Custom photography is more of a luxury than your entry level cookie cutter chain experience and is truly not for everyone. It requires a level of commitment, investment in time and money, forethought and planning on the part of the client and requires a larger time commitment for the photographer as well.
Many clients opt for it to be a once a year special experience while some opt to have custom photography sessions done to record their child’s stages in life. Having said this, it is clear that custom photography is not in everyone’s budget. It is something that most families save for to splurge on from time to time to memorialize their children as they really are (not posed and primped in the cookie cutter studio setting).
Custom photography has been likened to purchasing a fine vehicle. To get from point A to point B, let’s face it, even a bus ride would suffice. If you want to luxuriate in a finely appointed vehicle, customizing your own experience by rocking out to Lady Gaga while sitting in a climate controlled setting adjusted purely for your comfort in a body hugging leather interior, perhaps a Lexus is your cup of tea. Custom photography is much the same cup of tea. It is the Lexus of the photography world. It is where the intangibles make the experience truly wonderful and the images themselves make the investment of money and time truly worthwhile.
The beauty of custom photography is in the choices and in the luxury of those options. The customized service level you are sure to experience will be amazing. The knowledge that your final images are the result of someone caring about those moments so much that they take extra time ensuring that the artwork you receive is good enough to hang on walls with their name on it. That level of quality and commitment is all but lost in the age of “mass produced,” “mass marketed,” corporate “everyone is a number”. Custom photography is based on being unique to you.
Keep in mind more than anything that the Lexus will never appreciate in value the way your portraits will. The portrait art you become invested in will no doubt increase in value and become more priceless as the years pass.
Often times clients will mention that X studio in the mall/department store only charges $X for an 8×10 “sheet” or they may mention other things related to discount photography chains. The fact is those discount chains make their money on volume, not on customized 1:1 service. In February 2007 a company who had leased photography retail space in a rather well known discount retailer closed down 500 of their portrait studios across the nation. The reason it happened is simple, you cannot make money on 99¢ “professional” prints if you do not sell enough of them.
A little history – the whole reason the big department stores began offering portrait services in the first place was to get you, the savvy consumer, in through their door so that you could spend more money with them in other departments. Your “PORTRAITS” are considered the “loss leader”. Your portraits that are meant to symbolize a once-in-a-lifetime stage in your child’s life are part of what a store considers a way to get you in their door to spend more money on goods that you might not really want or need but because you’re there “anyway” you buy.
Also keep in mind that when you go to a chain studio, as a consumer, you don’t have the benefit of 1:1 attention for 2 hours at your home where your child is allowed to explore, play and be comfortable in their home environment. You simply get a bare bones, “SAY CHEESE” experience.
A photographer’s expertise comes at a cost. A lot of time goes into learning their craft and the intricacies of lighting as well as the commitment they put forth to create a persona about their business that oozes professionalism. A great number of photographers go a very long time from the time that they purchase their first good camera to making money at the business of photography. Many photographers, when first starting out, rush in thinking that the business will be easily profitable in no time. How expensive could it be to get a camera and use it to create their dream? These photographers often undervalue what they do because they have the realization that they do not have experience or expertise but are very adept at pushing the shutter on the camera. Many times these casual “professionals” neglect to factor in the cost of business, the cost of equipment, software, back ups, etc.. When you hire a photographer of sound reputation, you are hiring an expert, one that knows that they must always reinvest in their business to create the reputation of being top notch. To create good work a photographer possesses not only sound knowledge in the technical and creative aspects of photography but also good, reliable equipment and back up equipment.
The photographer who desires to be known as better/best/unparalleled reputation-wise knows that the most important thing they can do for their business is reliability and dependability. This is how reputations get built. Good work often is a wonderful side product of building that good reputation.
I hope this article helps shed some light on WHY a custom photographer is a better choice for your family’s memories. The photographs that are produced as a result of the professionalism and dedication that your photographer has will be cherished for a lifetime (or more) and great thought and consideration should be placed into hiring who is right for your family’s most precious investment.
Note: This article was created with permission using excerpts from the Professional Child Photographer Consumer Guide.