“Hi. I’m a professional portrait photographer. I specialize in children and family and I charge an arm and a leg.” -said no photographer ever.
First of all, an arm and a leg have legitimate costs! Check out this workers compensation break down . I’m not here to break down my cost of doing business and list off all my business expenses. There are SO many great resources on google to explain all that and I do encourage everyone investing in photography to at least take 5 minutes to skim through a blog or two explaining these things, because every business is different and have a varied cost of doing business.
But this isn’t that post.
THIS post is going to help you decide what IS an arm and a leg and how to avoid a rip off. I mean, let’s be clear: ain’t no one got time fo dat.
If you HAVE looked up how much money a photographer actually profits from a session, you’ll already know that $25 isn’t sustainable for any professional portrait photographer. I’m not here to judge, I did $25 “micro-minis” once too.
But… ok let’s be honest, why should you care? If a photographer is uneducated on how to run a business, isn’t experienced, and has no idea the value of their work; then you end up getting a great deal on a session. It works out great in your favor, right?
RIGHT! It’s NOT your problem and if you love your images, it’s all good! Like I said, I’m not here to judge, I’m here to show you how to get the best experience possible, which includes not sending you into financial ruin from your portrait session.
You know the old adage, “you get what you pay for”? It’s applicable here 99% of the time.
Ok, here’s the shameful, vulnerable side of me being brave and admitting to something. When I was charging $50 a session, y’all, I was ripping my clients off.
I never had any complaints and my clients were seriously some of the best of humanity. But they didn’t know what I WASN’T giving them: authentic moments of genuine creativity. All they knew is that they walked away with a bunch of cute pictures that, honestly, anyone could have taken for free.
Photography is becoming a lost art. It isn’t regulated, so there are so many baby photographers running around, peacocking with big lenses and fancy lighting, pretending they know what they’re doing (maybe they genuinely think they do), and ripping. You. Off. Because they really think it’s just about copying a picture they saw on Pinterest and pushing a button.
Meanwhile, photographers who have devoted decades learning and perfecting their craft and investing thousands and thousands of dollars into their education and equipment are literally starving because the standards of photography are lowering.
So what does this have to do with YOU, as a non- photographer person trying to save money?
Consider what you’re paying for. For YOU. Not for me. I can go on about my costs, but that’s not about you. You pay a little bit, and what do you get?
I’m going to guess. 5-500 digital images on a USB drive or an online gallery. They’ll be posted on social media and enjoyed for a day with all your other snapshots from your cell phone and forgotten for a lifetime. Digital dust is a thing.
Ok ok print yo pics. What’s new?
Take a good, solid look at your images. Do you see a bunch of people smiling at the camera? Or do you see all the little quirks that make up your family, your relationship, and makes your heart want to explode?
I’m gonna sound like my head is so big, it can’t fit through the door. But us photographers, Y’all. We are freakin magicians. We have SO. MUCH. POWER.
Did you know light can tell your brain how to feel? Did you know angles and poses can say more in one photo than a million gifs sent back to back?
Do you like your pictures? Tell me why?
Because of how you feel when you look at them, and if you’re a momma like me, you probably like them because you made some damn good lookin babies that make everything beautiful.
Then why did you just spend money on a professional? So you could be in them? Maybe that’s part of it, but I’m also going to point out that we want to have a tangible way of remembering these moments on the days when we can’t stand them. Because we ALL have those moments.
You know what I mean. You crave those newborn rolls and sweet lips you see when you look back on those newborn photos, even when that babe is now a threenager throwing a fit at Target. You need to remember those pigtails, diaper bottoms, expressive eyes, and those gorgeous lashes. You need to remember looking down and seeing them because in a few years, you’ll be looking up. You need these memories to remind you how far YOU have brought this little person in their journey. You need it because you ARE a kickass momma.
An inexperienced photographer can. Not. Give. You. That.
An inexperienced photographer can not use light to highlight those fine hairs and tiny, dirty fingers.
And inexperienced photographer cannot use angles to remind you just how little your kids actually are.
An inexperienced photographer cannot use posing to show the viewer that you are a freaking goddess for giving birth and still using that body to nurture and raise a human after literally being split in half for them.
An inexperienced photographer cannot use color and color theory to insinuate a memory, childhood innocence, or passionate adoration between you and your significant other.
An inexperienced photographer cannot use prompts to ignite the moments your kids actually DO prove they love each other.
An inexperienced photographer cannot identify what moments matter to YOU and what YOU need to remember.
An inexperienced photographer CAN likely capture what THEY see, which is not what always IS.
An inexperienced photographer CAN try to get a cheesy smile from your 6 year old.
And this is not a personal dig at new photographers. I was one. There IS a place for learning photographers. There’s a HUGE piece of my heart that will always belong to new photographers and will help them cultivate all these skills . But that’s a different topic for a different day and not about YOU.
But why pay someone to do something YOU can do? If all you want is some pictures of you and your family together, ask a friend to take some quick shots with their phone. There’s also a timer option. You’ll be doing the same thing with the pictures anyway.
But if you want to FEEL these memories when you look at your images, if you want to document all these moments (good and hard ones), and have evidence of a life well lived, stop throwing your money away. Save it. Invest it. Ask for a payment plan, because oh momma, you. Are. Worth. It. Your kids are. Worth. It.
If you want someone to take pictures of all of you at the same place at the same time and you don’t want to do it yourself, and your budget allows, sure. Pay someone a little bit to get those snapshots. But don’t let that be what you go back to on the dark days. Don’t limit yourself to snapshots to boost your kids’ confidence (there’s another post coming about this soon). Don’t rely on those quick pics to document your life with these precious little humans we agonize over raising. They don’t and won’t ever do it justice.
If you want your life made into tangible pieces art, like a beautiful mosaic of memories, with the magic and the beauty of authenticity, light, and lightheartedness, and if you want to celebrate the breathless whimsy that is love, then save your money and INVEST in someone who can give you that.
*Still not sure what actually goes into professional photography? Candace Castor explains what it means to be legally registered, pay taxes and be insured in this blog post.