Well, it doesn't really when you consider what you're getting. Custom photography is a personal service. It is one to one communication and includes custom designing, intimate sessions, and lasting relationships to ensure your memories are caught in the best way. And, as you know, custom service can cost more. I have never been a fan of studio portraits, which is one of the main reasons I do what I do. People always ask if I will have a studio. Yes, I'm sure I will one day. But, I will still travel to people's homes, especially for newborn sessions, unless there is a reason it is best in studio. I believe capturing your memories in a personal setting, whether it be a local park, your home, or other special place is part of the experience. Even when I do have a studio, I will ask clients to bring personal items and keep it as simple and clean as possible to look like an actual home and not a JCPenney studio.
So, why does it cost more than a generic studio? Well, many reasons. First, I have taken years to perfect my skills and continue to do so. Many times, at in-store studios, the people taking your photos do not have an all around photography education, but instead are trained to press the button at the right time and know some basic settings. I, and my clients, see the difference in quality between their images and mine. If you don't see it, you may not want to invest in my services. I take workshops throughout the year in addition to the large amount of time I spend playing around in between sessions to better myself and my work. I also have a degree in education and have extensive experience with children. I see this as money well spent to make me better at my job, seeing as I photograph mostly babies and children.
I belong to (and pay for) many professional organizations, groups, and subscriptions to ensure I provide you with the best. I use these organizations to help my business and clients in the same way the workshops and continuing education do. I also pay insurance and taxes, which anyone that works knows, is not cheap. Every session, product, and service I provide is taxed and insured.
Next, I use only the best equipment to provide you with the best images you can get. I could breakdown everything, but that would take forever. Let's just say that total, for just the basic equipment I bring to each session (camera body, lenses, flash, batteries, memory cards, backups), plus the basic equipment for editing (editing software, computer optimized for editing, backup drives, online storage to ensure images are safe), I am looking at a minimum of $12,000. Sure, some of this lasts a few years, but average cost per year to purchase additional drives, equipment, and maintenance of all of the above can run $7000+ This doesn't include lighting equipment, props, and backdrops that I bring to indoor sessions (another $5000+ a year). On average, I spend about $15,000 per year just on expenses and running the business.
All of the above is figured into my client's session fees and product investment. Then, figure in that I spend a minimum of 10 hours per session on a client. So, a $100-$240 session fee is not just the 30-180 minutes I spend with you, it is so much more. I believe that photography is a personal and important investment. They are moments in time that are frozen and can be looked back on forever. There is nothing else that can do this with the quality and service a custom photographer can give you. I look back and regret that we do not have professional images of myself and the rest of my family with my grandmother, who was lost too young to alzheimer's. We have fading pictures from CVS from family gatherings and nothing else. That is why I do what I do and it is why I provide a 1:1 experience.
Here is a blog post I wrote breaking down a photography business. http://www.nicoleoneilphotography.com/blog/investment-explained-photography-is-an-expensive-business_
Thank you for reading, Nicole
Member of Professional Photographers of America and Wedding & Portrait Photographers International. All text and images are copyright of Nicole O'Neil Photography.