Why Photographers Charge What We Charge

Photographer business educator Emily Jenks

I often get asked if I offer discounts or why my pricing is so high. Some people are so surprised at “how expensive it is for just photos.” I know that I am not alone in hearing this… this is a common question that photographers get. 

I am here for you – my fellow photographers – so you can share with your clients (or potential clients who think you are too expensive) all the hard work and expenses you have to pay to “just come over and snap a few pictures” for them.

I am also writing this for you  – my clients – to explain so you can understand all that it takes for me to do “just a few pictures” for you.

Expenses for photographers

Do you want to know what photographers have to spend our own money on? Here’s a list of expenses we incur to make our photography business and photography sessions happen.

You can see the list is ginormous.

If you get the general gist and just want to know why we price the way we do? Then you can skip to reading the last section.

General business expenses

  • Internet
  • Phone
  • Studio (if one is renting one or pay rent every month)
  • Taxes – generally 35% reserved for income taxes (!!!!) and some photographers pay for sales tax on their own
  • Accounting fees and other professional fees
  • Electricity
  • Office supplies
  • Credit card processing fees
  • Medical insurance
  • Studio cleaning supplies

Equipment expenses

  • Camera and lenses (mine are combined total of approximately $7,000 so far not including maintenance)
  • Lighting equipment
  • Memory cards
  • External hard drive for photo storage (and a back up one)
  • Light bulbs for strobes/flashes
  • General repair and maintenance fees
  • Camera bag
  • Backdrops and backdrop stands

General travel to/from photo shoot expenses

  • Gas/Uber/Bus
  • Car payments and registration
  • Parking fees
  • Vendor fees (like local or state park fees)

Marketing expenses

  • Yelp and Facebook Ads
  • Trade show exhibit fees and materials
  • Business cards
  • Marketing materials such as flyers, pricing sheets, etc.
  • Logo and other branding designs
  • Signage

Session specific expenses

  • Props (especially for newborn and boudoir photographers)
  • Furniture (if in a studio)
  • Second shooter (if necessary)
  • Assistant (if necessary)
  • Batteries
  • Packaging of products (if ordered)
  • Product samples
  • Babysitters
  • Other session materials like band aids, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, snacks, hand warmers, kids entertainment.

Annual or monthly subscriptions to sustain a photography business

  • Editing Software
  • General Business Liability Insurance
  • Website hosting fee
  • Domain maintenance fee
  • CRM software (invoicing, contract, etc)
  • Social medial planner and software
  • Online gallery storage and fees
  • Education

* This is not tax or accounting advice. Please consult an accountant if you have any specific accounting questions!

Side Note: Check out my Essential Tools Page if you’re looking for some awesome resources to help with running your business!  

How we spend 60+ hours a week as photographers

We all know that to understand how much to price is not only based on expenses but also how much time it takes for us to deliver the goods and services as a business. Here’s a list of all that we do as photographers, and also as business owners.

Actual photography session related time

  • Preparing equipment and props for a photo shoot
  • Traveling to and from photography session location
  • Session time actually shooting (ranging from 15 minutes to many hours)
  • Editing

Marketing time

For me, I probably spend 80% of my time on marketing.

  • Creating content and materials for ads
  • Setting up the ads
  • Monitoring the ads
  • Networking
  • Blogging
  • Website building and maintenance
  • Trade show attendance and exhibiting
  • Preparing for trade show exhibiting
  • Follow up with potential clients that I met at trade shows
  • Prepare and draft email newsletters/deals/announcements
  • Social media posting and planning

Research time

  • Scouting locations
  • Researching lighting at a location
  • Researching permit for a location

Client communication

  • Responding to inquiries that turn into clients
  • Responding to inquiries that never go anywhere
  • Discussions- locations, strategies, outfits, lighting and other day-of coordination with clients
  • Post-gallery delivery communication with clients

How much money I actually make per session

Now that you know all of the expenses, here’s the overview breakdown of how much money I am taking in per session at my current mini and full session rates.

Mini Session Price ($275 for 30 minutes)

35% goes to paying taxes = $178.75 left

25% (a conservative #) goes to all of my expenses I lay out above = $134.06 left

So, now that you see my take-home amount, let’s do the calculation on how much per hour I am making.

  • Yes, I am only seeing you for 30 minutes. shoot
  • It usually takes me 30 minutes each way to travel = 1.5 hours.
  • To edit a 30-minute session, it will take me about 2-3 hours. Let’s say 2.5 hours.
  • Before the shoot, I took the time to communicate with you. If it’s a simple back and forth, maybe takes about an hour total of my time.
  • After the shoot, I have wrapping up communications and other admin matters such as accounting, gallery maintenance, and deletion, etc. Let’s say another 1 hour.
  • Besides this time, let’s factor in the marketing and other business admin I do each week, which is let’s say total of 20 hours a week, based on 5 sessions a week, I will add 4 hours per session.

Based on this, a mini session, I usually spend 10 hours total. Let’s do the math of my hourly wage! 134.06 divided by 10… is $13.40 per hour.

To do each mini session, I make $13.40 per hour. Not even minimum wage!

Full Session Price ($525 for 60 minutes)

The same principle as above, except my time of photoshoot and editing time increases that much more. The percentage of expenses doesn’t change regardless of how long I shoot for. I won’t break it down for you again, but basically, going through the same math… Instead of 10 hours spent, I usually spend about 12 hours.

Basically, 60% of the session cost goes into expenses and taxes = $315 take-home price. Divided by 12 is… $26.25. Phew, slightly better. Even then, it’s definitely not enough to survive in San Francisco!

There you have it!

Basically, what I realized is that I need to raise my prices! Haha I am not going to just yet because of where I am in my business and competitor pricing, but I hope this openly explains why I am priced the way I am, and what other photographers consider as well.

So, before you go “price shopping” for photography, please please please consider the art, service, and memories that a photographer provides. We spend countless hours giving you the best images that we can get for you, while we take care of ourselves, family, and children. Be kind!


Why Photographers Charge What We Charge |


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