Why do photographers charge so much?
There are any number of reasons, but one of the best explanations I have ever read is at the MCP Actions Blog… I encourage you to check it out! It’s a little long, but it’ll help you understand the value of a professional photographer. It’s difficult to justify pricing simply by stating, “because we have expenses”. So, you bought a camera, maybe some software… but that’s all in the past. This is true, but what many people don’t realize is how much those expenses are (tens of thousands of dollars), how many are recurring (taxes, insurance, equipment upkeep, replacement, cost of goods sold), and the hours of work involved for each session (wow). It adds up to staggering amounts. You can not run a successful, legal, sustained business and be cheap. If someone says otherwise, they haven’t done the math, and you should point them in the direction of the aforementioned blog, because their time and talent should be valued better!
Why do you tax the session fee?
In the early months of my business, I used to “eat” the taxes, in order to give clients a nice even number for what things cost. Just as an example, a session fee would have been $100 to a client… but behind the scenes, it was $94.3396226, plus tax. See: $94.3396226 x 1.06 = $100. Of course, when it comes time to add up what is going to the government, things got real messy when the dollar and cents calculated by dividing (instead of multiplying) included so many decimal places! Seriously! I know we could round up (say, $94.34 is the fee), but over the course of tens of thousands of dollars, that amount throws off the final numbers, and that was just a problem for me. In addition to that, I realized how much time and overhead goes into this type of work, and after all that is figured out, I didn’t need to be “eating” any additional expenses. I pay plenty of taxes running this business, so I thought I shouldn’t have to be paying my clients’ taxes as well. Not to mention the most important reason, of course: it’s the law. Believe me. You can read more about why Michigan has this service tax HERE, if you don’t feel like picking apart the legislation. In a nutshell, our state passed Public Act 145 in 2007 as a way to generate more revenue, to help with our state’s budget deficit. There is a long list of services that should charge this tax, and photography is in there. I will agree, however, that not all photographers charge sales tax on their session fee, perhaps because this is relatively new legislation, or maybe they just haven’t looked into it at all yet. All I know is, years from now I don’t want to get stuck paying thousands of dollars in back taxes!
After our session, how long until I will see my proofs?
Honestly, it isn’t the same amount of time for every session. Depending on the time of year, how much work I have, and the time-sensitivity of your images (as well as anything that might be happening in my personal life, afterall, I have a lot going on besides photography), your images can be ready anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Sometimes senior portraits have yearbook deadlines, sometimes a newborn changes so quickly it is important to have their newborn photos ready in a timely manner! Weddings might take longer, due to the sheer number of images they include. It really is difficult to attach a time frame, but I can say that I am always doing everything I can do be quick, without rushing, and to keep you informed of my progress. If I were forced to give a straight answer, I would say usually proofs for non-wedding sesssions are ready in a couple weeks or less.
Can I use a photo from your blog as my Facebook/MySpace/Linkedin/Other Social Media Profile?
Absolutely! All I ask is that you keep it how I posted it. Don’t crop it at all. I can tell. Don’t convert it to a different color. I put a watermark on my blog images because they are copyrighted to me, and that means they should not be altered.
Do you shoot with digital or film?
I shoot 100% in digital. Although I do appreciate the masters of film photography… I feel that the benefits of digital photography far outweigh those of film. Ten years ago (even less!), digital photography came up short in some ways compared to film photography. Things have changed now. With professional digital camera equipment, an image can be produced that does not have the pixelated, noisy appearance that it used to. Camera sensors are vastly improved, and post-processing software can do amazing things. Digital photography today allows me to process each image in a digital darkroom, dodge and burn, correct colors, and perfect flaws. Film photography is a beautiful art, but unless you are developing each image carefully and thoughtfully in an actual darkroom, the prints will not match the potential quality envisioned by the photographer. Taking a roll of film to get developed – even if it was shot by a professional photographer – will not produce “professional” prints if they are developed at a consumer lab. The person behind the counter at your neighborhood drugstore is not carefully crafting your images onto print, they are running the film through an automatic machine. As for storing / archiving your images, digital files will not degrade the way film can, and it can be transferred to new data formats as the times change, making it possible for me to save files, or give clients files that can last forever!
What equipment do you use?
My main camera is a Canon 5D MarkII and my main lenses are Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS, Canon 24-70 f/2.8L, Canon 50mm f/1.4, Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro, and a Canon Speedlight 580 EXII. I also have a Canon 40D as a “backup” camera, which is compatible with all of my lenses. I chose Canon because years ago my sister gave us a Canon Powershot as a wedding gift. When it was time to upgrade to a DSLR, I chose a Canon Rebel Xt, and it grew from there. I was familiar with the functions, layout, and feel of Canon equipment, so I stuck with it, and I love it. I am not part of the Canon vs. Nikon or any other camera brand “debate”, which I think is silly! I do think Canon and Nikon are the industry leaders, without question. If you want to start getting more serious about photography, either one will serve you well. I shoot in raw format, and in manual mode. Learning that approach improved my photography greatly!
Can you remove my acne/scar/bruises/etc.?
Basic retouching is free of charge, but not done to all of your proofs. If I see acne, I will assume you want it removed, but don’t hesitate to tell me what you need! If you have a scar you don’t want removed, I will leave it, just let me know. If your child has a bruise or scrape somewhere, that doesn’t necessarily mean we will need to reschedule!. I will do my best to remove it entirely on any prints you order, as well as images I post to my blog. I have corrected dirt on clothing, runny noses, scrapes, drool, food, hair, you name it. Removing braces involves much more extensive work, and will cost $25 per image/pose.
Can I get a disk of my images?
Wedding clients do receive a disk or disks of their full-resolution digital images, and a copyright release, which does allow them to get additional prints made anywhere they want. However, they also receive a print credit, as well as a large album, so I have more or less removed the incentive to get cheaper prints using their disk. They have most of what they need already in the package they paid for, so the disk now becomes a way for them to protect themselves from losing their wedding image collection if a disaster should occur. I suggest they make copies and/or store the disk(s) in different locations, fireproof safe, etc. Regular portrait sessions receive a disk of images if you purchase $250 worth of prints. However, this disk has files printable up to 4×6, and that restriction is also stated in the copyright release. Raw files are never given to a client.
What should we wear?
That is up to you. I prefer color, and I feel like your wardrobe should be appropriate for the location of the session. If it is a rural session, maybe dressing in funky, trendy clothing wouldn’t fit as well. If you want a session in a downtown or urban setting, then it might be a fun to have more bold colors and patterns. Think about what represents you, your style, and the mood you want your session to convey. For families, I would not suggest wearing perfectly matching outfits, but dressing in a “coordinating” color palette can pull the look together if you want. When in doubt, don’t stress about matching outfits at all, just wear what you like. Put on the outfit that makes you feel good, and that will look so much better than wearing something that that isn’t you!