Money Talk may be Taboo, but I can see there is a lot that is misunderstood about Birth Photography work, so I won’t hold anything back. I want to tell you why our pricing is justifiable, if not arguably even low.
The Big Picture
Before we talk about Births, let’s look a bit at wedding photography. A little research tells me that the average cost of a wedding in Canada last year was $29,000. In the Maritimes, a professional Wedding Photographer will cost upwards of $2300 – $4500 for the FULL day. (I understand you can hire someone “looking to build their portfolio” for much less, but I’m only talking about photographers you can trust.)
Although it’s a huge expense, people are prepared to pay the price because they recognize two things:
- 1) How Important their wedding day will be to them, and
- 2) How important is it to preserve those memories with stunningly beautiful images done by a someone knowledgeable and dedicated, who won’t accidentally delete your photos or forget to show up.
Now, imagine told a wedding photographer you’d like to hire them for your big day but you’re not sure when it will be. “Sometime in the month of May.” is about all you can offer them. You tell them that you’re not exactly sure of the start time, and that there’s a good chance it could be at 3 in the morning, but you’ll be sure to call an hour or two before they need to be there. Since it could be in the middle of the night, there’s also a possibility they won’t have very much light to work with, much less flattering light. You’re also not exactly sure how long it will last… Yes, it could go really fast, but it also could take 12, 24, or even upwards of 36 hours. “Space will be tight, and there will be a lot of people crowded around, too,” you explain, “and you probably won’t have freedom to move around for better angles but we still want you to get the best angles.”
I imagine that, if they don’t just walk away, the Wedding Photographer would probably come back to you with a quote much higher than their Wedding Day Packages.
Birth is a once in a lifetime event, without a doubt one of THE MOST important days of your life, one that will change you completely, forever.
I think you see where I am going here. Birth photography is equally as important as Wedding Photography, that comes with a unique set of challenges and stressors, and yet the cost is STILL LESS than for a wedding.
(Related Read: You might be surprised about why I think Birth Photography is Essential and Not a Luxury)
Let’s break down what EXACTLY makes Birth Photography so Expensive
How Much Time
With how much we charge, you might initially think to yourself “That’s a high rate per hour!” However, our work doesn’t begin when we arrive at your birth or end when we leave. From first inquiry to delivery of gallery or products, the average birth photographer spends 40-50 hours per client. Myself in particular, I spend easily 20-30 hours on editing alone, depending on the length of the birth and the size of the gallery.
Limited Client Load
In order to ensure the likelihood that I can make it to all of my client’s births, I have to limit how many I take per month to 2. Yep, just ONE every two weeks. That’s assuming that enough expectant mother’s contact me with all their dates aligned perfectly. In reality, it works out to even fewer.
On Call Lifestyle
This aspect of birth photography is arguably the most influential part of the cost. Let me explain what it’s like living “on-call:” From 38 weeks forward (or even earlier), my phone can never die. Every night before bed I must check my phone 5 times to make sure the charger is working, and that the ringer is turned all the way up. I can’t drink alcohol. I can’t travel more than 20 or 30 minutes away from home. My batteries have to stay charged, and my camera bag and personal bag have to be inventoried and packed, sitting ready by the door. I have to have all of my options for childcare lined out in case I get the call. If there’s any chance that I could be unavailable for a birth, I have to have a backup photographer on standby, whom I pay. I’ve have to make peace with missing important life events, like when I had to miss my cousin’s wedding last year.
How do you determine the value of on-call time… where you’re not really “working,” but you’re clearly not “off” either? Yes, this work fills me with joy, and I absolutely wouldn’t change a thing, but it takes from me too.
Cost of Equipment & Doing Business
I think most people realize that Photography equipment is EXPENSIVE. I consider myself pretty minimalist when it comes to the equipment that I own. Now, bare minimum means having TWO OF EVERYTHING. (When you are documenting events that only happen once, you have to be paranoid and have backups).
In my bag:
- Nikon body D850: $3,500 (on sale)
- Nikon body D610: $2,300
- Nikkor 35mm f/1.8: $310
- Nikkor 50mm f/1.8: $310
- Nikkor 85mm f/1.8: $725
- Speedlight: $250
- 4x 64gb XQD Card: $240
(Keep in mind that most photographers need to continually replace or upgrade all of this, spending on average $2,000 a year on equipment.)
What you might not consider, is that there are lots of other expenses involved in running a business. Gallery hosting, music licensing, website, client relations management, email, cell phone, and editing software are all subscription based expenses. I’ll have to factor in the “one time” investments like the MacbookPro that I need to edit photos, and Culling programs. Now add my business insurance costs, my licensing fee, the cost of printed material, advertising and other business related expenses like travel and food.
On average, a Professional Full Time Photographer will spend 35%- 45% of their business income on Business related expenses and overhead.
RUNNING A BUSINESS COSTS MONEY, NOT JUST TIME
(Related Read: Yes You CAN Afford a Birth Photographer!)
Documenting the birth of your baby is a worthwhile investment, without a doubt. If you haven’t already read my blog post on why I truly believe it is ESSENTIAL, and not just a luxury, then I think you might just be surprised to learn why.
So when you start your search for the perfect birth photographer, budget for it more like you would a wedding. Yes, there is a photographer for every budget, but remember that in terms of quality, reliability, and experience, it is true that “you get what you pay for”.