Why Hiring A Photographer Is So Expensive

I’m often asked about how much people charge for photography, and then frequently in the context of portrait photography. I guess people really like to get their picture taken. Honestly, I tell them I don’t really know what other people charge since I’m new to the area and only really know the rates in the big cities in the US. A guesstimate I give them is 500 for a session on the high end and that is for professional quality prints and props to boot. If you want your wedding done its gonna cost more in the 3000 dollar range for a days work.

This is, in fact, true – it ain’t cheap to get photographed – but have you ever thought about why that might be? Here are some of the reasons why photography aint cheap.

It goes without saying that weddings are a costly affair. From the venue to the caterer to the wedding favors, the tab just keeps getting higher, and it often seems that wedding photographers are charging a large chunk of that tab. But have you ever though why wedding photography prices are so high? It’s because of the associated costs of being a wedding photographer.

The same can be said about a portrait photographer. He has his studio, insurance, assistants and promotions. Rent is not cheap in this area and you have to display yourself in the most professional manner possible to attract clients.

Being a good photographer is an expensive investment. Sure, you can find cheap photographers out there, but they’re cheap because they’ve possible cut corners on equipment, and insurance. Or they’re just plain stupid (you hired cheap and stupid?) So let’s take a look at what goes into a photographer’s overhead that adds up to the final cost of your photographer.


The pieces of equipment a photographer carries around is not your typical point-and-shoot. High-end lenses and bodies average around 2000 each. Photographers also carry back-up equipment in case their primary equipment fails, which adds to the cost of the wedding photography prices. Good photographers easily can bring over 15,000 worth of equipment to a shoot. Add in the prices of computers and editing programs like photoshop ( you did buy it right?) and costs begin to skyrocket.


The more education a photographer has, the better he will be technically when he shoots you. College is not cheap this day in age as we all know. Intangibles such as expertise aren’t easy to measure monetarily, although we try!

Staff salaries

If you book a photographer that comes with assistants or second photographers, your cost is going to be higher. In return for getting more images from various places on your day, your photographer is going to have the pay those assistants.


As I said before a photographer can bring upwards of 15,000 dollars worth of equipment to a shoot. Because cameras and equipment cost so much, photographers are smart to insure them. You never know when something or someone is going to damage your equipment and insurance is vital if you intend on staying in business.


This one is pretty standard across all industries. A photographer’s work doesn’t end when your wedding does. Photographers spend 5 – 10 hours plus enhancing your images (removing your wrinkles and acne so you like the pictures). This is not fun, but we do it to make you happy and it costs money and our time.


Web site

In this day and age, a photographer has to market himself with a very high-tech, professional Web site, which can cost a lot to design and maintain if the photographer doesn’t have web design skills. With Google ads and website updates, it’s not uncommon for a photographer to spend upwards of 5,000 a year for the web work and marketing.


In that same vein, photographers also have to spend money on other types of advertising such as ads in the newspaper, business cards and brochures.

Google Ads

Photo extras

Those books your pictures come in are not cheap. A typical album can cost upwards of 100 dollars and that is usually included in the price of the shoot. Not to mention the time it takes to create a well designed album.


So it just goes to show that the seasoned professional out there is going to bring a lot to the table when you hire him over the moonlighting weekend amateur. It’s up to you if it’s worth more to go with a pro or just take a guy off the bench. But who would you rather have shooting the final shot in the NBA championships, Kobe Bryant or me (analogy, but I just might make the shot :D)


  1. Great article! The only thing I disagree with is that you can’t be a professional with a P&S. With an advanced P&S such as a Kodak Easyshare (which is what I have). In fact, I do pro photography with my dinky little P&S, but rest assured, you can’t get anywhere unless you’re good at what you do. I fully believe that the person in charge of the camera is what makes a picture worth anything at all, not the camera.

    I do agree with the rest of the article =). It is a lot of work being a photographer.

    • Don’t trust Lucas to make the final shot in a basketball game! :)

    • I’d say you could make it as a professional with a point and shoot if you were using a Cannon G10 / 11 with a 400+ price tag. The only thing they lack is interchangeable lenses. True, you could shoot a wedding with a point and shoot, but so can anyone else. There is a sharpness to a photo that you can only get with a lens that costs over 500 dollars. Thats why it is that expensive for quality. Great point though and good luck to all the p & s shooters out there.

  2. Sorry but i think your justification for charging this much are rather dumb .. By your logic, why doesnt it cost 4000$ the for the limmo at the wedding ? The bring a 80.000$ insured car, possibly have more than one limmo, they have drivers, insurance, they run ads in news papers and stuff.. That’s just the cost of business buddy ;) Think the news papers are cheep to make, you don’t pay a 400$ for a news paper because the cost of printing machines are very high..

    I think the problem is that your business cost is just way to high for your business.. If you have to charge 3000$ for a wedding shot, the customer is paying a very high price for a dumb reson.. Most other business try to offer a good price, so they get more business, then each client pays a little less, is happier..

    But no offence or anything like that, just my thoughts on the subject :)

  3. Thanks to resume all in one post. I will put this as a link in my gmail footer. :)

  4. Photography is one of those things where most people simply cannot see the difference between a pro and an snapshot. Digital has exacerbated this to an even greater degree.
    Education, expertise, talent and the ability to see (see as in seeing art) is the major difference.
    How the hell can anyone compare a pro photographer with a limo driver?
    I have thought for years, you are not paying for my equipment – you are paying for my knowledge.
    If you want to shoot a wedding with a point-n-shoot then do that. You get what you pay for.

    • This is why you need a portfolio. I may do pro photography with a P&S but rest assured, those that do not know what my camera is, really do think I have a fancy DSLR. I know a lot of people with DSLR’s that can take a picture to save their lives, and it’s sad. This is why I think it really is up to the person using the camera on the quality of picture you get, rather than the camera you use.

    • Even the most lay person can tell the difference between average photography and high-end. They just don’t have the knowledge to describe the differences they see—not to mention their limited perspective allows them to appreciate amateur photos only slightly less than they do professional photography.

      But, without fail, they know the difference intuitively and they associate high-end photos with quality. Thats why pro photography is MOST important on your MOST important day! Spend less on everything else and more on your photographer. P.S. I’m not a photographer so this isn’t self promotion. :)

  5. use a point and shoot and its picture quality isnt that good… if it is true what Bree says…

    “This is why I think it really is up to the person using the camera on the quality of picture you get, rather than the camera you use.”

    then how come professional photographers dont use point and shoot in sports, wildlife, portrait, wedding etc photography? why spend thousands of dollars if they can do it with a point and shoot?

  6. Hello,

    I’m a professional photographer and clients do balk at the price until they see their prints. They don’t realize that I’ve spent 33 years studying art, fourteen years aggressively studying photography, learning to use my equipment in the dark, practicing my evaluation of light and luminance, mastering composition to artistic effect, reading about body language to capture them, anticipating the subjects next move. Comparing the art and science of photography to limo driving is insulting. A client is paying for my experience, knowledge, talent and most importantly the massive amount of work that I put into polishing the images in the darkroom. Every stage of photography has to be mastered to produce a beautiful print, do you realize how many variables there are? Light, contrast, film choice, equipment, angle of view, moment, background, merger, framing, psychological space, gesture, position of camera relative to subject, processing, temperature, developer choice, film stabilization, water spots, dust control, cutting, sleeving, how to handle negatives, building a darkroom, enlarging, understanding negative contrast, exposing, paper choice, developer choice, knowledge of chemistry, mixing chemistry, properly fixing images, properly washing prints, evaluating prints, drying, spotting and delivery. Oh, did I mention fine tuning the print to my aesthetic standards which is by far the most labor intensive part of the process. Anyone who counters with why not go digital has completely forgotten how much more beautiful a silver print is and how every step of film photography is worth it and I am worth every penny I charge.

  7. Thank you, I’ve just been looking for info about this subject for ages and yours is the greatest I have discovered so far. But, what about the bottom line? Are you sure about the source?

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