The Value of a Professional Photographer

As a custom fine art photographer I invest my time every day to capturing and perfecting life’s precious moments. The magic of pregnancy, the awe of a new baby, the excitement of their first steps…those moments slip by so quickly at the blink of an eye. Those are moments you will never get back, but you crave to remember every little detail. Those moments are priceless.

Many times you will only get one shot at this moment, there is no time for a do over. For example, I recently did a maternity session with a beautiful mamma that was 37 weeks pregnant…she went into labor a few hours after our session. If she were to hire an amateur photographer who was not experienced, by the time she seen that the photos lacked in quality it would have been to late to reshoot it. The moment lost. Or what about your newborn session? I once had a dad contact me very upset wanting to book a session with his 5-week-old baby boy. They had hired an amateur photographer because they chose on price instead of quality…and the images were not at all what they were expecting. Now, their newborn had changed so much and looked nothing like he did just 3 weeks earlier…not to mention the sleepy curled up images they were hoping to capture were no longer possible.

Every once in awhile I hear the comment, “All you do is push a button, why in the world does it cost so much?” or “I will just go buy an expensive camera and take my own pictures for the same price.” When you hire a professional photographer you are not only paying for their time, but also their expertise and talent to guarantee that these priceless moments will be captured for eternity…the first time, without worry.

I could buy a pair of scissors at the store and cut my own hair, or pay my friend $10 to do it…but it will never look as good as if I were to go to a qualified professional hair stylist. Why is photography different? Below is a breakdown of what you get when you hire a professional photographer:

TIME:
Many people think the only time a photographer invests is the time during the session. The truth is the session is just a small portion of the time involved with a custom photographer. Here’s a sample breakdown based on my average time per newborn session:

30-60 min – Consulting with client prior to session via email/phone

1 hour – Prepping studio before session

2-3 hours – Actual session time

30 min – Cleaning up studio after session

30 min – Uploading and backing up photos

2-4 hours – Sorting and editing the photos for the gallery

30 min – Ready images to show to client

1 hour – in person ordering session

1 hour – ordering, preparing and shipping images to client

As you can see, the time spent for one session is about 10-13 hours. This time does not even include marketing, or the business management tasks involved with running a business that are not session specific.

EQUIPMENT
During each session, I utilize more than $10,000 worth of equipment between the camera, lenses, lighting, backdrops, props, etc. Some amateurs pick up an entry level DSLR camera for $600 and call themselves a photographer. Although digital cameras these days are fantastic, consumer grade DSLR cameras do not even compare to the quality of a professional grade DSLR.

CONSISTENCY (talent)
When you hire a professional photographer based on their style you can be confident that the images captured will be of great quality, and exactly what you were hoping for…the first time. An amateur photographer may have a nice portfolio, but what you don’t know is those images were compiled from one or two accidentally good images over hundreds of tries…and if they shoot your session there may only be one or two good images in your gallery vs. the 20-30 great images in a professional photographer’s gallery.

EXPERIENCE (talent)
A professional photographer will know exactly what they want to do to make the image great, and will not need to experiment like an amateur. They will know how to use their equipment to get the desired result and not need to guess…and definitely do not rely on the camera to tell them what aperture, shutter speed and ISO it should be at. Professional photographers know the importance of their job and therefore devote thousands of dollars and hundreds if not thousands of hours in time to perfect their skill and continue learning new things in the field.

CREATIVITY (talent)
A professional photographer has the creativity and ‘eye’ to provide a full gallery of well-composed distinctive images at just the right light, angle and position. Then once the session is complete, having the creativity in post processing (Photoshop) to take the photo and turn it into a piece of art completes the magic.

SAFETY
When dealing with newborn photography, this section should be at the top of importance. It is imperative that your photographer be an expert on baby safety. When you go to your newborn session you are handing over your pride and joy to the photographer thinking they have the best interest of the baby in mind…after all, they say they are a professional. A true professional photographer again has hundreds/thousands of hours in experience behind them to know how to safely capture the very popular poses like the baby with the hands on the chin, hanging babies with wraps, or putting babies on things like rocking horses or bookshelves. Did you know that these poses are composites from multiple images? You’d be surprised how many amateur photographers don’t know this either…yet they try to do these poses and it’s very unsafe. I have heard a story where a photographer was doing a hanging shot with a baby a few inches above a bean bag…the baby fell out, rolled off the beanbag and onto the floor and now has permanent spine damage…all because the photographer did not put safety first. This photographer was not a professional.

Safety is so important to me that I use a trained newborn posing assistant for my sessions. Lynnea is a valuable part of my team and we work very well together ensuring that we safely get the poses that parents come to us for. She is always there within inches of the baby, or hands on the baby at all times…leaving nothing to chance. Your precious baby is too important to put at risk. This is not to say that if a photographer doesn’t have an assistant then they are not a professional…I know many photographers who are fabulous who don’t, but don’t be afraid to ask your potential photographer how they ensure baby’s safety.

CLIENT EXPERIENCE
Another part of the value of a professional photographer that should not be overlooked is the experience you get during a session. I take pride in my clients’ experience and want to ensure that it is positive. During my newborn sessions I ask parents to sit back and relax and take a much needed break. I provide a nice comfy couch in the studio where they can relax, we can chat, and they can watch their baby in awe as we pose them in positions that are very ‘womb like’. After the session professional photographers are also very accessible to their clients helping them in the ordering process and answering any questions…not just mailing them a disk and being done with them like some amateurs.

 

In conclusion, the age-old saying “you get what you pay for” is true. There is so much more to creating an artistic photograph than just pushing a button on a nice camera. Custom photography is definitely not for everyone…it is a luxury…but if you decide to go the route of a custom photographer I hope you can now see the value of hiring a true professional who values their work for what it’s worth rather than hiring a photographer based on cost alone.

I do understand that everyone starts somewhere, and this is not a ‘bash amateurs’ post. There is a big difference between an amateur or hobbyist that makes sure their clients know that they are an amateur still learning,  and am amateur who charges virtually pennies for a session and a disk claiming to be a professional with years of experience. That deception is why clients sometimes have this misconception that photography by true professionals is overpriced.

I encourage you to leave a comment and share this post if it has given you some insight, or you think it may help someone else understand the value of professional photography.

MelissaJuly 18, 2012 - 9:27 am

LOVE it!!

CaroljeanJuly 18, 2012 - 10:42 am

Yep, this is good! Thanks!

Sarah DanielleJuly 18, 2012 - 11:29 am

SO incredibly true! LOVE it :)

MichelleJuly 18, 2012 - 12:16 pm

Very well said. Thanks!

Macey SnelsonJuly 18, 2012 - 12:28 pm

This is a great post. You explain the value very well!

KellyJuly 18, 2012 - 2:16 pm

I couldn’t have said it better myself! EXCELLENT read, Angela :) Thanks for posting.

Taber LacieJuly 18, 2012 - 2:19 pm

LOVE THIS! Excellent post :) I’m sharing this to my business page now!

Teresa SweetJuly 18, 2012 - 3:16 pm

Fabulous fabulous post and great breakdown of everything. :)

Jen DavisJuly 18, 2012 - 4:42 pm

Really great resource for the rest of us, great read!

KathrynJuly 18, 2012 - 4:45 pm

Well written. And very true!

Brenda JJuly 19, 2012 - 3:06 pm

Wonderfully written.Thanks.

Joncee MayJuly 19, 2012 - 11:14 pm

Well written. a great reminder of how much time goes into being a photographer.

Huong ForrestJuly 20, 2012 - 12:32 am

Wow, what a beautiful blog post on the value of professional photography! Thank you for writing so beautifully and for sharing!

LindyJuly 20, 2012 - 9:09 am

Very nice read… and very true. I can’t wait to share this with my audience! Thank you!

MindyJuly 20, 2012 - 3:46 pm

I couldn’t agree more with everything you have written and it is often hard to educate consumers/clients as to why it is so important when selecting a professional to create forever treasures for them to display in their homes, share with family and friends, etc.

However, I noticed you hadn’t mentioned anything about delivery to clients. I have had clients come from other professionals to me after identifying that the photographer, while exceptional in quality, was not timely in delivery. That can also make or break a good client relationship as well as client retention. I pride myself on delivering to client in a reasonable amount of time because essentially that is the essence of every session, capturing their family treasures in time.

Just thought I would mention that for others who read this blog. If you have a great product, the session doesn’t end after the session event, cultivating the relationship long after the session while delivering quality images in a timely fashion is what keeps them coming back.

Tiny Touch PhotographyJuly 20, 2012 - 3:50 pm

That is a great point Mindy and you are right that it is part of the client experience! I do list delivery on the time portion of the breakdown, but did not list it anywhere else.

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kidizoom digitalAugust 4, 2014 - 4:26 pm

Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year
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She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I
had to tell someone!

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