Do You Still Think the Photography is Expensive?

Here’s an interesting graphic that’s floating around the social networks (anyone know the source?) that shows why photography is more expensive than some people think it should be (“it’s just pointing and snapping, right?”). If you like this, then check out our post back in January titled, “Why Wedding Photographers’ Prices Are ‘Wack’“.

(via Pixel Analogo)

  • King

    you forgot time and maybe printing !

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  • Rob S

    memory cards

    and on and on

    I have come to the conclusion that the only way to survive as Photographer is to have an excellent and reliable outside source of income plus full health care coverage. 

  • Charles Beckwith

    … graduate school… 

  • Michael G

    This is whack!  What about the value of the artist, the vision, knowledge and their expertise.  Whoever put this together was rather amateur…I’d redo it.

  • John

    “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”- Red Adair

  • Grant Belfour

    Ridiculous attempt at perpetuating the never-ending argument of photography pricing….it gets absurd when you factor in things like electricity (listed three times, by the way), cell phone (good chance, you would have one whether you are a photographer or not), amongst other things.

    Long story short, if the same argument was made for a Nikon D3200, the camera would cost well over $10,000 (electricity, software, research etc).  I’m waiting for the haters, and I’ve got rebuttals for all of them.

    Come at me bro.

  • Michelle M. Stgeorge

    If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job,

  • Jason

    You forgot to turn on your flame shield.

  • 9inchnail

    Or you can take meaningless photos in gigantuous format and get 4 million bucks for them.

  • 9inchnail

    They also never get tired to list their equipment in the costs. As if they bought new cameras and lenses for every shoot. They buy a 5D for 3000 bucks and use it on dozens of weddings for which they charge 1000 bucks each. It’s just ridiculous.

  • LikeBreathing

    Agreed time is a huge factor: time learning, time shooting, time backing up, time editing…

  • mrbeard

    This pricing model is a total nonsense, reminds me of the arrogance of music industry pricing in the 90’s, didnt work out too good for them. if you feel your worth $10,000 a shoot, go ahead and advertise this, see how many clients you get..

  • bob cooley

    The sentiment is correct.

    But the argument is wrong….

    When you decide to go into business for yourself, you have to come to grips with the fact that many of these factors are essential to running ANY service-based business (photography related or not).

    This is, literally, the cost of doing business.

    I would not expect to see a lawyer, doctor, etc. argue or itemize their equipment or expense-based non-tangible assets: 

    Lawyer: “$127,000 law school, leather office furniture, coffee, more coffee, industrial-sized bottle of Excedrin, electricity, copy machine, etc. etc. ad nauseum”.

    Transportation? (listed twice) It’s likely you won’t have ANY employment (self or otherwise) without transportation.

    Electricity? (listed 3 times? really?) Absorbed into your business structure, unless you plan to itemize amperage per photoshoot/client.

    Cell phone, Email, coffee, computer (hardware and software – listed twice)?  If you live in the 21st century and are employable, you likely have these things already. 

    Equipment? – Cost of Doing Business.

    If you aren’t investing in the tools of your craft, they you have no tools to produce a marketable service or product – Are they expensive, sure – but A printing company doesn’t tell you – “well, our rates are based on the fact that we made a $2 million dollar investment in a Heidelberg SM74 – so we pass on the lack of savings to you”…

    Photo Producer? – if you are shooting at a level where you need a producer, you have a business that is sustainable enough that you not need worry about this level of justification to the client.  Further, if a producer is needed, you are working on a shoot that is a big enough project where the client is going to hire a professional, and not give the job to their secretary who has a cousin ‘who does some photography”.

    Why will a client hire and pay you your value?:
    You are bringing skills to the table that they cannot deny are valuable (the strength of your REPUTATION, SERVICE and IMAGES).

    A client who needs quality will be willing to pay for it. 

    Is the market tough? Absolutely. And it’s getting tougher every year.   But if you have to justify you equipment (and coffee) to your potential market audience, you are either trying to reach the wrong customer-base, are not running effective marketing, aren’t impressing your clients with your level of service (where you are getting great word-of-mouth and references), not networking properly and/or aren’t separating yourself enough qualitatively for people to care about your service and product.

    If you aren’t getting hired despite spending 60% of your time running the business-end of things (marketing, making contacts, calls, showing your book, providing excellent service, making effective follow-ups with your current and past clients, forming business relationships instead of ‘projects’, etc.)

    Maybe this isn’t the market for you.

    Sorry, not trying to be harsh – but just owning the equipment and being able to shoot competent frames is not automatically going to make you a successful professional photographer.  What are your realistic market differentiators? What level of service, follow-up and qualitative experience are you providing for your clients where they want to work with you more, and recommend you to their colleagues (and friends). 

    Having a successful photography business is MUCH more than having the equipment and the ability to take decent photos.  Being a photographer, and Being a photographer who can successfully make a living from it are two very different things. 

    If you know you have what it takes to provide superior service, experience and images, then keep at it – you will likely succeed.

    But whiny (and poorly created) infographics do nothing to help your cause – In fact they do a dis-service to all professional shooters who ARE providing the levels of service that keep them employed.

    if I were your client, and saw this rationale, I’d move on to the next photographer who was working for his supper, not whining about it.

    /End Rant.

  • Alan Dove

     Exactly! I work as a science writer, and it wouldn’t occur to me to justify my prices by itemizing the equipment in my office. People pay me for my ability to do the job. It’s a service, not a product.

  • Guy

    I think that long rant missed the point of the graphic, and I dont think he understands his own logic…lawyers and doctors DO factor all that expensive stuff into their prices.  The general public considers those prices acceptable because it is obvious that the cost of business is high in those fields, so they are willing to pay 500 bucks an hour for a lawyer/doctor.  But according to his flawed thinking, the doctor should only get paid 15 bucks an hour for his services, right?  i mean, all that education and fancy equipment is just the cost of doing business.

    Its easy to see the difference between a professional doc and an amateur doc…nice surgical center vs a guy with sutures working out of a van…both may be able to close up a patient with some suture, but one will be a higher quality…and i bet they have drastically different prices too.   And I bet one major factor behind the price difference is that one of those docs is working out of a freakin’ van (but thats a “non-tangible asset”, right?)The issue with the photography industry is that the general public doesnt know the cost of doing business for a photographer. They dont understand the difference between an amateur with a point and shoot or a pro with a flagship level camera.  They dont know the difference between an album that looks like a high school year book or an album that was handcrafted using quality materials and labor.  They dont know that an amateur may only give them low-res jpegs where a pro would give high quality digital files (and back them up for years in case the client loses them).  And since most people only hire a professional photographer one in their lives (i.e., wedding day), they never do thorough research to learn all of these differences between pros and amateursI guess in my opinion, the graphic was just an attempt to educate some people in a somewhat funny way.  If doctor made that same chart to show the true cost of his business and why he charges 500 an hour, would you demand him to cut prices since he is factoring in “non-tangible assets”?  I would love to see how that conversation goes…

  • 9inchnail

    Why not add food, I mean you already have coffee on there. You propably spend 300 to 400 bucks on food per month. You can’t shoot naked, add clothes to the list. Hey, what about the tsunami in Japan? That must have somehow influenced the prices on cameras, right? Add a disaster fee. You might trip and break a leg during the shoot. Someone has to pay those hospital bills and it’s certainly not you. Let the customer grab his wallet.

  • photo guy

    All the people complainig about the price of photography are the same people that don’t shop around. Also you get what you pay for, you want 50$ photos go to the creative tab in craigslist. You can also find people that will give you 50$ tattoos, let me know how that works out for you. Pictures like tattoos are forever you only get that one particular moment once. And if you get a crappy photo, it will always be a crappy photo. If you can only afford a used honda dont complain that you cannot afford a mercedes.

  • Grant Belfour

    Here’s how the conversation goes…

    You lost the argument when you tried to equate professional photographers with other professionals: ie: doctors and lawyers. The cost of business is NOT the reason those professionals charge high rates, it’s the KNOWLEDGE and SKILL they provide (for example: to either save your life, or keep you from going to jail).

    This argument ALWAYS comes up when photography pricing is being discussed: a logical fallacy exists when you argue, “Well, if a professional doctor can charge high rates, so can a professional photographer. We’re all professionals right?” Well, no, not really. Doctors and lawyers must adhere to codes of conduct, ethical rules and minimum required professional development every year in order to remain in their respective Professional Associations. These occupations are regulated by such associations. Photographers do NOT have to pass any national exams, and the occupation is not regulated. A professional photographer is not equal to a doctor.

    I also “love” that your argument includes a “professional doctor” and an “amateur doctor”. There are NO amateur doctors (that just sounds ridiculous). A “doctor” has reached a high level of professional development and experience. There may be rogue doctors that operate out of a van, but come on, by that time they’re not legally allowed to practice.

    Ok, let’s get to the equipment. You guys LOVE to point out that your equipment is SOOOOOO expensive and that your prices help to cover the cost of it. Guess what, your equipment is a depreciating asset. So this brings up two points: because the asset loses value over time, lets say over five years, at the end of that five years you’ll either buy new assets or use the current ones if it still works. Let’s say your five year old D3x is still awesome, will you lower your prices to reflect the fact that: a) you’ve probably charged enough customers to buy 5 new D4’s or b) that your equipment no longer carries the same value as you first purchased it?

    Let me answer that question for you Photo Guy: you WON’T lower your prices. Do you know why? Because you’re stuck on the argument that your equipment is the reason for charging high prices. Do you know what SHOULD be the reason for charging high prices: SKILL. Notice that “skill” is not on this graphic? As always, photographers look to the tangible to justify their costs because everyone can look up the cost of a new D4 coupled with a 70-200 2.8 lens (wow, expensive equipment, that MUST mean this guy is good, right?). Given your rationale, each time you do a shoot, the price should fall, because you’ve made gains towards paying off your equipment. Doesn’t make sense does it?

    Here, I’ll speak in a language you understand: if I can buy a medical degree, then I can charge you $500 an hour, right? I hope to GOD that you disagree with that argument, for your own sake.

    As mentioned before, this graphic actually does more harm than good to photographers who CAN charge high rates, because they are able justify the price because of their skill, whereas the whiners like you try to justify high prices because you rely on your equipment to make you a better photographer. Never once did you mention the skill of the photographer in your argument, so don’t get me wrong. High prices for a photographer CAN be justified, but based on skill and knowledge (along with services that are provided to the customer) and NOT on equipment (or transportation, or electricity, or cell phones).

  • Check Mate

    Too funny

  • Grant Belfour

    You are assuming that photographers price their services justly. ie: a less skilled photographer will altruistically price themselves lower than the skilled professional. Listen, people are upset that anyone and everyone with a DSLR is charging an arm and a leg for photography. It’s not that people are NOT shopping around, it’s that the quality is low and the prices are high.

    If I get a tattoo, and I’m paying $1000 for it, the last thing I expect is for that tattoo to look like I only paid $50.

    If I buy the Mercedes, I don’t expect it to feel like a used Honda.

  • Guy

    maybe I should have prefaced my response with the note that I do agree about that skill and knowledge are major factors.

    but I still don’t think you can factor out the other assets. An awesome photographer could take an amazing picture with something as small as an iPhone…but at some point the quality of service is going to suffer if they can repeat that quality for the 12+ hours of a wedding day. I think the same applies for doctors and lawyers…the worlds greatest doctor can go to a third world country and perform a few amazing surgeries….but they could not do that every day without the insanely expensive assets to back him up. A great lawyer will have challenges if they don’t have all the expensive assets to back him up (paralegals, researchers, countless team members). Skill is extremely important, but so is everything else that allows you to do a job.
    And I agree equipment is a depreciating asset….and I assume a professional would account for depreciation over a set of years. And although you may be right that a 4 year old D3 might still work…I don’t think a true professional would consider that acceptable. They are going to upgrade to the new model to ensure they are delivering the highest quality product to their client…which conveniently comes out every 4-5 years!

    And by “amateur doctors”, I was referring someone of lower skill. just because an industry is regulated and has a code of ethics doesn’t mean you are getting highly skill and safe people. for example, you should read about the spine surgeon from Alamogordo hospital (google “alamogordo Schlicht”, its an amazingly scary story)…a professional doctor with a high level of experience was performing a disc replacement surgery with super glue. so that is someone with a lot of skill, and a lot of good equipment, and charged high prices…and he was still providing a terrible service. so these are not hard and fast rules. just because you’re regulated and have skill, doesn’t mean you provide great service. and just people you have amazing equipment but lack skill, doesn’t mean you have great service either.
    Im not saying you don’t need skill; its obvious, and it probably should be on that graphic…along with all that other stuff. Im not a photographer, so i cant claim whether its good or bad for the industry. so whether its completely accurate or not, its partially valid, so cut the guy some slack.
    This argument can go on forever, and for any service industry. Would you pay top dollar for the worlds best software architect if you knew your code was going to be delivered on ruled paper because he didn’t have a computer?

  • tourist

    A Nikon D3200 is an entry level DSLR, why would the total cost be well over $10,000??.. just trying to figure out your rationality behind that one.

  • Michael G

    Research and development and everything that goes into to make this camera and the way it looks and all. Count the man hours and all and it’s gonna cost you, but I would say that D3200 cost at least $3 million to make from start to finish then you have production costs and distribution costs then marketing costs it all adds up. But they are not going to charge you $3+ million each and every time. His $10k was a modest figure.

  • Michael G

    Research and development and everything that goes into to make this camera and the way it looks and all. Count the man hours and all and it’s gonna cost you, but I would say that D3200 cost at least $3 million to make from start to finish then you have production costs and distribution costs then marketing costs it all adds up. But they are not going to charge you $3+ million each and every time. His $10k was a modest figure.