I came across this wondeful site that talks about what Custom Photography is, why choose Custom Photography and why it’s worth the money you invest in it.  I couldn’t agree more with many of it’s points and so I thought many of you might want to give it a good read, which you can do here.

So let’s talk about some of the key points of the article and I would love to hear your feedback as well:

“The customized service level you are sure to experience will be amazing.  The knowledge that your final images are the result of someone caring about those moments so much that they take extra time ensuring that the artwork you receive is good enough to stand by with their name on it.  That level of quality and commitment  is all but lost in the age of “mass produced,” “mass marketed,” corporate “everyone is a number”.  Custom photography is based on being unique to you.  How great an experience would be,  to be able to sit back and allow a photographer to do this highly custom work for images that you will most likely cherish for a lifetime?”

I couldn’t agree more with this statement.  As a photographer I want to create an experience for you that makes you want to come back for more.  I am so passionate about my job that I actually laugh when editing my images of goofy faces.  I am invested in this experience as much as you are.  This is my families bread and butter, it puts food in my son’s mouth and shoes on his feet.  You can’t get much more invested then that!  That being said, choosing a custom photography experience gives you so much more than a department store experience like Walmart.  You the client and me the Photographer invest TIME.  At Walmart you are one of millions of people coming through, and while the Walmart execs are genius’s because they know if they can get you in the door with a low sitting fee and portrait pricing you are going to go into the rest of the store while you are there and spend $200 on stuff you didn’t need.  I mean at least I do when I go in there to pick up 1 thing and come out with 20!  The experience you have at Walmart is one where you go for your appointment, you sit down for 15 minutes, you pick your 5 favourite shots and order the prints you want right away.  And while it’s quick and painless it isn’t a wonderful experience.  Having a great experience is what makes you remember your time and cherish your memories.  If you go to Disneyland you don’t remember every ride or attraction you saw, you remember your experience there, the feeling you had having that emotional experience that will last a lifetime.  Custom Photography is the same thing.  Deciding to choose custom photography is about choosing the experience.  The person behind the lens {in this case me} is with you every step of the way.  In helping you plan your session, giving wardrobe advice to creating an experience for 1-2 hours in a setting of your choice, the custom photography experience is uniquely yours.  I am just as invested in it as you.  I want to capture those great images so that you can create custom works of art through canvas, print and albums.  I spend 12-16 hours on each session in editing time not including the time spent with you at the park or beach or in the studio and not including our correspondence or the time it takes me to meet you in town to drop off your finished product.  Choosing a Custom Photography experience is choosing someone that cares about you.  Cares about if we got that real smile from your son that is used to just saying cheese, or getting dad to smile using his teeth!  I care about you and your final product.  I want you to be so pleased by the experience that you want to do it again and again for each passing milestone or for each year as your children grow up.  The photographs you have at the end will be cherished by your family for years to come.  Is the joy of seeing those images from your fun outing to the park worth paying a little more?  I like to think so, but the question is do you?

“Custom photography is about finding someone who will photograph your family, give you devoted 1:1 attention without worry of who is next ‘in line’ or the feeling of a crowded portrait studio….Custom photographers are also known as boutique studios, offering a range of products and unparalleled service. Think Lexus vs. Hyundai, think Nordstrom vs. WalMart.”

Yep, I think I’m better than a quarter pounder any day!  I don’t rush my clients, that’s why I say we don’t have a time limit but generally our session will last 1-2 hours.  Really, that’s all kids will last anyways, even with breaks in between shots.  With a custom experience and specialized retouching and editing in the post-processing phase, a Custom Photography experience really trumps waiting in line to get a picture taken. 

Photographer’s hear this a lot when they are asked why it costs so much more for a Custom Photography Experience (the pricing does not reflect my pricing).

“How in the world can you charge $60 for an 8×10 if it costs me less than $2 to print at x store?”

The truth of the matter is the answer to this question is multifaceted.  Much of the cost of a photographic print produced by a professional photographer has a lot to do with the time,  equipment costs, artistic vision and reputation of the photographer not to mention expertise and the usual costs of running a legitimate business. The cost of TIME Approaching it from a time standpoint, let’s imagine that you have hired a photographer who has work that you love.  This photographer is traveling an hour to your destination to photograph your session.  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)
  • one hour travel time TO session
  • 15-30 minutes prep time at client’s home
  • 90 minutes-2 hours with client photographing subject
  • one hour 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.”

This does not include the costs of equipment and running a business.

“APPLES to ORANGES to BANANAS: Often times clients will mention to their photographer that X studio in the mall/department store only charges $19.99 for an 8×10 “sheet” or they may mention other things related to discount photography chains.  The fact is those discount chains make their money on volume, not on customized 1:1 service.  In February 2007 a company who has leased photography retail space in a rather well known discount retailer closed down 500 of their portrait studios across the nation.  The reason it happened is simple, you cannot make money on 99¢ “professional” prints if you do not sell enough of them.  Interestingly enough – those same studios that offer the loss leader packages often charge much much more for their a la carte pricing vs. many custom photographers (as high as $40-50 for an 8×10). 

A little history – the whole reason the big department stores began offering portrait services in the first place was to get you, the savvy consumer, in through their door so that you could spend more money with them in other departments.  Your “PORTRAITS” are considered the “loss leader”.  Your portraits that are meant to symbolize a once-in-a-lifetime stage in your child’s life are part of what a store considers a way to get you in there door to spend more money on goods that you might not really want or need but because you’re there “anyway” you buy.

Also keep in mind that when you go to a chain studio, as a consumer, you don’t have the benefit of 1:1 attention for 2 hours at your home where your child is allowed to explore, play and be comfortable in their home environment, nor do you get the experience that many custom photographers are known for as well as the lovely captures of natural expressions.  You simply get a bare bones, “SAY CHEESE” experience.”

Some great things to think about in this article and so a big thank you to Marianne Drenthe of Marmalade Photography for shedding some light on Custom Photography through the Professional Child Photographer Consumer Guide online.  Again you can read the article by following the link provided at the beginning of this blog post.

I’d love to hear some of my fans thoughts on this article and the comparison between Boutique Photographybusinesses such as mine and those at department stores.

But until then I’ll leave you with this – I like to consider myself the Prada to their forever 21 shoes.  While I like forever 21they just aren’t meant to last and don’t give me that great feeling when I walk around…and the best part of that is I don’t cost as much as Prada!  Thank God! haha!

Have a great Thursday everyone!

Love Always,