Why are photographers so expensive?

You look around and notice how your family is growing up so quickly. You decide it’s time for some family photos before things change even more than they already have. You get online and find a local photographer, you check out the prices and your jaw drops to the table. How in the world could a photographer need that much money for one session? Are they serious? That’s $-- an hour just for taking pictures! Well, while I do try to price my photography fairly for my customers, I also have to calculate something of my own. This is called, COST OF DOING BUSINESS. See, being a photographer isn’t just taking pictures. In fact, that’s RARELY what it is. Here is everything I do to maintain my business.


·        Paperwork—I have to do my own paperwork and keeping track of miles, purchases (props, equipment, etc.), taxes, studio fees, client information forms, model releases, print releases, etc.

·        Paperwork—getting all the forms printed and packets put together so that when I come to you, I can have you sign the model release, client information sheet, and hand you your print release all at the same time.

·        Messaging clients—It is not uncommon for a client and myself to message back and forth between 50-100 times about 1 SESSION ALONE! If I’m doing that for each of my clients, think about how much time I’m actually on my phone or computer just messaging clients.

·        Time spent shopping for *just* the right prop for your sweet newborn baby or your one year olds cake-smash session.

·        Traveling Time to and from session

·        Setting up and taking down equipment

·        Updating website and blog. While these doesn’t seem important to all, it is. There is this thing called SEO (search engine optimization) and in order for me to show up on google at all (even if you search Photos by Ariel directly). I have to constantly be updating my blog, website, etc. It basically “puts you on the map.”

·        Marketing—Those really cute Christmas mini sessions that you love? That takes HOURS of planning and prep. I have to decide on what themes I will be doing (usually a year in advance). Buy the backgrounds. Find “models” to pose for the advertisement. Find/make all props needed. Take their pictures. Edit their pictures. Send them their pictures. I have to design a cute advertisement for social media, print them and take them to local daycares and preschools. I also have write blogs, emails, design website, working on coding my website (important for SEO).

Even though you might only see that photographer for 1 hour during your session. It is not uncommon to end up spending 5-7 hours on a single 1-hr session.


·        Props—I like to make sure my clients feel that their sessions are specific to their hobbies and likes. Therefore, I have props in literally every nook and cranny of my home. Baskets, radio flyer tricycles, vintage wagons, rocking chairs, regular chairs of every shape, size, and color. Blankets for newborns, wraps, backgrounds, hats, diaper covers, etc. None of these things are cheap or free. I am paying for all of them.

·        Equipment—This is a biggie. We’ve all heard it before. Cheap photography isn’t good and good photography isn’t cheap. Well this is so true! Just for my equipment that is in my bag (not even studio equipment), it is EASILY $10,000-$15,000! Yes, my camera, lens, flashes, radio triggers, batteries, and sd cards cost nearly that much. Not to mention the lightstands, softboxes, umbrellas, backgrounds, background stands, floor drops, tripod, etc. which can all be found at my in home studio (which I am also paying for).

·        Editing Software—professional editing software (like photoshop and lightroom) are no longer available for a flat rate. These are monthly fees paid for by the photographer to keep your pictures looking like perfection!

·        Website—paying for the actual website as well as the time it takes to keep it updated.


·        Taxes—10% of whatever you pay me goes directly to taxes. Self-employed taxes suck!

·        Health Insurance—Photographers need this too!

·        Liability Insurance—When you are doing newborns or weddings. Liability insurance is EXTREMELY important. I really, really don’t want to be sued.

·        Gear Insurance—Picture this… I’m taking pictures at your wedding reception when your drunk uncle or your adorable little ring bearer decided to knock over my flash stand, breaking the flash to pieces. One of my flashes alone costs $2,000! Not to mention the flash stand, softbox diffuser, and transmitters that are probably broken as well. Gear Insurance is also VERY important.


·        Mileage—You want your session somewhere special like Chicago. That’s Great! I would love to. But that does cost me gas money and somewhere like that, even paying for a parking garage.

·        Studio fees—Did you know that to get those cute little newborn smiles I turn my studio up to 80 degrees for about 4 hours. That isn’t cheap no matter what season it is. Electricity, water, etc.

·        Childcare—I am happy to accommodate your schedule, and if that means working on a weekday, that is totally fine. But what that also means is that I have to hire a babysitter. So when you want a $75 session, I’m driving 30 miles away, and paying for childcare, messaging you, setting up and taking down, taking the pictures, and spending *AT LEAST* two hours sorting and editing. Am I making any money?

·        Help—there are certain shoots that I bring an experienced assistant with me for (seniors and weddings). This help isn’t free.


Sure you can probably find a place to get photos for less expensive. You can walk into a chain studio anytime you want. But here’s the thing—I’ve seen the ads they post while looking for photographers and they say “NO PHOTOGRAPHY EXPERIENCE NECESSARY…” Instead, they look for really good salesmen. You walk in spending “only $50” for a studio fee but then leave spending over $250 in prints and extras.

When you hire a photographer, you hire an artist. Chances are, they’ve spent YEARS perfecting their craft. They’ve invested lots of time and money in learning how to take beautiful images, and when you walk into their studio, they’re going to put time and effort into helping you (or your little one) relax and smile. You get images that are just as beautiful as the memories you have.

Sure, good photography is expensive—but it’s expensive on both sides. Photographers spend thousands on gear and expenses, often sacrifice their weekends and spend many more hours than the time you actually see them shooting. It’s easy to look at a photography price sheet and picture your photographer tucking themselves in sheets made of money inside a mansion. But, in reality, much of that cost is going towards expenses.