Professional Pricing - Sonja E McGiboney

In the many years I have been taking photos one of the hardest things to do is to figure out how to make a client realize what you are worth. The client sees only you and your camera taking pictures. To a client, it seems that all we are doing is lifting our camera and pressing a button. Oh, but there is so much more going on. The difference between amateurs and professionals is like the difference between a five year old learning to skate and an Olympic free style skater. So what goes into an Olympic style photo session?


For each photo the photographer takes in an hour, multiply that number by 3 and you will get the number of hours the photographer actually will work.

Let’s break that down

Travel time to and from the event

The time at the event taking the photos

Editing time (which often will take the most time) This is the time the client doesn’t see. This includes:

Waiting for the thousand photos to upload to the computer and then into the editing software.

Going through the photos to cull out the weeds (images that may be too blurry or dark to edit) picking out the best images to edit.

Editing each of the chosen images. The least amount of time I have spent editing wedding photos is 24 hours and that was a 3 hour wedding. I get them done quickly because I get wrapped up in my work and forget to eat, but most people can only work at a computer, with that much intensity, for a few hours a day.

Rechecking your work. The day before you spent an hour touching up a photo only to look at it the next day and realize you’ve over done it or left something out.


One should realize that beginners make mistakes, its how they learn. A beginning photographer is looking for experience, hence they usually charge less. A photographer with experience has earned the right to charge more. The experienced photographer has probably taken classes, studied lighting, spent hours practicing techniques and has invested in equipment and marketing tools. They probably use the most recent editing software and have mastered the steps to create stunning portraits.

Great Equipment!

On average, a professional, full frame camera which will capture low light events without too much noise, costs over $2,000. Most wedding photographers carry two of them. 

Camera lenses, without going into a lecture on light refraction, etc. just know that you can take good pictures with a kit lens (the one that comes with the camera) but you will take great pictures with a lens that is meant to do more (and will cost more). Most wedding photographers have the 2.8 f.2 70-200 lens (which comes in all brands) in their bag and runs at least about $1500.00 and that is for the used models.

Dependable flash makes a difference. How many photographers pop up the on camera flash and all their pictures have white dots where the pupils should be? The expensive, full frame cameras don’t even have a pop up flash on them. The professional photographer knows how to use ambient light, and how to fill in with the flash without making the subject suffer from red eye or over exposure. Taking the flash off the camera allows for creative sculpting using shadows and light intensity. A dependable, off camera flash system has a huge price range difference, but for me, I spent $1500 on two flashes and a radio control that works every time I hit the shutter.

Editing Software!

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are the go to editing software for most professionals. There are other programs out there with specific goals, or fewer advantages that can be used (and are cheaper to use) but in general, I’d say most professionals use Lightroom and Photoshop. With these programs, as with all computer software, there is a steep learning curve. A professional photographer will probably touch up an image they take with sharpness, clarity and light. Some images will need only minor tweaking and take about 10 minutes to enhance. More time, however, is spent on the more stunning images. I have spent over 2 hours fine tuning one image which includes: Selective sharpening and blurring, adding or subtracting light, removing background distractions or the entire background, removing blemishes and other skin issues, fixing crazy mixed lighting and other additions or subtractions that enhance the photo.

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