Why are your sessions so expensive???

October 18, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Ever wonder how much time actually goes into your 1-2 hours photo session. When you consider the hourly rate of the photographer you choose divided by the time spent on your session not much money is being earned. Keep in mind sales tax, VERY expensive equipment (My camera bag holds $6000 worth of equipment for EVERY session), travel, website costs, lab costs and it goes on from there. So ask yourself: Is a $75 photo session being performed by someone who is truly putting in the time to ensure your session is the best it can be?


Excerpt from improved photography:  https://improvephotography.com/49524/10-considerations-pricing-portrait-photography/


"In my experience, the biggest challenge in pricing is coming up with a realistic expectation of the time commitment I will have to make to each client. Often, photographers think that if they charge $200 for a 1-hour photo session they make $200 per hour. This could not be further from the truth. There are so many hidden time costs associated with portrait photography. How much time did I spend texting/emailing/messaging this client before the photo session? How long did it take me to gather my gear and prep for the photo shoot? Did I spend a few hours here and there looking for inspiration online to help me during this session? How long was the drive to the photo session (and did I keep track of my mileage)? How long did I take to edit the photos?There are several factors to consider here, so let's take a step-by-step tour of an imaginary photo session from start to finish.


First, I post something on social media that captures a potential client's eye or a previous client of mine refers a potential client here. Understand that this is the point when a photographer-client relationship begins. It's usually long before you actually speak with them or meet them face-to-face. They might take a year to contact you after they first see your work. Sometimes, though, a client will come from seemingly out of nowhere and hire you on the spot. Either way, the relationship you build with them starts when they first become aware of you as a photographer – and whatever you did to catch their attention cost you some amount of time. In this example, let's say I searched through my Lightroom catalog and found a portrait I took this month and posted it to my Facebook page as a paid ad offering my services. It probably took me close to two hours from start to finish to open Lightroom, pick a photo, export it for Facebook, draw up an ad, pick a target audience, and post it.


Second, suppose we get an inquiry through Facebook messenger. Our ad caught the attention of a potential client and they sent us a message asking us how much we would charge for a family portrait session at a nearby local park. We write them back and ask them a few more questions before disclosing our rates, just to make sure we understand the job. They have a few questions for us as well, so the entire conversation via Facebook messenger takes us about an hour, all said and done – but we did it! We booked with the client for next week. We hop on our laptop, pull up our contract template, address it to our new client, and send it off. There's another 30 minutes. So far we're at 3 1/2 hours.


Now we go about our week until, finally, we're a day away from our photo session. We pick up our phone to confirm our photo session with our client. We shoot a quick text off that says, “Hi, So-and-so! Looking forward to our photo session tomorrow at 6 PM. I can't wait to spend the evening with you and your family!” She texts you back and tells you she's excited, too. But she has a few more questions – what colors should her family wear? Can she send you a Pinterest board she's made? The weather forecast says it's going to be overcast tomorrow evening – will that be a problem? All in all you spend another 30 minutes texting back and forth to answer all her questions and arrange all the final details. Now we're at 4 hours.


Next, before we go to bed, we have to make sure all of our batteries are charged, our camera bag is packed and ready, and we've looked through the Pinterest board she sent us (which is almost never a great way to start with a new client). We gather our batteries and plug them into our chargers. We make sure our memory cards are cleared off and formatted. We choose which lenses and camera bodies we'll bring with us to the shoot. Finally, we lay in bed with our client's Pinterest board open and we build a rough shot list for tomorrow that we think our client will be happy with. All said and done we've spent another hour on prep for this photo session. We're already flirting with the 5-hour mark and we haven't taken a single photo yet.


Finally, the day has arrived. We pack up the car, shoot a text to our client telling them we're on our way, and we head out to the park. It's a 30-minute drive across town in rush-hour traffic (and, of course, we keep track of our mileage.) We get there about 10 minutes before our client just to make sure that we have some camera settings dialed in and some backdrop areas selected (sometimes it's a good idea to get this done without the client there.) The client shows up, everything goes smoothly, and we wrap up our 1-hour photo session 15 minutes later than we thought we would because we're having such a great time. We drive back home (which only takes us about 20 minutes now that traffic has cleared up) and start backing up our memory card to make sure we are following our 3-2-1 backup strategy and call it quits for the night. Today we devoted about 2 1/2 hours to our client. Now we're at 7 1/2 hours total for this photo shoot – and we still have to edit the shoot.


The next day we turn our attention to editing our photo session. For the sake of this example, let's say that our images looked outstanding in-camera and everyone in the photo had great, clear skin – so no retouching is going to be necessary. Just a few adjustments to the shadows, highlights, and color. Luckily we have some presets that look great and only need minor tweaking. Let's say, by some miracle, we only edit for two hours after spending another hour culling through our photos. We upload them to our online gallery and prepare all the settings for delivery to our client, draft an email to the client, and send it off to them. All in all the final step in our process takes us about 30 minutes – not including the time it took to upload the photos to our gallery. We're done!


From start-to-finish, in this VERY typical portrait session workflow we spent a grand total of 11 hours on this 1-hour photo session. To stick with our previous example let's assume we charged our client $200 for this session. Some people might assume that a photographer who charges $200 for a 1-hour photo session makes $200 per hour but, as we've seen, this just isn't the case. $200/11 hours comes out to about $18/hour when all the time costs are factored in."



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