A Personal Post | Why Photography is Harder Than You Think and Other Thoughts on Pricing and Time

by Tierney Johnson in ,

Two years ago, I was a classic beginning photographer. I didn't feel right charging to do photos for people because I loved every second of the process, from shooting to editing to posting to packaging. If this is you, I fully understand what it is like to be in that place. I was there not too long ago; it's fun and exciting. Photography seems like the dream job because you don't even realize you're working. It's almost too good to be true!

But that's not where I am anymore. Do I still enjoy doing photography? Yes! But do I want to do your photos for free or for a discounted rate? Probably not. I do occasionally offer my services for free or for a discounted rate to family, close friends, members of my church, or to strangers I feel led to bless, but for the most part, I'd rather be spending time with my husband and son, getting back into an exercise routine, focusing on preparing healthy meals (or just eating in general) etc. etc. than doing free photography.

That said, I'm incredibly thankful for the opportunity to do photography. I have way more debt from college than I care to admit, and with my husband not working as he obtains his CRNA degree, it's been a huge help. I thoroughly enjoy growing my business, refining my style, making new connections, and figuring out how to work with more of my ideal clients. But doing photography is a job, and I think it's easy for the general population to forget this important fact. It requires a great investment of money and time (especially in the beginning). Before I did photography full time, I didn't understand the "behind the scenes" aspect of the job. But more than 75% of everything I do is done behind the scenes. The time I spend photographing your wedding or session is brief in comparison to the time I spend processing your photos in the weeks following. So when you're wondering why it costs what it does for me for photograph your wedding or session, consider that I'm not just spending part or all of one day with you. I'm spending hours and hours in my home following your wedding or session sorting, editing, posting, sharing, packaging, mailing, ordering, etc.

And this leads me to another point: I can't leave my work at work because I work from home. I haven't quite figured out how to set specific work hours for myself. Instead, the constant pressure of what I need to finish follows me all the time. I literally feel guilty sitting on the couch with my family because I know I have photos to be processed and clients anxious to see the finished product in a reasonable amount of time. Which leads me to turnaround times. Why do you have to wait for your photos? Because at any given point I am working on photos from weddings and session from weeks prior. If I only did one wedding or session a week, I might be able to stay on top of the work and have super fast turnarounds. But this October, I did as many as 9 sessions in 12 days. (Note to self: don't ever attempt that again!!!) It's a funny concept of constantly adding to the pile while still trying to finish things. It's not easy, and it's a reality of this job.

Let's get to the point of this post: When you hire me, you hire the equipment I've invested in, the name I've built for myself, the skills I've learned, the talent I've been given, and the time I won't be spending doing other things, but instead dedicating to you. Consider for a moment that I bring upwards of $10,000 of equipment to every session. Consider that I've spent a great deal of time providing evidence that I produce consistent, high quality work. Consider the nights I've spent not sleeping, but instead studying up on how I can take better photos at your reception using my off camera flash. Consider that like not everyone can carry a tune, not everyone has "an eye" and yes, I do think this is a real thing and I'd like to think I have it! Consider that I will dedicate myself to making the money you invest in me worthwhile, from the time spent working together in person to the time I'll put in behind the scenes. (And this is just to name a few. I didn't even get into taxes, branding, upkeep of equipment... the list goes on.) I'm thankful for all the clients I've worked with because they've all contributed something: some to the building of my business, some to the building of my backbone. I won't pretend to be an experienced business woman, and a lot of what I've learned has been through trial and error. I've heard so many different theories on how to run a photography business, and I've found that many of them produce arrogant, standoffish photographers who think they're the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'm determined to do things differently. I don't ever want to lose sight of the simple fact that my business is a reflection of me. That is the beautiful (and vulnerable) thing about owning and running a small business! When it comes to pricing, I know I can offer you a great product. I know what my time is worth. Are you in or out? It's as simple as that.

Comment, people! Whether you're a photographer, a friend, a client... whether you disagree or just shouted "amen!" Let's hear what you have to say.