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I'm a former elementary school teacher, a proud military spouse and soon to be mama of 2! I love helping and serving people through photography in Greenville, SC and everywhere else it takes me. I love showing people the light and love in their everyday lives!
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What NOT TO WEAR TO A PHOTO session!
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June 7, 2021
Ever wonder why photographers charge what they do? Why such high prices? Before I started photography, I assumed that I knew the reasons why. Well – most of them anyway. Equipment. Editing software. That’s the bulk of it, right?
Allow me to pull back the curtain and take you behind the scenes into some of the things that need to be invested in in order to run a successful photography business. Some of it you may be aware of. While some things might surprise you!
Let me start with the obvious expenses that photographers invest in. Then I’ll move into some things that had me saying, “Wow, photographers actually have to PAY for that?”.
Before anything else, if you want to be a good photographer, you need to invest in your education. Nobody is born with the instinctual knowledge of how to use a professional DSLR camera in manual mode! I found that with photography education, YouTube only takes you so far. I began with taking courses on LinkedIn, which was a good starting place. However, I still needed a clearer direction.
Enter Amy & Jordan Demos. Being former elementary school teachers themselves, their courses were perfect to understand. They walked me through almost everything I needed to know about photography (and opened my eyes to a lot)!
Yes, it’s important. But there’s more. I had to learn about how to shoot in manual mode, how to edit, how to work with different lighting scenarios, and how to run a business. Each one of those is a beast of its own. Expect to invest a couple hundred in education right off the top.
This one is kind of an obvious one. You need the right equipment if you want your photos coming out looking the best that they can. In Amy & Jordan’s course, they cover what you need and why. Again, I went into it thinking I could get away with just a camera and a nice lens. Turns out you do need to take a lot of other things into consideration! All of this equipment adds up very quickly. To see what I personally carry to sessions, see my blog post here: What’s In My Camera Bag.
Also, if you’re going to be a photographer who shoots in a studio or provides seasonal sessions, be sure to add in all of those prop expenses too!
This is something I: 1. Didn’t know about and 2. Didn’t know I needed. I always figured you email clients, send them the paperwork, tell them how to pay and voila! You have a session. Well, that gets messy very quickly. It also gets out of control when you get multiple clients, multiple dates and multiple pieces of paperwork and everyone is in a different step of the process.
The system I found, Dubsado, is a life saver. I won’t lie, it was extremely complicated to learn at first and I needed a step by step guide (thank you, Rebecca Rice!). This system allows you to automate your emails, contracts, set up your booking calendar and payments. So this is another monthly expense that isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s absolutely necessary. If you’d like to try it out for yourself, you can do so here.
Culling? What in the world is that? Here’s yet another thing I wasn’t aware that I needed. Before you can edit your photos, you need to “cull” them. That means going through them all and selecting which ones are worth keeping and editing, and which ones you don’t need. Seems like a simple task that you wouldn’t need any special program for – until you have 1,000 photos to go through and you try to do it without a program!
This is when I found PhotoMechanic. This program allows you to sift through your photos and choose which ones you’d like to keep. They also let you assign ratings to the photos (which is great for later when you need to quickly seek out some favorite photos for a blog or social media post). Thankfully, this program is a 1 time fee and not a recurring monthly charge. Once you buy the program, you have it forever.
Lightroom, lightroom, lightroom. This is a must. With the occasional Photoshop. This is a recurring monthly charge that is worth every penny, and it’s a must for photographers. Thankfully I’ve learned how to cut down my editing time drastically by learning how to shoot my photos correctly in camera. That way, when I take them to Lightroom to edit, it’s only for slight tweaks.
You need to pay for server space to host your photos. These days, you NEED a professional, nice looking hosting site when you delivery photos in a gallery. Sending clients photos via email or Google drive simple doesn’t cut it. My personal favorite for delivering client galleries is Shootproof. It’s easy to use and has a beautiful layout for galleries. With Shootproof, you pay per amount of photos you’d like to host on the site.
NOTE – This is why galleries have an expiration date! Since we’re paying for the server space, we have to rotate galleries in and out. Unless of course, you’d like to pay the fees to host all of your galleries on their website forever, which I don’t recommend.
Getting a website that met my needs was another learning curve. You have to pay for the website name, the hosting platform, sometimes even the layout and branding depending on how much you’d like to invest. When I started, I began with WordPress. Once I realized that I don’t have a coding bone in my body, I switched over to ShowIt. This is another expense that isn’t cheap, but the user friendliness of it makes it worth it.
If you want subscribers, you’re going to need an email system. This is separate from the Dubsado – the email system that takes care of invoices, payments, inquiries, etc. This kind of email system – Flodesk – allows you to create content and share it with your closest fans! This is where I email booking links ahead of time, let my VIPs know about upcoming events, sessions and discounts. I also share a little bit about me, share some behind the scenes and tips. If you’d ever like to try out Flodesk for yourself, I have a 50% off code for you here.
Sometimes you need to pay to shoot at a certain location. I learned this my first year when I wanted to host sessions at a Christmas Tree Farm. I never considered that there would be a fee to do so! Most places charge photographers by the hour. Depending on the location, it can be between $50-100 per hour to rent the space. So right off the top, if a photographer isn’t making at least that, they’re losing money.
This is one thing you can’t put a price tag on. Photographers, across the board, spend a lot more time than people realize on their businesses. I bet most could say 25% of their time is actually shooting sessions, the rest of the 75% is spent behind the scenes doing things that most people don’t see. Planning, responding to emails, marketing, social media, editing and just keeping up. The hours are long, and while a lot of it can be done from home, it requires a lot of attention that’s not directed towards your family.
All of these things truly add up, especially with the monthly expenses. Photographers typically invest hundreds, if not thousands per year. It takes many photo sessions just to break even, let alone begin making a profit. On top of that, add up all of the time away from family and loved ones. I hope this helped to shed some light on why photographers charge what they do! Next time you see some of those prices, hopefully you’ll understand why.