why we are 'so expensive'

I recently got an email from a client who wondered why my price was $120 dollars higher than the last time they booked me (which was 2 years ago), and if I could “…do it for what you charged us last time.” I politely told them no and said that I have to “…charge for what my time is worth.” But in doing that I mentally made a list of whats actually involved in shooting a job that takes 3 hours (as that one would have been). There is a joke with some of my friends (which is not always really that funny) which is something along the lines of “You shoot weddings on the weekends then you have all week off, right. You don’t actually WORK.” Now they are saying that  (hopefully)  tongue in cheek to give me a hard time, but regardless I thought this a good time to actually break down what a 3 hour job takes in the grand scope of actual cost and time. This applies to any job actually whether its a headshot, engagement or entire wedding. You may think some of these items petty, as every job has overhead – but thought this a good opportunity to point out what really goes into a ‘fast shoot’…

  1. arrive at 9:00 at location. This means I need to leave my house by 7-7:30 to deal with the morning traffic. The drive home is 45-60 minutes. The 3 hour job has now become 6 hours of my time in which I am away from the office and cannot do any other work. This does not take into consideration charging batteries, cleaning the camera if necessary and packing the night before the shoot so you’re ready to go in the morning. Tag on 45 minutes there.
  2. fuel costs – which depends on your car and the distance you drive (especially for a wedding), but I can easily spend  $45 in gas.
  3. editing: the images have to be loaded in, edited, color corrected, the exposure tweaked, burned to discs and backed up so in a years time when you cannot find your disc I can make you a copy. So–figure on a ‘small’ job its an hour or 2 or editing (if I work fast, since of course they always need the images yesterday) A wedding is easily 5-8 hours or more in editing. (again…if I work fast)
  4. some of the expense entailed includes: mailing envelopes – mailing labels (which at some point had to be designed)- cardboard to stiffen the envelope, postage, time spent going to the post office (which is always a delight), dvd’s, dvd sleeves, some form of dependable backup storage for their files (i’m not going to go into the various backup solutions here), keeping track of the files you’ve backed up so you an locate them 2 years later…etc etc

How about the camera and maintenance? Sending in the Nikon for a simple check-up is roughly $350 even if nothing is wrong with it. I had to send in a lens recently and it was almost $400 in repairs. You need backup equipment in case something goes kaput on the job. You’re software needs to be current and you need to know how to use it. And I wont even go into the time initially spent learning everything new that comes out, as that’s a whole other topic…

So you see – you do not just pop into a job, bang out some shots and go home. There’s the sensitivity of the shots you’re taking. Reading the vibe of the groups. Who can you ask to do what? Is this a well composed shot? Is the lighting going to be ok. Oh wait – this is for the paper…is the background uncluttered? …all this in a split second (as you’re often being shoved and pushed as you try to gingerly back up to get everyone in the frame if you’re at a crowded event) And you’d better make it look easy and relaxed while conditions are less than ideal, as the minute you lose the attention of the groups you’re finished.

I know that EVERY job involves behind the scenes expense and time that we do not all see. I do believe however, that this is what we signed up for as self-employed people – and I’m ok with that as I still feel the perks outweigh the downside (time off at my whimsy , not having to beg for a sick day etc) I guess I just wish folks would occasionally consider what  goes on before, during and after when they question your rate.

Maybe I need to stop making it look so effortless?


  1. Rick O on February 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Very well said!

  2. Anna Sawin on February 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    That is brilliant, and so very well put!

  3. carla ten eyck on February 23, 2011 at 8:25 am

    yes, stop making it look so easy Robert!!! Very nicely put

  4. Val McCormick on February 23, 2011 at 11:49 am

    You got it! You make it look to easy! Love it so very true….we do nothing all week 😉

  5. Daria Bishop on February 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Not to mention the cost of living: a decent car, feeding, clothing and housing, health insurance (ug!), camera equipment every year…..
    Thanks for this post!

  6. Adam Allen on February 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Very well said! A frustrating topic as well. Our rates are also being compromised by the large flux of aspiring photographers.

  7. Sarah on February 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Love that you blogged about this! There are many great photographers that are coming into the mix and pricing is huge in everyones budget but the saying is true, “you get what you pay for” These are your wedding photos, everyone knows a once and a lifetime moment in one’s life that they are spending how much on the food that will only be enjoyed for an hour, memories that we all know that will be looked at forever.
    The cost of many different aspects in our lives have risen, and for someone to ask can you do it for the same you did it two years ago would be really difficult for one to say yes to. You do an amazing job and should get every penny of what your worth and our clients should be HAPPY to pay it …. Saying with a smile!

  8. Jeannine on February 23, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Having had you photograph our wedding just this past October – every cent was worth it. Every. Single. Cent. When we have another event in the future I’d expect your costs to go up. It takes an artist to do what you did for us – to capture the day as we never would have remembered it. We’re still showing off our photos to anyone who will look!!! 🙂

  9. Athena Bludé on February 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm


  10. Abbey on February 23, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Amen to that Robert!!!!

  11. Brian Henderson on February 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    You should be charging more! Seriously, you totally could because you are worth every penny as was already mentioned. It’s not every day you get incredible photos along with incredibly well timed humor and good candor to boot. Plus, you forgot to include your insurance (gear, liability and health), consultations, training, and scouting a location to use for the shoot.

  12. Krista Photography on February 28, 2011 at 11:33 am

    “Maybe I should stop making it look so easy”

    love that!

  13. Robin Dini on March 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    thanks for the breakdown. time is valuable and it’s not work on the weekends and sit and paint your nails on weekdays 🙂

  14. Alex Taylor on May 5, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Just re-read this again – great post!

    thank for putting this out there.

    • admin on May 5, 2011 at 4:12 pm

      thanks— it’s pretty relevant to a LOT of situations, especially these days!

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