Ever wonder why photographers charge what they do?


In a time of digital cameras, iPhones, Instagram, and filters… People tend to ask… Why do professional photographers cost so much? Well, there is a whole lot more to it than taking nice pictures with a decent professional camera. You are paying for the expertise, creativity, and the time it takes to create the photo Itself.


Let’s take a look at a typical two-hour portrait session:

  • Travel to/from the location
  • Time itself spent photographing the session
  • Setup and preparation at the location
  • Load the photos after shooting onto a computer for editing
  • Backing up the photos and then creating a USB Flash Drive
  • 4-5 hour of editing time: culling (selecting the best photos / keepers), cropping, adjusting, enhancing, sharpening, etc
  • At least a few hours talking to the client, answering calls, responding to emails, sending and receiving contracts and invoices, invoicing and receiving payments, ordering prints, packaging prints and USB Flash Drives, shipping items, trips to/from the post office
  • Meeting with the couple before the shoot, meeting with the couple after the shoot


The time adds up fast!


So now let’s take a look at a wedding with 8 hours of coverage time. I will spend on average 40-50 hours of my time on a wedding that was 8 hours long. Time is spent:

  • Meeting with the clients before and after the wedding day
  • Traveling to/from the location
  • The time spent planning and preparing the timeline for the wedding day with the couple wedding planner
  • Setup and preparation at the location
  • Shooting the wedding day itself
  • Post processing: editing, enhancing, downloading and backup up the cards from my camera, backing up the final images, designing albums and making revisions to those albums. Then there is the time making the prints, creating USB Flash Drives, etc…


There is quite a bit more: Like the time spent talking to the other vendors. For example, the time that is spent talking to the venue about details and insurance. Then requesting insurance documentation from my insurance company to provide to each venue. There is also the time spent organizing, hiring, and managing assistants and second photographers when they are needed.


Another huge contributor to the cost of hiring a professional photographer is the cost of the professional camera gear and equipment owned by that photographer. Now, I strongly believe that gear isn’t everything… It takes a talented photographer to work the professional gear and serious knowledge about light, light setups, and cameras. But when you are a professional photographer, you do need to have professional gear to ensure you are not held back in capabilities. Here is a list of my gear and the price tags I paid for them (Rounded).

  • Nikon D4s DSLR: $6,500
  • Nikon D810 DSLR: $3,000
  • Nikon Df DSLR: $2,700
  • Lenses:
    • 12 – 24 mm: $1,900
    • 24-70 mm: $1,800
    • 70-200 mm: $2,100
    • 85mm: $800
    • 50mm: $500
    • 105mm: $900
  • Flash, Lights, and Strobes:
    • (5) Nikon SB-910 Speedlights: $2,750
    • (1) Nikon SB-700 Speedlights: $350
    • (2) Profoto B1: $4,200
    • 5’ Octabox: $400
    • (2) 24in Octabox: $400
    • (1) 2’ x 3’ Softbox: 200
    • Misc stands, reflectors, backdrops, sand bags: $600
    • Video Light Kit: $1,000
    • LED Lights: $500
    • Ice Light: $500
  • Bags:
    • Think Tank Airport Security: $415
    • ONA Astoria: $400
    • Pelican Case: $120
    • $500 in other bags/holders/straps


Now, doing the math that is up to $32,000 dollars that I lug around with me to a wedding or shoot. If something happens to that gear, I have to replace it. Gear wears out and needs to be replaced, eventually, and it is a huge investment.


The costs associated with just owning and managing a photography business itself are quite high as well. Some of those costs include:

  • Marketing and advertising costs
  • Monthly fees associated with the studio location
  • Attending seminars and conferences to stay fresh on current trends and techniques
  • Entering and attending photography competitions
  • The cost of owning professional software for editing the photos
  • Business license fees
  • Insurance fees
  • Location scouting and networking with others in the industry


A lot of my couples are able to find me because my photos have been featured somewhere. I spend a lot of time submitting the photos to publications, emailing publishers, following up with those publishers and requests, etc. I am constantly responding to requests, orders, and inquiries that take a lot of time. A lot of time is spent meeting with potential couples/clients.


To sum it all up… You get what you pay for. A professional photographer, like myself, is worth much more than you may realize because you aren’t just paying for a bunch of photos… You are paying for the use of their gear, the time and money they spend on all of the items listed above, and the time they have spent to become experts in the field of photography to capture photographs in a creative and artistic way.