The Value of a Portrait

Fototails PhotographyWith many inexperienced amateurs purchasing digital cameras and charging less and less for a session, I want to share the true value of a portrait. As a consumer, it is important to be educated in what you are paying for and the worth of what you are getting.

Most of what we do, our clients never see and the actual session is such a small part of what is involved.

We do this every day.  Our clients may only do this once every year or even 5 years. It is important to hire a professional who will find out what you want and help you to achieve that.


  • helpful guides for clients including clothing and the displaying of prints in the home – A professional photographer does not like to leave your session to chance and will share helpful information to give you the best session possible.
  • software – It is not uncommon at all for a photographer to have over $1500 worth of software that needs to be continually upgraded, plus extras each year for giving you the most professional, and artistic images.
  • computer – The professional cameras continue to improve and constantly require updated software and computer systems. It would absolutely amaze most people to know how slow the large files can be to work with and the cost of continually upgrading.
  • camera – Most professional photographers have more than entry level digital cameras. Professional photography can be hard on a camera, especially if a photographer shoots in elements such as the beach.  This will require additional cleanings and new equipment.
  • lighting
  • props
  • reflectors
  • lenses
  • education – Education is a constant in the life of a true professional photographer.
  • insurance
  • licenses, fees
  • professional, legal forms
  • advertising
  • display samples
  • assistants

The ACTUAL time that a professional photographer puts into a session:

  • corresponding and telephone calls for forms and consulting before a session (30-60 minutes)
  • planning – a photographer will spend time planning and preparing for your session, including scouting, posing, correct equipment, etc. (60+ minutes)
  • the session (1+ hours)
  • choosing the best images, eliminating blinks, etc (1-2 hours)
  • professionally processing the images (6-8 hours)
  • ordering and packaging of prints (if ordered) (1+ hours)
  • uploading images or making CD (about 1 hour)

So, at this point, we are looking at approximately 17 actual hours that go into a session, not to mention the time that a photographer spends additionally each week just to conduct business (advertising, website maintenance, education, ordering supplies, maintaining books and records, correspondence, telephone calls, exploring new industry information, etc.). While it appears that a photographer just shows up and works for an hour or two, there is so much more to what a professional photographer does.

Add to that the actual expenses that a photographer has, most of which you may not actually see because they are behind the scenes, and you will see why you will not find a professional photographer offering their services for next to nothing. They simply cannot afford to stay in business.

So, what makes a photographer worth the money? These are your portraits.  Life is fragile and fleeting.  One day these images will hold your memories.  These images will become your memories.  Most of what we remember, was captured in a picture. It is not likely that you will find professional portraits at chain department store pricing.  A professional photographer just cannot stay in business at those prices.  And at a chain department store, you will probably not find the artistic images that you are looking for in a 15 minute session from someone making minimum wage working there for the summer or for extra money over the holidays. Sometimes, we just have to make a choice.

You get what you pay for when it comes to professional portraits. They are an investment and will be one of  the very few purchases that you will still  have in  20, 30 years, or even a lifetime.  The importance of these memories go so far beyond the paper they are printed on, or the drive they are stored on.

4 thoughts on “The Value of a Portrait

  1. I absolutely love this and you have motivated me to writing something similar for my clients 🙂 I wish people really knew all that goes on behind the scenes and it’s not a piece of cake job that brings in a ton of money for little work.


  2. Thank you so much for writing that…I came upon it by accident, but it was well written. Makes me want to attach to my bids when someone comes back at me with; That’s too much money.
    Ziggy Robideaux


  3. After years of wanting to, I’ve finally started getting into photography on a more broader scale than simply taking some good snapshots. This year I’ve photographed both my sister’s and my brother’s weddings, both completely different events, but both so much fun and so much work. I said to my husband that I am beginning to understand why a “good” wedding photographer costs so much. I spent hours in post processing for those 2 events, and I’m a full time teacher as well. And recently I’ve taken photos of kids playing sport with my entry level DSLR, and I’ve loved that nearly as much as taking wedding photos. So while I’m not in a position to become a ‘professional’ yet, and upgrade my gear to any more advanced or higher quality products, I think I’ve decided which direction my photography will take me, and it will involve people as opposed to scenery and flowers. I particularly love your comment about education… especially since I have also thought the same thing and have been buying and borrowing photography books left, right and centre, as well as reading lots online whenever I can. With any luck, the more I learn, the better I will continue to become, which will ultimately allow me to upgrade, after which I will need to learn some more and so on and so on…


  4. Thank you for the excellent article. As a photographer I would add up to 5 or 6 hours of post production on to the estimate above for larger events such as weddings. Then there is travel time, as well as the cost of hiring someone for their visual expertise itself.


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