With Cyclone Amos now gone, and with a $500WST hole in my pocket from buying supplies, I find myself writing this blog. This is perhaps one of the most asked questions I hear often. In fact, I have received a few not so nice emails about it.
Why are photographers so expensive? It’s a fair question, and one I often have to justify when people ask for quotes. I suppose it does seem strange that someone can charge thousands of dollars for only 6-8 hours of shooting. As this person aptly says, “… the ‘average’ person’s salary for 1 freaking month is somewhere around 3 grand.”
The reality is a wee bit more complex. I can’t speak for other photographers, but the running theme is the same; it takes time and money to be a decent photographer.
On top of that, we spend a whole lot of time responding to queries (that often don’t lead to bookings), updating our facebook page, updating our websites, driving from gig to gig, and now for me, starting a blog.It adds up.
12k NZD is roughly $21,000WST, what some people make for one whole year in Samoa (and in many cases, way more!).And you know what?I still need new gear.Keyword ‘need’.I still need a whole heap of gear to ensure I’m still competitive in what is fast becoming a crowded industry.It’s a never ending battle of trying to balance one’s finances to survive, while still keeping relevant and updated with essential gear so you know you’re delivering the best you can to your clients.
And then there are other ongoing costs.I have to pay for my subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud that charges monthly, and I also have to pay for the servers to host my website, as well as a domain name that renews every year.On top of that, I also have to run ads on facebook regularly which costs a lot, just so I can reach potential clients.
And then there’s also my subscription to Spotify, which is not an essential, but definitely nice to have when you’re editing and stuck in front of your PC for hours on end.
And don’t get me started on mobile credit.Samoa’s internet infrastructure still needs a lot of work.Granted internet speeds have improved immensely in the last few years, it’s still unreliable and it costs a lot of money.Currently, Digicel charges $19 for only $675MB of data.That’s a lot of money for not a lot of data.Having an online presence now for your business is becoming more and more essential, especially when everyone is now spending a lot of their time on social media.Harnessing the power of social media to bring in work is definitely a must, but it does come with its financial costs that makes one want to go to a corner and weep.
And while I don’t have business premises or a studio (but one day would definitely love to have one), I work from home and still have to pay for the power bill.My PC is a beast and eats a lotta power.
On top of that, I often take a camera assistant along to make the workload easier.Granted it’s often my siblings, one still needs to pay to keep them happy.Bastards.
Oh, and let’s not forget transportation.I take my own car to wedding shoots, which sometimes requires driving to multiple locations, and in some cases to the other side of the island.That means I need money for gas.Often.A lot.All the time.
So back to answer the comment above, “the ‘average’ person’s salary for 1 freaking month is somewhere around 3 grand”. That may be true. But also bear in mind that some of us (including myself) aren’t booking work every day, let alone every weekend. It’s not like a ‘normal’ job, where you go to work every day and get paid either weekly or fortnightly. Photography is a highly unreliable form of income. There’s no guarantee for work, and we only get paid if we land work. As a wedding photographer, this isn’t enough to survive on alone, so I have to try and find smaller side jobs to supplement my income, and even those are hard to come by.
I’m grateful that I’m able to book enough photography gigs to be able to be self-sufficient. This hasn’t always been the case, and may not be the case in the future. So don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m just rolling in it (or us photographers on island are rolling in it judging from how much we charge). Nope. Far from it. Most of the money we earn is invested back into our craft and other ongoing ‘business’ expenses, so what is left over then goes into essentials like toothpaste and noodles. But I love it. I love that I am able to do something I enjoy doing and earn a living. I have some friends who are local photographers, who are genuinely talented individuals with an eye for detail, who still have day-time jobs because 1.) they don’t earn enough from weddings and 2.) they don’t book enough work.
It’s a great industry to be in because there’s always someone getting married. But it’s also becoming a crowded industry, with lots of photographers, and with a gradual move towards videography as a preference, and not enough weddings to go around. It’s competitive. It’s hard. But I’m glad to say that I get along well with many of the local talent, and we often share camera gears to make up for the deficiency in our own. We also share work too, passing along work if we’re already booked.
And so on that note… please don’t ask for ‘free’ photography work unless it’s for a VERY good cause (I’m talking about saving the starving kids kinda good cause) or if you’re close family or friends (and even then…). This is my bread and butter. LITERALLY my bread and butter since I can’t afford much on my current income. It pays for my bills. It helps my family meet ongoing ESSENTIAL living costs. And if you can’t imagine me walking into your place of employment and asking for free goods and services, it’s probably not wise to ask me the same.
Discounts are okay sometimes, but please bear in mind that with my current pricing, it’s already pretty low when factoring in all my costs, and also the fact that I’m actually mid-range in terms of pricing when compared to others in the local industry. And you know what? You really do get what you pay for.
Not all photographers are the same, but I hope this post helps in some small way in conveying why we cost so much. But you’ll find that photos are worth every cent you pay for. Many years from now, when the memories of that special occasion has faded, you’ll pick up these photos, look at them again and smile. Photos are priceless. They grow more and more in value as the years go by, far surpassing the value of how much you initially paid for it.