Why is newborn photography so expensive?
Well it doesn’t have to be. There will always be a photographer ready to offer a great deal – perhaps a newborn session plus all images for £70, and that is so much better than someone charging a few hundred for the same service…. isent it?
many companies operate under a system called competitive tendering. In short, whenever they needed to buy in a service, they would invite companies to give them a quote and supporting pack of information and decide who to engage based on that.
The most important part of that quote however was never the figure they wanted to charge. It was the supporting information, the company’s relevant experience, past clients’ references, their training, safety record, insurance details and so on. Sometimes they chose the cheapest tender, sometimes the most expensive. The main point is, they chose the company who best demonstrated in their supporting information that they could properly meet their needs for the price quoted. This was called 'best value' – because it gave them the best value for the money they were spending. How I wish 'best value' would always be applied today - that people would take into consideration the service and product they are getting and not just what it will cost from a monetary point of view. I do understand that people have to be careful with their spending in the current climate. What does sadden me however, is when I see new parents asking on social media for recommendations for a ‘cheap newborn photographer’. I'd much prefer to see people asking for a 'good' or better still a 'good and safe' newborn photographer! I'd like to state here and now that my issue isn't just with cheaper photographers. Some photographers will of course be cheaper than others depending on what they offer. For example, I would fully expect a photographer who creates wonderful, fantastical modern art imagery to be more expensive than one offering straightforward baby images due to the hours of additional processing involved. So back to my initial statement. No, newborn photography doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be cheap. However, (and this is what I take issue with), in its current unregulated form, this unfortunately also means that it doesn’t have to be safe, insured, undertaken by someone who is trained or experienced or actually, any good. The old adage ‘You Get What You Pay For’ has never been truer. If you’re still with me, let me illustrate just a little. I'm not trying to be condescending here, but I think a big problem is that many people just don't understand the expenses involved with running a photography business. Why would they? I don't understand how to plumb in a washing machine, its not what I do. But I digress; A professional and legitimate newborn photographer will have to pay for the following out of what a client pays them (and this is by no means an exhaustive list):
Rent of their studio space (for those using a studio);
The energy required to heat the work space for several hours per newborn session;
The electricity required to power studio lights;
Washing/cleaning of blankets and props ;
Their time working during the session (approximately 4 hours);
The time and costs involved to professionally process the images or, if they don’t process themselves, the cost of getting someone else to do it;
Maintenance of camera and studio gear (one single flash tube costs me £73);
Replacement of backgrounds (£200 every couple of months for me) and props as needed;
Business insurance payments;
Tax and national insurance payments;
Ongoing training costs;
Childcare (for those with young children themselves);
Petrol, taxes and car maintenance costs for those who operate a mobile service.
Admin charges; emails/post/advertising/phone bills etc
Prints/Canvasses and other photographic products the client may order
I am sure other photographers can add to this list. And all this has to be paid from what they earn in photography before they can allocate themselves a salary to spend on the nicer things in life - such as food, mortgage etc. Newborn photography is incredibly popular these days and as a result, the past few years have seen a concurrent upsurge in the number of people advertising themselves as ‘professional newborn photographers’. The worrying thing is that, with the industry unbelievably remaining unregulated, anyonecan jump on the newborn photography bandwagon without any checks whatsoever. Of course, you cannot tar everyone with the same brush – but some photographers have appeared in the market offering ridiculously cheap prices which will naturally appeal to unsuspecting clients looking to save money during these difficult times. Yes, these photographers may enjoy photography as a hobby, yes, they may have a fairly good camera; but have they been trained how to work safely with a newborn baby? Do they know how to correctly white balance and compose an image or light their subject? Are they registered as a business and properly insured should things go wrong? The fact is, it costs a considerable amount of money to run a newborn photography business. It is expensive to be properly trained and insured and to have the right equipment and props. How then, can they charge so little and still have an income? Needless to say, I have seen many of these photographers fold their business after a short time, either because they quickly realise they just can’t afford to keep running so cheaply or because they were just not up to the job in the first place. Unfortunately, a sad side-effect of what is happening in the newborn photography industry today is that, with so many people willing to undercut pricing, I’ve witnessed some brilliant, established newborn portrait businesses going under. It is truly heart-breaking to see a photographer with many years’ experience, capable of producing fantastic pieces of newborn art, put out of business due to an influx of new local photographers charging peanuts and producing at the best average and at worst potentially unsafe work. Oh – and before anyone says “Well established photographers should learn to keep up with the times and reduce their prices accordingly” or similar, please see my comment above about how expensive it is to properly run a newborn photography business. If established professional photographers all cut their prices, then their businesses would no longer be viable and they would soon be out of work anyway. As they say, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I don't pretend to have all the answers. If a family can't afford a professional newborn photographer's service then what can they do? First and foremost I would always say to them please, do your homework. Don't just jump on the cheapest deal. If you find a photographer whose price and work you are happy with don't stop there - check their training and references to make sure your baby will be safe and that you'll end up with photographs you will love. (This applies to all newborn photographers - not just the cheaper ones!) See what packages the more expensive photographers offer - you may be able to choose a few favourite images and therefore keep within your budget. Finally - and I am aware this does look like a bit of a U-turn - there are cheap newborn photography deals out there and I have absolutely no issue with the photographers offering them. These are the newly established photographers who have already put in the hard work, got themselves safety trained and know how to use their camera and gear correctly. In other words, they can safely pose and light their tiny little clients and expose and process the resulting images correctly. Such photographers will often charge a cheaper price whilst building up their portfolios and they will be quite honest about this. As the saying goes, we all have to start somewhere and I sincerely offer such new photographers the very best in what can be a rewarding and wonderful career. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog!