Jacksonville Family Photography | Why it’s Worth the Expense
A good friend of mine made a comment to me the other day that really got me thinking about the public’s perception of portrait photographers. She said “You’ve got a pretty good thing going. You spend a little time cuddling with and taking pictures of adorable babies and you make serious bank!” I had to laugh because that is so not the reality of what I do. It was a wake-up call to me that I need to do a better job of educating potential clients what goes into the price tag that I put on my work.
Quality newborn photography is expensive. I get it. But here’s the thing: I have 2 kids and a husband. We like to be able to pay our mortgage, put gas in our cars, buy healthy food, and go on occasional vacations. My little boy likes being able to play on a soccer team and my daughter loves taking yoga classes. I like being able to buy them clothes and shoes when they outgrow the ones they have. We have vet bills and doctor bills and student loan bills to pay. More importantly, we want to spend time together as a family. I don’t want to spend more than 40 hours a week working. Do I love my job as a photographer? Absolutely, but I love my family more. See how cute they are?
These are the things I think about when I price my work. How do I bring in enough money to contribute what I need to and, at the same time, not work so much that I can’t be the wife and mom that my family needs? Also, what do I need to charge so that I can balance the number of clients with the level of customer service I like to provide?
Let me start off with how much time actually goes into a newborn photo session:
-Pre-session communication with family to discuss details, contract, invoicing, and scheduling. 1 hour
-Prepping the studio for a session. Basic housekeeping tasks such as sweeping floors, wiping down the bathroom, and putting snacks/drinks out. Prepping props and backdrops. Tentative styling of the session. 1 hour
-Session time from arrival to departure of clients can range from 2-4 hours to allow for feedings, soothing, and positioning. Let’s say 3 hours as an average.
-Post session studio and prop clean up. An easy clean-up is 30 minutes. Simply putting things back where they go. However, babies are without a diaper for most of the session. This can result in quite a bit of laundry for me : ) Usually it’s just a matter or running one load of laundry, but there’s the occasional session like one I had recently where baby pooed all over one of my flokati rugs that I use for posing. Simple enough to wash it, but 2 hours in and I’m still brushing the darn thing to get it fluffy and ready to use again. Let’s just say 1 hour for general purposes.
-Preparing the images for the gallery viewing. I do something called soft proofing. This means I partially edit the images for the gallery to give clients an idea of what they’ll look like. Once the final purchase is made I fully edit the images. Culling, soft proofing, and loading/sharing the gallery with the client takes me about 3 hours.
-Once the client chooses the digital images they want to purchase I fully hand edit each image. Depending on the number of images this can take anywhere from 1-3 hours. Let’s say a client purchase the middle package which is 20 images. This will take me approximately 2 hours to finish and get the gallery off to the family.
-That’s an average of about 11 hours I spend from start to finish on a newborn session.
Aside from my time, let’s talk about what a newborn photo session costs me:
-I use top of the line equipment. I bought my camera for $3500. The 2 lenses that I use for newborn sessions add up to almost $3000. Computer, monitor, memory cards, lighting, etc.
-For increased safety I hire an assistant for each newborn session.
-Props, props, and more props. When you look through my portfolio you’ll see various colors and textures of backdrops, headbands, bonnets, swaddle wraps, rompers, pants, furs, buckets, bowls, and quilts. These are all things that I purchase so that I can craft my style. The fuzzy romper/bonnets sets I use run about $100, backdrops are around $40, headbands average $15-$20, bonnets/pants/swaddle wraps are around $30. Many of the buckets/bowls/tins I use are vintage or custom made and come with a hefty price tag.
-Continuing education comes in the form of portfolio reviews, photography forums, online classes, tutorials, and in person workshops all of which cost money. I’ve trained either online or in person with some of the top newborn photographers in the industry. An average one day workshop costs between $1500 and $2000 not including travel costs.
-Online subscriptions for editing software, business management, website maintenance, marketing. As an estimate I’d say I spend $150-300/month on these things.
-Taxes. Yep, I’m a legit business and Uncle Sam gets a big cut of what I bring in.
So how do some photographers do it for so much less? That’s a loaded question with a ton of answers. Everyone’s expenses and cost of doing business will be different. Some don’t use an assistant during the session. Some don’t participate in as many trainings and continuing education. Some use prop vendors that are lower quality and/or less expensive. Sadly, some aren’t legitimate businesses and don’t pay taxes. I think in many cases photographers underprice themselves to the point that they can’t run a sustainable long term business. Many feel like they’re just doing it for fun or don’t need the income. They just do a few sessions here and there for some extra money. Good for them, but that’s not the case for me. This is a business, my full time career, and it’s how I take care of these guys:
Mary of 8.08 Photography is a Jacksonville newborn photographer located in Jacksonville, Florida. Mary creates modern classic images of birth, your newborns, and the families that love them. Serving Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra, St. Augstine and surrounding NE Florida communities.