Updated: Jul 2, 2021
“Why do you charge that much? Anyone with a nice camera can do what you do, right? Why would I pay someone hundreds of dollars to take photos when I have a nice camera on my phone?”
These are all questions that send chills up a photographers spine. Clients, and even friends & family, are always asking us why we charge hundreds of dollars for our services. People often fall victim to believing that photography is just simply snapping some photos and that is it. Not many people understand the cost of pursuing photography. Therefore, in today’s blog post I am doing a deep dive into the investment of photography as well as going over all of the essential things one needs to be a photographer.
First-most, the initial investment in gear for photography is quite the hefty bill. I am going to break down all of the gear that a photographer needs. The most obvious thing that a photographer needs is a camera. While there are ranges of different cameras from entry-level to professional grade, cameras are still quite expensive. Especially if a photographer plans on starting a business; they need a more professional camera. A typical pro camera is going to cost a minimum of two thousand dollars and is typically upwards of that. For example, the Nikon d780, which is a quality mirrorless DSLR hybrid is retailing $2,299.95 from Nikon today. I hate to say it, but that is only the retail cost of the body itself; meaning that there are no lenses included in the price. Which brings me to the next thing that photographers invest in: lenses.
You will often hear photographers say invest in glass not bodies because a great lens can greatly impact the quality of your photos. Lenses can range from fifty all the way to thousands of dollars. However, with anything, the more money you spend the better quality you are receiving. To give you a perspective I have personally invested just shy of a thousand dollars into different lenses just this year; with one of my most recent purchases being the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G Af-S Fx Nikkor Lens which retailed just around $500. Purchasing just two lenses can exceed a thousand dollars quickly, and photographers need a wide variety of lenses for different situations. I will be writing a blog post in the future about what is in my photography kit so you can get an idea of how many different lenses a photographer actually needs.
The last essential a photographer needs is a computer to edit on. Photographers have different preferences on computers, but MacBooks do hold a special place in most photographers heart. Personally, I have the MacBook Air with the M1 chip, and I believe that retailed at about $1,200 when I bought it. Computers are by no means cheap, but they are absolutely essential for our workflow. This is also a perfect time to mention that photographers also have to pay for their editing software. There are many different plans you can get. To get access to all of the Creative Cloud apps it is about $50/month and the Lightroom + Photoshop bundle with 1TB of storage is $19.99/month.
Now that we have all of the essential things out of the way I am going to get into the nitty gritty of everything photographers invest financially into their business.
Unfortunately having a camera is not just enough when it comes to photography. A photographer needs to have multiple SD cards and battery packs. SD cards and batteries alone can cost upward of $30 each. Additionally, photographers also need a quality bag to travel with their camera equipment. This is the one that I use: Tarion Camera Backpack. I got this bag off of Amazon for about $70 dollars at the time. It is important to remember that there are many other accessories that photographers invest in to aid their craft including: external flashes, battery grips, polarizing filters, light meters, and much more.
Other things that you need for photography that are more related to your computer are SD card readers and external drives. If there is anything in this blog post that you take away it is the fact photographers need to invest in a trustworthy external drive. Of course this comes with a hefty price tag, but it is a price you must be willing to pay to make sure that your photos are backed up and protected. Photographers will spend well over $100 for external drives that are reliable; I know that I did!
Photographers that also shoot inside also have to invest in lighting equipment and backdrops. If you plan on doing studio sessions it is pivotal that you have studio lights which can average anywhere from fifty dollars to hundreds of dollars. Photographers will also invest in quality reflectors for studio and outdoor sessions. As well, photographers invest in backdrop stands and tripods; which vary in price but can be quite expensive.
Oh do photographers pay a boat load for their subscriptions! Let me break down the types of subscriptions that photographers have. I am going to speak on personal experience and discuss what subscriptions I have, but obviously this varies from photographer to photographer. Firstly, I pay a monthly subscription of $8 for Pixieset which is my online client gallery. This is how I deliver all of my photos to my clients. I also have a subscription for my website service which is $30 a month, and when I created my website I had to invest in purchasing my own domain as well. Another service I use is Unscripted which is how I keep track of my clients and their shoots as well as sending my questionnaires and contracts. This subscription is a bit different because it is on a 3 month basis so basically I pay $30 every three months instead of $10/month.
There are always other things that photographers spend money on as well. This can range from different presets too investing in our education. For example, I am a part of Marissa Morrison’s Wedding Photography Masterclass which is also a monthly subscription. Photographers will also invest their money into planning styled shoots and other portfolio building experiences as well; which does cost a decent amount of money.
So to answer the question I asked earlier: “Why is photography so expensive?” the answer is the question itself! Investing in photography is expensive; so the prices photographers charge have to be enough to be able to make a profit! Photographers are just like any business! Shooting is only the tip of the iceberg of what we actually do, and the cost of running our business can be quite pricy! There is so much that photographers invest into the craft financially that many people are unaware of, and I hope this blog post shed some light to those of you who did not realize the investment of photography!