cortnie dee photography | blog

Cortnie Dee Photography provides wedding and portrait photography, and is based in McKinney, Texas.

answering the "why" question

"Why do photographers charge so much?"
Most photographers hear that and cringe. There is an uproar in the community that has sparked a lot of conversation about what we should be charging, and God only knows how many articles and spreadsheets are out there (for purchase, no less) to teach us how to price our work. Formulas and calculations and percentages and industry standards.


There are many photographers who would look at the pricing of my services and scoff, saying I am an insult to this community. And then those photographers would also look at my product pricing and would just slap me across the face.

I actually am told by my clients, too, that I don't charge enough. I do appreciate that, and I think it's very kind. I have clients who value the work I provide and consider it priceless and are willing to pay the big bucks for it. I love that.

But there are also people who can't. And I understand that. I am living that, to an extent. I am the girl who goes to the clearance section and who totally price shops. (I'm both super amazing and horrible to shop with. I have specific spending rules per type of item and I stick to my guns. No dresses over $30 and no shirts over $15. Seriously.)

So I can't justify charging my clients $25 for one unframed 4x6 print. I can't. I won't. I can probably make some excuses about professional quality or whatever, but I won't. I refuse to pretend that my clients can't already figure that out themselves.

You can go to Costco, CVS, Walgreens, Target, Walmart...anywhere. Prints cost you less than a dollar, if I remember correctly - I just automatically print my photos professionally because it's instant for me, like going to the store is for you. 

And, yeah, it's a little more expensive. But not $25 more expensive. That's insanity. And I, too, get that we need to be making a living, but that's not how I want to make mine.

Printing products is not my art. The image is my art. That's how I want to make my money. I don't feel right up-selling products I had no hand in creating. Even though it's my photograph being printed, I don't feel like I deserve much profit from the print of it. Maybe I'm alone in this.

Let me be totally clear with you here: 4x6 prints are $5, 5x7 prints are $8, 8x10 prints are $12. Yes, the larger sizes are more expensive because there is a quality difference and you need to be getting those prints from reputable sources. Plus, with larger sizes, it's very important that you use the right quality of image and blahblahblah. Even still, a 16x20 is $60 and a 20x24 is $96. I am being honest and upfront about those numbers.

With the littler prints, I only charge that much because I want you to have them wrapped up beautifully and packaged, and shipping does cost me. I don't make much profit - if any at all - on those prices, because having them packaged costs $4.95. So if you only buy one print, I actually am paying for it too. And that's okay, because as long as you're happy with the print, I'm happy paying for it.

A 16x20 is $14.50, and I have to individually seek out packaging for it, as the company I print with only offers packaging for products 11x14 and smaller. Most of those boxes run at $6, and then I have to get wrap, and then see the deal here. Still not much profit.


Which is why I am charging $200-300 for portrait sessions, and $1200-2400 for weddings. You receive digital images that you can do whatever you want with. Want to go to shutterfly and make an album? I don't recommend it, and I would love to custom-design one for you, but if that's not in your budget, you do you. You make that album. Or maybe you just want to run to Costco for some prints - that's cool too. You do what makes your bank account happy, I feel you. You already paid me for my time and my services, and you're happy enough with your images that you want them in your hands, physically. I'm over the moon. You wanting your images in your home or your office, that's a huge compliment. 

Yes, some photographers lure you in with their $50 sessions, but they might be selling you a disc of images for $1200 - it's a real thing, I see it all the time. And if that works for them and their clientele, awesome! But that doesn't work for me, or for mine. It just doesn't. It's not how I want to run my business, because I wouldn't like that as a consumer, so I won't treat my clients that way.

I have bills to pay. I have myself and my cat to feed. I have coffees to buy (sorry, but it's true, I'm addicted). Of course I like making money and I love spending it, too. But I am okay buying all my clothes at Forever 21 instead of Kate Spade if it means I'm not feeling guilty about what I am charging my clients. 

It's all about you. It really is. It always has been, it always will be. I'm just here to provide you with beautiful images and a happy memory of our time together, and what you do with those images? Totally up to you.