Hi! I’m Rebecca, a commercial and editorial food and brand photographer with a studio in Nashville, and I specialize in helping chefs, restaurants, bakers, and makers market with soulful images to elevate their brands, connect with clients, and sell more of their work. I also photograph food for cookbooks and magazines including Edible Nashville and Tennessee Home & Farm.

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Why Is Custom Photography More Expensive?

March 2, 2014

In this digital age where just about everyone has a digital camera or an iPhone, it’s only natural that some people might mistakenly equate custom professional photography sessions to a casual meet-up with their friend who has a nice SLR. You show up, your friend clicks away, and she gives you a disc with a lot of photos.

Fast and easy, right?

The truth is, the two experiences could not be more different.

Here’s what you can expect from a professional photographer, including what happens before and after the photography session – and some insight into the cost.

Behind the Scenes

A professional photographer will talk with you beforehand to find out what kind of images you are looking for. She might send you a questionnaire to find out more about you and your family, and send over information about what to wear – because what you wear to your session is hugely important to the final product.

Then you will talk about locations. A professional photographer will have scouted out locations, taking into consideration the time of day and the location of the sun, quality of light, the season, and what kind of location you envision for your photos.

The photographer mostly likely will have a lot of expensive equipment to do the job – including a professional-grade camera and a range of lenses for the shoot, speedlights (flash), reflectors, bags, memory cards, batteries, and possibly other gear (all of which is quite expensive), and will know how to use it. She will have poses in mind to get things rolling, and she will help you feel at ease and relax in front of the camera.

Your photographer will have liability insurance just in case something happens during a photo session. Other expenses could include a location fee, assistant fee, equipment insurance, and of course, taxes.

In addition to the time spent packing and checking her gear and driving to and from the location, she will spend one to two hours photographing your family.

But the photo session is just the beginning of the process. The professional photographer will spend more time uploading images, going through them to choose the best shots, and then will spend several more hours hand-editing and retouching each photograph, one at a time. I spend at least five hours for a typical session just for editing, sometimes more.

Your professional photographer must have the equipment – computer, editing software, monitor calibrators, etc. – necessary to process your photos in addition to making them.

After the editing process, the photographer will upload the images to an online proof gallery – or she might meet with you in person for a viewing and ordering session. The photographer also needs equipment to allow you to view your pictures – an iPad, website and online client galleries. Along with this comes web hosting fees, website templates, and the time involved in customizing and updating the website and blog.

She might also have purchased samples of products – beautiful albums, prints, canvases, etc. – to show clients who might want to buy custom products to show off their images.

Once the photographs are chosen, the photographer will spend time putting digital images on a custom flash drive or placing an order for prints or other products.

Then comes the packaging and delivery, thank you notes, and blogging the images and/or posting to social media.

Another consideration is creativity and artistic ability – certainly an important element in this business.

When the photographer charges $150-$300 or more for the photo shoot (aka a session fee), you are not just paying for the two hours of session time – you are paying the photographer for about 12-20 hours complete time for your session.

Finally (but super important!), your professional photographer should be undertaking continual professional development, which costs money and time. I’ve completed numerous comprehensive in-person and online courses in the past six months alone – and I love it! But that is another expense in money and time.
So there you go – just a few of the many reasons that custom photography is an investment and something to take seriously. While I genuinely love taking photographs – really, really love it – I and other professional photographers have to justify the time spent away from family along with all the other costs mentioned above.

Worth the Investment?

Custom photography is a luxury item, just like a flat-screen TV, an expensive dinner, or a designer-brand purse. The experience is something to budget for and splurge on. But those images will also last a lifetime – especially when you invest in prints, canvases, or albums that will make you smile each time you pass them in your home or look through them with your kids. And when you break it down, if professional portraits are something you value, you might forgo a few dinners in a nice restaurant and allocate that money to portraits that will last a lifetime.
While everyone has an iPhone and can send their prints to Walgreens, there really is a difference in quality. When you buy a print from a professional photographer, you’re paying for time and expertise in creating the image itself – not just the paper.
As for me and my business, just know that I put my heart and soul into each and every session, and money spent with me is well worth the investment if you truly value photography and want beautiful images for your home and a personal, happy, boutique experience as well.  🙂

What Next?

If you’re interested in booking me for a session or just want to talk about the possibilities, please click HERE and shoot me an email. I’ve love to hear from you!

Or click HERE to find out more about my photo session experience.


Further reading:

Here’s a great article about this topic from Professional Child Photographer website, written by Marianne Drenthe of Marmalade Photography:












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Rebecca Denton is a food and brand photographer with a studio in Nashville.