I am a newborn photographer almost exclusively, but I'm not replying to give myself a plug. I let my clients refer me instead of doing it myself, and it looks like one of them already did
I want to give you a tiny bit of insight into the high prices you are seeing, so maybe it will help you understand. A photographer who charges $650 is not getting a $650 paycheck at the end of the day. That photographer is a licensed business, above the table with taxes, carries insurance, and uses high quality professional gear and vendors for their products. They also maintain a professional website, printed materials, professional organizations, new props, and invest in additional learning opportunities. Many are also self employed and have to pay their own health insurance costs. None of these things come cheap and their prices have to account for them. After you take out taxes and all their costs, they may have about $300 left. But then you have to think about the time.
1 hour emailing back and forth or meeting with a potential client
1 hour prepping props and ideas for your session
1 hour drive time to and from session
4 hours shooting
1 hour uploading images
1 hours culling images
3 hours editing (This is what it takes me for a session. Some are way more, some are less)
1 hour meeting with client to order
1 hour prepping images for ordering
1 hour receiving order and packaging
1 hour driving to and from delivering order
This comes out to $18/hr. Not bad, but its not rolling in dough either. That is under 40k a year.
Of course there are photographers who will do the job for $100 and give you the CD. But 9 times out of 10, they are not a licensed, insured businesses who pays their taxes. They are also making peanuts for their work and will not be able to sustain a long term business at those prices without doing 10 sessions a week (which would burn out most people). Chances are, if you compare the work of one of these photographers with a true professional, especially one who specializes in newborns, you will see a big difference in the quality of their work. I know personally, I would never trust my newborn baby with anyone who didn't know exactly what they were doing and weren't operating a legal business.
Not everyone can afford $650 for newborn portraits, and that is ok and I am sure you will find someone who will be able to do it at the price you can afford. My goal was just to educate about the prices you are seeing so maybe you won't be so put off. That person behind the camera isn't a millionaire. They are just a mom trying to make a decent living for her family.
I appreciate your insight. But i new most of that already. I have 4 friends who are photographers and they all have seconds jobs to pay the bills. I know they are aren't millionaires. I know they can't even afford their own prices!
I also know what I can and can't afford and have to stick within a budget. Photos are a great way to capture memories but i just can't see buying photos on a CD for the price that I can buy a new appliance for my home. Just my humble opinion.
I actually have found a photographer of 17 years that has taken college classes in photography that does newborn sessions for $200-$250 CD included. Her photography looks great by my standards.
I noticed if i want just digital files its like $600-$700 on some photography websites. That seems really crazy high to me. Maybe i am just uneducated in this area?
I really don't want to spend more than $300.
It really depends on how good the photographer is. I wouldn't sell a disc of images for $300 and no established, talented, experienced photographer would, either. At $300 for a portrait shoot, you are effectively losing money/paying the customer to do the shoot.
You have to remember all the expenses involved of both time and money. A 1-2 hour portrait shoot will cost me in time approx:
1 hour of emails/phone call to set up shoot
1 hour of consultation (talking about what you want to get, how to best set up, clothes, props, etc.) 15 min to two hours of travel time depending on locations
1-2 hours of actually shooting
1 hour of ingesting cards and backing up the images
3-5 hours of editing
1 hour of consultation/ordering
2-5 hours of touching up/ordering/backing up finished product depending on order
15min-2 hours to deliver images
So a single 1-2 hour portrait shoot may cost me 20 hours of time. Sometimes more if the client is really high maintenance. So at 20 hours, $300 is $15 an hour.
But that $15 doesn't include actual costs. The Professional Photographers of America state that a photographer actually takes home about 1/3rd of what they gross. So that $15/hour is really $5/hour and it is now a sub-minimum wage job.
Because remember, this is a small business owner, and the photographer gets hit with crazy small business taxes.
And that is before you even include the cost of equipment.
Every good photographer will have professional equipment and backup equipment so that in case something breaks, or malfunctions, they didn't just waste all YOUR time (picking out baby clothes, props, cleaning baby, cleaning house if it is in-home) etc.
Personally, I use Canon's 5D Mark III camera. It is the best portrait camera Canon makes. And the camera+vertical grip+battery alone is about $4000. And I have to carry two, because I am a professional. Professional lenses cost anywhere between $500 and $2500. For a portrait session, I generally carry 3-4 lenses (a combination of 35mm 1.4, 85mm 1.2, 100mm 2.8L IS Macro,135mm 2.0 or 24-105mm f/4 which cost $1350, $2000, $1000, $1000 and $1000). Professional battery powered studio lights cost anywhere from $1000 to $10,000 depending on the quality. And throw in a couple memory cards and extra batteries for good measure. A professional photographer may be carrying $15,000 worth of equipment for your shoot. At $5/hour, you are losing money as a photographer because the equipment will wear out before you can get in enough shoots to pay for it all.
And that doesn't even include your computer, software or external hard drives to back up your work OR your product cost for prints. It also doesn't include the years of experience and education built up to be professional and talented. If they have a studio, they have to pay rent, electricity and for permits. Also, as a professional, I carry liability and errors and omissions insurance. Do you really want to hire someone to touch your child that isn't even taking the due diligence of being insured? What if they drop your baby?
Now then, you will be able to find people that will shoot your baby for $100, $50 or even free just for experience. But your baby will only be a newborn once, and these images will last several lifetimes.
Good professional photography is a luxury item, but the reason that it costs a lot is because it is expensive to be a good photographer and follow all the laws.