What you're actually paying for when you book a photographer...

Photography is one of those things in life that's so personal! You want to make sure you're choosing someone who has a style you like, who's located in your area, who doesn't charge more than you can afford, and who you think you'll vibe well with. Ultimately, your photographer is there to capture your memories and bring your vision to life, but that can get expensive! Especially when you add in outfit changes, multiple locations, and additional time. Not to mention any prints you might want to purchase or parking costs! Take it from me, photography is not cheap. Whether it's a hobby or a career, there are lots of things that your photographer is paying for behind the scenes to make sure you have the best experience and are happy with your photos! So what are they?


Without a camera and lens duo, your photographer can't do their job! While most of us settle for a budget camera kit (body + lenses combined) in the beginning, at some point, the quality of that gear will hold us back from improving and making magic. That's when the upgrades come in. And with better quality comes a heftier price.

A few hours ago, I was telling my mom that I was about to purchase a new lens (FINALLY), and she asked how much it was. When I responded with $1,500, her mouth dropped and she said "what?! oh my gosh!!" What she didn't know is that's actually the average price for a really good quality lens! It might seem absolutely bonkers to drop that much money on a camera lens, but it's essentially an investment. When any business owner invests in their business, they do it in hopes of earning that money back- we're investing in our future and our passion. If you really think about it, it's a one time cost, unless it gets broken or stolen. Even then, most big purchases come with some sort of insurance or warranty, so there's really nothing to worry about.

Think of it this way: more expensive gear = better quality photos!

My Current Gear:

  • Canon 6D Mark II - $1,200
  • Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens - $125 (that's CHEAP)
  • Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens - $1,500
  • Canon Rebel t6 KIT with the Canon 18-55mm f/3.6 - f/5.6 - $549 (backup/beginner gear)

editing software

Once your photos are taken, they need to be edited! The two most popular editing softwares are Photoshop and Lightroom, both of which are Adobe Creative Cloud products. Personally, I prefer Lightroom, just because I'm not one for photoshopping anything in or out of a photo, but each photographer has their preference. These softwares charge membership fees, which are around $10-$20 a month, and that's just for the basics! A lot of us have either a few different Creative Cloud apps or the whole collection, which is of course, more expensive.


So where does your photographer put all of the photos they've taken over the years? They take up LOTS of space, so a normal MacBook Air's memory isn't sufficient. As a matter of fact, I just had to buy a 2TB external hard drive specifically for my Mac, and those go for around $75. I guess $75 really isn't that bad when it can hold every gallery I have and still have room for the next year or 2!

SD Cards are the other part of the storage aspect of photography. We need multiple SD cards to put in our cameras because often times, deleting sessions off of our camera isn't ideal if we have more than one within a few days or haven't had a chance to back anything up yet. Some photographers also opt to name their SD cards different things for specific session types. These can range anywhere from $14-$50, and that's just for the SanDisk brand.


So now that your photographer has some great gear, editing software, and has a place to store all of those images, what do they do with them? How do they market themselves? Just like any business, photographers need a clear brand that includes a website, logo, color palette, and they'll even need photos done! While some photographers will choose to hire someone to create a branding package and website for them, some of us just don't have the money for that, so we do it ourselves. Even then, there are some costs we can't get around.

Depending on which website platform your photographer uses, they'll have to pay a monthly rate to keep their website active and updated. They'll also have to pay for a domain once a year that's personal and unique to them, so clients can find them more easily. For example, mine is www.kaitlinhaysphoto.com. Websites typically cost around $20 a month, but can be pricier if the photographer chooses a more in depth plan, while the domain is most likely about $20 a year.


Traveling to and from photo sessions sometimes means driving a long distance, which means that trips to the gas station can add up fast! You can always be sure that part of your session rate is dedicated to filling up your photographer's car.


Nearly every photographer carries their gear and personal belongings in a bag or backpack, depending on preference. For a nice, high quality camera backpack, you can expect to pay at least $100! Over the shoulder bags typically go for the same rate, maybe even a little cheaper depending on exactly what you're looking at. Most of us, like myself, like to purchase one of each for different scenarios- backpacks are perfect for weddings when you need more gear, while a simple bag is best for an outdoor senior session.


You've heard the phrase, "time is money." And it's the truth! People in general are very busy with kid's baseball games, work, and personal lives, so you can imagine how busy your photographer must be. To put it in perspective, this week alone I have 4 client shoots plus a casual branding session for myself. Add in the editing time, and that doesn't give me much free time! I've found that the amount of time it takes for a session to take place beginning to end is often underestimated! A typical session for me takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to plan, 1-2 hours to shoot, and then AT LEAST 2 hours to edit. Then I'll export the photos and upload them to an online gallery, customize that gallery, and send it out. The process definitely doesn't stop when we leave your shoot, and I think a lot of people forget that!

While photography is a pretty expensive hobby or career to start up and take part in, it's so rewarding! There are so many different aspects that go into photographing a session, and in this post I've really only highlighted some of the biggest points. Where your photographer is located is also a major factor in how much they charge, much like the housing market! Apartments in New York and California are far more expensive than those here in Texas, and that same concept applies to photographers, or even artists in general. No matter what your photographer is charging, you can trust that they've done their research and that it's all a part of giving you the best experience possible. :)