WHY CHOOSE CUSTOM PHOTOGRAPHY?
Custom photography is more of a luxury than your entry level cookie cutter chain experience. Custom photography truly is not for everyone, it requires a level of commitment, investment in time and money, forethought and planning on the part of the subject/client and requires a larger time commitment for the photographer as well.
Clients who enjoy taking a more active role in the creation of their families’ memories have the desire to have portrait art that is truly personalized. These more discerning clients have been known to budget and allot time for a custom photography session. Many clients opt for it to be a once a year special experience, some opt to have custom photography sessions done to record their child’s stages in life. Having said this, it is clear that custom photography is not in everyone’s budget, it is something that most families save for to splurge on from time to time to memorialize their children as they really are (not posed and primped in the cookie cutter studio setting).
Clients who inquired about custom photography and had never experienced it before, had nothing but positive things to say about the experience. You can view testimonials on my website from past/current clients. 99% of my clients book once a year, and come back every year to book again. They love the personal experience you get with a custom portrait session, the quality of the photos and products. The labs I print through were tested and calibrated with my work and bring the best quality products to my clients. I offer in person ordering sessions after your portrait session where we sit down in the comfort of my studio and go through your images and I help you select your favorites. Clients love not being overwhelmed and having the helping hand. All of my products are displayed at my studio. You get to touch and feel everything to bring what you want to life. Additional edits, black and white conversions can all be made at this time. Slideshows, online galleries are options after your in person order is placed at the studio. We provide web sized images of all the images ordered after your session.
WHY DOES IT COST MORE?
The digital revolution has brought amazing flexibility and ability to control various factors during the image taking and making process. Photographers, the hobbyist, the professional, the amateur all benefit from this ability to manipulate pixels. However, with flexibility comes a price. Digital camera equipment is still considerably more expensive when you factor in its’ lifespan, the need for additional resources for processing those images, the time it takes to get a usable image and the effort that goes into creating a work of photographic art. We all know that you can go to the local Walgreen’s and pay a $1.99 for a print – as a client you may wonder why you may pay upwards of $50, $70, $90 for a custom photography print. Photographers hear this statement every once in awhile:
“How in the world can you charge $60 for an 8×10 if it costs me less than $2 to print at x store?”
The truth of the matter is the answer to this question is multifaceted. Much of the cost of a photographic print produced by a professional photographer has a lot to do with the time, equipment costs, artistic vision and reputation of the photographer not to mention expertise and the usual costs of running a legitimate business.
THE COST OF TIME
Approaching it from a time standpoint, let’s imagine that you have hired a photographer who has work that you love. This photographer is traveling an hour to your destination to photograph your session. Here is an example of a time break down:
booking time: 30 minutes to one hour (client contact time + paperwork)
pre-session prep time (30 mins – 1 hour, includes equipment and back up equipment checks + vehicle checks)
travel time TO session
15-30 minutes prep time at location or studio
90 minutes-3 hours with client photographing subject
travel time FROM session
30-50 minutes uploading time from digital cards from camera to computer
30-50 minutes time spent backing up the original images
2-7 hours editing time to present you with a diverse gallery of edited images
1 hour prep time getting ready for ordering session
2-3 hours time with client for ordering images
2-3 hours sorting through and checking order
30 minutes-1 hour prep time for delivery
30 minutes-1 hour getting order shipped
any additional phone time or time needed for add on ordering, shipment issues, quality issues
In this example, the time spent per client can range from just under 13 hours to 23 hours over a weeks time – dependent on the photographer’s level of service. This is time dedicated only to ONE session. When the photographer charges $100-$200 for the photo shoot (aka SESSION FEE) you are not just paying for the two hours of session time, you are paying the photographer for 13-23 hours complete time for your session over a weeks time.
THE COSTS OF MAINTAINING A CUSTOM PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS:
Regarding equipment costs, a good quality professional camera with a selection of good optical quality lenses and digital storage mediums and computer set up can run from $10,000-$30,000 costs dependent on the photographer. Even though you can purchase a really good quality digital SLR for about $2100 there are still other costs related to photography. A good lens for portrait photography can run from $900 to $2500. Back up hard drives, memory cards, lighting, studio samples, contracts, websites, galleries and online hosting are many things a professional has to offer their clients. A dependable computer system with software loaded for business and creative usage can run $2500 to $8000 dependent on the photographer. Then come lab costs for specialty products. A good photographer knows their professional lab is an integral part of their success. These labs often cost more and offer a range of products that allows the custom photographer to continually offer new, innovative products for the discerning client.
Discussion on other costs of running a photography business could take awhile so we’ll skip many of the intricate details. An overview: the costs of running the business, taxes, studio rental/mortgage if the photographer has ownership of a dedicated studio, vehicular costs, costs of advertising/marketing, costs of sample pieces that the photographer will likely bring to your session, etc. All of these costs have to be calculated at the cost of running a professional photography business. (article from professional child photographer)
IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT HAVING A NICE CAMERA
Anyone can get a slr digital camera these days. Many people go out and purchase a nice camera thinking, wow this is REALLY going to make my pictures better. They turn it on, and start shooting and realize their pictures don’t look any different. Your camera has so many settings for a reason, and there is so much knowledge to learn when it comes to photography. Practice, practice, practice, and when you think your images are perfect, practice some more. Any photographer will tell you they started at square one with picking up their first camera and they are where they are at today because of all the practice and learning from over the years. I know the first thing people think when they pick up that camera is their pictures will be 100% better and more professional, but that is not going to be the case. The best thing to do is practice with your own camera, but trust a professional when it is time to get portraits taken. Especially on your wedding day, you want to trust those precious memories with a photographer that not only has the gear, knows how to use it, but carry’s back up gear, external hard drives, and flashes for backing up your precious images on your wedding day. Most professionals, have invested so much time and money to learn how to not only use their camera on the spot, but they know how to use lighting so you don’t look washed out or completely dark in your images. They know how to pose subjects to make them look their best and most of the time specialize in a specific field of photography because that is where they really shine.
Two people with the same exact camera, shooting in the same lighting.
What is the difference? The left is a professional photographer and the right is your friend with a good camera.
EDITING SOFTWARE IS USUALLY A PHOTOGRAPHERS BEST FRIEND
I will be the first to tell you that editing software does not make a great image. Your image needs to be almost perfect SOOC (straight out of camera) and your editing software can then make the image really shine with a few edits. When you choose a photographer, you do want to keep in mind their editing style. Some really love to touch up images when others like a more clean edit. Me I love to add contrast to images to make color pop, clean up any blemishes on skin, but I do keep most of my edits really clean. You do not want someone going overboard on edits, or using programs such as picnik or photo bucket for your image edits. Most professional photographers use a version of photoshop or lightroom.
BEFORE AND AFTER STUDIO EDIT
Most professional photographers will spend hours after your session touching up your images. The one of the left is a SOOC shot. The one on the right is after it was processed. You can see the newborns skins was touched up, image was brightened and contrast was added to the blanket and headband. Both images turned out great, but have images processed just adds in more beauty. This is one of the great things about booking a custom portrait photographer. Your images will be retouched by me before your viewing session and if you request anything additional to an image that is purchased, I will make the additional edit for you. I love adding black and white options to colored prints in your gallery as well.
Black and White Version