Pay for Professional Photos or Do It Yourself?

Growing up in Nebraska, there is huge trend every year for students to have professional photos taken for their senior year. These photos are called senior photos and my Mom took me to get these senior pictures in 2005. My Mom has since told me that she spent a fortune on my senior photos and the very next year spent even more on my sister's senior photos.

Recently, I was talking to my Mother about Senior photos, since another one of my sisters is now a senior in high school. In this conversation, I found that some parents in my hometown spent over $1,500 on senior photos. I can understand that a senior year of high school can be a very important time of year, and that it can be important to remember your senior year in photos, but is it worth spending this much? There has to be a more economical way for parents to get senior pictures taken for their child, especially since college is right around the corner. 

My sister is looking forward to taking her senior photos and even received a coupon for a $150 photo shoot with a professional photographer. Based on the data found on, the $150 is a good deal for an individual photo shoot. The data was compiled by a survey of professional photographers and the average price for a single person photo shoot is $230. That is a savings of $80. Now, a professional photographer will also charge you for the cost of developing and enlarging photos. This can get pretty expensive. My mother was able to find pricing on this photographer's website and she will charge $999.99 for a CD of all the photos and the rights. This photographer also offers the CD for free if you only purchase $2000 worth of merchandise. Once again, with college right around the corner, why spend this much?

An article discussing this topic on The Family CEO Blog had good data on the prices of professional Senior photos and there were lot's of good comments from readers. One comment below the article came from a lady named Lori. For Senior pictures, she paid for a $250 photo shoot and then they were required to purchase the photos from them. This person felt like the photos were very expensive and ended up paying between $800 and $1,000 for the photos. That gave this person a grand total of between $1,050 and $1,250 for senior photos. That's pretty expensive for photos of a high schooler.

The author, Julie, used a different option when she got her student's senior pictures. This option combines a photo shoot and the ability to purchase the rights of the photos from the photographer. Then, the owner can get the photos developed wherever they want. This option cost Julie $580 in 2009 and $600 in 2013. There were also comments below the article that listed the prices of these options in their areas. One lady posted that this option costs $750 in her area in 2016 and there was a photographer who posted on the website stating that he charged $300 for the session and then they got all of the photo rights. He did mention that enlargements were an extra charge.

All of the information compiled above showed that professional photographers can charge anywhere from $300 to $2,000 for senior photos. There has to be a more economical way to take and pay for these photos.

This option is finding someone that can take the photos for you. My family has four people that have nice cameras and take great photos. These people are my aunt, my sister, my brother-in-law and my stepfather. All of these people have taken photos to help family members out. For example, my aunt took my sister's engagement photos and expected nothing in return. My sister thanked her by giving her a bottle of Jack Daniels. Secondly, my brother-in-law always brings his camera to family events. We get together and take large family photos. Lastly, my stepfather has personally done all of his daughter's senior photos. He has told me that he spent no more than $100 on each of his three daughters for their senior photos.

In all of the listed cases above where my family has played a big part in helping each other take special photos, there is not a portrait session charge and the costs are limited to getting the photos developed. In most cases, you would spend less than $100 on getting these photos developed and then framing could be an added expense. This discussion of professional photos has started a discussion about these types of photos with my wife. We aren't talking about senior photos, but instead we are discussing the photos that you can get when you have a baby.

We discussed maternity photos and even newborn photos. Our discussions have led us to kick out the maternity photos, because we both don't really like them and don't want to spend the money on that type of portrait session. My wife would rather spend the money on a family portrait session and newborn portrait session. Our discussion has led us to discuss the possibility of using family members to take these photos and currently we are both leaning in this direction. We have decided on this, because of the large price of portrait sessions and the cost of purchasing the rights of the photos. 

We all work too hard for our money. Is it worth dropping $500 to $2000 on professional photos? I personally don't believe so. With all of the technology out there and the ability to purchase professional cameras, then it can be more economical to get them taken by a friend or family member.

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