Often people don't know what to ask when approaching a photographer, so their first question is usually, "how much do you charge?" I have seen so many Facebook posts with people asking for a cheap / 'reasonably priced' photographer.
People often seek the cheapest option available, because they don't know what to look for and because 'face value' is easiest to understand. However, what most people don't realise is that they are not only buying a product, but also the photographer's time, expertise, vision and creativity. What is important to one person might not necessarily be important to another, and that is why photography can be tricky for a client to navigate when it comes to what is being charged. As well as this, there is no set formula for what is being charged, and there are so many different product options it's mind-blowing, so how does the client even begin to compare photographers and attempt to work out what is 'reasonably priced' or not?!
Trust me when I say that most photographers are a party to this quandary too. How much is reasonable...how much is too much...what products should I offer...and so on and so on. If only there was a simple formula!
Many entry-level photographers are enthusiasts that decide to try and earn a bit of money from their hobby. They are perfectly happy charging £30-£70 for a photo shoot and then providing all images as digital files. Now the reason for this is three-fold - firstly, they do not yet value their photography as art, or a business. They are still learning, they feel excited with the fact that they've just earned £70 for something that they find relatively easy to do, and they don't have to pay the bills with this money. Secondly, offering digital files is easy because they don't have to address the vast selection of products on offer, they don't have to look at product quality or have high outlays. Thirdly, most people just want digital files anyway, so they can print themselves.
Sadly, a fair few photographers get caught up in 'competing' at this level for business, and this then lessens the perceived value of photography.
I have already written about the intrinsic value of photography in last month's blog post. Here, we can look at the monetary value of photographs in the following example:
- The average life expectancy for men and women in the UK is 81 years old.
- A couple have a baby when they are 32
- The newborn portraits that they commission will have an average shelf life of 49 years
- Let's say the couple paid £100 for their newborn shoot and this included 75 images.
- Divide the £100 by the number of years the couple will be using the product: £100 ÷ 49 = £2.04 per year
- Now divide £2.04 by the number of images: £2.04 ÷ 75 = 0.027
That's 3p per image per year!!
And that's before considering that the baby will grow up and treasure these portraits themselves, so really the average shelf life should be 81 years. And this figure is also before deducting any additional costs associated with completing the job, such as:
- time spent before, during and after your photo shoot, making sure you receive the beautiful portraits that you are expecting
- business overheads such as insurances that keep the client and the business protected
- time spent researching their products so that you get the very best and most durable quality
- costs of buying and maintaining their equipment, so nothing falls apart on the day (and if anything does go wrong with their equipment, they will have a back-up so your shoot doesn't have to be rescheduled)
- costs and time for continuing professional development, so they can provide you with the style and quality that you are expecting, and also add their creative influence to your portraits
- costs and time for health and safety training (i.e. for correct and safe newborn handling and posing)
So the photographs are practically being given away for free!
Most people forget that photographs last a lifetime, and they get to 'use' their product every single day. Some people consider professional portraits a 'luxury' item, but this is no more so than a television or a mobile phone. Some people spend hundreds on the newest mobile phone or television, and this will become obsolete in only a few years time. Photographs last a lifetime, and even longer when they are passed down through a family to each generation.
However, only you can decide how much value you put in a photograph and how much importance you give to these memories.