Before I decided to make my love for photography a career, I (too) never understood or appreciated the difference between custom photography and the cookie cutter studios. Why then (as photographers) do we expect our clients (or potential clients) to know what exactly it is they are paying for? Just to give everyone a better understanding (and perhaps a deeper appreciation) of the art of photography, let me give you an outline of what each session entails for me.
Before each session, I take the time to try get a feel for what exactly it is my client wants from their session. Usually, I ask a few questions and make sure I can deliver what it is they want in a final product. After getting a deeper understanding, I prepare an invoice and a welcome packet and send those via email. I also find a suitable location that fits the client’s needs and scout out other possibilities. From there, I prepare my equipment…I charge batteries, prep memory cards, clean my lenses and camera, pack my bag and reflector, get my contract ready, and so on until I am ready to load everything into my vehicle. After loading everything needed, I make sure to fill up my lovely gas-guzzler and head out. After traveling to the desired location, I now start to test light and prepare for the upcoming session.
This is honestly the shortest part of the process. I chat with my clients for a bit and try make everyone feel comfortable, take care of the contract, and then its time to start taking some photos! I take into consideration the background, the foreground, the lighting, the reflections, the shadows, the angle, the faces, the clothes, the wind, moods/boogers with kiddos, (etc) during each and every photo that is taken. I make sure we have a variety of angles, close-ups, and poses before parting ways.
I get home and as soon as I have a free moment, I load the session onto my Mac. It seriously is like Christmas morning for me…I cannot wait to see each work of art! From there, I select the “cream of the crop” from the session and delete the rest before I start editing. My goal is to keep the editing as simple as possible, but the process still takes approximately 6-8 hours.
After I complete the editing process and am happy with the finished product I offer a “sneak peek” via my blog and/or Facebook. I put a few of my favorites up for the clients to view before the entire session is ready. After the session is ready, I upload it to a private password protected gallery and then send an email with the password and instructions for the gallery. Once the session is viewed comes the ordering process. Some sessions include a disk, so I burn the disk and package it. If the client has additional prints and products, I prepare those with my professional print lab and order them. Once receiving everything, I package it up and either ship it directly to the client or schedule a pick-up. I also add any favorites to my portfolio and website! Finally, the session is considered complete.
Now for the cookie cutter portrait studios:
You schedule an appointment.
The “photographer” is not a professional but has had “some training”.
You go in and sit in front of a backdrop.
They tell you to pose and say cheese…typically you get 20-30 minutes of shooting (if you are lucky).
They go over your photos, and pick the best within 20 minutes.
There is very little (if any) editing done.
You place the order and leave.
You pick up your order.
The session is complete.
This is simply the way I have experienced it…it wont always be this way. This is just to give everyone an idea of what exactly it is they are paying for and what goes into each and every custom session.
Personally, I pour my heart and soul into each session…each photo. I LOVE what I do! It isn’t just a “job” where I make minimum wage and then leave. I don’t have set hours…my work is always in front of me. I am taking classes, reading, training, and always looking for ways to improve myself. I cannot shut off the “photography part of my brain”! Custom photography comes in all price ranges…what a photographer charges generally depends on their experience. Just remember that usually, you get exactly what you pay for. Before you go for the cheapest, make sure they offer quality products, match your personal “style”, and can offer what it is you are looking for. Even if you don’t choose Angie Hollenbeck Photography, take the time to find the best custom photographer for you!
Also, what would a photography blog be without a photo? These are my beautiful babies!