In our planning meetings for senior pictures it is the most common question that parents are afraid to ask out loud. How much do senior pictures cost? The short answer? Senior pictures can cost anywhere from $100 to $10,000 and the price on the invoice is as varied as the time, talent, and business model of the photographer you are working with. I’ll try to give you an idea of the differences below.
The Shoot and Burn Photographer
A newer photographer is more likely to have a business model called “shoot and burn” where booking happens over email, you pick a location and date, (hopefully) sign a contract, have your session, and at the end you receive a USB, disc, or digital download of all of your pictures. If you asked a shoot and burn photographer “how much do senior pictures cost” they would likely give you a number that was $100 (extremely inexperienced) to $700+ (more experienced to very experienced). The shoot and burn photographer is counting on volume to run a sustainable business which usually means fewer client touch-points and less service compared to other models. At the end you might be able to purchase prints or canvases through them in an online gallery, but will need to make those selections on your own. Most shoot and burn photographers don’t specialize in one type of photography and photograph everything from weddings to newborns to high school seniors (their financial success depends on it).
The Full-Service Photographer
Many experienced photographers move from a “shoot and burn” model in to a full service model. My Friend Teresa Studios is a full-service photography studio. This change happened for our Studio when we realized we were creatively burnt out from working full-time jobs and doing photography on the side (to be able to live, we had to!), booking back to back clients, and not getting to really know any one person. We were upset about our inability to take care of my clients like we wanted to. We had heartache each time we realized a disc had been discarded in a drawer, never to have been printed. Something had to change.
At our Studio we work with fewer clients and specialize exclusively in portraiture, specifically senior pictures. We don’t just “snap pictures” we offer a full portrait experience. We meet with each client for a planning meeting to learn about the senior and what he/she wants for their senior pictures, choose a location, review our product suite and the pricing for each item, and sign contracts. Then we have a design appointment at your house where we review clothing choices, offer suggestions, and photograph the walls of your home to help when you’re making artwork selections. We have an amazing senior picture session that is creative and customized for each individual so no two seniors look alike. We also do a behind the scenes video of each of senior having us photograph their senior pictures. The big reveal is everyone’s favorite day, when the senior and his/her family comes to the Studio to watch the behind the scenes video, and see 40 – 60 seniors pictures, matted and displayed on our 10 foot gallery wall. We make selecting your favorites easy and offer heirloom quality presentations of your images for the wall or for the desktop that let your senior pictures shine. We use the latest technology to show you artwork that is appropriately sized and matches your style, mocking it up on your actual walls so there is no guess work! Premium customer service at every step is our goal (we even install your artwork for you in your home). We guarantee all of our clients will be thrilled to tears.
If you ask us “how much do senior pictures cost” the answer is our creative fee is $225 for senior pictures and then your total investment depends on the products you are interested in. Some families choose to spend hundreds, some spend several thousand. Our average senior portrait client spends between $2000 and $5000. If you want the moon, we can deliver it. If you want a few select pieces we can do that too. Our goal is always that our clients have everything they want, and nothing that they don’t.
The Value of Senior Pictures
When someone asks us how much senior pictures cost we can give you prices and estimates, but there is a question you’re not asking that you should be, and it is a question you have to ask yourself. What is the value of senior pictures? In our planning meeting, the most common thing parents say to us is that they haven’t had pictures of their kids in years sometimes a decade. Childhood has been a mixture of thrilling moments captured on an iPhone (and hopefully backed up in several places!) but rarely printed. In these last moments of childhood, at this pivotal time, there is always the question of price but there is also the question of value. What is the value of having a photograph that really shows who your child is? What is the value of a canvas that you walk past every day and feel joy, long after they are gone? What is the value of documenting this child on the verge of adulthood, at this last brief moment when they teeter in between? What other product or service can you buy that will only increase in value every year until it literally becomes priceless?
Your senior picture photographer is the last childhood photographer you will ever hire. Do you want to talk? We are here to take care of you and make the last moments of childhood, last forever.
Could you explain what you mean by charging a creative fee, but having the pictures cost way more? For example, one senior photographer in my area says that her package costs somewhere around $600, yet many of her seniors pay around $1200. Is it possible to get your senior pictures for that initial price? What are those seniors getting that causes the pics to be $600 more? Thanks!
Hi Gretchen – Thanks for asking . . . you’re asking a common question and I’ll try not to get too lengthy in my response :) . The simplest answer is photography businesses are as different as the photographer’s that own them and we all have totally different prices, products, and packages depending on the amount of service, level of expertise, and value we provide. One photographer might say “our senior portraits are $500 and for that you can have a session and all of the files on a disc” ; we call that method shoot and burn. I describe that method and pros and cons of it above.
We say “our creative fee is $225 and your total investment depends on what you choose to purchase”. That means it costs $225 for us to have your planning meeting, do your clothing and style appointment, photograph and video your session, order proofs, and host your selection appointment. At the selection appointment you could walk away with nothing, you could order a few prints for several hundred dollars, or you could order wall art, albums, digital files, and gifts and spend several thousand dollars. We don’t offer packages, we offer a cultivated product menu and walk our clients through selecting what works best for their family. So to answer your question . . . could you spend just $225 with us and have a yearbook photo? Yes. Could you spend several hundred dollars on a few prints? Yes. Could you spend several thousand? Yes. That final total is as different as our client’s budgets.
I hope this helps but feel free to ask more questions if it doesn’t . We want to help!
I can’t lie, that explanation helps me… I am an aspiring photographer and I’m having trouble with pricing bc I don’t want charge them too much for you little or too little for too much work..
Hello , my story wants photos for her son n gf senior pictures. I told her I charge $275 that is location n 3 wardrobes change. She said that was too much. What is a good price ? Keep un mins I live 1hr away ..
Being successful.has more to do with your business model, location and connections which bring in clients. More than talent.
A good salesman can sell the sizzle, not the steak.
We had a good experience with a local studio in Green Bay. We purchased a large album and a grouping of four pictures of my daughter (with contemporary walnut frames). The photographer had spent half a day shooting at four locations. I was a little surprised at the $4100 price tag. I could not say anything however or my wife would hit me ; )