Posted by: photosbymcdonald | May 11, 2012

Why Custom Portraiture? | Holly Michigan Photographer

Have you ever wondered how you should go about choosing a photographer? Or even WHY you should go to a professional photographer?

With modern digital SLR cameras, many people today call themselves “photographers.” So how do you weed out the ones just calling themselves “professionals” from those who truly are?

It’s important to do some homework before hiring one. A lot of people who spend a little bit of money on some photography equipment like to call themselves “pros.” And while many are, there are just as many out there who are not. And I’ve had my share of disappointed clients that say they “wish” they would have known what to look for before hiring someone.

So I put together a little list, for those who may be looking – or just curious –  of some things you should be aware of before hiring a photographer:

– Does the professional have a professional web site or using a free, online photo-sharing service like Smug-Mug, flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, etc. to display their images?

– Make sure and look closely at the photographer’s portfolio. There should be many more than just a couple dozen photographs. Is there a good variety? Do they demonstrate a wide array of subject matters and sessions?

– Is there consistency? Photos from indoors and outdoors? Are there many different environments, approaches, angles, etc? Action and stills?

– Are print and product prices listed? If not, that’s not always a problem, but be sure and get a copy of them before your shoot. It’s important to know upfront what you’re going to pay. (Nothing breaks my heart more than hearing someone say they didn’t realize my print pricing structure until AFTER the session has already taken place.)

– You can ask to see a recent client’s proofing gallery. That way you will have a better feeling for what you may get. Is the gallery full of the same poses over and over again? Or is there a variety? How many unique photos does the client have to choose from?

– If someone is charging a super low price – be aware. How does that saying go? If it’s too good to be true, it usually is? A lot of these so called “pros” are charging a lot less than the standard rate for a number of reasons. One may be that they’re not doing photography for their livelihood and therefore don’t have the experience – or aren’t even doing it legally (YIKES!) Many also are not using professional-quality, lab printed, archival products.

Additionally, every once in a while I’ll hear the question: “Why should I go to you when X-Chain Photography Studio will give me a package with a ton of prints for $9.99.” Or why do you charge “$15 for a 5×7 when I can go to X and get them printed for $.99. It’s only paper.”

For an interesting article regarding the cost of custom photography, visit an article written by Marianne Drenthe, “Why Does Custom Photography Cost More?”

Producing quality images takes time and many more factors. Most photographers who own their own business have poured their own blood, sweat and tears into it. They are educated. They continue to learn. They want the very best for their clients.

Much of the cost of a photographic print produced by a professional photographer has a lot to do with time,  equipment costs, artistic vision and reputation of the photographer, not to mention expertise and the usual costs of running a legitimate business, including taxes, insurance, overhead, membership fees, packaging, etc. etc.

In her article, Drenthe also says that those discount chains that only charge $9.99 for a package make their money on volume, not on customized 1:1 service. They want quantity, not quality, because it’s a fact you cannot make money on 99¢ “professional” prints if you do not sell enough of them.  Interestingly enough – those same studios that offer 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). Some even charge the SAME AMOUNT as professional photographers for a disc of high resolution images.

If you’ve made it this far – kudos and thanks for reading! The moral: do your research. It’s YOUR investment!

You’ll find that many photographers want to give you their undivided attention. We want to make lifelong friends and clients. We WANT to give you quality photographs and deliver to you slices of time frozen forever which can prove to be positively irreplaceable.

Choose wisely. In almost every case, you’ll find that you get what you pay for.

In ending, here is a photo of my beautiful daughter – the light of my life:


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