Why do professional photographers charge so much?

I can understand the confusion when comparing a photographer’s print prices vs. what the local print shop charges for the very same size print. What needs to be explained is that clients are purchasing not just the print itself, but the years of experience and schooling, not to mention the cost of the equipment (cameras, lenses, studio rent, backdrops, lighting, light stands, insurance, advertising/marketing and on and on) behind the image created by the photographer. We’re not just “pushing a button” and letting the camera “take the photo” any more than a professional chef is making amazing meals by simply using a specific pan. It’s intimately understanding the tool and concepts being used that creates the magic. Professional photographers are in business and, like any business, need to charge sufficiently to cover their costs (and hopefully make a small profit to sustain their own families) or they are simply forced out of business. 

The value created by photographers is the images that they capture, not the paper they are printed on. And when digital files are purchased, unlimited access and use is possible, so you pay more for that. When someone wants to buy a digital file, photographers have to consider how much money will be lost by selling it. Most people don’t buy prints once they have the digital file. If clients decide they want to use an image for their holiday cards, they will do it online. If they want to send a copy to everyone in their family they post it on Facebook. Or they can print a hard copy for everyone in the family. When you buy the digital file you are buying limitless possibilities for eternity. That file can be passed down for generations. 

A beer at a bar in NYC costs $7+ each, yet you can get an entire 6-pack at the bodega for $12. With the proliferation of restaurants in and around NYC, seemingly nobody begrudges the restaurant owner from recouping the costs of doing business how and where they can. If we want these businesses to be able to afford to stay open, we must allow them to be able to make a living off their chosen calling.  Everyone deserves to make a living, and everyone is free to choose which luxuries they do and do not indulge. It’s all perspective. 

And that is why professional photographers charge what they charge. Whatever you do for a living I invite you to fiercely, unabashedly and with a whole lot of love, charge a fair and reasonable rate, too. I love my job, but I would be forced out of business if