In this day and age when everyone with a camera is a "photographer", knowing how or even why to choose a professional photographer can be a confusing challenge. This confusion generally leads clients to select a photographer based on prices. Pricing in the photography industry can vary drastically, for example with 8x10's varying from $10-$150. While $10 is certainly more appealing, simply put, you are not just paying for the print, you're paying for the time and expertise in creating the image itself. The higher the price of the print, the more expertise you should find from the photographer. Ideally your photographer should be a CPP -Certified Professional Photographer, a designation held by fewer than 2500 professional photographers worldwide.
For a 1-2 hour family, child or pet portrait session the photographer likely has 10-12 hours invested between client consultation, image preview, the session itself, setup, preparation, downloading files, backing up files, pre-editing, final editing, processing order, packaging order, etc.
Now let's look at the expertise in creating the image itself. Did you know that the average 3-4 day workshop/conference in the photography world costs the photographer an average of $1,700 plus airfare, hotel, food, time away from the studio, and more importantly time away from family. I tend to average 2-3 workshops/conferences annually to assure I stay current with the latest education in the industry. Make no mistake, getting "good" doesn't just happen, it takes a huge investment of time and money and involves a lot of practice and a WHOLE lot of dedication to be the BEST. A photographer's price is going to be your first clue to their level of experience, education and talent.
In addition to the high cost of expertise is the cost of equipment such as the camera, the lenses, the lighting, the computer and professional editing software. There is rent on a studio space, utility costs, websites, business insurance, business licenses, industry memberships and subscriptions, office supplies, assistant salary, automotive expenses, advertising & marketing, studio backdrops. The list could go on -just ask my accountant!
Think of it this way -the next time you pay $100 to get your hair cut, the scissors cost $3 but you gladly pay a professional to do the job.
What about the cheap studios at the mall?
Apples & Oranges -Will the $8/hour employee behind the camera at Walmart come to your home or to the beach for a session? Will they happily spend 2 hours with you for your session and another 2 hours helping you select the best images to display in your home? Will they come to your home to install the finished art? Not to mention the quality of the images. Truth is most of the mall and chain store studios lose money. In fact, in 2007 Wal-Mart closed 500 of their portrait studios because of the financial drain they were putting on the company. What the chain stores bet on is that you will come in for some quick cheap portraits and spend $200 on other things. They don't have to make money, they are just there to get you in the door.
We hope that those of you who have taken the time to read this page will have a better understanding of why to choose a professional and why we cost what we do. That being said, before committing to a session, I offer a pre-session consultation to meet and discuss your portrait art needs to assure we are a good fit. I am as equally interested in getting to know my clients and developing a relationship as I am in taking their pictures. Most of my clients, if they don't hug me they want to. It brings me great joy to make such an impact through my art in the lives of my clients.
Heather Lussier, CPP