Why do photographers’ rates vary so much?

Why do photographers’ rates vary so much?

This is an interesting situation. Photography has become quite accessible in recent years. Improved quality of technology, the dawn of camera phones, and falling prices in technology and photographic devices have made buying good cameras and photography equipment easier for many people. 

Interest in photography is at an all time high. There are a multitude of platforms social media available for for sharing images, so why not. It piques our interest, gives us motivation for further exploration and learning about photography. It may take us on a travel adventure never before contemplated. This is all good.

People with an interest and a passion for photography may like to turn their hobby into a job. Nothing wrong with a little entrepreneur — or freelance—ship. All good businesses and business owners need to start somewhere.

However, you may come across a dichotomy in photographers when it comes to rates they charge. Those that are high and those that are low. 

Hobbyist Photographers

Some passionate hobbyist photographers who embark on a  photography business are likely to already have a full-time or other part-time work. Maybe they are retired and want to make a little extra through their hobby, so earning an entire living off photography is not a main financial goal. Starting a small business means starting small and taking a large quit the day job leap is not possible. There is a need to keep the day job to be able to dial in a fledgling photography business. It may mean their prices at this stage can be lower as they have other sources of income available.

Professional Photographers

On the other hand, a professional photographer who makes their sole income from their photographic work is in a completely different financial situation. Unlike the  employee doing a little photography work on the side for a few extra dollars to start their fledgling business,  professional photographers have to earn their living from their photographic skill. They have to charge photographers’ rates which cover the costs of doing business as well as pay them a liveable wage. 

Costs of doing business can be high. Not only do you need the gear, you may also need to pay rent for studio space, pay for accounting services, advertising and marketing, utilities, banks fees and charges, motor vehicle charges (if you travel for work), staff wages (if applicable), taxation, superannuation, insurances, plus many more. 

Professionals will also have their ‘creative fee’ for their work. This is the fee they pay themselves after all the business expenses are accounted for. This fee is not some made up number to increase income. It is their charge for the experience in photographic and post-processing work which they have accumulated throughout their training and career.

Photographers’ Rates

This may help to explain why one photographer charges $X and another charges $Y and the two may be very far apart. A potential client should ask a few salient questions regarding to a potential photographer, such as how long they have been in business, why type of work have they done and where can they view it. A simple phone call or email conversation is a great way to determine if the photographer and their price is right for you.

You cannot necessarily equate cheap with inferior. There are some great photographers who do this work as a second income stream. If you can find a photographer at the price and quality that suits you, then go for it.

A Conversation

Professional photographers will no doubt have greater experience and resources at their disposal, and the quality of their work will speak for itself. Don’t balk at contacting a photographer even though you think they are above your price range. 

Again, a conversation will tell you a lot about the photographer and if you think they will be right one for your photoshoot. You may find out about other services or packages they can offer you which are not listed on their website.

There are further conversations to be had here at the industry level and the race to the bottom in terms of charging for photography. That needs an entire post (or two) on its own.


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