Shannon Miller Creative

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How much should quality photography cost?

You find a photographer you like... no, adore! Their work is on point and captures exactly what you want in photos: the emotions, the feel. Their work tells a story, the story you want to remember. Then you ask the dreaded question: what do you charge?

A lot has changed in photography over the last 10 years. With entry-level DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras easily accessible at any Wal Mart or Target, the playing field was saturated with many folks who claimed to be photographers but lacked the basic knowledge of photography. 

Quality photography isn't cheap, and as the adage goes, you get what you pay for. You could go to a chain where the photos are posed, plastic-feeling and pay $19.95 for what's essentially a point-and-shoot shot from a higher end camera that chances are, the fauxtographer doesn't even really know how to operate on any setting other than "auto." But when it comes to capturing a story - a real life moment or a candid capture - that's something you just can't find in a chain. 

There is a lot that goes into quality photography, and the price point reflects a lot more than just shoot time. Not only are you paying for the photographer's time and talent, you're paying for the time it takes to process those photos. A camera is only "one tool in the toolbox." Equipment used in the making of quality photography, like Photoshop or Lightroom editing programs, computers, cameras, lenses and even web hosting costs and mileage driving to and from a shoot are factored into the bottom line. And then there is schooling. A good photographer will know the difference between bokeh and bouquet, and knows their camera inside and out. And I will tell you, we do a lot more than just stand in one place!  I work up a sweat during shoots because I like to find multiple angles to shoot from; I've even been known to bring ladders to a shoot, and during one event, I logged over 5,000 steps on my Fitbit alone! 

There are certainly good "amateur" or beginner photographers out there. Whether you use one depends on how much value you put on the shot. If you value getting that "first look" photo of your daughter as she walks down the isle, you'll pay more for the security of knowing the photographer you hire is capable of capturing that. 

Some things to look for when hiring a photographer: 

  • Do they have a portfolio? A reputable photographer will have a portfolio that illustrated diversity, composition and an ability to "think on their toes." 
  • Does their work make you feel the moment? 
  • Do they use quality gear? Although today's point-and-shoot cameras are more advanced than, say, 10 years ago, a point-and-shoot is still a point-and-shoot. No one should call themselves a "professional" photographer with a cheap camera. 
  • Do others speak highly of their work? In the age of social media (and blogs!), comments, feedback and testimonials are everywhere. Do your research. 

The average beginner photographer will charge next to nothing. A professional - someone who has years of knowledge and experience under their belt - can charge $125-150 an hour for a basic portrait session.

We all must consider our pocket books when purchasing anything. But consider your time as well and how much it is worth. You're not only investing in memories, you're taking a couple hours out of your day to attend a photo session. Make that time count with a quality photographer. You owe it to yourself and your memories to ensure that these are not left to chance. 


This post was also published on my other photography blog: