What You’re Really Paying For When Hiring A Photographer

“What?  $1500.00 to hire a photographer?  It’s just a picture. Anyone with a phone can do this.  Tell you what, I’m willing to shell out 200 bucks. Tops. Better yet, I’ll get my cousin Andrea to take it. She took a photography course a few years back…”

So here’s the deal… A professional photographer is more than someone you hire for a few hours who simply clicks a shutter button and then hands you some photos. We’re way outside of “Cousin Andrea” territory.

You’re not only paying for those hours you spend together, you’re paying for their expertise, their creative eye, their years of experience and the heart they put into the time you spend together.

It’s not an easy thing to try and capture the essence of what a client wants – whether that’s wedding photos, baby photos, corporate photos – you name it.

These days there’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty that comes when searching for a photographer. Especially in 2016 when pretty much everyone who can hold a camera makes a Tumblr and an artsy Instagram account and calls themselves a photographer. But if you want a professional photographer who’s going to give you great results, you need to do the research.

That means checking out and comparing websites, pricing, packages, talking with the photographer over email or phone and even meeting up with them before the event. That way you can get a real feel for the person before working with them. If you don’t click right off the bat chances are it may not work out. Oh, and that’s a two-way street: while you’re interviewing them, they’re interviewing you.

So let’s take a look at everything a photographer has paid for in order to perfectly capture and immortalize your big moment.


Many people don’t believe this should be considered when thinking about your photographer but it has to be factored in. Think of it this way; you’re paying them back for the hundreds of hours of schooling and education that they’ve put in to get this good.


The list and the prices are endless when considering how much equipment your photographer could be using for your shoot alone! This could include: camera bodies (most photographers have two), lenses, flash, lighting equipment, battery packs, chargers, camera bags, lens filters, stabilizers…To name but a few!


Camera insurance. It’s a nightmare and a savior. Your photographer will most likely be paying either a monthly or yearly fee to protect their equipment; and the prices of insurance vary immensely depending on the amount of gear they own.

Editing Time:

Most photographers charge per hour for editing time after the shoot. Which can vary depending on how long the shoot took, and which type of editing needs to be applied. Editing time can range from one hour to 16 hours of editing. If not more!

Editing Equipment:

Photographers pay through the nose for Adobe software, it’s an expense that comes into consideration on your invoice. Usually this is included under editing time.

Plus let’s not forget about that big magical device that allows your photographer to do all of this: their computer.

Mileage and Transportation:

If a photographer is going out of town during any part of your work relationship, they will charge you for their gas or just bill you their mileage.

And if it’s far enough away, you will need to start thinking about hotel and per diem expenses during their trip.

Studios and Locations:

Whether it’s the photographer’s personal studio or if they’re renting it out for your shoot, studios are not cheap.

A fee will also be charged if you want your photographer to plan and scout locations.

Receiving the Photos:

Some photographers give back photos on a thumb drive or CD. Others use mail programs like Dropbox, WeTransfer, Flickr, etc. All of which can cost a fee for the photographer.

Photography is never an easy job. Each shoot is different and a lot has to be taken into account to make your vision come true.

The truth is that bad photography is ultimately more expensive than good photography. If you wind up with photos you don’t like, all you’ve done is waste your money. And if those photos are of a birthday or wedding, well… yikes! But one thing you’ll never regret are beautifully rendered, high quality photographs that you can display and treasure for the rest of your life. Remember, you’re paying for a moment in time to be captured forever.

So next time you’re in search for a photographer… Remember that you are paying for quality. If a photographer is charging $200 for some big glamorous shoot, it’s likely $200 for a reason. Be smart when looking for your photographer. Don’t pick the first one that pops up on your search engine. Don’t pick a photographer because he or she is the cousin of a friend of your co-worker. Pick them because you like who they are, you’re impressed with their previous work, and you think they would do the best job in capturing your vision.

Let’s not forget about the most generous gift your photographer gives you: Deleting the terrible photos of you!

Preparing for a Photo Session - some tips!

1. All you intend to wear should be laid out, clean and ironed the night before.  Wrinkle-free clothing will help make your image much more professional.

2. Eat!  Be sure to eat something before you leave for your session so you're not hungry during the shoot.  I can't stress this enough.  You will look better, be more focused, and have the energy throughout the shoot.  This is especially important for children. A great idea would be to bring crackers, nutrition bar, etc; but stay away from chocolate or colored items/drinks, etc. You wouldn't want to color the lips, tongue, and teeth.

3. Make-up:  You want to achieve a natural even skin tone, and be sure to cover blemishes.

4. Fingers and toes should be clean and groomed.  Nails should be a natural color (nude,french,light-pink, etc) for model/actor headshots and portfolios;  and any color for family portraits, etc.  Although, for all, you want to be careful your nail color doesn't detract from you and your face as the primary subject.  The focus of a viewer naturally gravitates first to laud vibrant colors, then secondly to the rest of the photo.

5. For men, all facial hair should be groomed.  If you wish to have a few 'rough' shots and then shave to include a few shots with a smoother look, please bring your shaving kit and mention this to the photographer before the shoot.

6. Facials and haircuts should be done a week or so before the shoot date.

7. For all, be sure eyebrows are groomed, teeth are clean, and lips are not dry.  If necessary, please bring a lip balm/moisturizer with you.  Moist lips always look better.

8. Come hair-ready and bring a brush, comb, etc for touching up during the shoot.  Hair and Make-up professionals are recommended for best results and are available for an additional cost.

9. Wardrobe: A good rule-of-thumb is to try and wear clothing that doesn't detract from your face:  Your clothes should be free of logos.  You would also want to stay away from large busy prints and loud vibrant colors, .  Similar to nails, loud colors usually command the viewer's attention, etc.  You should discuss wardrobe with your photographer before the shoot.

10. I will put this tip on it's own bullet point as it is so important. Be sure all clothes are lint and hair free.  I cannot stress this enough.

If you see ideas in magazines, etc. that really attract your attention, feel free to bring those clipping or phone pics to your session.  How you feel about photography, what moves you and what you gravitate to provides much insight into who you are and your expectations.  Never hesitate to share your ideas with the photographer. 

Headshots are a bit different, as most are shot in natural light and from the chest up.  These are pretty straight forward; with colors, venues, and expressions as the core focus.