This blog post has been on my 'to-do' list for much too long and today is the day I finally write down the words floating through my head. Since I took the leap to full-time in January I feel as if I'm always shouting out why photography is valuable to those who don't understand my career choice. I see it discussed in various photography boards I'm on and every time I meet up with other artists it's brought up again and again. However, how can we as artists expect others to understand the value of our work if we only discuss it with other creatives? Can we really complain if we haven't done our part educating others?
I want to start this post by explaining that some people will have a difference in opinion. Not everyone sees the value in investing in photography. We can't all see eye-to-eye and that is okay! Second, I am in no way complaining about my chosen career. I LOVE what I do. I wouldn't give it up for the world but I also want to do my part educating people that photographers (and all artists!) do a lot to follow their passions and the price points aren't just random!
Photography is accessible. Almost everyone I know owns a camera of some variety, which means that almost everyone can pursue photography if that is what they want to do. I love that because it allows me to share my passion with all kinds of amazing people. Unfortunately, that accessibility makes photography a field where the perceived cost is often MUCH lower than the actual cost. I think many people see photography as a career that is also easy to pursue, and in some ways, that is true. Heck, my dog could go buy a DSLR from Walmart, whip up an Instagram account, and tell everyone she's now a photographer. That’s obviously a bit dramatic, but you all get my point! Anyone can pursue photography and that rocks, BUT not everyone fully understands the investment and what goes along with running your own business.
So what all goes into shooting? The fixed costs that allow me to simply show up adequately prepared and equipped on the day of a wedding include:
- Camera equipment and upgrades
- Lenses, flashes, and other crucial accessories
- Editing and photo management software
- Computer and additional hard drive space
- Cell Phone
- Office space
- Vehicle costs (gas, maintenance, insurance, repairs)
- Business insurance
- Domain name, webhosting, and website maintenance
- Client payment and management systems
- Business cards
- Further education (Workshops, seminars, conventions, books)
That's just the bones of a professional photographers business. There is time that is invested with each additional client:
- Responding to inquiries, emails
- Filing contracts, receipts, invoices
- Hiring second shooters (weddings)
- Scouting locations
- Pre-Portrait/Engagement Session (clean equipment, location planning)
- Travel to and from portrait/engagement session
- Importing imagery
- Backup imagery
- Cull imagery
- Edit imagery
- Upload galleries and deliver products
- Pre-Wedding Day (clean equipment, scout venue)
- Travel to and from wedding
- Repeat import, backup, cull, edit, and deliver
- Follow-up with clients
Finally, there is the wonderful world of social media and marketing. This is the way I reach the majority of my clients. So many of you have found your way to my website via Instagram and Facebook! Keeping up with that part of the business requires:
- Cull edited imagery
- Export optimized versions for upload
- Update and maintain website
- Format blog posts
- Write blog posts
- Share blog posts on Facebook
- Upload to Facebook
- Upload to Instagram
- Respond to comments and DM's
Every task listed above I don't necessarily enjoy but I would never give it up because it means I get to do work that I am passionate about. They are also part of the costs of running a business.
I too have been shocked by estimates I've gotten in the past. I applaud you for spending time thinking about how each dollar is spent and asking questions so you understand exactly what you're paying for. I pour my heart into making a business model that is profitable so that I can do what I love and enjoy my life away from the computer or the camera (mostly the computer haha). Nowhere above did I mention paying my rent, feeding my dog, or the costs of day-to day life. Like anyone else, the money I make at work has to support more than just the business, it has to pay for me!
The professional photographers that you are reaching out to capture your biggest moments have spent a lot of time perfecting their craft. They work hard, long hours just like you! They want more than anything for you to have imagery that you can cherish forever. Just last week I spent the afternoon flipping through my Grandmother's wedding album. Getting to experience her memories is pure magic, and priceless. To make that happen for you and your loved ones, photographers give up their weekends, their friends’ weddings, and time with their families to celebrate you. They spend long hours on the computer making sure that you look your very best in every captured moment. After all, the only tangible thing you take away from your wedding day is the images you capture and print.
I’ve said it about a trillion times in this post, but I love photography and I am grateful to make a living doing it. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read my rant. I'm thankful for people like you.