It’s not easy to get a good picture of my 2-year-old twins. They wiggle and jump around, and I often have to take a hundred pictures just to get one that’s halfway decent. That’s why I love hiring a professional photographer when I can. That said, the cost of family portraits can be very high when you hire a pro.
There have been times in my life where I’ve just had a friend or family member take pictures, and they turned out fine. However, I believe that every now and then it’s worth it to splurge on professional shots. Some families get professional photos done for every holiday and stage in life. I tend to hire a pro every couple of years.
How Much Should You Spend on Family Photos?
There is no specific price that a family needs to spend to get great family portraits. “I’d say [the] average quote would be about $200 to $400 depending on what photographer you’re going with, if it’s outdoor at a park, or if the location chosen requires a license,” says Matthew Alexander, a photographer based in Atlanta.
The price a photographer charges for family portraits varies based on their costs of operation, frequency of booking, distance traveled, and more. Some choose to charge by the package (bundling a set of services into an upfront cost), and others may choose to charge per service à la carte.
Photography — good photography — isn’t something just anyone can do.
A more expensive photographer doesn’t always guarantee high-quality photos. But you also have to remember that it costs a lot to run a photography business.
In fact, photographer and business owner Monica Allen explains that, “I have six years’ worth of experience and over $20,000 invested in equipment, props, editing programs, and… numerous photography workshops.” Photographers are very passionate about their art form, but they still have to make a living, just like everyone else.
The Cost of Family Portraits: A Breakdown
Family-portrait photography pricing can vary. Experience makes a big difference, as well as the photographer's cost of operations. A photographer with eight years’ worth of experience may charge different prices than a photographer with two years. Of course, the longer you plan for your family photo session to run, the more it will cost.
Costs also vary from region to region, as the price of living increases, so generally does the cost of the services a photographer may charge. A family photoshoot in New York City would likely cost more than one in Oklahoma City.
When my husband and I were first married, we paid a photographer friend of ours $150 to make family portraits of us for our Christmas cards, and she did a beautiful job. Then, when we had our twins, a full newborn session cost us $600.
Again, the photographer did a phenomenal job. Just recently, we paid Allen (mentioned above) $250 for a mini holiday session, and she went above and beyond. She even stayed longer than the allotted 30 minutes!
Some people couldn’t fathom having a photographer present when giving birth, but having someone capture those moments is something I’ll never regret. To me, the price we paid was more than worth it.
Some of my most prized possessions are my birth video and photographs.
That’s just me, though. I happen to love capturing memories on camera, and I find it worth the price. However, if you’re unsure, there are many ways to afford quality photography.
Where Can I Get Cheap Family Portraits?
Given how costly family portraits can be, families need to find ways to pay without breaking the bank. Start by trying to get recommendations for good photographers by asking family or friends if they have hired any good ones — or if they run a photography business themselves.
If you are able to support your family friends who run their own photography business or barter services with them, be sure to do so!
“The most we’ve spent on family photos has been several hundred dollars,” says John Schmoll of the online community Frugal Rules. “We’re fortunate that we have two good friends who are professional photographers, and we’re usually able to swap services with them.”
“They provide us with the photos, and we’ll do some type of copywriting or advertising project for them, so it evens out for both of us,” adds Schmoll. “The only time we really spend is if we want something special or a larger photo that isn’t a typical offering for them.”
Even if you don’t know of any photographers, quality family photographs can definitely still be affordable.
Look for local malls or shops that may offer special family photo promotions during holidays such as Christmas.
“We have had wild success with JCPenney studios,” says Brynne Conroy of the blog Femme Frugality. “Their coupons have given us rock-bottom prices on portraits as our little ones grew. For each milestone birthday, we never had to pay more than $50 for robust photo packages with multiple poses — $50 was on the high end, too.”
Online sources are also a great resource to help you find good photographers at a reasonable price. Groupon.com is a coupon site that sometimes offers cost-cutting deals on family portrait sessions. Sites like Yelp and Fiverr let you look up local photography businesses and freelance photographers.
“[Be sure to] look at the photographer’s portfolio and style,” adds Alexander. Have an idea of the type of photographs you would like, and come prepared with examples of photos you want done in the same style.
DIY-ing Your Family Photos
Or if you and your family are looking to get creative, choose to go with the do-it-yourself route.
“For our family, when it comes to family photos and how much we’re willing to spend, we usually spend very little and sometimes we spend nothing at all,” says Jessi Fearon, founder of the Budget Mama blog.
Choose a location with natural light and a nice background of your choice and take the time to really have fun with dressing up!
“We use a tripod that we found on Amazon during a Black Friday sale to take family photos without having to hire a photographer,” says Fearon. “We save up our referral credits to our favorite card printing place all year long in order to score our family photo Christmas cards for free — or very close to it.”
The Bottom Line
When it comes to the cost of family portraits, you should spend only what you can afford. But by relying on recommendations from friends and family and waiting for holiday deals, you can usually get beautiful pictures from professional photographers at affordable prices.
Additional reporting by Alice Yeung.