You Asked! - Why Are Professional Photographers So Expensive?

In this digital age where everyone has cameras, scanners and 'home photo printers', we hear this all the time:

"How do professional or personal photographers charge $X for an 8x10 when they cost just $1.50 at the local drugstore?"

Simply put, the customer is not just paying for the actual photograph; they are paying for time and expertise.


First, let's look at the actual work involved:
  • Travel to the session
  • Set-up, preparation, talking to the client etc.,
  • Shoot the photos
  • Travel from the session
  • Load images onto the computer
  • Back-up the files on an external drive
  • 2-4 hours of Photoshop time, including cropping, contrast, color, sharpening, and backing-up edited photographs. Proof photographs are also ordered.
  • 2-3 hours to talk to the client, answer questions, receive order and payment, order their prints, receive and verify prints, package prints, schedule shipment and ship.
  • Possibly meet clients at their home or studio to review photos and place order.
  • Meeting and travel time average 2 hours

You can see how a one-hour photo session easily turns into an eight hour day or more from start to finish.So if you see a professional photographer charging a $200 session fee for a one-hour photo shoot, the client is NOT paying them $200 per hour!


A wedding photographer typically meets with the bride and groom several times before and after the wedding. And it's not uncommon to end up with 1,000-2,000 photographs, much more than a portrait session. many photographers spend up to 40-60 hours working on one eight hour wedding if you look at the time that is truly involved. Again, if a wedding photographer is charging $4,000 for eight hours of coverage, clients are NOT paying them $500 per hour!

(Don't forget that the photographer runs the wedding day to some extent. A comfortable, confident wedding photographer can make a wedding day go more smoothly)


Shooting professional photography is a skill acquired through years of experience. Even though a DSLR now costs under $1000 taking professional portraits involves much more than a nice camera.

Most personal photographers take years to go from buying their first camera to making money with photography. In addition to learning how to use the camera, there is a mountain of other equipment and software programs used to edit and print photographs, run a website, etc., and don't forget backdrops, props, rent, insurance and utilities.

In addition to the financial investment, photographs usually have to have people skills to make subjects comfortable in front of the camera. Posing people to look their best is a skill by itself! You could argue that posing is a more important skill than actually knowing how to use the camera. A poorly exposed can be saved, a badly posed photo cannot.


Chain stores do have their place. For a very cheap price you can run in, shoot some quick photos and be done with it. But you get what you pay for.

Consider the time and effort that a personal photographer puts into a photograph, compared to a chain store. Store sessions last just a few minutes, while a personal photographer takes the time to get to know people, makes them comfortable, makes them laugh. If a baby is crying at a chain store, they don't often have the time (or patience) to wait because everyone is in a hurry.

The truth is that many chain store studios lose money. What the chain stores bank on is a client coming in for quick cheap photos ....... and while there spending $200 on other items. They are there to get you in the door.


Professional personal photographers are just that - professionals. No different than a mechanic, dentist, doctor or electrician. But a personal photographer often becomes a friend, someone who documents a family for generations with professional, personal photographs of cherished memories.

Maybe we need to help clients see it this way; A pair of scissors cost $1.50 at the drugstore. Still, most people will gladly pay a lot more to hire a professional hairdresser to cut their hair.

The added attention and quality that a personal photographer gives is worth every penny!

As seen in....

permission given to re-post by Shawn Richter www.cofphoto.com



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