I was asked a simple question the other day: Why are photographers so expensive? A fair enough question from a potential client, I explained to her all that it entailed and oddly enough she agreed that the price I was asking for was reasonable.
The first thing that anyone that wants to hire a photographer must understand is that this professional often has a big responsibility, no matter what he shoots. The photographer has to deliver photographs that represents what they were hired to do, in many cases there are no second chances, think of your wedding for a second, if the photographer misses the first kiss or the exchange of the rings?
I will use a typical wedding photographer as my case study, mostly because it is the most common use of the profession that affects you and almost anyone can relate to it.
First up is experience, the more a wedding photographer has experience the more expansive he becomes, I have heard people calling wedding photographers rip-offs, I do not agree entirely. The more the experience, the larger the portfolio,the better the work becomes, the least likely there will be something going wrong and the more the demand… And there you are, the more the demand, trading 101, the more the demand, the more expensive things become, particularly when it comes to services.
Second is the equipment, the better the equipment, the better the photographs. Equipment compliment skill for a professional photographer, he needs to have the tools to cater for most situations and that costs. Let us start with the camera, a semi-pro camera will set you back in the region of R13000 for the body alone! A entry professional grade camera about R20,000 for the body. These are often changed every 3 years and need to be maintained, that is a serious cost. The table bellow shows the initial outlay a serious wedding photographer has to do, often in the form of a loan. The following is the strict minimum that a serious professional photographer will need based on professional grade equipment using Canon’s prices:
|Camera body ||R20,000 |
|24 – 70mm f/2.8 lens ||R13,000 |
|70-200mm f/2.8 lens ||R14,000 |
|2x Batteries for camera ||R2,000 |
|Flash ||R3,000 |
|Rechargeable batteries for flash ||R500 |
|Camera Bag ||R1500 |
|Compact Flash Cards ||R3000 |
|Laptop ||R12000 |
|Secure data storage ||R8000 |
|Printer for test print ||R3000 |
|Software ||R7000 |
| Total || R100,500 |
That is about a repayment R3,500 a month add to that the monthly cost of telephone, internet connectivity, web hosting, space rental, transport, etc… Well you get the picture.
There are also cost involved per event, a serious professional photographer will not stop at an interview or two, once they have secured the job they will go to scout the venue for good places to shoot and introduce themselves to the venue co-coordinator. They will also get in contact with the official that will carry out the ceremony, the caterers, the wedding coordinator, the videographer and anyone else the will be involved in the event. They will also have their camera cleaned and serviced for every event. Now as you can see there is a lot of preparation prior to the event itself and cost associated with it.
On the day itself, the cost are limited to the transport to the venue and more often than not the refreshments, assuming it is not a “location” wedding, but that is another affair all together which is not applicable here.
The post production, for ever 1000 photos taken during the event, you can estimate that a day is used to sort out and edit the photographs, that is a day’s work that must be paid. After that there are other cost such as the DVD(s), prints, albums, etc…
As you see you actually not paying a photographer for the event time but rather a series of specialised services and skills to which the outcome is a capture of your memories and more then often the things you have missed.
So are photographers a rip-off? I am sure some are, as in all professions there are bad apples, but generally your are paying for more than you think, most of the work happens before and after the event. The skill, for a professional photographer, is to minimize the post production time by getting it right at the event.
In short a typical 4 hour wedding shoot will take 24 hours of actual work, let’s assume that the cost was R5000 that is an actual R208.33 per hour, call your plumber or electrician, see how much that costs.
I can only hope that I have enlightened you a little about what it means to be a professional photographer today, until next time, enjoy.
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After much research and deliberations, I decided to switch brands at that time, Nikon and Canon both had tempting offers and I tried both. Canon came out tops and a few months later I bought a Canon EOS 300D, the digital age downed on me…
After that unfortunate incident I had some serious decisions to make, my insurance did not cover the full amount (my mistake I under insured) so I simply got a replacement battery grip, a , a with a and a Crumpler bag. That was 2 years ago. I eventually got the nerves to add a lens to my collection, I was looking at the again but I wanted something better, something more solid, I tested the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM lens and found it to be heavy and rather pricy at the time, after all I was barely a hobbyist photographer, what would I do with a near professional lens? It took me a couple of months but the need got the better of me and I bought it along with a Canon Extender EF 2.0XII. The sheer quality of the images I could get with this lens changed my position and I became more than a hobbyist, closer to a junior amateur. That lens opened a whole new world for me and it did not stop at wildlife photography. It took me a further 18 months and a lot of to chose the right “all purpose” lens, I finally settled on the and I am not sorry. As I say, once you have had exposure to Canon L lenses you will never go back. I sold my and through away my . Today I still have my Canon EOS 400D and with my investments in Canon lenses I am committed to stay with Canon. I have also added a for my tripod, a polarising filter and a to my gear.
In part 3 I will discuss how I learned to photograph since I committed myself last year.
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Until the digital age downed on me my worries where about getting the shot, so I pretty much left the camera on automatic and hoped for the best, after all that is why there is an automatic setting right?
It’s not until I acquired my first DSLR, a Canon EOS 300D,that I started fiddling with the settings and the settings I fiddled with where not all that exiting from Auto to Sport to Auto. The advantage was I could see the results immediately in that 2.5 inch screen. When I got my Canon EOS 400D, things changed, I wanted to be able to do more and discovered a whole new world.
I am often asked what courses I took and so on and so forth. The truth is I never took a photography course in my life, I am entirely self taught. OK, I lie, not entirely, I have had some help but not in the form of courses…
If you want to learn about photography the first stop is your camera bag, read your manual! Seriously, read it, now. If you know what your camera is capable of, it will open possibilities for you, so stop reading this blog and get on it.
Now that your are aware of your camera’s abilities and features, go and test them, do some photographing, see results.
Your third stop is the internet and here is a list of my favourite sites:
And there are many more websites to visit…
At the end of the day it’s all up to what you see through the lens, happy photographing.
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