I often have people say, when taking a look at my pricing for headshots and portraits, 'I wish I could charge £150 for an hour's work'.
Sure the session itself will last in the region of an hour, but in some ways that's only where the work begins. If it was as simple as pointing a camera at someone and clicking the shutter to create a professional portrait, a lot more people would be professional photographers. There are a load of decisions and skills which go into producing a high end shot; from camera setup, to lighting decisions, background and setting considerations, coaching poses and expressions, and finally post production.
That's what I want to focus on here because it's always the most time consuming element, and often goes unseen.
An edit will typically take me around an hour per image, sometimes more. I can often take an image through up to 4 separate programs to finish it, depending on what I'm trying to accomplish, and the work I do here is as important to creating the look which defines my style as any other stage.
Let's take this most recent headshot shoot with RADA student, Finn as an example:
After importing the 200-300 images into Lightroom I will go to work selecting the best, and shortlisting the final 5. I will then work on white balance, exposure, shadow and highlight detail, clarity, vibrance and lens corrections so that I can export hi res images with good dynamic range. These will make clean canvases for the detailed work to follow in Photoshop. Here is a time-lapse of a typical edit in Photoshop to give you an idea of the behind-the-scenes work which goes into creating a professional portrait:
Coming out of Photoshop I should have 2 final versions to hand over; a Colour and a Black and White:
That means of course, taking in to account that I provide 5 retouches, each in Colour and BW versions, that you are actually paying for 6 hours minimum (1 for the shoot and 5 for the editing). This doesn't factor in the fact that shoots often run over time, edits can take longer, equipment set up and pack down takes a mo on it's own, and organising the shoot takes it's own time; but let's ignore that and say that actually I am now charging you £150 / 6 hours = £25 per hour.
This assumes of course that you were only paying me for time, but as many photographers have pointed out on many blogs over the last few years we have to cover costs like insurance, gear purchases and repairs, website hosting, taxes, internet, software, and the list goes on.
I don't tell you this to complain, but I hope this gives you a better idea of the hard work and skill which goes into creating the portraits or headshots you're parting with your hard earned cash to obtain. The session you are involved in is only really the tip of the iceberg.
I usually end up telling people who ask the question which started this post, that I'm very proud of the work I do to produce these images, and I stand by my pricing as I believe they are worth every penny.
Having peeked behind the curtain, I hope you now do too.