One of the first questions that most clients have when they’re looking for a photographer is about price. It’s understandable - you want to know how much you should budget for your photographs.
So, how much does family photography cost?
The short answer is…that there's no short answer. As I mentioned in my post about choosing a family photographer there are photographers offering their services at a wide variety of price points, so it’s not possible to give a simple answer to this question.
What I’ll cover in this post is:
Two different pricing options
There are generally two different ways that family photographers charge for their service:
Session Fee + Products: The first, and most traditional way of charging, is to charge a session fee which covers the shoot itself, and preparation of a gallery of edited images for you to order from afterwards. Once you view the gallery you choose products to order. This could be framed prints, wall art, albums, digital files or more.
One Off Charge For Session + Digitals: The second way of charging is to have a fixed price for the session which includes a set of all of the digital images. These may be given to you on a CD, USB or by digital download.
So how much can you expect to pay?
There really is no limit as to what you can pay! To help illustrate the options I did some research in my local area to see how much other family photographers are charging.
At the top end, one studio charges £500 for the session fee - this fee covers the photo shoot itself, the photographer’s time selecting the best images from the shoot and editing them, and a viewing session where you can see the photographs and choose which ones you would like to order. Framed prints start from £180 and digital images start from £215.
At the other end of the scale, another local photographer charges £90 for a photo shoot including 20 digital images.
What influences the price?
So why is there such variation? Why can one photographer give clients all of the images for under £100, and another can charge £500 without including any images? Some of the factors that will influence this are:
In the next section I'll expand on each of these a little more.
Is Photography Their Full Time Job?
Many photographers work as photographers alongside another job. This can be especially true for those new to the industry - it’s not unusual for new photographers to spend time working another job whilst they build up a portfolio of their work and develop their expertise to the standard they want to be at. In these cases you’ll most likely find lower prices.
On the other hand, a full-time professional needs to make a profit to ensure they can stay in business. Alongside their equipment (which I’ll come to later), they need to pay for tax, National Insurance contributions, professional indemnity and public liability insurance, website hosting, editing software, marketing costs and more before they can take a salary. These factors may not be important to you which is understandable, but unless the photographer covers them they won’t be able to stay in business and serve their clients in years to come.
As in all other industries, you’ll pay for the level of your photographer’s experience. This is not just about how long they’ve been in business, or where they trained, but how skilful they are in creating the photographs.
For family photography the skills needed to create beautiful photographs include:
The photographer’s skill level in these different areas will impact the quality of the photographs they produce, and generally speaking this will be reflected in their prices.
As in any other profession, it’s also important to stay up-to-date. To do this photographers need to invest in training, conferences and workshops all of which add costs to their business.
Photography requires a lot of equipment, and photographers need to account for the costs of purchasing, updating and maintaining this equipment in their costs.
A typical kit (and approximate prices when bought new) for a professional family photographer without a studio could be:
2 x Full Frame Cameras (£1,000+ each)
35mm 1.4 Lens (£570+)
50mm 1.4 Lens (£300+)
105mm 1.4 Lens (£900+)
70-200mm 2.8 Lens (£1,700+)
24-70mm 2.8 Lens (£1,700+)
Speedlight (flash) (£200+)
Reflectors (£30+ each)
Professional Level Memory Cards (£25+ each)
Lenses can last many years, but with advances in technology photographers usually need to replace their camera bodies every few years. On top of this, the equipment needs to be maintained, with regular camera sensor cleaning and servicing.
The other equipment photographers need is for editing the photographs. Typically each photographer needs a desktop computer with a large screen, so they can see all of the detail, the means to colour calibrate the screen (so your skin tones and the colours in the photographs are correct), and depending on the level of retouching they do may also have a tablet for retouching. They'll also need to buy or pay a monthly subscription for professional level editing software.
Depending on the quality of equipment a photographer uses, they'll have higher costs to cover and this may influence the price they charge.
The Location of The Shoot
If a photographer has a studio, they will have to cover the costs of running those premises. If the studio is within their home these costs may be lower than if their studio is a standalone premises.
Even if a photographer doesn’t have a studio and works on location, there can be extra costs involved. For example, some privately owned locations such as National Trust sites, Landscape Gardens or Parks require photographers to obtain permits or pay fees for each shoot they hold there.
As in all other industries there are photographers offering different levels of service. At the top end, photographers will work with a small number of clients each month which allows them to spend time helping the client prepare for their session, dedicate time to make sure each image is perfect as they edit, and will likely offer a range of luxury products for clients to choose and order from. They'll be able to advise clients on what's possible with their images - for example, how to arrange framed prints in their home for maximum effect.
At the lower end of the scale, a photographer may be working with multiple families in one day. This leaves less time for them to dedicate to client care and editing, and as a result they won’t be able to provide the same level of service.
How do I decide?
How much each photographer chooses to invest in each of these areas will determine why one photographer may be more expensive than another. So how do you decide who to go for, and how much to spend?
If you’ve read my post about choosing a family photographer you’ll know that I recommend starting by finding photographers whose style you like, before you even look at price. There’s no point spending £500 on a session fee if you don’t like the style of the photographs, and equally, spending £90 on a shoot because it’s the cheapest could be a waste of money if you don’t like end result.
Once you’ve found a few photographer’s whose style you like, find out about what their offering. Some may be out of your price range, others might not offer the kind of service you want. But hopefully you’ll narrow it down to one or two who are the perfect combination of price, service and quality for you.