Happy April to everyone.
It has been an unacceptable amount of time since my last blog post. I have had several life events that left me stranded in my work flow so without apology I am just going to pick up with this post.
Today’s topic is To Hire or Not To Hire… that is the question. On both sides of the table when addressing photography the view point is not always the same between the client and the photographer. No matter how clearly you write your contract and review the details of the deal.
There are several points I am going to touch on and I will leave an open invitation to have private feedback from my readers with questions or thoughts so don’t be shy.
I’ve met and mentored a number of photographers who are gifted in their craft and really want to break out into the “Professional Photographer” world. With all this excitement of sharing their talent comes the big word “Value”. Value is a mystery because the image maker values their creations beyond comprehension, especially if they touch on that one “WOW” image. With that emotional attachment to that “wow” image, comes the desire to have the client love it as much as they do. They would love the client to purchase it, have it printed in beautiful canvas wraps to hang in their homes and ultimately have the phone ring with friends and family who want to experience the moments and have these art pieces of their own. With this Value, comes the cost to produce, the obvious costs of purchasing the tools to create your craft, Camera’s, Lenses, Flashes, Software etc., as a business owner there are licensing and insurance and let’s not forget the cost to travel, including cars and expenses. There is the additional costs if you bring on a second or third shooter to help capture, because these photographers are not free and that doesn’t even start the clock ticking with the amount of time dedicated to the job, from capture to canvas I like to say. It is not unusual to have post production time triple the amount of time for capture so to better illustrate, a portrait session takes 1.5 hours to travel and capture, it is not unreasonable to expect 4.5 hours to edit and prepare for the reveal, so the hours invested by the photographer is already at 6 hours, this does not count any pre-contract consultations or post publishing appointments for orders, it’s just the time it takes to “Make the shot”. Now we can talk about the investment. If a photographer offers to take this gig of a simple portrait session, the client see’s about an hour of the photographer during capture; the photographer is vested at 6 hours of time. If the photographer only charges $100 for this session, just the cost of the time alone, not including anything else, that photographer looking like they are making $16/hour, but wait, they are NOT making $16/hour. They have other costs of doing business, and if they have on-line hosting subscriptions those services are not free so the price of that gets added to the cost of doing business. If the photographer just chooses to shoot and burn the images to a cd and give them away to the client to go print or save, the dream of ‘breaking into the business’ is “BROKE” Here lies the question To Hire or Not To Hire… If the client wants pictures on a disc and have no plan or desire to order any prints from the maker, perhaps hiring the friend with a camera is the answer. The friend will be flattered that they got to take the pictures and seriously they don’t have the additional professional costs associated with taking the pictures, so it all is a matter of snapshots sharing.
If you want to hire a professional photographer; as the client, you really must understand this is a business deal; this is not Frieda the friend with a camera. This is the photographer’s business, a means to pay their bills, feed their families and perfect their craft. Contracts between the client and photographer should be clear and if they are not clear, a clear understanding between both parties is critical to make it work. As a professional photographer, I have a few hard fast rules. If I am hired as the photographer or my teams of photographers are hired, we are the ONLY photographers at the event. This means, Frieda the friend with the camera can come to the event, but she CANNOT pull her camera out of her bag and start taking photographs. I know, I’ve heard it all many times; but she doesn’t mean harm, she has a nice camera, she is just trying to get some good shots. But what ends up happening is a disease. During the excitement of the event and wanting to snap a few pictures she puts the event at risk for unnecessary artifact. These artifacts are seen in post production by the professional photographers and often seen by the attendees of the events. You’ve all seen the photograph of the wedding where the bride and groom have just sealed their vows with the kiss and are coming down the aisle and out pops a hand and an iPhone into the aisle taking pictures in the aisle; now being part of the professional photographer’s image. It is funny for about 10 seconds, and then it clearly becomes rude and inappropriate. The bride and groom have made a contract with the professional photographer and are paying for professional photographs of their special day, and here this camera phone has just botched one of the most important moments of the day, no turning back, one shot opportunity.
My suggestion to avoid this problem is an understanding between the photographer and the client (the bride and groom) that the wedding is a device free zone; all attendees are told they are not allowed to take photographs or recordings during the event. It can be shared by the ushers as the guests are seated as a final reminder or clearly printed in the programs for all the guests to see and sometimes a sign near the guest book is a good place to post that reminder.
My goal is not to buzz kill the guests good time and their creative desires, but it is my business to be the story teller and capture the memories for my client(s). If the client would prefer, they can have other people, friends and guests capture their wedding and share the pictures after the event, it a choice and has been trending over the past few years. The other problem with having people taking photographs when a hired photography team is in place then takes the ugly turn of post production sales. It has been proven over and over again that people like a good deal and free is the best deal in town. So if someone wants a few wedding pictures and they can get them free from the friends or family member who goes to the wedding instead of investing in the professional images, the damage to the photographer is real.
There are a few choices to spearhead this, but always include a clear understanding of the contracts and what is being provided in that contract including restrictions and expectations. It’s easy to say after the fact, oh that was way too expensive, or I didn’t know the prints and albums were not included. This is where people need to “ask questions” before they sign the contract.
The photographer can make the investment so incredibly expensive to include all the bells and whistles of the event but sometimes that results in just not be hired, or it is just too expensive.
The photographer can make the investment 100% a-la carte with hourly rate for capture usually in the neighborhood of $500/hr; Additional photographers to cover other angles of the event, usually at $1000/photographer. Agreed amount of finished images on a disc/flash drive for a set price with limited permission for printing usually image size is no greater than 4X6. A complete wedding collection of high resolution files can start at around $8000 just for the files. Additional stops along the day, either for intimate portraits, or getting ready or the reception coverage, again these are valid expenses that some Wedding Collections may include, but what honestly it becomes the problem when the client doesn’t see the “VALUE” of the collection and some clients start to ask for reduction of cost if they cut out parts of the collection, so, an a la carte program would probably be the best business model to work from.
Finally the world has become a “good enough” environment and the consumer is satisfied with their iPhone photos that they post on social media or thumb thru on their phones and tablets. I fear that professional photography is becoming a lost art and with that lost art comes the lost appreciation of the art. I know for me personally it has become a sad transition and ultimately I am losing my passion. I am not just sharing a windy thought, I have lived this with the past several events I have been hired to capture, so it is not just a single experience but a continuing trend. I encourage everyone to take a stand and save photography, save image making from being a vapor in the wind, get out and do something to spark your passion and strengthen your craft even if it is just for you. I fear that my grandchildren will not know what professional photography is beyond the pictures on a hand held device. I agree it is easier to pull out the phone and snap a picture and what results is the good enough memory, but is it? The question I propose is this; Is that good enough memory really good enough? Please share with me your thoughts I would love to hear from you, until next time.
Keep seeing the light,