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.
Let’s break down what EXACTLY makes Birth Photography so Expensive
If you look only at the cost of the package compared to hours of shooting time, you might think to yourself “That’s a high hourly rate!” 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.
Photography is my FULL TIME job. It has to be in order to make me available to birth and wedding clients at any time, all year long. This is my only source on income. And in order to be sure I make it to all of my client’s births, I have to limit how many other clients (wedding couples, families, all clients) I accept when I have been hired for a birth. For every birth client I accept, I have to turn away other work.
Living “On Call”
This aspect of birth photography is a very influential part of the cost. Being on call is a joy, but it also requires a lot: Even before a client’s 38 week mark I have to be hyper vigilant. My phone battery can never die. Every night I must check to make sure the charger is working, that the ringer is turned all the way up. My camera batteries have to stay charged, and my camera bag and personal bag have to be inventoried and packed, sitting ready by the door. I can’t drink alcohol. I can’t travel far from home. I have to have childcare lined up, also on 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 have to realize that I might miss some 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?
(Related Read: You might be surprised about why I think Birth Photography is Essential and Not a Luxury)
Cost of Equipment & Doing Business
You’ve probably guessed that professional that Photography equipment is EXPENSIVE. I consider myself pretty minimalist when it comes to the equipment that I own. Keep in mind – bare minimum – means having TWO OF EVERYTHING. Because 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 (sale price)
- 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 hosting, 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
“Birth is a once in a lifetime event. Without a doubt it is one of THE MOST important days of your life, one that will change you completely, forever.”
The Bigger Picture
Let’s take a step back and look at wedding photography. The average cost of a wedding in Canada last year was $29,000. In the Maritimes, a professional Wedding Photographer will charge between $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 with me, if you will:
You tell your wedding photographer you’d like to hire them but you’re not sure when you will get married. You think it might be in the month of June sometime – so they shouldn’t schedule anything else during that time. You tell them that you’re not exactly sure when you will start the wedding, but you will give them 2 hours notice. It could be at 2 in the morning. You’re also not sure how long it will last… It could take 12, 24, or even upwards of 36 hours or it could be really fast so can you maybe get a discount if it’s quick? Also, since it could be in the middle of the night, there won’t be much good lighting to work with. There will be a lot of people and not a lot of space but you want them to get all the best angles without bothering anyone.
Sounds almost absurd doesn’t it?
I think you see where I am going here. Birth photography comes with a unique set of challenges. And though it is equally as important as Wedding Photography, it STILL COSTS LESS than a wedding.
(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.
In short, if you want to know why birth photography is SO expensive, I would have to answer by saying “It isn’t”. When you count the cost involved, both monetary and personal, Birth photography as a whole is actually undervalued.