Why is a professional photographer so expensive?

Have you looked into hiring a professional photographer? Received a quote, and thought to yourself “WTF! Why is it so expensive?” 

Here’s the deal as to why photography is expensive and what goes on BTS (behind the scenes). 

A social media photographer IS a professional photographer

Yes, we know- professional photography seems like a large expenditure in the short term, whether it’s for your social media, eCommerce website, print marketing or any other purpose! However, nothing has a stronger impact on a potential buyer than a visual representation of your brand or product. 

Photography is a major investment that your business should definitely consider. 

In marketing, visuals are the first element that evokes an emotional response (before text) and that emotional response is what will make or break a sale. The photos on your website and social media are representing you and your brand, and are a huge part of user experience. So obviously, you want to present your business in the best way possible. 

Professional photographer costs: The breakdown

Some clients may only associate pricing with the final delivered images, and it’s important for us to educate our clients in our photography process and what exactly goes on behind the scenes, so they have a better understanding of exactly what they’re paying for. 

There are a few key factors to consider in photography pricing, but these are the 5 most significant: 

One. Time 

For every hour of shooting, there are a few hidden hours of prep work and communication that you perhaps never considered:

  • Pre-production (Time spent planning the Photoshoot. Including emails sent, castings, building a team, creating mood boards, product acquisition and gathering of props) 
  • Travelling to and from the photoshoot
  • Setting up equipment/ breaking down
  • Time spent uploading, culling and editing images
  • Time spent communicating with the client, sending proofs and making adjustments
  • Discussions and final delivery to the client 

Two. Photography Equipment 

Photography equipment is HELLA EXPENSIVE. Just the camera body alone is upwards of $2.5K for a professional set up like ours. Here is a list of equipment a professional photographer requires to produce professional work and run a business:

  • Camera (including a backup camera)
  • Lenses 
  • Lighting equipment (studio or Speedlite)
  • Memory cards
  • Extra batteries
  • Tripod
  • Backdrop stands
  • Backdrops
  • Reflectors
  • Computer/ Laptop
  • External hard drives & online storage
  • Camera bags
  • Insurance (If you’ve spent thousands of dollars on equipment and you’re running a photography business, then you need insurance. This is upwards of $350 per year depending on what your needs are)
  • Rental equipment (we sometimes have to rent gear and this is a cost that should be factored into a quote for our clients)

Another consideration for photography equipment is that over time there is wear and tear on your gear and equipment needs to be repaired, serviced, cleaned and then eventually upgraded. 

One of our studio lights recently required a new flash tube and that set us back a cool $374!

professional-photography- legendary social media vancouver

Three. Editing Software

So once your photographs have been taken, they then need to be processed. This usually requires software like:

These require a subscription and have fees (either monthly or yearly). 

Four. Other Digital Tools

Nothing in life is free, even the software used to deliver edited photographs to our clients. We use Pixieset (a local Vancouver app) but there are other similar (paid) subscription-based apps out there that do the same thing. 

Even a simple tool like Google Drive requires a subscription so we can host the thousands of photos we capture every month.

Five. Experience and Skillset 

Whether a photographer has had professional training or is self-taught, they have likely spent years learning, honing their craft and developing their own personal style of work. 

“If I do a job in 30 minutes it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes”. ~Davy Greenberg

Our very own photographer, Kat, studied photography at Newcastle College. Learning and gaining a practical skillset that she has been able to apply to her work for the past 10 years. As part of her previous work as an eCommerce photographer for a fashion brand, she has also gained a unique eye for styling, paying particular attention to detail and working in a fast-paced environment. 

Final thoughts

Like most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to professional photography.

Photography, including social media photography, is much more than:

  • Show up
  • Shoot
  • Edit
  • Send

There’s planning, equipment, experience and hard costs to factor in as well. The great thing is, photography is a powerfully impactful marketing asset that lends huge credibility, shareability and presence to your brand.

Erin is the owner and founder of Legendary Social Media. She's trying, and failing, to be vegan. Directionally challenged. Cripplingly addicted to coffee and chocolate. Swears she'll travel the world (again) ... someday. Mommy to Zylo.