So, you booked with a photographer for your annual family photos. Everything was great, and you loved your experience. You go back the following year, and YIKES! The rates have increased! Why do photographers raise their rates? Let’s explore the what goes on the backend that contributes to this process in our businesses.
Before we even consider why photographers raise their rates, I want us to picture a couple different scenarios.
First, when physicians graduate from medical school, they complete what is known as a residency program. This is where they get hands on experience for MANY hours a week to become proficient in their chosen specialities. Residencies are typically four years long. If you needed a life saving operation, who would you want operating on you? A first year resident or a fourth year resident? Of course it’s the fourth year resident, because those residents have more experience. They have gone through many situations, acquired knowledge and wisdom, and have become more proficient in their chosen specialties.
Let’s say you just built a beautiful, brand new kitchen and you need to hire a handyman to install hardware on your cabinets. Cabinets are EXPENSIVE, and this process requires very accurate measurements with very little room for error. Who would you hire to do it? A handyman’s apprentice, or a seasoned handyman who had been installing hardware for years?
Now, we aren’t performing life saving surgeries or installing hardware with one chance to get it right before destroying an expensive cabinet, but the same wisdom can be applied here: the longer we are photographers, the better we get at our craft, and the more we subsequently learn.
Do you know what all photographers have in common? They are hungry for knowledge and constantly working towards improving their art. This means that they’re investing in the latest gear, equipment, and education courses. Couple this with more experience, and it adds up. Here are 4 reasons why photographers raise their rates:
They’ve improved their skillset and gained experience.
This can be from many hours of experience, as well as from investing in mentorships and education. There are hundreds of courses out there, and most photographers are taking at least one per year. They’re also continuing to shoot and edit, which means perfecting their skills. Just like when you’ve been performing well at your job and increasing your skillset, your boss gives you a raise. Same goes for photographers! The only difference is that we are in charge of seeking out our own educational opportunities and funding them.
They’ve invested in new equipment.
There’s no doubt about it — photography equipment is EXPENSIVE. For example, my cameras alone were $3000 and 3500 respectively, and my lenses range from $1100 to $2600 each. Some cameras and lenses are even more than that, with several up to $6,000! That also doesn’t include memory cards, flashes, and other equipment that we purchase. Editing software takes a lot of power to run and can’t be done on just any standard laptop, so photographers must invest in a great (ie, expensive) PC or other computer to edit on. I started my business with an $800 camera and a $150 lens, and my pricing reflected that. As photographers invest in new equipment, their prices increase accordingly. Though it’s true that the equipment does NOT make the photographer, it’s also true that great equipment in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, can result in incredible images that you just can’t achieve on lower level gear.
Their expenses and client experience have increased and changed.
As photographers grow their businesses, their overhead expenses often increase. This can mean bringing on additional team members to help run social media accounts, assistants at mini sessions to help things run smoothly, and even outsourcing their editing when they get very busy with shoots. This can also mean perks like client closets. Photographers must compensate for these added expenses by increasing their rates. Their business is in a different place from when you first booked them to where it is currently.
They need to make a living wage.
Just like any human being, photographers need to account for things like retirement plans, college savings, and other day-to-day expenses. Being a business owner is a hard task and means that they wear many hats, which is why they deserve to get paid as such. There is a lot that goes behind the sticker price that you’re given. Photographers must set aside money for: overhead expenses, taxes, investing in new education, investing in new gear, repair budget for a rainy day, retirement, college savings, and more. What looks like $800 per session on your end is quickly broken down to a much smaller amount once all of the above have been accounted for. Therefore, as photographers improve their skillsets, invest in new equipment, and increase expenses, they also have to account for making a living and planning for their future.
Photographers, when do you think is a good time to raise your rates?