How much does a photoshoot cost?

Posted on 20th February 2018 by Michelle under Articles of Interest, Photo Shoots Q&A, Q&As about Photo Shoots

How much does a photoshoot cost?

The question:  ” How much does a photoshoot cost ? ”  is usually one of the first things asked by a potential customer.  Despite being a bit tricky to answer, as there are so many variables, I have attempted to explain my personal thoughts and reasons behind my prices.

When you need to book an electrician or plumber, you shop around for 2 or 3 quotes and the rule of thumb is not to book the cheapest as you unfortunately get what you pay for – I went with the cheapest once and now live with a leaky shower! –  true story

Is the photography business the same?   Surely it’s easy to be a photographer as it’s just clicking a button – so the photography industry should be cheap – shouldn’t it?   Why do I need to get 2 or 3 quotes?  How different can they all be?

When I started out taking photos as a teenager, really getting into it in my twenties,  I took photos for my own pleasure.  Back in those days there were no digital cameras (yep, I’m over 40yrs).    You had to wait in line at the local camera shop, biting your nails in anticipation to pick up your photos,  usually flicking through them before even leaving the shop     How many were completely black, out of focus or had heads chopped off?   Yep, the ‘good old days’ when photography was in a way a bit more carefree and fun.   You sort of expected them to be a bit rubbish because you didn’t have much control using what I call a ‘back pocket’ camera.  And although you didn’t waste your photos (as you only had 36 exposures on a film), you couldn’t see the images as you took them, therefore you couldn’t ‘learn from your mistakes’ as easily.   As a non-professional photographer 20yrs ago, you focused (no pun intended) on the people or scenery, not the quality & ability of yourself as the photographer

When you needed a ‘proper’ photo taken 20yrs ago, you went to a photography studio and let the experts ensure the focus, subject & lighting were all spot on ‘in camera’ i.e. no post-production editing and photo-shopping out people or objects

So what’s different now?

Just like always, an experienced photographer who has learnt the craft over years & years can ensure your photos are in focus and lit correctly.  Why then are the prices between photographers so varied?

Take a family photoshoot for example – You can book someone who will take ‘all photos on a CD for £50’ or someone who will charge £50 just to take them and the actual photos cost extra.   So what’s the correct price?   Is it worth going for the cheaper person – surely getting all your photos on a cd for £50 is good value?  How can the more expensive photographers justify charging 100’s and occasionally 1000’s of pounds?

With the age of digital cameras & the ability to take literally loads of photos until you ‘get it right’ is easy (as long as you have a large enough memory card in your camera!)  Plus, like all technology, electrical equipment get cheaper year by year and when it was only professionals who could buy a ‘proper camera, now you can pop along to your local catalogue store and pick up a pretty good camera for a few hundred pounds.   Plus cameras on mobile phones are getting more & more sophisticated, not alone the editing apps you can install to add your favourite filter etc.

So what effect has this had on professional photographers?

It IS more affordable for more people and has meant an increase in photography businesses being set up over the last 10 yrs.  More businesses = more competition: This isn’t a problem, as the more competition ensures everyone is upping their game to be the best. Thus, quality increases.   The customers, however, have a big job on their hands to find the right photographer for them – hopefully they don’t just look at the price, but look at the quality of photos, style of the end product, personality of the photographer, the photographers experience and flexibility to provide the service the customer requires etc.

There is a general idea that taking photos is easy & that this should mean it’s cheaper than it used to be.  How true is this?

Camera’s are designed to be easy to use – have lots of different functions to choose from and the ability for the photographer to use the ‘auto’ setting or be totally in control of every single click (by using the 100% manual settings).    It’s not necessarily ‘easier’ nowadays, as even the most experienced photographer who has the ‘best camera’ will be learning new skills every day.

But should the industry be cheap?  It takes a split second to take photo so why does it cost so much?

When someone starts out in the business and gets their first booking, its very hard for them to answer, how much does a photoshoot cost?   They want to make ‘some’ money but want to be affordable enough to get booked in the first place.   I myself was in this exact scenario when I started out.  My customers got what they paid for but were always aware of my experience & booked me based on my growing portfolio.   The moment I could afford training and better equipment, paid for professional insurance and other business expenses, I increased the cost of my photography.  (click here for my current prices)

What costs does a photographer face once they’ve bought their camera?

Taking photos is the ‘exciting’ bit, if you like…  What happens after the photos are taken?   Creating the final image is the next stage and, depending on the photographers personal unique style of photography, can take a few minutes per image to a few hours  – yes I said a few hours PER image !    Learning how to use editing programmes is a skill in itself and hours need to be spent to learn this art – which in turn costs money.

(click here to read my recent blog about what it takes to create an image)

Other aspects to the photographers business includes equipment.

Props Anonymous!

Those photographers who take studio photos with lighting and coloured backdrops have the expense of purchasing the right equipment for the job.  Studio’s also need props:  chairs or stools for models to sit on;  specialised items such as newborn baby outfits, maternity dresses to lend clients;  themed items for holiday mini-shoots (at Easter or Christmas).   To ensure not all photoshoots look the same as the previous customer, studio’s can accumulate a lot of props!

xmas, props, snow, red, white, winter, christmas, dress, child, daughter, children, girl, toddler, model, granddaughter, tartan, holly, stocking, photoshoot, xmas mini photoshoot, michelle rees photographylibrary, books, reading, glasses, study, crossed, bookshelf, toys, photo props, child, daughter, children, girl, teenager, model, granddaughter, , photoshoot, michelle rees photographyboys, cousins, mini photo shoot, glasses, photobooth, photo booth props, fun, photo props, child, children, teenager, models, photoshoot, michelle rees photographylibrary, books, reading, glasses, study, crossed, bookshelf, toys, photo props, child, daughter, children, girl, model, granddaughter, photoshoot, michelle rees photography, toddler, baby, pink, beads, necklace, turquoise, white, feather boa, boa, feathers

cake, cakesmash, baby, first, first birthday, birthday, studio, studio shoot, birthday cake, bunting, boy, girl, one, two, icing, cake, blue, green, studio, studio shoot, photo, photoshoot, photography, photo shoot, bow tie, celebrate, party, son, daughter, boy, girl, children, child, grand child, A ‘cake-smash’ first birthday session fee includes my costs of purchasing a custom made cake from a local baker, an outfit for the party boy or girl to wear, matching coloured balloons and bunting.




Fheadshot, head shot, model, teenage, boy, son, child, children, photo shoot, photoshoot, studio, studio shoot, lighting, studio lighting, blue, black, porfolio,or a headshot, it’s just the model and a chair and creative lighting, so I can reduce the cost for that type of shoot.



Weddings aren’t in a studio but are really expensive – I hear you cry

wedding, couple, photo, bouquet, flowers, bridesmaid, white, veil, satin, husband, wife, diamonds, engagement, ring, church, chapel, registry, ceremony, reception, meal, guests, best man,Weddings are thought of as being ‘expensive’ but this is mostly down to time. The actual wedding day is generally 8 to 9 hours long, not including travelling time and at least 3 hours of editing for every hour of photography – yep a weeks worth just editing!   For a couple ordering a photo book album, this can take a further 3 or 4 hours to create. Multiply this by the photographers hourly rate and you can see how much they need to charge to make it a viable business venture.

Hidden Costs of a business

With any business there are lots of ‘hidden costs’ – paper work, admin, book work, tax forms, client records, banking, advertising, marketing….   Keeping proper records is essential for anyone charging money as they must register with the Inland Revenue who need to know what money they receive & spend.   Buying proper insurance is an essential business cost to protect both the customer and the photographer, as is insurance for your equipment plus regular servicing & maintenance costs.  Continuous training  –  whether the photographer is topping up their existing knowledge or learning a new skill,  a days training course will cost between £200 & £800.

Typical costs of a studio photographer:

Camera £2000,   Lenses £2000,    Lights £800 each,    Backdrops £90 each,    Tripod stands for lights and backdrops  £250,    Insurance  £35 per month,    Running a basic website  £25 per month and renting the space could be hundreds of pounds per month unless you are mobile!  (disclaimer: these are rough prices in 2018 to give a very general idea)

So how have I priced my own business?

My main aim when calculating prices is to earn more than minimum wage.   To be honest I would expect that’s everyone’s aim as we all have food to put on the table and bills to pay.  Anyone who has set up a photography business may be in a fantastic industry and love their job BUT it is still a business.  It is still their method of income.    Therefore its a pretty obvious calculation to ensure that the money I receive at the end of a photo shoot (divided by the hours I worked less my costs) pays me a decent wage.

So, how much does a photoshoot cost?

When I calculate this, apart from taking into account all of my business expenses as listed previously, I also have to take into account the ‘style’ of photoshoot.  As mentioned above a ‘cake-smash’ includes lots of items I have to pay for in advance compared to a simpler shoot such as a ‘headshot’ session where I can reduce the cost as I’m not spending money up front.


Why am I telling you all this?

how much does a photoshoot cost?, newborn, baby, asleep, sleep, neutral, cream, white, bunny, I get worried when I see the “£50 for everything” adverts – I’m not so bothered about the person’s wages as it’s up to them if they end up out of pocket, but hope they have insurance and are suitably trained –  when photographing newborns for example, professional training is essential as posing a brand new baby can be dangerous.


So when you next ask, how much does a photoshoot cost, I hope you are able to envisage the hidden business costs, take into account the photographers skills and training, appreciate the hours and hours of editing your images by hand and put value into the art your photographer is creating for you.    Definitely get 2 or 3 quotes, ensuring you know exactly what is/is not included (so you can make an informed comparison) and trust the average cost – don’t always go for the lowest price and if the highest price is really high, don’t be afraid to ask why.


2 thoughts on “How much does a photoshoot cost?”

  1. Patty Beach says:

    I love your break down and would love to know more about the model shoots, the professional headshots, or photo shoots for the woman entrepreneur’s website, etc.

    1. Michelle says:

      thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment. Where about’s are you based? If you are in the UK I can travel pretty much round the south east of England 😀

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