Sidenote: As of June 1, 2009, Reflections of Life Photography was renamed Christina McCall Photography. We apologize for any confusion this may cause.
Over the past couple of weeks while I’ve been giving the blog (and soon the rest of the site) a bit of a refresher/makeover, I’ve also added a few new links/pages in the menu (just under the slideshow banner) with information regarding custom portraiture and why its not only different than traditional portraiture but also why a price differential exists.
Since I first announced I was making the jump into the portraiture photography world, many family members, friends, coworkers, and individuals I’ve encountered in daily life have asked what is so different from what we do than what they can get if they go to discount portrait studio or another area photographer to obtain. Or why do we cost more than the photographer who advertises their sessions + a disc of unedited/straight out of the camera images for next to nothing on area online classified boards?
What I typically respond with — each photographer and studio has their own style that is reflective of their own personality and passions. Some photographers love studio style photography and do a wonderful job at creating works of art that do not look like ‘studio portraiture.’ Others, like me, feel constrained and limited by a studio setting. While my photographic style (both during the session and during the editing/post processing) may differ from other area photographers, it is reflective of both what I love and am passionate about as well as my personality and style. To me, photography is an artform — the one time I can be as creative as I dare. Normally I’m an analytical minded person, caught up with step by step processes and technicalities, but with photography, I’m anything but.
Additionally, any professional custom photographer’s time and expertise is valuable. While learning and honing our craft our pricing may be lower, and thus affordable to everyone, but as we expand our services and grow as not a business but as photographers, our rates must increase to stay competitive as well as to stay in business for the long haul.
As the old adage goes: “You get what you pay for.” Do you want economy or luxury? Cookie cutter or customized to you or your family’s personality and style? When you invest in something — don’t you want to get the most premium product that will stand the test of time, even if it costs a little more than the generic alternative?
Furthermore, I don’t hand over unedited images to our clients – whether printed or in digital format. What each client receives involves hours of after session creative editing to provide them a one of a kind work of art to display in their homes and offices as well as sharing with family and friends.
I love seeking out new locales and backdrops for portrait sessions — to attempt to create the same settings I use in an on-location session in a studio setting would cost a large fortune in backdrop and prop purchases. Furthermore, by not having a studio location, I don’t have the stress and concerns that goes along with paying rent or a mortgage, utilities, and property taxes – which goes with studio ownership. (I, unfortunately, don’t escape a few vital expenses every business owner has, namely, income and state sales taxes, and insurance on equipment (cameras, lens, computers, and external hard drives) as well as liability insurance.)
That doesn’t mean I don’t have ‘major‘ expenses — I just don’t have those particular ones, therefore I can focus my budgeted expenses on other priorities: equipment, education, and marketing.The equipment I use — the cameras, lenses, accessories + the computers, external hardrives, printers, photo editing software, and calibration hardware — cost me thousands of dollars (think a small down payment on a starter home). Like with any electronics purchase, I have to take special care of all of my equipment to get the longest life out of it. Digital SLR cameras and computers do not last forever, so I periodically have to replace/repair them. Technology updates also result in upgrades — just recently I had to replace my computer system, which resulted in upgrading the photo editing software I use. The primary photo editing software I use alone costs as much as the computer system!
Additionally, many of us think “Once I graduate, I’m done with school.” Not in photography — there’s always something new to learn, whether in new equipment features, ideas for innovative marketing, how to streamline your workflow, business practices, and so on. I spend another small fortune for trade organization memberships, photography education magazines and books, and seminars — in person and on dvd (for the ones I’m unable to attend). In the next couple of years, I hope to attend the conventions for two major organizations that provide an additional wealth of knowledge. Additionally, there are a number of photography forums around the internetwebosphere – due to time constraints, I am fortunate enough to participate in only a few, but I gain so much from the information, networking, and support that fellow members contribute.
Marketing is vital — word of mouth has been the cornerstone of my success to date, but to spread the word even further and to stay in business during economic hardships such as now, I have to strategically market myself in ways that draws in the target market I want to continue serving. That includes this site — thank goodness I’m self taught in web design and have hosted my own site(s) for nearly a decade, but that doesn’t mean I escape the costs of website ownership: hosting, domain registration, add-on software (some of which I’m in the process of installing/upgrading over the next couple of months), and blog layout design. What works for one business does not always work for us — in this age of digital information right here and right now, we have to blanket the world wide web with our work and information. This takes quite a bit of time — new registries/directories are popping up regularly that we locate and register with. Our marketing materials — such as the senior spokesmodel postcards sent out to area high schools — are printed by premium press printers, as visual presentation is as important as the information when you’re selling any work of art.
Many of my fellow photographers have posted even further in depth on this topic from one perspective or another, so rather than ‘reinventing the wheel’ on every single factor that is involved in custom photography (before, during, and after the session), I am sharing their articles/information with you if you are interested in learning more …