicate) hours and days of my time to have the technical skills required to do my job.
As a result, would I expect to at least earn the minimum wage for the work I do? Would you? £7.20 per hour is the current minimum wage in 2016. The average employed photographer with no business running costs earns £17 per hour. So to provide the level of service outlined above you can start to see why all your images on disc might not just be a click of a button and may cost a little more than £50 to produce.
So yes there are people out there willing to click a button and give you some images for very little but knowing all of the above I hope you understand that there is a cost to providing you with a professional service and all that comes with it. I hope you would expect all of the above from me and as a result I hope that you would also expect to pay a fair price for it.
Clicking the shutter might only take a few minutes. Providing you with a bespoke portrait experience and beautifully edited images that will stand the test of time takes so much more.