Why does custom photography cost more?

We live in the age of technology. With Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and many other “visual” online services, photography is everywhere. Almost everyone has a smartphone, where you’re able to capture every moment, every hilarious encounter, every vacation milestone, and then just by clicking a button and adding a few “fancy filters” you can share it for everyone to see. Then you upload that photo to Walmart or Target, and get it printed for under a dollar. So it’s no wonder that people don’t view professional portrait photography as an investment when it’s now available so readily.

Add in “shoot and burn” photographers (photographers who take photos and burn all the images onto cd for a ridiculously low fee), it makes it even more difficult to comprehend why professional photographers have to charge more for their art. So here’s a rundown of why I charge my prices, and why I’m different from the photographer down the street who charges $100 or less for their services.

First, I’ve made a career (x2) out of visual art. I’m a graphic designer, art director, web developer and marketing director. I own a thriving creative agency (and still do), that works with a variety of clients on projects. You are not only benefiting from my experience in working with other photographers on hundreds of shoots as an art director, but as a graphic designer I’m able to take the visual medium to the next level based on the years of training I’ve acquired.

In terms of running a legitimate business, I must pay taxes, collect sales tax, continue my education, stay current on technology, invest in equipment, and carry insurance (Does my competitor down the street carry liability insurance? Probably not.). Moreover, much of the investment fees I collect goes back to cost of goods (the expense of prints, packaging and specialty products), and other business expenses required to keep the proverbial lights on.

In addition, I invest time into my clients. I don’t rush sessions. I spend time with you, even when your baby is cranky or teething, or if your newborn baby is fussy I know what to do because of my experience. I am a perfectionist at heart. I work tirelessly for a positive, beautiful outcome, because I know these memories I create for you are cherished ones. I truly care about my clients. I spend hours (not minutes!) editing your session gallery, and answering client questions. I know and understand light. I know how to harness light to make that final image stunning, and to help any new mom look her best. I also am proficient at editing and only use it to enhance your images. If I was a “shoot and burn” photographer, charging $50 – $100 a session, I would be making less than $5 an hour. Moreover, those same photographers have little to no training and/or experience, shoot their consumer level camera on auto mode, and then give you a disc of 100 un-edited (or very badly edited) images.

I offer professional prints, specialty products, barnwood frames, and canvases from labs that *only* sell to pro photographers. These are not Walmart or Target prints, or inferior prints from Shutterfly. These are prints on archival papers with coatings to provide protection so your prints last a lifetime. They are works of art. I also offer digital collection options, and yes, they are priced higher. Why? Digital files are the one of the highest priced items because once I sell you the files, I lose all future sales from that session. I need to make sure my time spent on your session leaves me with profit for the long haul. If a photographer is charging $200 or less for a session and a disc of all the images, chances are this person is not operating a legal business (licensed, paying taxes, paying insurance) and probably does not have the best quality of equipment, experience or knowledge to get the job done.

I know that not everyone can afford my prices. My vision as an artist/photographer may not be what you’re looking for, and that’s perfectly all right. I truly want to offer custom experiences to each of my clients and create heirloom quality works of art that will last a lifetime. I have no desire to be a shoot and burn photographer, and I don’t take on endless sessions each month just to churn out a volume of photos. I offer high quality, professional portrait sessions for newborns, families, teens and children that are beautiful, yet fun. As an artist, it’s my desire to capture the beauty that each client possesses and bring that to life in the visual medium. Good photography is worth the investment, especially when you are putting your trust into the hands of your photographer. Your baby will only be a newborn and little one once. There is no do-over.