Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why a professional?

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted something that I thought I needed to share with all of you. The article talked about "rookie" photographers vs. "professional" photographers. I've always told my clients that part of my job is to educate them so that they can make the best decision for themselves. So many times a client goes to a photographer and the main deciding factor is price. "Why do you charge so much more than the photographer I met with yesterday" is something I often hear. Sometimes the photographer they met with is someone from Craig's list, or someone who is "new" to the business. As with any business, operating expenses must be built into the price of the product. Therefore, below are some questions that will hopefully answer "why does a professional photographer charge so much more than someone starting out?"

Obviously quality of photography is important, but there are so many behind the scenes things that a client needs to ask. Here are just a few...
*Do you carry liability insurance? This is something EVERY photographer MUST have! What if your 85 year old grandmother trips over the photographer's tripod and breaks a hip. What happens if, God forbid, something should happen to your wedding images (your photographer looses a memory card, his/her equipment is stolen along with your memory cards). Liability insurance will take care of recreating the wedding if need be!
*Do you charge sales tax? If a photographer isn't charging sales tax (in a state that requires it), then they are probably not reporting their income and could potentially be shut down if the BOE finds out. I know of a number of sting operations that the state has undergone to protect the consumers agains businesses who are not operating legally. Do you want your photographer to be shut down just weeks before your wedding? If this happens, you can kiss your retainers goodbye, and you'll be forced to find another.
*What do you do to my images before I receive them? Before any client receives a product from me, I spend hours editing those images, putting on the final touches, to make sure that I'm proud of each and every image that goes out into the public. Often times a new photographer does not have the resources for the type of computer equipment and software that is needed. I have approximately $10,000 invested in computers and software to allow me to make your images as perfect as you expect them to be. This does not even count the thousands of dollars and hours associated with taking classes, seminars and whatever else it takes to utilize all this equipment.
*Do you retouch images? I am often asked this question. I have the ability to perform basic retouching (removing a blemish), to full retouching (removing a person from an image, opening eyes, etc). This has taken hundreds of hours to perfect, and this is not something that a rookie often has the ability to do.
*Can you show us a full wedding (whether it be on disc, web, or in print)? Everyone shows their "greatest hits", but you need to see that a photographer is consistent and can photograph an entire wedding, beautifully.
*Can you give us several references from former happy clients? If they can't provide references, you must wonder why. Additionally, it's always a good idea to ask for professional references as well (venues, coordinators, DJs, florists, etc).
*Do you carry backup equipment? Often a new photographer doesn't have the funds to purchase (or rent) multiple cameras, lenses, and flashes. A seasoned photographer knows that Murphy's Law stalks each and every wedding. It's our job as a professional, to stay one step ahead of him and prevent any disaster that may be lurking around the next corner. I have approximately $15K-$20K invested in my multiple cameras, lenses, lighting equipment, etc.

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into why a professional photographer is the ONLY one to hire for your event or portraits. The old addage "You get what you pay for" often holds true in photography. Remember, JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE OWNS A CAMERA, AND KNOWS HOW TO TAKE A PHOTOGRAPH, THAT DOESN'T MAKE THEM A PROFESSIONAL!

Be well, and be blessed!

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