Why do Senior Portraits Cost So Much?

Why do Senior Portraits Cost So Much?

I get this question a lot and I thought it would be a great topic to blog about.

In this digital age where everyone has digital cameras and phone cameras, when people upload their photos to a local drug store and pick them up an hours later, we hear this all the time – How in the world do Professional Photographers charge $25 for an 8×10 when they cost just $1.50 at the drug store?

Let’s talk about why.

Easiest way to explain, you’re not just paying for the actual photograph (mind blowing right), you’re paying for time and expertise in creating the picture itself (time, equipment, software, shipping, packaging).

First, let’s look at the time that is involved. This is a must read portion (don’t skim over this)

For an one hour portrait session:

  • 30 minute consult meeting to plan your session
  • one hour setup, prepping, talking to clients, responding to emails/texts
  • one hour of travel to and from the session
  • one hour to upload photos from camera to computer and back up files
  • 4-5 hours of Photoshop time including sorting thru all the best images to do retouching acne, sharpening for print (or web which is separate), cropping, etc and then backing up all of these edited images
  • 2 hours for the photo review so we can talk to the client, answer your questions, receive order and payment, order products and prints,  and schedule delivery.

You can see how an one hour session easily is more than ten hours of work from booking your session to delivering your images. So when you see a Photographer charging a $150 session fee for an hour photo shoot, you are not paying them $150 / hour.

Now let’s talk about the experience of the photographer. On average a professional photographer pays $3000-$5000 per year to go to workshops to stay on the top of their game, learn new products, technics, poses, and more, that you get to utilize in your session. This does not include the cost of traveling to these workshops, food, transportation, hotels and time away from their business and family. Being a professional photographer is a HUGE investment in time and money on the part of the photographer. Becoming “good” is not an accident, it is hard work and loving what we do.

Now Equipment, we don’t use our iPhone or the latest gadget. These are great for selfies but when you are wanting quality, long lasting images you call a professional. The average professional camera body (no lenses just the body) ranges over $2500. Add in lenses and you are looking to double that amount. After camera comes the gear, lighting, reflectors, props, meters, stands, etc. This is just what is needed for the shoot. After the shoot, photographers have to purchase the best software, backups, computers, websites, image hosting, mobile apps, etc.


Is your head hurting yet, mine was when I first started 6 years ago and slowly started buying what was needed.

Think of it this way – how much do you pay to have your hair cut & styled? $100 plus for most of us, but a pair of scissors and over counter hair dye will set you back under $10. So why hire a professional? Because you want consistent professional results.




I hope that any of you that have taken the time to read this blog will understand a little more of what you are buying when you hire a professional photographer for your senior session!

Check out my site – I do have 3 different packages to help you stay within budget!


lisa cox photography-1

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