Sunday, April 29, 2012

Professional photographers: they are people trying to make a living, like the rest of us

From a professional photographer friend:
If there's one thing I could tell everyone about what I do, it's that it's NOT easy money. Yes it's fun- when I get a wonderful family who loves each other and invests the time and energy in making their session theirs. But what my clients see is only a fraction of all the work involved- countless hours responding to inquiries via email and phone before booking (I book about 20% of my inquiries, which is about the right number of sessions for full time work), editing the images shown in the client's gallery (as a perfectionist I am always editing!), placing and delivering orders and doing followup.

I do love what I do- it's incredible to be able to capture the first moments in a new family's life, and witness the bond of a parents and child in a tender moment. But no, I don't photograph my own kids often enough (and they are usually OVER being photographed before I begin!), I don't get to spend all my time with them, and I can't "leave my work at work". My prices aren't arbitrary, they're set based on what I need to earn- after taxes, insurance, equipment, supplies, and cost of goods- to pay for the mortgage and childcare. - Lisa Hoang
Folks, just because someone has a fancy camera does not mean they should be considered a photographer. They are 'camera owners.' I still consider myself a camera owner, aspiring (wishing, wannabe) to be a 'photographer.' To be a professional photographer is a whole 'nother level on top of that; it is a lot of planning, preparation, HARD WORK, follow-up, marketing, advertising, paying fees, taxes... sound familiar? They are business owners; they WORK. Hard. On top of that, they have to take your pictures, too! They pay attention to the details; minutiae can all ruin an otherwise wonderful image.

When a professional photographer quotes you a price, it is a fair deal, factoring in all the costs that go into that quote. If they allow "a la carte" pricing, that can be a great deal; accept it if it works out for you. If the deal seems to be a "too good to be true," it probably is; be careful. In this business, you get what you pay for. Put another way: before you try to bargain your way to a lower rate, consider your answer if someone asked if you would work for less pay. Same thing.

Passion drives these people. The professionals in this business pride themselves on delivering a quality product; their pride will allow no less. If they turn you down as a client, it is because they do not feel they can deliver the product you are looking for at the quality they demand of themselves. There is no such thing as "good enough."

Being a professional means they will deliver what you contract them for; they will do you right. Do your part; pay the rate you agreed upon, with the expectations you signed for. If you have any questions, please ask them BEFORE you sign the contract. And do NOT assume anything; this only leads to misunderstandings and hard feelings. Leave nothing to interpretation; they understand that contracts are scary, and should be happy to explain everything to your satisfaction. It's a part of being professional and a business person.

Oh. Unless you stipulate otherwise in the contract, the photographer owns the copyright to all the images. This is U.S. copyright law. Please do not demand that they hand over the high-quality images without appropriate compensation; it will be very steep. DO expect to pay for quality prints; printing is a complicated thing, and they will ensure you will get the best quality print for the size(s) you want.

Now, go find yourself a quality professional photographer that will deliver what you are looking for. Most importantly, have fun; they love that!

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