How Much Does a Professional Photographer Cost?
Nowadays, lots of people can easily claim to be photographers. So, first it’s important to distinguish an amateur photographer from a commercial photographer. And this distinguishing factor is that a commercial photographer can command a monetary return for their work. Further complicating matters is that today’s market for commercial photographers is arguably as saturated as ever with people of various skill levels. As a result, some charge peanuts compared to others.
This market-fact is exacerbated by a prevalent thought that commercial-grade photography is also not really that difficult to do. This is likely because there are so many amateur photographers, because camera gear is easily available, and lessons on photography are also available.
The Erroneous Belief That Professional Photographers Should Be Cheap
Anyone can put a camera in auto mode and click to capture an image. But you cannot easily find a scalpel and use one like a doctor can. They’re hard to find and it’s understood it takes training to use one – and a proper education.
People generally understand and accept there is a certain relative high cost for a good doctor. But you can easily acquire a decent camera and take a decent picture. There are many commercial photographers that will also only invest so much in an education and their gear. So, people commonly think good commercial photographers should be cheap.
For business people in need of a commercial photographer, relying on a cheap commercial photographer can be a detrimental business mistake. Often, rather than pay a good photographer, business owners settle on a low-cost option or try to do it themselves. Then they often wonder why the pictures don’t look great, don’t help sell, or why the competition outsells them.
If you’re on the operating table, you want the best most sought-after doctor using that scalpel regardless of cost, right? So, when you’re looking for a commercial photographer, logical reasoning should determine the same thought-process should apply. It is proven that selling your product today greatly relies on great photography. Around 90 percent of online buyers say that photo quality is the most important factor in an online sale.
Why Good Commercial Photographers Cost More
Sure, budgets are budgets and they have their limit. But, a bad doctor also has their limits and if your life is on the line, you’ll spare no expense. So, if a good commercial photo is very valuable to your business success, the business’ photography is not a place to cut back.
Just because anyone can buy a decent camera and take a decent picture doesn’t make what comes out of it instantly commercial grade. It takes a good or great photographer to do that – one that has studied the craft, has the experience across years of work, and the right equipment. And yes, it will be costlier than most people think, though it doesn’t have to be unaffordable.
Most high-end commercial photographers have between $25,000 to $50,000 invested in equipment. Some cream-of-the-crop photographers have spent this amount on just one item. Then there are recurring monthly costs into the thousands, such as owning or leasing a studio, business insurance, maintenance on equipment and systems, software licenses, and so on.
These factors make it more costly to work with a high-end commercial photographer. The cliché you get what you pay for holds true in this industry. Great cameras today are complex tools. Despite vendors trying to make them easier to use, new features instead create newer complexities. These commercial-grade cameras are not ones you swipe up or down to start using, or that sit on the end of a stick.
When one creates an image to sell a product, or to market yourself, quality is paramount. But the equipment is just part of the equation. Understanding lighting is as important. Understanding post production software is also important. There are whole books just on lighting and post production. Understanding how to put it all together is what differentiates photographers.
Experience also cannot be understated. Long ago, Henri Cartier-Bresson said it best – “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Nowadays, with infinitely more complex cameras and lighting systems, that number is likely more like 20,000. It takes a lot of time and learning to get to that number. The creative elements that go into a commercial photo, education, equipment acquired, experience acquired – these elements take years of effort.
So, why should you work with and pay for a really good commercial photographer? For the similar reason you want a really good doctor – because it’s too important not to. I too can use a scalpel, to a messy end. If you’re too focused on saving money over quality, you’ll find out that some photographers use cameras to a similar messy end. And your business is likely to suffer for it.