How many times have you seen a post on Facebook that says: “can anyone recommend a photographer that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?”, or “I’m looking for a reasonable photographer to take family pictures”?   

How does ANYONE answer that question?  What’s affordable to one is expensive to another.  And what’s worse…. why are people putting cost as the most important factor?  Does no one care about quality, reliability, style, or personality anymore?  And let’s not forget where we live.  If you live in ANY area of Charleston County (SC) you are living in a LUXURY area.  The people who live here have more money than those anyplace else in the state, and those who live and work here have the same big bills as you do! So why are so many people price shopping?

As a professional photographer, I am going to say what no other professional photographer will say:  The cost of professional photography has gotten ridiculous, and it is ruining the trade! 

Let me start by coming at you from MY perspective.  

  • First of all, my equipment is ungodly expensive.  It’s highway robbery!  One camera body and one professional lens can cost as much as a low-millage used car!  So there’s that. 
  • 50% of the problem is…. our EDUCATORS and MENTORS. They tell us that we are not “real photographers” if we are not charging $400-$1200 a session.  We PAY them for advice and their advice is always “Charge more, those who value what you do will find you and not blink an eye”, or “You have to cover your cost of doing business and give yourself a livable wage on top of that”.  We are snubbed and made to feel less than if we charge too little, and when you add the cost of doing business to the median wage in today’s society…you get ridiculous prices that no one wants to pay….and the post covid inflation is bringing that to light.   
  • The other 50% of the problems are Apple and Instagram.  Cell phones have really good cameras now and its pocket sized and much more affordable and easier to use than a real camera.  It doesn’t produce the same results as a real camera, but today Millennials, Gen Z, and others…. can’t tell a good photo from a bad one thanks to Instagram filters and some really bad influencers….so quality means nothing to most of them, and let’s face it…. they are the majority of buying clients these days. 

So is professional photography a DEAD trade?

My gosh, I hope not!  I started doing photography because I loved the creative liberties it gave me.  I only became a business out of necessity.  I’ve been at this since 2015 and I am so torn with how to do my pricing and what to offer people.  I change it often…. like throwing pasta at the wall to see if it sticks.  I can’t seem to find the sweet spot where clients are happy, and I make enough money to put gas in my car and buy groceries.  I’m blessed to have a husband with a job that pays for everything else, and my kids are grown with families of their own, so we don’t have the same expenses as a 30-something who is just starting their family and has to pay for small kids.   For this reason, I can charge less than those a little younger than me.  But my MENTORS tell me that cheap clients are problem clients who only come to me because I’m cheap, not because they like my work.  They say there’s no loyalty in a price shopper and I can’t build a business on that.  I would have to do multiple shoots A DAY just to get enough money to buy groceries….and there just isn’t that much photography work to be had in Charleston because our area is over-saturated with photographers.  They are not wrong. 

I’m not in photography for the money, I’m in it for personal gratification, I just need some money to stay afloat!

Photography is ART to me.  It’s the legacy I leave behind after I am long gone.  It’s how I become part of other people’s legacy.  I love learning new skills with lighting and my camera.  I want people to hire me because they love my work, not because I’m the cheapest.   Not everyone can say this.  Many people pick up a camera because they think it will be easy and they can make easy money.  This is what cheapens the trade and brings the quality and art form of photography to the gutter.  How does a client weed out the people just looking to make a buck and those with a true passion or eye?    STOP PRICE SHOPPING. 

Yes, budget should always be a factor, but before you look at budget, look at reviews, portfolio’s and ask the tough questions.  Don’t just go with someone because they were mentioned the most in your ISO post.  Dig deeper.  Look at the editing style.  Look at posing.  Look at the backdrops.  Most importantly, look at the lighting.  You will be able to tell who is invested and who’s not. 

From what I can see online, consumers are wising up and “canceling” the expensive photographer and opting for a novice with an iPhone instead.

As I mentioned before, my overhead is really low, so I can play around with my offerings more than most photographers can.  What I would like to know is…what exactly is it that paying clients want from us photographers???  I’m exhausted from playing the guessing game and throwing proverbial pasta at the walls.  So please, tell me…. What is a good fair price for my work?  How much would YOU charge if YOU were doing MY job?  Keep in mind… it’s more than a pre-session phone call, the actual shoot, and the editing time.   Many people expect me to have a warehouse full of wardrobe and props as well. I had to purchase my equipment(credit card debt), I pay monthly business expenses, and taxes, I pay for marketing so I can be found, a website, business licenses and required insurance policies, and last but not least…. I need grocery money every week.  For every one hour of photographing, it’s 2 hours of editing.  If not more.  For this reason, I couldn’t handle more than 3 sessions a week.    

How would you price my work?  What would you give with that price?

This is my explanation as to why professional photography is so expensive in 2024.

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