WHY does photography cost so much??

Hi friends :) My name is Ivy and I am the owner of Ivy B Photography. To say that I’m in awe of where I find myself today is an understatement. My father was a photographer and while I thought it was so cool to go “help” him on his jobs as a little girl, I never thought this is where I’d find myself. I remember the days when I thought, and would tell people, this was just a hobby and that was it. I thought that making this a career would take the fun out of it for me…also, I just KNEW that I was going to be a Pediatrician. Cut to 3.5 yrs into pre-med/trying to get my BA in Biology and I realized that while I still love medicine and could live on youtube watching surgeries and pimple popping videos (all my fellow Dr. Pimple Popper fans say “Heeeeyyyyy!”), the love of photography was far outweighing the medicine world. Let’s just say that the convos between Jesus and I went a little along the lines of trying to have a convo with my 1 year old daughter when I’m telling her “no, you can’t touch the electrical outlet” and she just looks at me, smiles that I’m-going-to-be-cute-and-hope-you-say-yes smile, and then she proceeds to throw a massive fit and pretend to cry until real tears finally squeeze out so that, she feels, mama really gets that she’s mad about the change in her plans…. you get where I’m coming from right? Also, has anyone noticed how incredibly hard it is to say no WITHOUT laughing because your kid is so stinking cute… yeah we’re in trouble…

But, back to the subject at hand… When I finally embraced where my true calling was and realized I was happier than ever when doing photography, I FULLY embraced it. You feel me? Like full on, took some classes, started being more professional, sending invoices, requiring retainers to hold spots, working for and learning from other photographers I looked up to, and spent every moment I could learning this craft. While it was hard and I had to learn some major patience while my career slowly, oh. so. slowly, took off, the pure joy and love of photography plus lots of prayers & encouragement from friends and family is what kept me going.

Now I find myself in a thriving career that I thank the Lord for daily because I actually get to do what I LOVE daily. Are there tough days? Sure! Are there days I question my sanity? Absolutely! haha! But, y’all, it is so. worth. it! However, one of the many things I get asked on a regular basis, and even my husband will tell you that until we started dating, he had no idea what went into running a photography business, is “WHY DOES PHOTOGRAPHY COST SO MUCH???”

Well, my friends, let me break it down for you. I am one of those people that loves transparency! Like, let me know all the in’s and out’s and why’s of all the things and I am a happy camper. I have no idea if it’s nosiness, curiosity, or something altogether different but either way, I get all the adrenalin and giddiness learning how things work! So, I’m going to break it all down for you here and now ;)

Photography starts with equipment. And this equipment ain’t cheap y’all.

  • Professional Camera Body: $3,000 minimum (you’re going to need more than 1 camera body as a backup camera so more like $6,000. Also, this has to be upgraded every 2-3 years)

  • Camera Lenses: $150-$2,000+ per lens (we mostly use fixed lenses— as in you’re the zoom for the lens—because they’re sharper and give us better images, so, you’ll probably need at least 2 good lenses. These have to be upgraded every few years, as well)

  • Camera Batteries: $60+ per battery (you’re going to want backup batteries as well so plan on at least 3 of these)

  • Memory Cards/Compact Flash Cards: $18-$60+ (you’re going to need several of these soooo grab lots. I think I’m up to 15 now?)

  • Memory Card Reader: $15-$20 (you definitely don’t want to ever download straight from the camera because it’s too risky. Always plug your memory card into your card reader to get them off your memory card)

  • Computer: $2,000-$4,000+ (most of us photographers use macs for the simple reason that you generally don’t have to worry about viruses and they’re great for graphics. Some use PCs so may be able to get these cheaper. Also, most of have at least a desktop AND a laptop so, double that number for computers you’ll need)

  • Flashes: $200+ (you’re going to need at least 1 good flash that’s super reliable. Then if you need more, get you a cheaper one for around $80)

  • Camera Bag: $80-$200+ (listen, you’ve just spent a ridiculous amount of money for all of this must have equipment so you better protect it, amiright?)

  • Camera Strap: $30-$300 (for those of us that are getting older **cough, cough, me** we need a good camera strap so our backs won’t seize up on us… don’t worry…if you don’t get this yet…. you will haha!)

  • Photoshop and Lightroom/Editing Programs: $10/month (subscription service through Adobe)

  • Client Management Program: $30+/month (the only way we can keep it all organized is with a good CRM program. Learned this the hard way so if you don’t have one yet…. please reach out to me and I’ll give you a code to a great client management program for any type of business!)

  • Proofing Site: $30+/month (how you get to see your images once we’re finished with them)

  • Advertising: $20-$3,000+/month (this is going to vary per month for each photographer or business but you gotta get your name out there somehow and with everything being online in today’s world you better be throwing something at online advertising. I mostly use social media to advertise)

  • Website: $200+/year (yep! That’s right! It costs to have a website. Also, you gotta do upkeep on it so it stays relevant so let’s not even talk about the amount of time that goes into this)

  • Sales tax/Income tax/Self employment Taxes: $200-$10,000+/tax (Oh yeah. You read that right. Each of those taxes comes each month—except income tax but you get what I’m saying right?— and can be anywhere from $200 per month per tax to upwards of $10,000. Yeah, I just threw up too)

  • Business Insurance: $40+/month (gotta be safe, ya know?)

  • LLC Renewal: $50/year

  • CPA fees: $300+ (every year y’all… lawdy I hate taxes but get. you. a. good. CPA. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t)

  • Phone: $150+/month (hellur? yes, you need to hire because I’m awesome. and also because I like to eat the food and have the shelter)

So, where are we at with all those numbers I just threw your way? $29,690 give or take some. I know it shocks even me to calculate that for about 1 year of running this kind of business. That’s not including the extras you may need to get for wine, snacks, etc for boudoir photos, kid photos, events you may be putting on so that your business gets some advertising in, or continuing ed. It also doesn’t include a studio if you have one or the lights you need for studio photography. I’m sure there is lots more I’m forgetting but I think you get where I’m going with this. Pricing for photography can look steep and shocking when you hear that initial quote. However, when you see all of the cost involved for what we have to upkeep, it makes a little more sense. All of this is why the numbers are where they’re at for a shoot, prints, digital files, albums, etc. We want to be able to provide a good life for ourselves and our families with charging a stupid amount. That $500 you just paid for your session and digital images with a print release is one of many sessions that pays for these bills that it takes to run this business and leaves us a little so that we can provide for our families.

Listen, I get it though. Until I got in this business, I had NO CLUE what it took to run a business, let alone a successful photography business. I remember when my husband and I started dating, he was amazed at the hours it took to edit, email, pay the bills, advertise, etc. I mean, why would anyone know what it takes for this field? BUT, my friends, as expensive as photography may seem, it’s more affordable now than EVER for the consumer. What used to cost upwards of $800-$1,000 for a photoshoot plus products, is now broken down so that the everyday consumer can have precious memories captured. It’s not just for the rich anymore! It’s not just for that once every few years shoot when you could actually get everyone in your family together! The professional photography world has changed significantly so that we ‘togs can give you, our clients and consumers who we love so much, the ability to afford us and make sure that everyone can have their moments captured forever. We have payment plans, deals sometimes, mini sessions, etc. Photography should never be so exclusive that only those with lots of money can afford it. It should be available to all. Also, I just love that I get to a small peek into your world and know that I can contribute a little to your memories over the years. So, y’all, I hope this blog has helped. I hope it shows what goes on behind the scenes and I hope that you see my heart in this. Also, let ya girl know if I’ve forgotten anything fellow ‘togs! And if you, my wonderful clients, have any other questions, let me know! I’d love to answer them!

With love,

Ivy B