Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why do photographers cost so much?

So, apparently this topic is a trend right now, and understandably so. There is such a pricing gap out there in the photography market, and with all the competition, its next to impossible to grow your photo biz. Bad juju. Regardless, pricing is the first thing people look for in everything they do, so it makes sense to know what you’re buying. So, why is it some photographers cost so much while others do not?

I’m gonna refer to photographers in two ways today: Full Timers and Part Timers. I’ve been the latter for about 6 years now. I’ve also worked for a company that had set prices/packages, and where some employees made it their living. And I’ve met tons of people making it in between.

But back to the question: WHY?!
Briefly, you’re paying for the time, tools, and talent.
That’s what it boils down to in the service providing business. In some situations, you’re even paying for a product: printed photos, photo books, and other accessories. Depending on whether the photographer requires you to buy a print package or not is a factor there.

So, time, tools and talent.

Full Time photogs have Full Time business expenses.
These folks are the crème de la crème, and are usually the ones barking about "you get what you pay for!", and technically yes this is true. Full Timers make most of their financial living off of their business, which means they invest a lot of their own money into their work. They SHOULD have the time, and tools, to make your photos look superb. They might even have a studio, or lighting equipment, backdrops, websites, photo-viewing services, printing packages, advertisements, multiple cameras, multiple lenses, etc. and you are buying all of that when you go with them.

Time and tools, my friends, time and tools.

If you can swing it, I would highly recommend hiring a photographer like this; you will definitely be investing in a service provider that can give you 100% of their attention.

Part Timers have a different full-time job, whereas photography is a hobby, or at most a weekend job. The majoring of their income is generated by a different job altogether. However, it’s important to note that these photographers are NOT any less serious, less business savvy, less talented, less capable, or will deliver a lower quality photo/experience.

DIDJA HEAR ME? I said part timers are humans too! In fact, they may be able to relate a little more to the average middle-class photo shopper, because odds are you got bills to pay and cant just whip out the plastic for some daggum pictures.

The downfall is time and tools (wow, those two words again?). Part timers most likely do not have 8 working hours in the day to take and edit their pictures. Usually they’re fitting edit time in here and there, or on the weekends. They also usually have limited expenses: 1 camera, 1 or 2 lenses, no studio, no lighting equipment, no website, no advertisements, no taxes, etc.

Something that can sway either way, no matter the business level, is the last T: talent. A part time photographer is not any less talented than a full timer, and vise versa. I have seen, and met, MANY talented part timers (ahem, me included!), that either DON’T WANT to, or CAN’T YET make it to full time status. This is the most difficult thing to price, as well. I mean, this is a service, but this is also an artform, and art ranges in price from free to millions of dollars. Some people base their entire photography package prices on their talent (and time spent using their talent) alone. This doesn’t seem fair to me, because no matter how much money I make, I am always working towards that pay raise at the end of the year. Aren’t you? If I work hard, the value for my time and talent should always increase. But your pocketbooks don’t feel that way, so you NEED to spend your money wisely.

If you’re in the market for a photographer, consider these things:
- You should be paying for time and tools. Their tools are your tools.
- You SHOULDN’T be paying a ton of money for a PART TIME photographer, who only charges outrageous prices because they CAN.
- You SHOULDN’T pay extra for the photographer to use additional equipment. Say you’re doing a natural light shoot, but the photographer says: It’s getting dark, let me break out the strobe light. It’ll cost you a little bit more, but...
- You need to set expectations and if the photog doesn’t live up to them, get pissy: they say a 2nd person will be at your wedding, then that should happen! They say you’ll get your photos within 2 weeks, then that should happen. They say you’ll get online viewing rights, then you should!
- Ask the photog about their equipment. Even if you don’t understand the lingo. Ask them for a list of everything they’ve got, and then Google the stuff, or ask your photog friend. Do they require you buy a photo package? Do they print their own photos? What is the printer name? Can you see samples? Is the photo paper nice? Are the colors a good quality? Do they use a printing company? What is the name of the printing company? Do your research: check how much that photog is jacking up the prices. Do they use more than 1 camera? They should if they use more than 1 lens. Do they use natural, strobe, or flash lighting? Do they have extra batteries? What editing programs do they use?
- Ask about their experiences: How was their first wedding? Great, they say? They’re lying. How many wedding have they done since then?

Whoa, hold up.
Warning: Some photogs get offended when you get nosy about their prices. I mean, they have had other people pay those amounts, and they think it’s fair, so why should you be so interested?? But if you’re gonna put a few thou down on a car, or on a wedding venue, or for your labor and delivery, you wanna make sure you know exactly what you’re spending your money on. If it’s a good fit. If the vendor is honest, and charging appropriately. If you’re getting into a contract with someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, or they’re over charging for prints that you can get somewhere else for a better deal. Seriously. It’s good business, folks.

Lastly, I say all of this as a part time photographer who has the hopes and dreams of becoming a full timer one day. When that day comes, yes, my prices may increase. I will be able to offer my clients that extra time, some extra services (web-viewing), and hopefully use some better tools (believe me, I have a list 10 miles long of lenses I’d love to buy). In the meantime, you can benefit from my part-time status, as long as you understand you’re investing in a part time photographer, full time corporate office worker, full time wife, and full time mom. I won’t overbook my schedule, so that I can get your photos to you in the best time frame possible. I am usually only available on weekends, and let’s make that a morning shoot (cause we both got other things to do).

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