Updated: Aug 5, 2022
Why does professional photography cost so much? What does "decent" or "affordable" prices mean? Hopefully this will answer those questions. First let me say that when someone asks for "decent" or "affordable" prices, what they are really saying is they want all the benefits of a having a real professional photographer without paying for it.
Just like any business, there are a lot of behind the scenes costs that the average person does not see. Photography is no different. Just because a photographer doesn't have an inventory like a grocery or Amazon doesn't mean there isn't a lot of cost in what they do provide. First there is the equipment: thousands and thousands of dollars in equipment. A professional camera body without lenses can cost $5000 alone. Professional photographers often need a couple of bodies, multiple lens, bags, lights, stands, props and replacing of all these as they wear out and the list goes on.
There is also education. Even if a photographer didn't go to a professional school or college, if they are truly a professional, they have paid and continue to pay for education. With continued progression in technology photography is an ever changing and growing field. Continued education is a must. There are classes, seminars, expos, certifications and programs to become masters at their craft.
Digital images are not very different from film images. A professional photographer cannot just point and shoot and hand you images. Very much like film, images have to be processed. If they are not shot in a high quality format, you won't receive high quality images (meaning images you can print and retain quality; that won't be blurry or grainy). With high quality formats come the processing of said images. This takes a lot of time and takes software and a computer to enable processing. The photographer has to pay for the software, which is often a monthly fee and computer. If the photographer is truly a professional, their software will include multiple kinds and add-ons to the basic set up.
And there is their time. A one hour shoot will not only constitute the one of hour of shoot time, but also can take days to process. If the photographer is truly a professional, then they are doing this for a living and just like your local mechanic, the client is paying for their time as well.
That is just the creative side of being a photographer. There is also the business side. There is advertising, insurance, accounting, taxes, rent/mortgage for a studio, utilities for said studio, assistants and the list goes on.
Anyone can take a point and shoot (all automatic) and literally point and shoot and hand you images, but are they truly professionals or are they amateurs? So when someone asks for "decent" or "affordable" images please keep in mind what goes into the making of those images. Either the photographer is truly a professional (and not an amateur) or they are working for free.