I am not a fan of justifying pricing charged by photographers, whether it’s wedding albums or indeed, newborn shoots, but I want to write about it at least once before I put this subject to rest, as in recent months the price of newborn photography has been in the spotlight more often than usual.
I could start by being argumentative (“When was the last time anyone asked their doctor/dentist/architect/lawyer/private tutor why they charge so much?”), but that would get us nowhere.
Instead, I will try to break it down so that it sheds a light on what costs we incur.
Newborn photography, just like wedding photography, is a luxury. It’s not compulsory and not everyone needs a massive canvas above their babies cot. We have phones and DSLR cameras are finally affordable for most households, so we can do it all ourselves, right?
Many of us do, but for those who decide to let newborn photographers take over, there’s usually the dilemma: “How much are those photos worth to me? What am I happy to pay?”
As photographers, we often feel shy about the prices quoted, and this leads to undercharging for our work (most of us are guilty of this at one point or another in our career). Not all photographers will have their prices clearly displayed on their site. We see the work of our amazing competition and this more often than not makes us aware of our shortcomings. But we do need to make a living, so we charge figures that rarely add up, just to make ends meet. From client’s perspective, any figure given (unless it’s FREE), seems like a lot (“You are only clicking, anyone can do this, digital photos do not cost anything!”).
There is a reason there are never any photographers in Forbes 100 richest people list.
Here’s what constitutes that “free” shoot:
- Decent professional cameras start from £2000.
- There is no “one fits all” when it comes to lenses. Those cute close ups of your baby’s lips and lashes? Macro lenses start from around £150. More all round lenses will set us back anywhere from £600 to £1400 (yes, there are more expensive and cheaper lenses, but this is a basic range for a decent quality glass). Both camera and lenses require regular servicing, which comes at additional cost.
- Working from UK, I cannot rely on natural light, and have my speedlight as a back up. Those start from around £150, but it’s worth getting a decent one, if it’s the only artificial light source you have. It goes through batteries at the speed of light (see what I did there?). Strobes are more popular, and are more affordable.
- Studio rent and rates, gas and electricity. This varies greatly, but even if you (like me), start your business at home, you still need to include a figure here for the additional consumption for your business).
- It’s not just equipment insurance, loss of earnings insurance, building insurance.. We are dealing with someone’s most precious little possession! There is no amount of insurance that would ever cover us, should anything bad happen, but regardless of that, we still need it. Public liability insurance is one of the most important purchases we will make in our photography career.
- Website build and hosting. There are many free, self build options to get our site up and running, but if you are not extremely tech savvy, the best option would be to get someone to help us with the site. If we choose a simple WordPress template, and only decide on minimal changes, that would set us back anywhere from around £400 onwards, if choosing a cheap one man band designer working from home, multiply this figure by at least 4 times for a design agency with offices. If you decide not to update the site yourself to ensure it says hacker safe and virus free, you have additional cost of you site’s maintenance.
- Hosting for the site + support: around £40
- Business cards, brochures, Facebook advertising, PPC, SEO, posters, leaflets.. The sky is the limit, and of course we DO NOT HAVE TO advertise, but then how would you ever hear about us?
- Editing software: Photoshop, Lightroom.. We can opt in for monthly subscription to Adobe Cloud for just over £8.50 a month and get our software updated regularly within the package. We can buy it outright for anywhere between £60 even up to £1900
- Calibrating hardware and software for monitors. If you mostly use your computer to write, play games and surf the web, you will most likely never need this piece of kit. If, however, you spend hours editing photos and want to make sure that the printed version is as close to the printed version as possible, you need to calibrate your monitor regularly. Prices start from £60.
- Mobile phone / wi-fi. I find most of my enquiries come via Facebook, and I pay for wi-fi for home anyway, so I don’t see it as extra, but if you decide on pre-consultation via phone, this may lead to additional costs.
- When we book a date for you to come and see the fruit of our work, I will show you your images in a gallery, with some lovely music thrown in for the ultimate, intimate experience. The gallery prices start from around £10 a month, with additional cost for licensed music, at around £5 a month.
- Customer database software. I use Excel. For anyone choosing software specifically designed for photographers, that’s additional cost.
- Book keeping and accountancy. My book keeping software runs at £20 a month. Accountant fees, if we do not do it ourselves, can run into hundreds of pounds.
- Back up and storage software. Dropbox is great at around £8 a month.
- Clothing for work. We do not wear anything that requires dry cleaning but being pooped and peed on daily leads to a lot of wear and tear and frequent replacement 😉
- I do not do home visits, but driving to trade shows, trainings (all over the country), and suppliers still costs.
- We do not wake up one day knowing the correlation between aperture and shutter speed, and there is only so much one can learn at school or by watching YouTube. Photography evolves at a rapid pace and to stay ahead of the curve, we have to invest in regular training. What does a day of training cost? Anywhere between £350 and £1000.
- Envelopes, thank you cards.
- Personalized USBs are expensive. Really expensive. Think £30, not £3.
- Memberships / certifications.. BANPAS (£60/year), BIPP (just under £200/year for even Provisional Membership), Guild (£120/year for their professional membership)
- Payment processing.
- Last but not least.. and for some of us this is probably the most expensive part of the business.. PROPS. Hats, scarves, wool, little cute pants, headbands, wooden crates, buckets, professional beanbag, stands, backdrops, wooden bowls.. the list is endless. What you see in our studio is rarely all there is. Ask our partners, and they will tell you they used to have a garage / study / playroom, but now those are full of props. The actual word “props” becomes something that rarely gets mentioned in the house, as my husband gets a migraine even hearing about any more props. But what can we do? We want to provide our clients with different images each time. As artists, we do not want to get stuck in a rut, doing the same poses in the same props every single time.
More importantly, props deteriorate. They get destroyed. How many times do you think delicate, mohair pants can be washed, even if we are really gentle, before they start looking scruffy?
Price? Photography props are the equivalent of wedding trinkets. “How much for a cake? £20. Oh, you want to use it as a wedding cake? That’d be £300.” The same goes for props. Wooly pants start from around £10, headbands from £5, blankets from £15, a professional beanbag can cost around £100, filling it with beads £45. Paper backdrops are around £35 per roll.
Then you may have client specific props, special washing detergent, refreshments..
Before you let your first client through the door, you need to pay for all the above. The figure will be different for everyone, but even if you managed to save a bit somewhere (maybe you won’t go prop crazy or decide not to join any professional bodies just yet), taking photos professionally comes at a cost.
All these are only the tangible expenses. Now consider the time it takes to service each client:
- Communication prior to shooting, emails, phone calls, pre-consultation, instructions, answering questions, confirmation (1 hour).
- Session prep. This is different for everyone. I personally outline each pose and prop I would like to cover, note the flow of poses I want for the particular shoot, choose backdrops, incorporate any wishes parents may have regarding the photos, cleaning and prepping work area (1-2 hours)
- Aftermath – cleaning the studio, cleaning all props used (not only the ones soiled) (1.5 hours)
- Image selection (1 hour)
- Post production, editing (2-6 hours)
- Preparing online gallery for viewing (1 hour)
- Viewing session (1 hour)
- Depending on the order, we can then design album + client approval (3 hours), upload images for print (1 hour), prepare USB (20min), check products (30min).
- If not sending via post or having your clients pick up their order, you spend time delivering the end product (30min – 1 hour)
Is this everything? Well.. not exactly. There’s the small case of working on your business, on top of working in it. If you want to be able to have a steady income coming from photography, you need to treat it like the business that it is.
You need to stay current, and keep the momentum going, build relationships with local baby groups, hospitals, nurseries, attend networking events. You need to keep your social media pages and your blog active and have an open dialogue with your clients and potential clients.
Clicking is free. Creating high quality, treasured images is not 😉