Imagine you’re going out to eat with your husband for a special event. Perhaps its your anniversary, or maybe you are wanting one last amazing meal out ALONE together before you prepare to have a baby that will consume all of your upcoming days. You go to the “Sweet Moments Cafe” a restaurant that was suggested to you with a great recommendation from your aunt Lucy, (she even gave you coupon for a free drink with your meal!) You’re imagining the spread~ oh this sounds good!
When you arrive, there is no one there to seat you, so you go and find a table, you sit down, and realize there are not even menus. So you confusedly walk around, until you finally find a person, and she tells you, “oh yes, help yourself to our salad bar. I’ll take the coupon for the free drink, and your $40…just go to that table over there”, and so you walk to the large table and there is a spread full of vegetables. But wait? they’re are un-chopped, and you have to chop them yourself. Huh? Well, it was advertised as an all you can eat salad bar, but you didn’t realize that you’d have to prepare the salad yourself. So you go to chop the veggies and she says to you~ oh you didn’t bring your own knife? You soon begin to realize that you’re being taken for a ride and the $40 you invested into your special date night is going to end up wasted, because the “all you can eat salad buffet” is not even attainable. There is no service included, just raw vegetables. You feel angry because you realize you could have just made your own salad AT HOME for FREE with the fresher ingredients picked from your own garden! You try to go get your money back, but the mysterious lady who took your $40 is completely gone. How frustrating!!! and so much for your “special moment” huh?
Well, this is pretty much what happens when you hire a shoot and burn photographer who gives you all of the raw files from their “nice camera”. They take your $40 and send you on your way with your digitals. They don’t care about you or how sacred that moment was or what it meant to you. They just take their quick money so they can move onto the next client during their mini marathon. If you’re VERY lucky, you’ll end up with a cd of half decent pictures that when you go to print them aren’t completely fuzzy or poorly light because the “photographer” didn’t understand their camera settings. Most times I hear the client complain that the prints they had made were of very poor quality and the skin tones are wonky from the uncalibrated camera/screen.
Sounds terrible right?! Well this is an all too common reality when people choose their photographer based on PRICE alone. I’ll hear many horror stories from new clients about how the “photographer” that they chose to do their newborn photographs only 6 months ago is no longer in business and the CD of the files was scratched and they can’t even open them anymore and now those memories are gone. Oh goodness, or the one poor client that cried because they got all their wedding files raw in CR-2 RAW format and couldn’t even open them because they don’t have fancy photo-editing software….(and the photographer is mysteriously not answering their emails anymore after charging them $500 for their wedding and running) They had to hire me to finish the job for them. YIKES!!!
I cringe every time I see these photography ads pop up and see the large amount of clients rushing to get their cheap portraits taken. Why? Because I think about the horror stories that are about to be born…and mainly because the memories of a families life are of immense VALUE (priceless actually) and deserve to be encapsulated by someone who not only has training and skill, but also is INVESTED in their clients for the long haul, not just a quick sale.
Ok, so maybe you’re saying to yourself, but I have so and so do my mini’s every year, they’re invested in and value me. If this is the case, then YOU are very lucky! but who is NOT so lucky is the photographer who just spent 50 plus hours in front of a screen editing 10 families in a weekend for $400. They’ll realize they only made $8/hr when all was said and done and they’ll want to cry. This is a photographer who, while they may value you and your business, does NOT value THEMSELVES, which eventually leads them to close up shop after a few years from burn out (or when their nice camera needs an upgrade and they can’t even afford to purchase a new one.) This is a loose loose situation for everyone involved!
So why am I blogging about this? Because I want to educate my community about the difference between a $125/mini with three digitals and a $40 mini with a cd of everything. First off, I’ll say I’m speaking from personal experience! (insert wall of shame picture with me on it) I was the shoot and burn photographer too 🙁 I was trying to pay off my $60,000 photography college student loan debt and develop a portfolio. I did this for two years because I thought I was doing the right thing by offering low prices. This was until I realized that my time and years of education and skill were of value, that my clients deserved top notch personalized experience for their precious memories, a service that I was unable to give to them under a swamped pile of work to get done. I also realized that my family would starve on my shoot and burn prices. (oh and that I was undercutting other local photographers who actually had something of value to offer their clients and were trying to make a living.) (TOTALLY NOT COOL!!!!)
So in a nutshell, the difference between the two is this: $125 mini session photographer has spend a decade or more honing their craft and values themselves, and you, and is going to go the extra 1000 miles to put amazing art up on your walls that you’ll appreciate for a LIFETIME. Whereas the $40 mini session photographer is just starting out, maybe values you, but really just wants to make a quick buck and is likely uneducated to industry standards. You’ll get a cd or usb drive that will sit in your closet for eternity, you’ll forget you had the pictures done when you’re old and gray.
So how did my story change? First off, I received BUSINESS training which taught me about my numbers and gave me some real perspective on what a photography business costs to maintain for the long haul. Second, I invested my time into even more training by the top industry photographers to learn about the various products I could offer my clients, and thirdly, I invested in MYSELF so I could more fully give to my clients! I had to do some deep soul searching to rebirth myself as a photographer in my community. I asked myself what am I actually offering to my clients? What is my mission statement, what do I value, why would someone want to work with me vs someone else? I got very real on what the sustainable value of that was and priced myself accordingly.
I’ve revamped my business model to provide full service to my clients. I decided that I want my clients to not only get an amazing customized session time that celebrates THEM, (not cookie cutter backdrops) But that I also wanted to hand walk them through their printing options so they could actually see them in person before they order anything. I’ve researched all of the finest archival papers, canvases, albums and memory boxes available on the market so that my clients can make educated decisions. I decided that cheap is NOT my thing anymore! Long lasting VALUE and QUALITY are. These are things that you will not find with a $40 mini session with all your files.
Award winning newborn portrait photographer Gaby Chung summed it up so well. She says…
“If you’re choosing a photographer based on price alone, I can’t compete, there are hundreds of photographers who are cheaper than me without a doubt. But if you’re looking for the best in service and artistry, if you want to be taken care of every step of the way and actually see your portraits printed beautifully on your walls~ I’m your girl.”
I couldn’t agree more, or have said it better myself. Quality, value and longstanding trust are what my business model is about. You can know that I’m not skipping town anytime soon and that I’m fully invested in my community and its people for the long haul. That my business is here to outlast every pop up shop photographer.
I want you to insert your family into this question and ask yourself….how much are my families memories worth? When I look back on the scope of my life, what will I be left with? $40 on a cd that will get scratched/lost or buried into a box in the back of a closet from a photographer who skipped town? I personally believe that EVERYONE reading this right now deserves much more than that! They deserve a photographer that is dedicated to providing them with THE BEST the industry has to offer. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this~