Why photography is so expensive: the things you don't see

Today I decided to show the behind the scenes of the photography world for those of you who do not have any idea or just think that you are hiring a photographer to press the button and have a few snapshots.

There is a lot more involved in photography than you can imagine. So if you ever wonder why is photography "so expensive" here is a list of some of the many reasons so you understand what goes into it:


Photographers need to make a living just like doctors, dentists, and the small business down the road. Regardless of what you think of how much it should be there is a fixed cost and overhead related to it and we need to be profitable. The famous "but you love it so much" and "you are having fun and being paid for it" never put any food on the table. If the business does not make a profit to pay the business, plus taxes, plus expenses, plus salary...then it is not a business, and the IRS will be happy to declare it so.


Time is a huge part of what it takes to create high quality photography. When I press a button, I am capturing a RAW image, a high quality digital negative that needs to be manipulated to bring in all those rich colors, contrast saturation to represent my style. As a rough estimate, this is the time you don't see, for each session:

30 minutes - phone calls, emails

30 minutes - prepare for session, research idea plan, print check list, charge batteries, load equipment in the car, etc

60 minutes - round trip to and from session

15 minutes - setup on location, unload the car, talk to client, break the ice

60 minutes - the average time of a photo session (it can vary, depending on the type of session)

15 minutes - after session, put everything back at car, check if nothing is forgotten at location, goodbye, etc

30 minutes - unload the car and put everything back to place

60 minutes - download all files, backup to cloud, print paperwork to follow client's workflow, create client folder, contracts, receipts, model releases, etc.

4 hours - photo editing: the art of sorting it out, pick the keepers, catalog, add keywords, create collections, post process, edit for color, contrast, tone, saturation, etc, backup again

60 minutes - prepare slideshow for the ordering session

60 minutes - prepare products for ordering session: create collages, suggest images for special locations and show products based on initial interview

This is 11 hours of work spent and we have not even sit down to watch the images and select them and see what needs extra retouching, prepare for bigger prints, ordering, checking the order, packaging and delivering them...

At a minimum, 10 hours of my time goes into each senior session, each family session, to produce the high quality images I am known for.  More time is added after we get together for your ordering session to complete the orders until they get in your hand -  making the total time an average of 15 hours and 30 minutes.

Voice and Vision:

If you are paying me for your senior portraits or family pictures it is because I stood out from other professionals. That is what we call "Voice and Vision", the style that makes my lighting and my sessions different from others out there.

Lighting and Experience:

You don't just press a button and have a beautiful image. Lighting, flash, and knowing exactly what do do and how to do it is like a signature that makes a difference. After all, you would not pay more for a false Van Gogh, would you?

Business skills:

Photography is what you see, but it is only 20% of what I do. A lot has to do with marketing, systems in place, and running the business. Like any business, if it is not profitable, it is not a business and it takes a lot to make it work.

Social Media:

In the 21 first century you have to walk the extra mile to be seen. I spend a lot of money to keep different websites and my online voice and presence under the radar of target clients. Hosting, domains, online portfolios, Flickr, 500px, instagram, etc take time and money. Social media is a necessary expense to build a base of clients.

Insurance and Repairs:

You may not see but we have backup for everything. Things get lost, broken or just disappear in photography sessions and those expenses add up really fast. Insurance helps but we still have to pay for it - and for the difference that insurance does not cover!

Equipment and Technology:

Camera, batteries, chargers, flashes, triggers, receivers, lightstands, tripods, camera plates, umbrellas, computer, and hard drives are tools we need to create just the right image for a client. Hardware and software also need to be updated constantly as technology evolves so I can create beautiful memories and serve my clients.


New things come up all the time and although I have my own style I need to keep up with the changes in the industry to keep my style honest to my artistry level without falling behind the times. I spend hours every week in new trainings and I teach too, which means passing it on the knowledge I acquired to other people...more time preparing those classes!

Direction and Posing:

Experience and time spent photographing people made me know how to make a person to look good and confident or to capture those candid and tender moments. If you just let a person sit there, it will not look good! Hours of practice and then photographing professionally gave me the confidence I needed to guide my clients to look phenomenal in front of the camera.

This is a longer than usual blog post but I wanted to bring some light to the subject. 

I hope you consider me as your professional photographer the next time you need one.

Simone Severo