As a London professional photographer, it is not uncommon I see people being confused about why does professional photographer costs so much.

Having professional photos taken can be a magical experience. They help you leave behind sweet memories and legacy that pass on for generations.

There may be different reasons that prompt you into hiring a professional photographer. You may want to celebrate a special event or stage in life. Or you may be looking for a confidence boost. Alternativley, you may want to create high quality personal branding or marketing materials.

So you start searching for professional photographer that appeals to your aesthetic style and capture your imagination. If you have never worked with a professional photographer before, you may be surprised and confused by the costs involved. After all, it is just about showing up and pressing a few shutter buttons right?

It is far from the truth indeed! I would like to de-myth and give you an insight why professional photographers cost so much.

Disparity in prices of professional photographers

One of the confusion comes from the wide spectrum of prices offered by different photographers. You may wonder – why is there a wide range of prices? Who should I go for?

Let’s put it in an analogy. The prices you pay for for a handbag can vary significantly. How much you are ready to pay for, can be considered in relation to its aesthetic appeal, its quality, your trust and perceived value in the brand. The price tag can also have correlation to the experience while you shop for those clothing items.

Hiring a professional photographer is not dissimilar. You are purchasing the creative work of an artist. This skilled artist has a significant creative input in performing his / her experience. He /she will exercise diligence and a variety of skills.

The talent of these photographers may vary. So do their experiences, equipment, and the support they provide to you before / during / after the photo shoot. The photographers whose work who appear more ‘high-end’, stylish or aesthetically pleasant would likely to have gone through more extensive training and accumulated more experiences. They are also inclined to use more expensive equipment to maximise their creative output.

Substantial invisible hours in relation to work performed by a professional photographer

“I just want an hour of your time”. Some of my clients may say when they approach me.

Photographers operate very differently to tradesmen like electricians and gardens. A tradesman may turn up with the same tool box with minimal preparations. They take orders and check the issues when they are physically spending time with you. Commute aside; their physical presence will be quite reflective of the time they spend with you in total.

For photographers, their work start when you enquire. Preparations vary among professional photographers; I, for example, invest time heavily with my clients in planning and consultations. I will gather good understanding of what they need and make sure they are well prepared for the shoot.

Shoot preparation, editing and delivery

On the day before the shoot your photographers will pack and prepare the equipment. If they travel to location for your shoot, within the perimeter of any London professional photographers, they are likely to incur an extra hour before and after the shoot travelling to shoot locations. If the photography shoot takes place in a photography studio, they will spend time in preparing the studio before, and cleaning up the studio after.

After the shoot, while you unwind from the photoshoot experience, your professional photographer will spend time to go through photos. He or she will shortlist the relevant or best photos for you (this process vary across photographers, who may skip these processes by giving you ALL the photos they take). After selection, time will be spent in editing and retouching. The more subtle and natural the retouching appears, the more time it is likely to take to achieve that natural look.

Last but not least, once photos are selected by clients, there will be time involved in arranging for delivery and / or ordering products.

Photographers are in a profession with high input of invisible hours. Quite likely they will spend more time working on your assignments than the time they physically spend with you. For a photographer to run a sustainable business in longevity, it is important they account for the actual work performed, whether you see them in action or not.

Running photography as a business

Amateur photographers may offer lower prices as they build up their confidence and portfolio. They may have less business costs on their shoulders. The amateur photographers may also be less concerned about profit margins in consideration of business survivals.

Many photographers get into the profession because they love photography. However, once they are in businesses, all factors need to be re-examined as business owners. Now all businesses survive over time. Do you know that only 50% of businesses make it to 5 years mark, and 1 in 10 businesses survive over the long term?

It is hence important for photographers to price sustainability for the others to benefit from their experience and skill levels over long term.

In any service industry, it is important that all the behind the scene hours related to particular jobs, as well as hours in running a business, are taken into account. They cover general business activities of answering enquiries, marketing, admin, client care, dealing with suppliers, maintaining equipment and work space.

Photographers that have a studio with high street presence are likely to have higher overheads on rental and council taxes. However, photographers without a prominent studio address are likely to incur significantly resources in digital marketing. In both business scenarios, significant input in time and running costs are required.

High cost of equipment

It is true that almost everyone has a camera phone. While they allow you to take snap shots in your everyday lives, they are far from ideal in delivering professional quality photos. The range of photographer equipment is vast, as are the prices. Photographers that just start in the profession may use gears that are more moderate in costs. More experienced photographers are likely to invest in top of the range equipment to deliver the standards they are proud of. They are also likely to build up a range of equipment that cater for different purposes and needs. The equipment case high end photographers walk around with can be at significant worth. As are the equipment left behind in their home or studios! These high cost equipment tend to require high maintenance costs for regular servicing, repairs and parts replacement.

Substantial investment in education

While one does not need to have a degree to practise as a photographer, good photographers are likely to invest heavily in the best education and training. The collective costs of education can be comparable, if not more than, fees paid for a tertiary degree.

Add-ons provided by professional photographers

Some high end photographers may offer additional services such as make-up and hair, styling, or they may hire assistants to help on the jobs. This will add to the costs of servicing the clients. These costs are however justified to achieve the best results and provide the best experiences to the clients.

Physical products delivered

If physical products are included in the final delivery, your professional photographers are likely to order them from bespoke suppliers that are of high standards. The quality of prints, albums and wall arts are likely to be far superior to what you can order from high-street or online companies. The higher quality by default will attract higher costs.

Professional photographers often have limited capacity

Professional photographers have to allow plenty of time in planning, preparation, editing and delivery of specific job assignments. They also have to allow for good amount of time in addressing the other aspects of businesses.

With their jobs being creatively and physically demanding, photographers are also unlikely to photograph non-stop. In reality a lot of professional photographers get burnt out in their careers. Hence most photographers are capped in their capacity for jobs they can take.

Why can’t I just get the digital files?

Some clients may ask: “Why can’t I just get the digital files”? They may think – the work is already done right? So why can’t they get the digital files without paying extra for them? Reality is, the value of the work is reflected in the photographic images as a result of the photographers’ effort and artistic creation, in consideration of all the factors mentioned above. However the photographers structure their pricing or offer their products, the financial rewards are valued on what you pay in totality. If the photographer only charges a small fee upfront (in the nature of session fees or deposits), good chances are there that these fees are not sufficient to cover their cost in completing the assignment.

I want just a few photos

Again, some clients may say: I just want a couple of photos. However, even if you want only a handful of photos, your photographers are likely to incur a similar effort and commitment in specific to your assignment. Unfortunately your photographers are unlikely to meet you at significantly lower costs just because you need one or two photos.

Invest in professional photographers that you like and trust

Even though professional photographers may cost more than you initially assume, having those stunning images professionally captured nevertheless will give you and your future generations much joy. It is thus important to find photographers you can truly align with and entrust to make it a worthwhile investment for you.

If you have still got other photography services related questions, please do look up our FAQ and see if we have them answered!