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Every professional photographer has at some point heard at least one of these responses to their price list:

  • You charge how much?!?
  • What exactly do I get for that?
  • I can get an 8×10 at Walmart for Rs.100!
  • But you just push a button all day!

Yes, photography is expensive. But, photography is expensive on both ends. Photographers donʼt really earn Rs.20,000/-an hour for pushing a button. And when you factor in the hidden time and monetary investments, most photographers donʼt earn much more than your hairdresser or accountant. So then, why is photography so expensive? Hereʼs what you are really getting when you pay for a professional photographer (and what you miss out on when you donʼt).

When a photographer charges Rs.20,000/- for a one-hour session, theyʼre not charging Rs.20,00/- an hour. At the very minimum, photographers typically spend at least three times that on a session.While the client may only see the photographer for an hour, there was likely: Over an hour of planning the shoot + time traveling to the shoot + half an hour to set up the equipment + the actual hour at the shoot + time traveling back + about an hour to load and choose the best images + another two hours minimum to edit the images + an hour to load the images online + an hour to order and deliver the prints.

That one hour session? The photographer probably spent a full eight hour day on. That Rs.20,000/- session, then, becomes roughly Rs.2000/- an hour, not including expenses. How much do you pay your hairdresser? Tax guy? Mechanic? It feels easier to justify those expenses, because you can see how much work went into the project firsthand. But, when you hire a professional photographer, you only see a small amount of what it actually took to produce those final images. Photography Gear Is Expensive. Because of the hidden hours, what seems like Rs.20,000/-an hour is actually only about Rs.2000, right? Not so fast. Photography equipment is downright expensive. For example, letʼs take the typical costs for one of the genres of photography that requires the least amount of gear: lifestyle portraits. The camera costs at least 1LAKH for a professional-grade DSLR, like the NIKON D750

Most photographers have a second camera body in case of emergencies. Oh, and those two 1Lakh cameras will likely be replaced after about three years, because like any technology, they become outdated pretty quickly.

The camera lens at a minimum costs Rs.10,000/- for a basic lens without zoom. A 50mm f/1.8 is a good portrait lens, option compatible with camera D750 That just allows one perspective, however, so most photographers will have either several prime lenses costing Rs.20,000 to Rs.1 Lakh or two zoom lenses covering a range of perspectives costing over Rs.1,50,000/- each. The cheaper lenses will need to be replaced often, while the pricier lenses will thankfully outlast those camera bodies.

Editing photos isnʼt cheap either. To keep skin tones from becoming odd colours, photographers need a high-end display that will show the image just like it will print out. Most photographers have about Rs.2 Lakhs in computer equipment (including external hard drives to back up those photos), and like cameras, they have to be replaced every few years. Oh, and factor in the Rs. 500/month subscription to Photoshop and Lightroom.

Wedding photographers often invest in more gear so they can shoot in any conditions—can you imagine the photographer packing up because they didnʼt have the gear to shoot a dimly lit church? The lenses that handle the limited lighting of churches and receptions while still offering zoom flexibility Many wedding photographers hire (i.e. pay for) an assistant and/or a second shooter to ensure all those moments are captured.

Photography Is a Small Business. Besides the expense of actual photography equipment, photographers are paying for the same bills that your hairdresser and tax guy pay. Self-employed taxes and health insurance + liability and gear insurance (often over Rs.5,00,000 a year) + utilities—including a faster-than-average internet speed for uploading large image files online + marketing expenses. Oh, and like your tax guy, there are often “seasons” for photography. Wedding photographers are busiest during the warmer months, and often book very few, if any, jobs during the winter. Outdoor portrait photographers are also limited by the weather.

MANY PHOTOGRAPHERS WORK MULTIPLE JOBS OR WORK IN DIFFERENT GENRES OF PHOTOGRAPHY TO MAKE ENDS MEET, AND THE ONES THAT DONʼT ARE CHARGING WELL ABOVE THAT RS.20,000/- FOR A ONE-HOUR SESSION.

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