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Friday, February 26, 2010


Today's Q&A will be coming from a question I get over and over from clients. And it's this:

Why does custom photography cost so much?
This question comes in various forms ("I love your work, but I can't really afford your prices, can you cut me a deal?" or "Why do you charge that much when I can go to (insert chain store here) and get it for so much cheaper?" or "My neighbor just got a nice camera and will do my whole session and give me the entire CD for $50, why can't you do that?"). Yes, these are all questions I've been asked, and on more than one occasion.

I realize we live in a land of DIY'ers, bargain hunters, and a lot of SAHMs that want to earn a little on the side. I recognize this completely. I like a bargain as much as the next guy. But I also understand that I can't do everything myself (I'm terrible at painting the walls in my house, making beautiful birthday cakes, or fixing my own car, for instance), so I enlist the help of or hire people that will do a better job than I ever could. I recognize the value that comes in this.

I believe that the people asking these questions are simply uneducated in custom photography, and don't fully realize (maybe because they do have a neighbor with a nice camera willing to do their pictures for $50) that running a legitimate business is costly. It takes both time and money. Here is a very low-level overview of just a few of my expenses:
-Cameras ($2500 or more each)
-Good lenses ($1300 or more each)
-Lighting equipment (in the thousands already)
-Education, workshops, seminars
-Business licenses, etc.
-Editing software, including new updates when I update my equipment (in the hundreds to thousands)
-Professional memberships in organizations such as PPA and WPPI
-Wear and tear on my vehicle
-Time away from MY four beautiful children and my spouse, and my home, and all that comes with that.

And the list goes on. The time is not simply when I show up and when I finish shooting. It takes me time to prepare for a session, time to get there and back, time to edit and prepare a gallery, time to process your orders, submit them to my professional lab, and prepare them once I receive them. It take me time to deliver them as well.

But I do it because I love it, AND because I want to be successful. And I can't be successful if I don't take my business seriously. And I have to expect my clients to take it seriously as well. I know custom photography is an investment, but that investment gives you so much more than simply an employee-for-hire that has learned to push a button. This gives me a big opportunity to give you good customer service, to cater the session to your wants and desires, to offer you a piece of my heart in the way that I see you and the way that I see the world. My time is YOUR time and I work very hard to give you images that you'll be pleased with.

There is some excellent reading out there on this subject, if you are really interested in learning more. You can read more about custom photography here, here and here.

I hope this sheds a little light on why I charge what I do. I charge much less in Utah than I'd be able to charge in other states, because that's how the market is here. But I charge what I do because there are people that value what I do and are willing to make the investment. I am so grateful for the wonderful clients I have had, the return clients make me feel absolutely amazing because I know they appreciate what I give them. The referrals warm my heart to no end.

I know that there are some people that appreciate custom photography, but simply cannot afford it. I offer a couple of sales a year, so watch for those! Mini sessions are a great opportunity to take advantage of custom photography for a reasonable price. You can also earn a complimentary mini session with portrait parties.

Thanks for sending your questions in! Next week we're talking about sunflare, so be sure to come back! And if you are interested in having me answer any questions you have, please feel free to email me at joannataylorphotography at gmail dot com.


Mandi said...

Very, very well written Joanna. I read an article (I'm going to go find it-- you probably have read it too) that just hit the nail on the head regarding pro photogs and "pro photogs" (your uncle who's snapping your wedding). All his points were good, but one main point that stuck out was something along the lines of "we deal with a very ignorant clientele". This can soo be true. "oh she has a good camera. That's it. If I had that camera I could do it myself." Nope. Not even close. The more I study photography the larger the gap becomes between me and them. The more you look at fine art photography the more you recognize the NOT subtle difference between a "snap" and art. Like you said, there are a meellion different places money gets poured into photography. Equipment, education, etc.

Wow I'm writing a novel. Sorry.

Another article I read explained this well, too. The $50 photog who hands you a CD just got themselves a minimum wage job. They're flippin burgers at this price. 2 hour session? 1 hour total driving time? Gas? Babysitter? 1-2 hours of editing? You just got yerself a fast food job at those prices.

And she made a good point about the low-cost photog: they burn themselves out and they quit within 2 years. Why? Everyone wants them. People are cheap. That's great, but. . . They're swamped. And they're not making enough $$ to even make it logical.

Wowsers maybe I should go on and on here. . .

Joanna Taylor said...

LOL, Mandi, yes you are absolutely right. All good points!

mnwphotography said...

So True So True, You said it Joanna and lots of people need to hear it! Well done!

Diane- DB Impressions said...

Yes ma'am! Agree with everything here (and wondering if you'd be ok with me using some of the same wording on my blog?). Great points!

Erik Aune Photo said...

I remember when I moved into my current home and one of the fine local photogs left fliers on everyone's door advertising their services... and their prices were not really that much cheaper than yours.

I literally laughed when I saw the picture they used to advertise their expert abilities (keeping in mind the most people choose their best work in their adds). A beautiful family... all cut off at the ankle with nearly half the picture being the empty pale sky above their heads. Yes, I'm sure uncle Joe bought a fancy camera and learned how to set the "Auto" dial and push the button.

It's nice to see someone so perfectly word that you don't pay the real photographers to push the button, but your pay them for their love and passion for the art.

Thanks for the Q&A

P.S. The I believe the photographer above had closed its doors within a few short months - surprise.

Brooke said...

Hear hear!!!

Joanna Taylor said...

Thanks guys! Diane, feel free!