Okay so you are a client and you want to use a professional photographer to take beautiful photos of yourself, your wedding, family, children, house, business or whatever. The first thing you want to do, is to find out the cost. Then upon hearing or receiving the estimate you either slam down the phone in utter disgust at such “daylight robbery”, or never return an e-mail. Yes we pro photographers have all gone through that.
But honestly when enquiring about the rates what do clients expect to hear? That this professional job you want done by a photographer with decades of experience, sometimes with a degree or diploma behind their name, using his/her equipment costing many thousands of rands…. will be doing a highly skilled photo shoot for you… for a price cheaper than filling your cars tank up! I think not.
The joke however, is that this is exactly how much many clients think it should cost. A couple of hundred rand at most. Mostly because they do not know any better. You especially get this disdain about prices when you quote for a family, baby, maternity or couple shoot.
In a way you cannot blame them because all they ever see is the actual shoot. The few hours they see you shooting a wedding, the two or three hours at a modelling shoot, an hour or two at a family, maternity or couple shoot, maybe half the day you spend shooting interiors etc.
In their minds you are going straight home thereafter, download the images onto a CD and that is that. They cannot be more wrong!
They do not have an inkling of the many hours, (sometimes several days), spent after the shoot has long finished, downloading, editing, creating books, cataloguing or whatever the case may be.
If those same customers had to sit beside a photographer for the hours/days he spends afterwards working and perfecting their images on a PC or Mac, they probably would begin to understand the prices. They would then also be willing to pay the fees for the artistry they are actually getting at a bargain! Yes because artistry it definitely is, and at the price they are getting it, it defiantly is a bargain too.
For instance. Customers have no idea how much something they never even see, like high quality photo editing software, costs. Yes there are cheaper versions, and I know there are these photographers out there who constantly brag about how quick they do editing, but honestly…high quality work can never be sausage machined. It takes time if you really care about your customer.
Then there is the expensive photographic gear professionals use. Your average professional digital camera with the falling rand these days can cost anything (body only) from R44 000 upwards. All pros use two. One mostly as a back-up, but with two different lenses, so both gets used in anyway. Those lenses? R28000 – R34000 and more per prime lens easy! On camera flashes x2 at R5000 -R12000 per unit.
Memory cards R800 – to over R1000 depending, flash batteries (very expensive these days), studio strobe lights in certain cases R25 000 – R60 000 upwards for a good set. The list goes on and on.
When using a genuine experienced serious professional photographer you get a Highly Experienced (some with decades or more), Highly Technically Skilled, Creative Professional who knows exactly what he is doing. There is no room for error. Every shot MUST be a success. Many have studied photography, worked for years in the media, advertising agencies, or other industries where they have gained invaluable experience to fine tune their profession. All so that you the customer can one day reap the benefits thereof.
Besides all of the above potential customers should realise that being a professional photographer is a Business! The people who do this fulltime make a living out of it. They also have to pay school fees, electricity bills, put food on the table for their families etc. The most important aspect to remember is that these people have a good business name to protect. They want people to come back for more. Their reputation is important to them therefore they do everything possible to do a good job and have a satisfied customer!
However, the problem today with the digital era is that there are just too many photographers out there and supply outweighs demand by far. This unfortunately has caused a lot of (some really bad, weekend type, extra pocket money type) so called “professional” photographers to enter the market. They then try to get a foot into the serious established professional door by cutting prices right to the bone and beyond. No good has ever come from that, and all they have achieved was to cause bad business for EVERYONE. Customers included.
In more than one case, and usually with tragic consequences, those prospective unknowing clients who slammed the phone down or who did not return your e-mail, then go out and use those very same “bargain” guys. Sometimes they are lucky and get a good one. – Most times they only realise too late that they have wasted their money . It is a huge costly gamble.
In the case of professional photography the saying ” you get what you pay for” is in many ways more true than with any other profession. a Cheap photographer might just turn out to be a very expensive mistake! Something to mull about next time you enquire about prices for photography.