Photographers are a dime a dozen and there are probably hands full of photographers in every price range available in your very own zip code and the truth is that not all photographers are the same. There are a large majority of photographers who operate without insurance, without registering their business and paying taxes, without appropriate enough skills in photography or knowledge in business that went to their local big box store and picked up a starter camera with a kit lens and started snapping families for $50-$150 a session with all the digitals on a thumb drive. Those photographers usually burn out or end up losing more money than they make. On the other hand, those photographers who pay for insurance, paid to register their business, pay taxes, paid for an education in photography, paid for high quality equipment like multiple camera bodies and lenses, lighting and backdrops, and the list goes on; all of these things costs legitimate photographers thousands and thousands of dollars and like most legitimate businesses, they're in business to make money and to provide their clients top-notch products.
What you have to ask yourself real quick is what does expensive mean to you?
Everyone will have a varying opinion of what constitutes expensive. For some, that may be a few hundred dollars; for others, thousands or even more. It matters less where your opinion falls on the pricing spectrum and more so toward the importance you find in VALUE. For example, some people have no problem dropping $2,000 on the newest iPhone every year. Those people value having the latest technology at their fingertips. Some people have no problem dropping $2,000 on a designer purse. And then there are people that value hanging beautiful portraits of their family members on their walls for all to see, they value creating heirloom products that they can hand down to their grandchildren. Those are my clients. Not to say that you can't have the latest iPhone, bag and portraits!
On average, legitimate professional photographers charge anywhere from $50-$250 for a gift print (typically 8x10s or smaller.)
So, why so much when you can run to Target or Walmart for considerably less? Well for one thing printers, even at different store locations, can be calibrated differently. Professional photographers who print with their own labs are specifically calibrated to their printers and their photo comes out exactly as intended. Professional photographers bring a level of competence and commitment to quality that your generic printing service just can’t match.
I’ve found that the majority of my clients who ask for digital images want them for sharing on social media. For that reason, every image you purchase in any product form includes the complimentary matching digital file. For those who truly do want to go an all-digital direction though, digital collections are available, of course, but I recommend them as a complement to tangible artwork you can enjoy every day, no scrolling required; no lost files!
Here’s the thing: Digital files aren’t expensive. The problem is that most people don’t realize what they are really getting when they get the digital file. Digital files are a luxury item, in the days of film, photographers never parted with their negatives both to preserve their revenue and also to avoid a number of risk factors. The image that I sell isn’t just a load of pixels, it's my creation, vision and art. I edit it, based on years of experience and training, so that it looks it's best. Thankfully with digital photography you now have the luxury of being able to purchase these files. When you buy a large print, you aren’t just paying for the cost of the physical print, you’re paying for all the work that went into creating it, all of the education that ensured your portraits were sharp and beautiful. It comes down to this: When someone wants to buy a digital file, we have to consider how much money we will lose by selling it. Most people don’t buy prints once they have the digital file. If they decide they want to use it for their holiday cards, they will do it online. If they want to send a copy to everyone in their family they post it on Facebook. When you buy the digital file you are buying limitless possibilities for eternity. That file can be passed down for generations. It’s the goose that laid the golden egg. If you want to buy a digital file so you can print and frame yourself… and the photographer sells prints and frames… he’s going to charge you what he would charge for a print and frame. Everyone seems to want a living wage for each other except for when it comes to the arts.
Right about now, someone is reading this and thinking, “I know a guy who will shoot the entire session and give me all of the files for $50.” Well, I know that person too. My question is this: Why are you reading this if you already know a great photographer who will do it for $50? I think we both know the answer.