Why do photographers prices vary so much?
It’s an important question that we think everyone should ask before booking so that you make sure the studio you choose is the right one for you… It’s so important that this is the first blog, in a two part series, on what public need to understand about studio photography. Take ten minutes, make a cuppa and have a read of our take on it.
When shopping for a photographer have a think about what you are wanting from your shoot… Obviously you’re wanting to capture a moment in time whether that be a confidence booster via a makeover based experience or updating the family album for example however have a think about the style of imagery you’re wanting to create along with the overall finish and quality you are wanting to for your photographs. It’s very easy to point and press a camera but is this all you want your photographer to do?
For us, there are four main types of studios:
- The department store portrait studio: We all remember getting dressed up in our Sunday best and heading into town, walking through a department store and sitting in a box room at the back to have our picture taken! Department store studios are normally used by bigger corporations to get people walking through their stores… This tactic deals with volume and can afford to offer cheap prices known as “loss leaders” as the hope is that you’re probably going to like something inside their actual store as you walk through… We are generalising here however the photographers you hire there are generally staffed by the store and given minimal training on the equipment including one chain, currently working in the UK, not allowing their staff to move lights and play with exposure for example.
- The hobbyist or a photographer who is “portfolio building”: It’s so easy to go out and buy a super duper camera, with millions of gadgets and settings, in this multimedia day and age. It may even be possible to get a killer shot or two on a mobile phone making a competitor of the photographic industry the humble selfie (and yes – we have seen people trying to sell themselves as a portrait photographer using a mobile phone). It’s very easy to pick up a camera, read a blog or two, use YouTube and drape a white sheet over a curtain pole to then photograph your kids. It may also be easy to transfer this idea over to fill your time at the weekends to build a portfolio or earn a quick buck but this is exactly what it is… When you break down the prices (and more of this will be written in our second blog on why photographers prices vary so much) it’s very hard to justify a one hour shoot with “all images on a disk” (let’s say 50)…
Let’s break this price down a minute: let’s say five images receive a “full edit” per hour… For fifty images that is ten hours work. Then don’t forget to add on the hour in the studio. Eleven hours work. Then add on the time they’ve spent making your booking whether it be marketing an offer to you, spending time with you on the phone booking you in or an in-person consultation. Twelve hours work. On the current minimum wage of £7.60 per hour, those overheads come in at £80.40. Now add in the costs of insurance (buildings, contents and liability), a rented building, bills (water, gas, electric), studio essentials such as camera, lenses, props and lighting… we could go on (marketing, education, tax, petrol if not based in a studio, for example). Does £100 with all images on a disc sound like something you could live on?
- Experienced pro-photographer: When does a portfolio builder become a professional? Ooh – it’s such a hard question! Bear in mind our previous points on equipment, space, lighting and education. When choosing your photographer please bear in mind the following when looking through their imagery: the setup & posing/lighting/editing/overall quality! Lighting is probably the biggest advantage you will have with an experienced photographer as they will be able to create the shots that a selfie certainly can’t… sillouhettes, coloured lighting, creative setups, back lighting – they all have a purpose. Finding light and the right background and scenery is a skill being exercised alongside entertainer to ensure the shoot is being enjoyed for all participants!
- The Boutique Studio: This is a “boutique experience” you are paying for. Does Harrods need to charge £2000 for a handbag that a lower end store can make and sell for less? Not really. It’s a brand, a status but also damn good quality that you’re going to be able to enjoy for many years to come, should you wish to. Remember the word “boutique” screams quality: frames can be bought very cheaply or can be sent off to the factories who hire skilled craftsmen to make sure that the bends, nooks and crannies of your framed piece (circle or square!) is perfect. Remember that if the expenses outlined in point 3 come from a studio with multiple staff then the studio will also need to pay for the staff, their overheads and make sure they turn a profit… However, the experience will be like no other!
Whichever photographer you choose, please make sure that you’re going to get what you want from it… If you want a few quick snaps then the portfolio builder could be for you… However if you’re expecting “tidy” images including setups, layout and post production work then perhaps it’s worth investing to make sure you get exactly what you want. Keep a look out for the second part of this two-part blog on why products are priced at what they are.