Why photography is so expensive... and how to do it yourself!

May 19, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Recently someone sent me a craigslist ad wanting to hire skilled workers for free.  The ad was as follows:

"I am an experienced, established local photographer in the Western New York area. Since people are always looking for FREE or deeply discounted photography services, I would assume that people must also do THEIR jobs or provide THEIR services for FREE or deeply discounted as well.

I am looking to hire all types of skilled workers to do many different jobs for me (including within my home and my business) as long as MY cost is MINIMAL or FREE. Just THINK about it -- you will gain more EXPERIENCE, and I certainly will put the word out for you and let EVERYONE know what awesome work you do (I know a lot of people so this could really be a LUCRATIVE opportunity on your end!). This opportunity may not pay much, but everyone will LOVE and KNOW about you!

So, if you have a job or service you provide and will do it for FREE or for a mere fraction of the regular cost, please let me know because I am SURE that I have work for you, and would hire you in the click of a shutter!

Please EMAIL me with the skilled services you can provide, as soon as you are available, and please include REFERENCES.

I am looking forward to your response and a quality working relationship.

My photog friends have encountered this a million times I'm sure and this article really got my wheels turning.  I am going to help people start DIY photography!  Why not?  

Let's start with a very very basic headshot for your LinkedIn profile.  No frills, no make up artist, just the basics for a studio session.  To help shoulder the cost of buying the tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear most photographers use, we will just do a DAILY rental scenario.  Being that I live in Atlanta I am going to use my local camera shop, Showcase,  for my gear as a rental as well as the cost to rent my own studio for the day.

Camera: $110/day

Lens:     $35/day

SDCard: $15 (that is a very cheap, small card but you will own it)

Studio:   $60 (2 hour rental) Standard studio rental can range from $25- $30 an hour

Lighting: $40 (that is for only 1  strobe light but that does include the receivers to fire remotely)

Total cost: $260 and that is only for the gear to shoot!

Now, let's figure this full frame camera out.  Where is that pesky automatic setting? How do all of the cables go into the lights?  Why won't it flash? Why is there a shadow? What is white balance and ISO?  Help!  The clock is ticking and you need help.  Great news, you can hire a photographer to be your assistant and help you with everything.  That will only cost you $90 for the two hour session so your new cost is now $350.

You just spent $350 to capture the images yourself.  You take your gear back to Showcase and get home with your SD Card and load it into your computer.  Why doesn't it look like I wanted?  How to I get rid of that pimple?  Ahhhh!  Photoshop!  Adobe has a package with Lightroom and Photoshop specifically for photographers and the cheapest you can possibly get it for is $120 a year.  Now, there are photographers who will edit your photos for you, but remember, this is a DIY project.  New grand total is $470.

Photoshop and Lightroom are both pretty easy to use, once you learn how.  The trick is learning how.  There are classes where you can go learn them or you can just do it yourself and watch YouTube videos by people who know what they are doing. A lot of people learned that way.  I can tell you that if you think it is quick and easy, you are wrong.  A conservative estimate just for a basic headshot for LinkedIn would be 4 hours of watching instructional videos to get it right.  

Total investment to do it yourself: at least 8 hours and $470 just! To buy that same gear that I just listed would cost you roughly over $5,000.  Aren't you glad that you didn't pay that photographer the $150 he would have charged you for that same session? 

Try telling a potential photographer what your budget is and see if they can fall in line with that.  If not, they might be able to come up with an alternative (less editing, less wardrobe options, etc) with your budget in mind to get you exactly what you want/need.  If you don't like that, just remember, you can always DIY.  



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