Finding The Value In Photography
We're going to get to the nitty gritty with this topic, so buckle up!
Real talk. What would your reaction be if your employer asked you to work for free? Think about it. Now, raise your hand if you have ever asked a photographer for a discount? What about a freebie? I have personally gotten both of these requests, and yes, there are certain moments where I do offer either one of these, but chances are it's not when you're asking.
I am not here to shame anyone, or call anyone out by name, but so many people truly are in the dark about what goes on behind the scenes in a photographer's world. I am going to do my best to explain it to you, because I believe in the power of educating my clients so they are well informed. If you are reading this and you are not currently a client of mine, I hope you understand, I am writing this blog for good reason, and that it doesn't deter you from working with me, or any photographer that has the same feelings. I have been known in my industry to tell it like it is, a no BS mindset, so please don't take offense when I say this:
If you're someone who has asked for a freebie or a discount without good reason (ie asking an artist to donate their services for charity-- which is a great reason!), I just want to know... WHY?
WHY would you expect a photographer, or anyone for that matter, to offer their time and talent for free/cheaper than their normal price? For no exchange of any kind (haggling, or money)? Again, obviously there are times when people may ask a photographer to donate a session for charity-- but that is a whole different story, and completely fair to ask. I understand when a photographer is offering discounts or model calls to build their portfolio, but that is at the photographers discretion. I think there needs to be a discussion about this because, there is an unfair assumption about photographers, and I am going to explain in detail. I hope you will continue to read through, because THIS is IMPORTANT.
You know the phrase "you don't know, what you don't know"? I'm here to educate people who still believe that all photographers do is "click a button" on their camera and do a quick "tweak" to edit the photos. Maybe, if you are one of these people, you simply don't know what ACTUALLY goes on behind the scenes. I'm not here to complain about the expenses that go into being a photographer, I'm here to educate. I knew getting into photography as a career choice versus a hobby, the investment would be grand but worth it, its part of being an entrepreneur. My hope is that after reading this you will have a better understanding as to why we find it offensive when you ask for a discount or freebies.
Cost of camera- easily $2000-$3000 and this is just the body, not including the lenses. Most professional photographers have two. Their main body and a backup.
Cost of lenses- lenses range anywhere from the hundreds to the thousands. Some of my lenses have cost MORE than the camera body. Yup, you read that right. Most photographers have 3 lenses.
Cost of other equipment- artificial lighting like flashes, light stands, soft boxes, etc. These can also range from the hundreds to the thousands. I shoot natural light but I do have some soft boxes and neon light stands, neither one was cheap. Most photographers have at least a flash. There are some photographers that even carry all of this equipment with them on location, all to get the best lighting FOR YOU.
Cost of technology- this includes computers, laptops, hard drives etc. I just paid $1500 for a new desktop computer this year because my old one was 6 years old and it was time to upgrade. I had one other laptop before that and it crapped out on me in less than 3 years. Now, take what you know and add at least $2000 extra for upgrades to ensure the photographer properly backs up their photos, have enough RAM space for editing software and other programs. Let's not leave out the costs of those programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, Portraiture, Adobe etc. and then the time and money it takes to LEARN how to use these tools.
Cost of memory cards- this could be anywhere from $25-$200 each. If you do video you probably have an SD card that is way more than that. These cards need replacing often. I have about 15 myself, its definitely not a one time purchase.
Cost of equipment being cleaned and maintained. Yup, this is also something else we have to do frequently. You think dust particles and other things don't get into our sensors or lenses? Think again!
Business Insurance- a professional photographer needs to have insurance. Not only for their equipment (incase God forbid it gets damaged or worse, stolen) or their studio space, but also insurance that protects them incase a client gets injured (lets say tripping over a light stand or falling down the stairs of the studio).
Cost of products- I am not known as a "shoot and burn" photographer because I offer high quality heirloom products such as albums, wall art, prints etc.
Education- most photographers continue to learn and hone their craft by taking additional courses, in person and online. They attend workshops local and sometimes not local, which costs money. This is how photographers better themselves and continue giving their clients the best experience, and images. So no, we cant just "write off" every single expense.
Taxes- we have to pay possible overhead like a studio, our employees, all the props and furniture we purchase.
Are you mind blown yet? I am sure there are a multitude of things that I missed in that list. But, at the end of the day, photography is a LUXURY service. It's not necessary to sustain life. It's not required. It's not necessary. Just like that new iPhone you've been eyeing, or that new amazing (and expensive) purse you've been saving up for. They're a LUXURY. They're there to give us happiness in their own special way, right?
It's easy to bypass everything I explained and assume that being a photographer is something "anyone" can do. I mean, how hard IS IT to push a button? (That was sarcasm by the way) It's more than just clicking the button and calling it a day. Have you ever asked a photographer for just "a couple of quick photos?", let's face it, its NEVER just some quick photos. It's blocking off time, finding a sitter and paying them (for those who have children). It's driving to the location, posing you from head to toe, making sure the images are crisp and clear, showing you the images on the back of the camera and still having to go home and edit them. It's taking out time to schedule a reveal with you so you can see all the hard work we put into the session-- to deliver those stunning images to you.
Photography is my full time job. I LOVE IT! Would never trade it in the world for any other job. It fills my cup to work with people, to help capture those special moments for them. I absolutely adore my clients-- seeing their faces light up with excitement from the images we created (team effort here). I love giving my artwork of them, to them. They are ART... a complete masterpiece! But it doesn't mean my job is easy by any stretch of imagination. Like any job, this one comes with a rollercoaster of emotions and responsibilities. Photographers are ARTISTS, and artists (like myself) take their work very, very seriously and sometimes even personally. If there's an unhappy client, its physically painful for the photographer. It hurts us to our core (pinky promise) because we want our clients to be ecstatic with their images-- our art, our vision.
Have you ever walked into an art gallery, seen a painting being sold for $2000, and asked if you could have it for free? Or if you could have a discount because you "know" the artist? My guess, no you haven't, nor would you ever dream of doing that. The bottom line is, WHY do you find it appropriate to ask a photographer these same questions? We our artists too.
Our time and talent should be paid for AND valued! Our time away from our family SHOULD be compensated. Our YEARS of hard work, studying, learning, growing, and investing should not go unnoticed or unrewarded. And please, for the love of God, DO NOT tell us that in doing a session for free, we will in exchange receive free exposure. EXPOSURE DOES NOT PAY THE BILLS! We are already hoping you will love the images so much that IF you DO decide to share them that you TAG us or mention our name or even leave a glowing Google review. So no, exposure is not a form of payment, even if your intentions are good, its a slap in the face!!
Its about damn time people learned the VALUE of photographers. You are paying for a luxury experience, and our badass skills. If you want free photos or you think that you can do it better/cheaper, by all means, buy yourself a tripod, set your phone on a timer and take your own pictures. I know that not everyone values professional photography, and that is OKAY. I don't value $2k purses, so therefore I will never save up for one. If you truly do not believe that hiring a professional photographer is something worth saving for, that is OKAY. But please, don't ask anyone for a free shoot. Photographers talk... and that's how you end up on a blacklist! If you're going to hire a photographer, then value their time and talent just as YOU want to be valued.