I do a lot of blogging about the cost of college, but recently I got a question from a reader named Lori about one of the expenses associated with the senior year of high school: senior pictures.
Here’s what she wrote:
So before we get to college, we’re looking at ALL the expenses related to the Sr. year of high school. How can I find out what the average cost of Sr. pictures should be? We are in the Midwest (Iowa). I know it varies across the country.
Lori’s question is a good one. And it’s one our parents probably didn’t have to think much about.
I specifically remember sitting for a single portrait on the stage of my high school auditorium 30(!) years ago this summer. It was a very hot day and I was in a pink button down shirt, pearls, and a wool blazer. :)
That yearbook picture was my one and only senior picture.
That’s not a complaint, by the way. My experience was the same as most of the kids I knew.
It’s just how it was.
But like everything else in my kids’ generation – from soccer to birthday parties to proms – professional pictures for high school seniors have become a big deal.
As my son begins his senior year, our mailbox is seeing at least as many flyers from photographers as from colleges. In fact, this week we received a full catalog in the mail from one of the big photography studios in my area.
Senior pictures are big business.
And they’re expensive.
Like Lori, I’m in the Midwest. And while I don’t have an average figure, I can tell you that four years ago, when my daughter was a senior, we paid $580 for a portrait session with a photographer and the rights to all the pictures she took.
That price included a number of different outdoor locations (one in a field, a couple in urban locations, etc.) with time built in for several clothing changes as well.
If my memory serves, we received a small book with some 5×5 proofs in it. We probably spent another $100 or so having the actual pictures printed.
My son recently had some professional pictures taken, and the 3-4 hour session with the photographer cost $600. That included the rights to those photos as well, so the price was similar to what we paid for my daughter.
As a comparison, I checked with another local photographer and got prices that were much cheaper for the photography session ($55-$110 depending on indoor, outdoor, or both). But – and this is big – the actual pictures needed to be purchased from the photographer.
The picture prices ranged from $22 for a single 4×5 print to $198 for a 20×24.
Some photographers make their money on their time – or the session – and some make it primarily on the photos. So when you’re comparing different photographers, you have to keep all that in mind and make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
Of course you can always find someone who’s good with a camera and have some shots taken for the price of friendship or maybe a restaurant gift card. :) If you know someone like that, that’s not a bad way to go.
So, Lori and I are wondering:
Did you have senior pictures taken for your kids? Do you remember what they cost? Any tips you can share?
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