Many people question why photographers charge what seems like so much for the digital files (and albums, etc.). Let me try to explain it to you.
People tend to forget that photographers need to make a profit, or else they wouldn’t do it. It’s a business. We all work to make money, right? Yes, we photographers are lucky to have found something we love to do that we can make money doing…but does that make it any less important to be able to provide for ourselves and our families? No!
So if photography is our business, we have real business expenses. Expensive equipment, expensive software, expensive maintenance fees for sites, gallery platforms, marketing, accountants, sample products, postage, packaging, workshops to learn even more and bring clients even better work, assistants and so forth. Plus all the boring stuff like utilities of the actual office/studio etc.
Before digital, people bought prints, and that is where photographers could turn a profit. Now people want files. And photographers will usually sell them to you … but for a price.
We can’t just give art away.
Look at it this way—a typical wedding is 8-12 hours of shooting. Then after that, processing the images and getting them ready for viewing ranges from 20-40 hours. (Depending what else is in packages like slideshows, albums, blogging, etc..) Add on to that the cost of doing business. The cost of time. The cost of something that should be considered ART.
Lifestyle sessions are 1-2 hours of shooting. But there is more than just showing up with a camera. Marketing, communication with the client, processing, uploading, blogging, packaging, all go into it as well.
And of course the 25-35 percent we lose to taxes, just like all other working folk.
So let’s say a wedding photography package is $2700. Nearly $900 goes to taxes, another $900 goes back in to the business, that means the photographer “makes” $900. Factor in the time of shooting, the time of processing, uploading, meeting with clients, communicating with clients, burning discs, finetuning files, and all the other in-between things that aren’t worth listing……it results in $22/hour (if all of the above takes at least a week to do, a minimum of 40 hours…which they usually takes more….). Compare that to other CAREERS out there. You’ll see it’s not that much.
So enter the digital files. Why put all that time into the art, when you basically only got paid to shoot and process, but not for the art itself? (to see examples of what is the difference between a picture taken and a picture processed… go here) Divide the cost of the set of image files by the number of expected images and you’ll get the per-image price. If you were to buy a 4×6 print of say, 5o photos, what would cost you $500. That is significantly higher than what I charge for the set of image files of MORE than 5o images. AND…by buying the files, you can make whatever size, however many times…16x20s… 11x14s, you name it. Not to mention you can use the low-res photos on facebook, or create a photo book, calendar, whatever you want for personal use. The value far exceeds the cost.
Also…another thing most fail to consider: Target, Walmart, Walgreens, kodak.com and other similar retailers that offer print services have sub-par print quality. I’ve done print tests, and there truly is a difference between those and the professional labs that photographers use. We calibrate our monitors to those printers. We ensure it comes out looking like it’s supposed to.
When I release my files, I run the risk of having my name attached to less-than-my-best work because the skin tones might be too orange, a sepia tone that might be cringe-worthy could be used, a crop job might screw up the composition of the photo or a black and white rendition ends up flat and boring. By allowing clients to print whatever they want, to actually have the files, we are risk clients changing a picture from the way we, as the artists…as the owners…intended it. It’d be like buying a painting and then painting over it in parts. (And my contract does outlaw any sort of post-processing after it’s out of my hands… but it’s still a risk that clients will ignore that legality.)
Photographers have no quality-control once the disc is in the client’s hands. Most photographers will relinquish that control. But again…they do so for a price.
As for albums, the wholesale price is typically 1/2 to 1/3 of what the photographer charges. It takes a lot of time to lay out an album, re-edit the photos, design it, upload it, communicate changes with the client, make the changes, reupload, perhaps make more changes and then finally send off to the printer. So for the 10×10 album I offer (current is priced at $1175)…. nearly 1/2 of that rate pays for the album itself and shipping…the remaining amount, 1/3 of that goes to taxes, 1/3 goes back into the business, and 1/3 goes to our pockets. So again, that is maybe $200 in my pocket… for 15-20 hours of work.
Bottom line is… the pricetag looks pricey. But when you realize that photography is not just ART…but a BUSINESS… we’re not making fortunes. We’re TRYING to make a living. HUGE difference. 🙂 And you get what you pay for with me. 😉
If you have any questions as for what goes into the development of the images, don’t hesitate to comment here or shoot me an email.