Over the years in the photography industry, I had to learn to price myself according to what my time and quality results are worth. I repeatedly see new photographers popping up in my area who charge next to nothing for their session fee AND include an entire disc of images. Are you going to be really busy? Probably. Are you going to burn out fast? Quite likely. Are you going to have a profitable business in the long run? Doubtful. I learned these lessons the hard way. There was a time when I practically gave my sessions and disc of images away for free. I was booked every weekend with multiple clients and spent countless hours during post processing editing. I was drowning at my computer, my personal life was affected and I was doing all of this for pennies.
Gradually, I raised my prices as I began to build a solid reputation in Kansas City as a premiere and custom pet photographer. I still hold true to the experience I offer and the quality of photos a client will receive. If you are looking for the cheapest photographer out there, you will probably find someone who does not value or understand what they have to offer. I learned to value quality over quantity. I only book a few custom shoots a month these days, because I am not willing to give away my services just to keep bookings on the calendar every weekend.
The below information is a portion from a very helpful article that coincides with my thoughts about custom photography, written by Marianne Drenthe of Marmalade Photography.
A photographer’s expertise comes at a cost, their time learning their craft and learning the intricacies of lighting and the commitment put forth on their end to create a persona about their business that oozes professionalism. A great number of photographers go a very long time from the time that they purchase their first good camera to making money at the business of photography. Many photographers, when first starting out, rush in thinking that the business will be easily profitable in no time, how expensive could it be to get a camera and use it to create their dream? These photographers often undervalue what they do because they have the realization that they do not have experience or expertise but are very adept at pushing the shutter on the camera. Many times these casual “professionals” neglect to factor in the cost of business, the cost of equipment, software, back-ups, etc. When you hire a photographer of sound reputation, you are hiring an expert, one that knows that they must always reinvest in their business to create the reputation of being top notch. To create good work a photographer possesses not only sound knowledge in the technical and creative aspects of photography but also good, reliable equipment and back up equipment.
The photographer who desires to be known as better/best/unparalelled reputation-wise knows that the most important thing they can do for their business is reliability and dependability. This is how reputations get built. Good work often is a wonderful side product of building that good reputation.
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. 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.
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)
•30 minutes travel time TO session
•15-30 minutes prep time at client’s home
•90 minutes-2 hours with client photographing subject
•30 minutes travel time FROM session
•30-45 minutes uploading time from digital cards from camera to computer
•30-45 minutes time spent backing up the original images
•2-5 hours editing time to present you with a diverse gallery of edited images
•1 hour prep time getting ready for ordering
•2-3 hours time with client for ordering images
•1 hour 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 19 hours – dependent on the photographer’s level of service. This is time dedicated only to ONE session. When the photographer charges $150-$300 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 12-19 hours complete time for your session.
I hope this article helps shed some light on WHY a custom photographer is a better choice for your memories. The photographs that are produced as a result of the professionalism and dedication that your photographer has will be cherished for a lifetime and great thought and consideration should be placed into hiring who is right for your family’s most precious investment.