If you’re new to the custom photography scene, you might have some sticker shock when looking at my investment page. You might wonder why you should hire a professional photographer when you could hire a chain studio or so-called hobbyist for a fraction of the price. It’s all about quality. Quality of your images, your prints, the customer service, and the whole experience of one-on-one attention from a professional photographer.
Most people know what they’re going to get when they go to a chain studio. You wait your turn, get called back, posed just like the last family on the same dingy backdrop, say cheese, click, wait a few minutes then sit at their computer while the employee does the high pressure sales rundown of “Aww your baby is so adorable [with bloodshot eyes from crying so hard]”
So what makes the difference from a true professional photographer and that person with a DSLR? First, if they claim photography is just a hobby but charge a single penny, they are deceiving themselves, you, and the government. Photographers can expect to pay 30% of what they get in taxes. North Carolina requires us to charge tax on session fees and orders and we pay an annual fee for a license that gives us the privilege of being a photographer in North Carolina. So anyone who claims it’s a hobby while having a website, running a Facebook business page, and charging money for portrait sessions is… well, a liar. There’s just no getting around that.
Here’s a little checklist to tell a professional photographer from a DSLR owner that charges people for pictures:
- They have a real website. Any photographer using a free site is not a good sign. If they aren’t willing to invest in a quality website, why would they invest in quality product?
- They use a DSLR. No professional would use a point-and-shoot. This is usually a no brainer and probably a moot point now that entry-level DSLR cameras are affordable.
- They charge reasonable prices. Every year a photographer will reexamine the costs of running their business. From annual fees like web hosting to session expenses like gas to cost of goods like prints, every photographer knows where their dollars are going and then they add an hourly wage on top of it.
- They have a gallery full of in focus, properly exposed, beautifully colored images. “But everyone starts somewhere…”Yes, they do. That’s why an aspiring photographer should practice on anything and everything they can until they have basic technical skill BEFORE they accept a single red cent.
- They charge sales tax. All orders subject to 7.75% sales tax No photographer likes it but it’s required.
Now that you can tell the difference between a professional photographer and “the other guys,” you might be thinking is it really worth it to hire a professional? Of course, it is!
I can’t speak for other professional photographers but my business is based on providing the best quality in products and services. This is just some of the ways I make sure I’m providing the best to my clients:
- I have years of experience. I was studying photography before I even bought my first DSLR. The day it arrived, I popped off one shot in Auto, switched it to Manual and never looked back. I lived and breathed photography for almost a year before portfolio building because I wanted to have the technical skill required to give my client’s professional images.
- I shoot a limited number of sessions each month. It gives me time to focus on the two families that are most important to me: the client’s and my own.
- I customize each session to a family’s unique wants and needs. I have longer sessions to make the experience less stressful and I don’t go through the same pose list with each family.
- I only show the very best images and no two images are similar. I believe a 20-25 image gallery should have 20-25 unique proofs, not the same pose with a slightly different facial expression in each one.
- Each image gets individual attention. I work in Lightroom and Photoshop to give each image the sparkle it deserves. I do touch ups on every image to make everyone look their best.
- Since I never swamp myself with work, I can offer quick turn around with proofs posted in less than a week.
- This year, I’ve invested in a new ordering system that allows you to order from a shopping cart. There’s no back and forth emails about what proofs and what size. So much easier to order what you want right then!
- I only offer high quality products. I order from a lab that calibrates and cleans their machines regularly and prints on high quality paper. Photo books are designed to be treasured forever and handed down for generations. I cannot even print my own snapshots at local one hour stores because I know how badly their prints look in comparison to what I have on my screen.
- When images arrive, I inspect all of them. I don’t hesitate to call my lab when there is a blemish. I refuse to give clients anything subpar. And when I know they are perfect, I package them with love and ribbon and a thank you card and even lollipops for the kids.
- I deliver prints straight into your hands. I would cry if I found out a postman left your images on your doorstep to get soaking wet in the rain. I don’t trust the postal service to handle your order with the care that I do so I deliver to your home. I want to see you smile when you open the box and see your family portrait.
- And of course, you know you are working with an honest local business.
If you’re not getting that kind of service and quality from your photographer, maybe it’s time to see a new one. You won’t regret it.