Hey, all! Today we're going to have an educational blog post for consumers of professional photography and new photographers alike. Now, we've both been Professional (paid) photographers for about 6 years now. That's 12 years of experience combined! Prior to us becoming professionals, both of us had educations in photography. Prior to becoming a paid professional wedding photographer, Jenny got her BA from Miami University, had had darkroom courses in both high school and at university, and had taken part in workshops on wedding photography, portrait photography, and Photoshop post college. When Jason began his career in wedding photography he was half-way through his Commercial Photography degree at the community college and was also working at a local studio part-time shooting portraits and high school sports, and events. Jenny has had her own professional website for nearly 6 years now and Jason has had his website for nearly 3. Together we've made this: Our beautiful new revamped website that combines all of our wedding, engagement, & family portrait photos!
At this point in our careers we're able to look back at the past and acknowledge mistakes we made in the beginning of becoming entrepreneurs (and at different points since then). One mistake that stands out to us that we've made: Once being "Shoot and Burn" photographers. "What's that?!" you ask...? A shoot and burn photographer charges a low fee, shoots images (usually at lower quality such as Jpegs), and gives their digital negatives full-resolution to their clients via email, an online service, a flash drive, or a DVD for them to print themselves. NOW... "what's wrong with this?!" you may ask...? Well, it is an unprofessional, desperate way for a photographer to get your money and leave you. This type of photographer has not tried to help you much at all and considers what they're doing just another service job. They're about quantity not quality. We're about quality. From the standpoint of a photographer, this method becomes exhausting. A shoot and burn client generally does not return as a repeat customer nor are they willing to offer a reasonable payment for photographic services. This means that a photographer pursuing the "shoot and burn method" must constantly hustle (often at dizzying and near impossible pace) to simply cover their overhead costs. We appreciate the value of creating a relationship with every client of ours and this method does not allow this.
As seasoned photographers with extensive knowledge from years of experience and arts degrees under our belts, let us educate you on how a true professional (wedding or portrait) photographer works. Here's what you pay for and how things work:
1) The portrait photographer will have a "sitting fee." This fee ranges from a low fee of $100 to upwards of several thousand dollars for some seasoned professionals. This fee is to ensure the photographer that even if you don't like the photos, they/ we are paid. This payment goes toward our SERVICE of showing up to your location or you showing up to ours, SHOOTING for however long we're there, us sorting through all of your hundreds or thousands of images, editing your images, and getting you the proofs of images for you to choose from in a timely manner. We also pay our OWN INSURANCE (health, dental, and equipment), paid for Our Cameras and gear & for the upkeep on them (Jenny saved up money working at an ice cream kitchen full time and shooting weddings on the weekend to get her latest camera and lens and Jason has bought a LOT more gear ALL on his own dime), pay for our online services (that help us edit photos, sort our expenses/ taxes, update our website, and email or phone you), etc. We have a lot of overhead. Some photographers even have an expensive physical studio that they have to pay for on top of all of that! You really think we should show up for free...?
The sitting fee is generally non-refundable since a professional photographer will assume that you have come to them for photos after having done some research. A photographer should be chosen based on the quality of their work and personality above all else. Cost needs to be of a lesser concern to quality, especially in the case of work being offered at a fair market price. The service of photography is, in itself, a luxury item. As with other luxury items it is always wise to do your bit of research before making a large purchase. Know what you are looking for in your photographer.
***As an example of sitting fee, there is a man in L.A. who shoots on an old camera that prints directly onto glass he coats and develops and he charges around $200 for a sitting fee and then for a small 4x5 inch print on glass he charges $80. One tiny image plus the service fee totals $280, but for such a unique, amazing print it's worth it for those who can afford it and respect the art of photography.
2) After sending you proofs (tiny images on pages for you to choose from- think Senior Photos), you choose images and you can then buy print packages or individual prints. We don't Give You our negatives. Talk to your parents: Did their wedding photographer or portrait photographer Give Them the Negatives to their wedding photos?! Absolutely freaking not. Some photographers offer online web resolution digital images that won't print larger than 3x5 inches for an additional fee, and some will give this option for free with a package. I've seen packages of just 10 to 20 full-sized digital files sold for $1,000. Professionals don't want to give out their negatives. An art negative can yield a print worth over $10,000. Non-art negatives are still worth money, even if it's not at that high of a level.
Print packages can be costly or relatively cheap depending on who you're working with, but don't assume you're going to pay them CVS prices for the prints. We have to order prints from professional photography print shops to maintain quality and control over how the prints look. We want things to look the best to still be seen as professionals. Not working from a brick and mortar facility means that it takes a little more work to convince clients of the cost of your prints. Your work is not different than what is coming from a dedicated studio. In fact, if you are doing a majority of your work on location, you deserve to ask for a greater price as to cover you travel time, and travel fees such as gas and car maintenance. We know for a fact that when we used to do "Shoot and Burn" that often the DVDs or Flash Drives of images we'd give out would go on shelves and Never Be Printed and we'd never hear from our clients again. We want to PRINT the photos for you. Technology comes & goes. Good prints last. As for print pricing: We're not CVS pricing because we're not amateurs. Our photos that are printed are PRODUCTS. News flash: When products are made in China and sold to U.S. consumers there are mark-ups. What was 1 cent to produce is sold for $15. We don't sell our images for the price it took to make it because that's bad (read: stupid) business. Plus our images aren't 1 cent images to begin with. We sell 1 stock photo for $500. Images are worth money despite what others try to gouge out of professional photographers.
3) You choose your packages or prints, pay, and a photographer will often have you come back and pick the finished products up yourself so that they can see if you're satisfied with the print quality. You can also have the products sent to you, but it's less sincere and we genuinely want you to be happy with the prints. You will get them and you WILL love them because they're shot well, they look professional, and they're printed professionally. At this point you'll have a relationship with this photographer and can continue to work with them in the future if you so choose. If not, you can easily choose less professional photographers who just want your money and are living paycheck to paycheck (and care less).
Everyone wants to think they know everything, but to be honest we each only know about Our Own Profession and things that we're Educated On. To try to chime in a tell a professional how to run her/ his own business would be ludacris, no? But because there are so many FAUXtographers and Instagramcrackers these days, everyone thinks they know everything and are educated in photography. We meet and consult with other photographers all the time, and are always open to professional ideas and criticism from those in the field. We just wanted to Actually Educate the public and lay people on why things happen the way that they do and how to Look for a Professional. We didn't get expensive degrees and spend 6 years of our lives building all of this up for nothing ;)
Be good to each other. We pay our musicians, accountants, artists, chefs, and others well and treat everyone with respect. The least you can do in life is be kind and respectful. The least. We hope this helped some of you understand what you're paying for when you hire professionals and hope it was enlightening! Have a great rest of the week and go hug an artist or photographer :) It's not easy telling and educating people that you and your products are worth money.
Jenny and Jason