Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Why

First off- it is my good friend Scott Burn's brithday today! He is turning the ripe age of _____. Feel free to check out his blog and show him some love! I had a talk yesterday with a friend at work about an experience with a photographer that I would like to share with you to help me express the way I approach things in my photography business. My friend and his wife had their first child back in January and wanted to have photos to commemorate their first baby's first year. So they found a professional photographer whose work they liked and talked to him. He gave them a deal where he would do 5 or so sessions throughout the first year for a session fee of $300. Now, if you are in California talking to a pro photographer, that sounds like an outrageous deal.

However, as my friend is finding out, that $300 got him nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. Nil. In all actuality, the $300 he paid only gave him the opportunity to spend more money. The $300 was for the session fee and then prints were additional fee. My friend and his wife were only allowed to look at the proofs of the pictures on location at the photographer's studio (about 35 minutes away). Additionally, the photographer said that he would only hold photos that they liked from each session if they agreed to purchase them in some form or another (either directly through prints or indirectly through including those photos in an album at the end).

Here's the kicker, the price that the photographer gave them for any print 5 x 7 or smaller- $100. Ouch. Kind of hurts to look at that desk portrait of your kid when you know that you paid a Benjamin for it. I can't imagine what an 8 x 10 would cost, much less the final album at the end! The truly sad thing about is that my friend didn't learn of the print prices until after he paid the session fee and the photographer wouldn't allow him to take any kind of pricing information home.

I am really saddened because my friend thought he was getting a photographer who would take care of the process and now is finding out that, although he loves the pictures, he feels like the photographer is doing things after the fact that are shady and wants to fire the photographer.

Experiences like this have shaped the way I do my photography and how I charge. I can remember as a high school senior getting pictures taken with many of my friends and really liking how they came back in a fancy proof book only to learn that the money my mom had paid up front didn't even allow us to keep that proof book. As a result, I think my mom shilled out some hefty funds for 1 8 x 10 that may be in a frame at my parents house and some wallets that I think we sent out to the grandparents. Yuck.

It is because of this that I have decided that I would like to include the CD of all of the full-resolution, digitally-massaged images from the session to the client. As a client, that's what I would want. What happens if my precious print gets ripped? Or after a year of looking at this pose on the wall, I decide I want a breath of fresh air and want to mix it up with a new one? With other photographers-it's "pay me more money" or "sorry, you're out of luck." If those questions face my clients, I would like them to be able to take out the cd I've given them and get some prints made where they like and when they like. Honestly, I don't mean to bash on the price of the photograph that my friend was quoted. I do believe that there are photographs that are worth $100 for a 5 x 7. However, if you are that good of a photographer, why don't you tell that upfront to your clients? Why do you feel like you have to hide it? I don't understand.

I do offer prints and a lot of my packages include a print credit at my professional lab online. But I want to make that easy for my clients. My clients are given an online, password-protected gallery that they can use to proof the images (they don't have to travel 35 minutes to a studio and get an appointment) and they can easily forward the link and the password for that gallery to any family and friends that they would like to see them (I let you take the price sheet home). Anyone who wants can order right there from the site and pay with a credit card. The prints are shipped directly to them. The lab I use gives prints that are a bit better quality than Costco and so the prints are a bit more expensive but not quite $100 for a 5 x 7.

I realize that in any given portrait session or wedding, we are going to get multiple quality images and I would like the folks I photograph for to be able to enjoy all of those images. That's why I give the cd.

When I charge clients for photography, I charge for my time. I am not trying to nickel and dime then for prints. I'll charge a bit more of a session fee, but that is for the time to take and edit the photos to be able to give you a wide variety of them,edited, rather than just one for the wall.

Speaking of Scott Burns, he said that one of the things he liked best about the photos he had taken of his family was that he loved how he had a screensaver of all the photos on his computer and he really enjoyed looking at his beloved family whenever he came back to his computer.

Just thought I would share this as the way I think through things. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!


Beth said...

Sounds like an absolute crock to me! What are you trying to do, rob people? I don't trust you for one second Billy Blakey.

JK. I like it. I was thinking, maybe I'll have Billy take some solo shots of me to look at as my desktop screen saver so I can look at myself all the time.

Kelly said...

Bill, It's great to see that you're willing to take a step back from the industry of photography, and look at the service you can provide. There is no doubt in my mind, you'll have a LOT of MORE than satisfied clients! Who would have thunk it :)...that you would still be "shootin" with such style! You not only have the "why factor down", you've got the WOW, too! :) Praying for you.