How do you know the difference between amazing photography services and amateur photos?
This is a loaded question because it can be compared to eating out at a fast food drive through versus eating a gourmet meal at a beautiful restaurant. But I’ll attempt to make it easy and narrow down the services to make a fair comparison. Then I’ll give you what the average of what we charge.
Since you want to know what senior portraits cost I’m going to compare photographers that run a business regularly photographing people. It takes a completely different skill to make people look and feel comfortable than it does to shoot an object with no interaction.
The reason it’s hard to put a value on photography is that so many people call themselves photographers once they buy a camera. I’ll go over the different stages of photography and give you kind of a range of what I have seen them charge over the years. I can say this because I at one point found myself in all of these stages. This by no means, means that a new person who is just starting out can’t take a good picture but it also doesn’t guarantee that someone who has loved to take pictures since high school will take a good picture either. But hopefully you can come to appreciate why some photography is very valuable and some pricing is cheap.
TYPE: The Newbie
BUSINESS MOTTO: Shoots everything and anything. May be photographing everything out of sync landscape, weddings, macro, real estate, people, flowers, streets, food, families, travel, babies and events.
SERVICE: They may or may not have a website that has every category in the universe. You may or may not get your images. I have seen the horror stories first hand. My wedding photographer’s camera died during the ceremony and she had no backup batteries or camera. I got a few thumbnail sized pictures 3 years later that my husband extracted from her crashed computer. This kind of rookie move is unfortunately very common with new photographers. They most likely take a couple hours to service each customer.
PRODUCTS: There are no albums or products. They mostly offer all digitals.
PROS: The good thing is that they are eager to learn. If you are extroverted by nature you have a shot at getting a good picture because you may naturally smile and laugh. This is great for…. friends and family if you want to have a little fun.
CONS: Jack-of-all-trades, master of none. The lighting will most likely be harsh since most use on camera flash. Angles, posing, and expressions will look uncomfortable and this makes the biggest difference since it determines a good picture and a bad picture. This is bad if you are an introvert and need direction since they may not know how to give it. This is not recommended for business headshots, yearbook pictures or weddings because in the end you get what you pay for if you get it. For weddings or yearbook pictures there are no do overs.
PRICE: Honestly pricing for this is all over the place because it could be a random number out of thin air. The cost is free to a couple bucks per image.
This melts my heart because it is hard to actually make money in photography with this mindset. I struggled for so long because I didn’t understand the value of my time. This is where most people start.
TYPE: The hobbyist
BUSINESS MOTTO: They have a main job where spend the majority or their day and where they make their living and photograph on their days off, usually the weekends. They may have a website but the content maybe outdated since there is no time to run a business.
SERVICE: Honestly I give this person props because I feel like this person is dedicated if they are willing to work on their days off. They have the money they need to buy their gear.
PRODUCTS: Mostly digital products (shoot and burn)
PROS: The hobbyist gets creative and tries complicated techniques and may even be able to master them.
CONS: They may have had a love for photography for many years but they only shoot a couple times a year. You may not know if you are paying for someone who is good or not.
PRICE: They may or may not be happy to make a couple hundred bucks, usually free-$400
TYPE: Photography Business (Product and Service Based) This is where my business lands.
BUSINESS MOTTO: Dedicates 40+ hours a week on her/his craft. This person may or may not have a studio space. Knows the value of a website and makes the time to update it. This person creates steady work and produces multiple photo-shoots weekly all year round. This person has invested into the business and her/his skills.
SERVICE: The photo-shoot may be 2-4 hours. You will get help helping with wardrobe styling and plan the proper location to shoot based on you. You also have the option for make-up. You also have a viewing and ordering appointment in person or online. It will take between 4-8 hours to service each customer.
PRODUCTS: Digitals and prints are sold separtely. The products are archival. You get recommendations on the best materials to print each image based on the way it was shot.
PROS: The experience is personalized. You will have enough time to get rid of the awkward jitters of getting your picture taken. You will look more relaxed and natural. This is best for the person who needs help finding something to wear. Your wardrobe and make-up will most likely look great. This is great for shy people that need a little direction in front of the camera. It may also be for the person who wants to look good, wants a cool experience and wants to have good quality products they can keep for a long time.
CONS: The price point is higher for the extra service time and high quality products.
COST:Sessions fees usually start at $150 Print Products usually start at $150 The average order is about $1200
TYPE: Photography Business (Quantity Based – Shoot and Burn)
BUSINESS MOTTO: They focus on getting tons of people in and out fast. Big box franchises like JcPenny offer these. Mini Sessions fall under this category too. This photographer is usually still competing on price and does not know the value of their work yet. This is the overworked underpaid person. I used to be here when I first started and I couldn’t make ends meet this way. This was really bad for my family because I took time away from them and in the end when it was all said and done I was only covering the cost to pay for the equipment to shoot. In the end most photographers in this category make about $4 an hour below minimum wage. This pricing is usably a package deal up front pricing.
SERVICE: You are in and out literally within 15 minutes to an hour from start to purchase. You get shuffled through a serious of sit this way sit that way in a rushed manner. These poses look stiff and smiles look unnatural. They try to give you the best possible service and work efficiently since every minute counts. They may have 4 shoots in one hour and can’t really dedicate more time on the experience. Multiple people get their taken one right after another in the same location same props.
PRODUCTS: Mostly digitals with some prints.
PROS: The upside is that the lighting will most likely be great if you are in the studio because it is set the same for everyone. This is great for those who want a theme for like Easter or Christmas.
CONS: This is a hit and miss with expressions since you do have a variety of experience level with photographers. You will most likely be wearing one outfit. It may or may not clash with the scene. The downside is the amount of images you get is limited and set in advance. There is a chance the lighting will be bad outside if the knowledge isn’t there.
PRICE: Cheap and if you only need one picture this is probably the best place to get it. You can usually find a special like $10 session fee. Products can be anywhere from $10-$800
Many photographers in this category cannot stay in this category long. They either quit the field all together or realize their worth and start charging a living wage.
This article isn’t to put anyone down. I know people who are in different stages in their photography that are just lovely. This is to give you an idea of where you want to be and what you are willing to sacrifice. If you are looking for one picture the box store may be for you. No judgment. If you want pictures for the holidays a mini session with someone you know may be okay for you. If you want to do your own wardrobe and aren’t worried about the quality of the prints. Most people have trouble printing. This may be a hassle. Printing is complicated. Not every image can be nor should be printed in a 20×30. You may wonder why it doesn’t look as good as it did on the desktop.
What do we charge?
Our session fee is $200. That’s a 2-hour session. A ½ hour planning meeting. A 1 hour follow up. We couldn’t be in business with the session fee alone. Print products and digitals start at $125. Some people do $500 in print products and most people do $1200. We don’t do prepaid packages because I don’t know how many images you are going to love or how you want to use your images. You may want multiple wall art pieces or you may love 30-50 images in an album. This way you get exactly the amount of images you love from your photo-shoot.