Why do Portrait Studio’s charge what they do?
I’ve been asked why professional photographers charge what they do?. In fact today I had a call from a guy creating a new website for his business who needed a ‘simple headshot’ - that’s code for, ‘I’ve tried pointing my iPhone at myself and it looked like crap. – but I don’t really want to pay for a professional” He said he was surprised at the cost of professional portrait photography (BTW, my prices are right in the middle range) – I suggested he try his iPhone (again) if quality was not important – cheap but not smart. It ‘s a fact with business portraits; your reputation depends on external perceptions of you based on the image you choose to represent you. Your goal should be to put out the best possible image, one that connects with a potential or existing client and engages that viewer in that split second, a portrait that speaks about your professionalism, approachability, creativity - whatever qualities you are trying to convey. A professional photographer creates that for you.
Portrait Photography. How much should you pay?
Whether they are family portraits or head shots for business professionals/ corporate executives, photography prices do vary quite significantly. However, if price alone is the criteria on which you choose a photographer then chances are the cheapest option will win the day. Not a wise way to choose anything, frankly. Would you hire an attorney or a dentist based on the cheapest you could find? I hope not. A professional photographer is someone who is going to capture some very important moments of you or your infants life, or create the ‘face’ of your professional career or website presence.
One phrase that pops up occasionally, “it only costs just a few dollars to make a print – so why do you charge more?”
The value is in the image, not the cost of the paper itself. Why do people pay attorney’s hundreds of dollars for a piece of paper that costs nothing ? Again, the value is not in the paper, it’s in the expertise. Like a professional photographer, they are providing you with something of value. They are providing what you cannot do yourself. You can buy a law degree online, or the most expensive camera, but it doesn’t make you a skilled lawyer nor a professional photographer.
But it’s just the camera right?
If clicking the shutter is essentially all a professional photographer does, then get your 9 year old to take your business portraits … it could turn out really well. .. or the famous uncle Bob (no offense to my real uncle Bob). Once in a while he comes up with something pretty decent.
Consider this quote from the famous photographer Ansel Adams.
“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” – Ansel Adams
What Ansel Adams is saying is that it’s not about the camera. It’s about the artistic vision, creative talent and technical skills of the photographer. The skills required to be a professional photographer have been developed and honed usually over years of hard work (in my case 20+ years). A professional photographer puts in an immense amount of time to develop a style that can produce powerful and emotional portraits – whether they be of a corporate business executive or a family portrait.The camera’s is just a tool, albeit an important tool. It’s what the photographer creates with that tool that counts. That is what you are paying for and the photographers skill and aesthetic should be the criteria on which a photographer is evaluated and hired.
Discussing what makes a great portrait is a full-time debate in itself, but expression, pose, composition, lighting, catch light in the eyes, pleasing skin tones, emotion and with family portraits, an extra ‘something’ that captures a fleeting moment in a child’s life. Good post processing and printing are also important factors when reviewing portrait photography. Not all photographers are equally skilled or creative and styles of photographers are different so reviewing a photographers portfolio is important. Look for photography that resonates with you. Photography that feels authentic to you. The difference in quality and style between photographers will be apparent once you really start to look. Professional photographers that produce quality work do often charge more, so hire the best you can afford.
It’s so odd to me that people will buy a print from a mall, of a beach they have never even been to and hang it on their wall. Yet often those same consumers want bargain basement family portraits of their kids. When did your children and family become less valuable than that weird beach scene you paid hundreds of dollars for?
My clients who purchase quality portrait photography have a beautiful reminder of a precious moment in time – portraits that are still hanging or on display in their homes, long after the ‘beach scene’ ended up in the yard sale. These are portraits of genuine personal value.
“How can we hold onto those fleeting moments in our lives? Hold onto the moments that otherwise evaporate into the forgotten past? Or moments that become faded and morphed into our own version of reality as they sit in the corners of our memories, losing their truth and shifting focus? The only way to hold onto these moments and share them for years to come, in all their beauty and truth and glorious imperfections, without losing accuracy is through a photograph.” Rosanne Moreland
So how much should you pay for portrait photography ?
My honest answer?
Hire the best you can afford. (same goes for attorneys)