Professional vs. CraigslistBy Josephine Craig
This question gets asked a lot by so many people, and it can be quite a sticker shock when you find a photographer you absolutely love and learn that their prices are way over your budget. For some people, price is the biggest factor and will resort to an ad on Craigslist, a contest on Facebook, or even someone they know who has a camera for that inexpensive, $50-photographer to capture such a momentous event in their life, such as their wedding day. But there are HUNDREDS of other factors involved in custom photography besides the price! It truly is an investment. So, why DOES custom photography cost more?
Grab a cup of coffee, get comfy and read on…
When my husband and I first got married, I moved from Texas to California where my husband was currently stationed. My dad had given me his old 2004 Volvo 850 to use. My dad swears by European cars, no matter how old they are. In his eyes, they will never falter in their performance for the duration of their life. He did upgrade a few things here and there (don’t ask me, I have no idea about cars). But to be honest, that thing was old.
The seats were old leather seats and showed signs of significant wear and tear. The AC would go out occasionally, which if you live in California, no big deal. But the drive from Texas in the summer heat was just unbearable.
The breaks squeaked. And you had to break a mile away so you avoid hitting the car in front of you. The steering wheel was pretty loose. TOO loose, in fact, because twice I swerved on the road just trying to switch lanes.
You literally could not drive over 65 miles per hour if you wanted to live. It did have a sunroof, which worked just fine and I liked it. I’ll give it that.
To be honest, if it were 2004, the Volvo wouldn’t have seemed terribly bad. You could tell it had its “fancy” features, but the previous owner just did not take care of it at all. Probably slammed on the brakes too hard, abused the heck out of the seats, that sort of thing. I could go on and on listing the malfunctions of that Volvo. It seemed riding public transportation would have been a much more pleasant experience.
Speaking of public transportation…
I did take a bus ride once, and I swore I would never do that again. The bus was so crowded you could smell the passenger five seats down who didn’t shower for three days. It took almost 45 minutes to get to my destination that would have only taken me 10 minutes had I driven myself, and I happened to be the lucky little Asian lady sandwiched next to Bob the glob.
The bus itself was way past its new-car-scent days and well into the age of it-smells-so-horrific-I-might-just-vomit-right-here. And with public transportation, you’re totally risking a re-enaction of the Keanu Reeves movie, Speed.
Now, my husband did have his own car at the time. It was a 2003 Audi S4. A little older than my dad’s old Volvo, but boy did that sexy beast perform.
The interior had gorgeous, shiny leather seats that just hugged your body and which were heated for an exceptional experience. The seats themselves were fully customizable and programmable, so you can save your preferences on how high you want it to sit, how far back, the angle of the recline, etc.
It had that shiny wood trim against the leather for that sleek, sophisticated look.
It had a climate control system that set the temperature in exact degrees, so it maintained that temperature at all times. AND you could adjust the temperature for the driver’s side separately from the temperature for the passenger’s side.
The Bose speaker system sounded crisp and clear, and the screen on the dash would auto-detect a song playing on the radio and display its name and artist.
For an even more sporty feature, my husband got the Audi in manual, and it was also a convertible! My absolute favorite part because you could enjoy what the Audi was truly made for–an unforgettably fast, smooth, expertly-maneuvered drive down the highway. Don’t even get me started on how buttery smooth it handled.
Oh how I loved that Audi. Now…
WHAT IN THE WORLD DO VEHICLES HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH CUSTOM PHOTOGRAPHY?
You take my dad’s Volvo and my husband’s Audi. Both are just vehicles. You can get from point A to point B in either car just fine. Both cars get the job done.
But you get a PHENOMENAL experience riding in the Audi that will literally take your breath away. At least it did for me.
The same thing when it comes to custom photography.
I could go on listing how ridiculously expensive it is to run a photography business, which is why professional photographers charge such a handsome price. But no one outside the photography industry cares about the cost of lenses, cameras, insurance, travel, education and training, professional memberships, etc.
What clients can better relate to is that junky car or bus ride versus the ultimate experience of riding in a luxury car.
You can get a $50 photographer you found on Craigslist, or even your best friend who has a digital camera. Just to point out, it’s not the camera that matters. You’ll get the prices you desire, yes, but what about the quality of the photographs? Are they tack sharp? Can you see catchlights in your eyes? Are there harsh shadows on your face, over saturation, or worse, selective coloring such as sepia?
Were your needs fully met? Calls returned promptly? Images delivered on schedule? Did you feel like you truly mattered? Or were you treated just as a number? Because inexpensive photographers are notorious for taking on tons and tons of clients and not having high-quality work.
Now, let’s take a look at the Audi and the professional photographer.
The Audi had exquisite features, was made of high-quality materials, and was beautiful inside and out.
It performed expertly. It anticipated the needs of its passengers, and provided comfort way beyond what any average vehicle could provide.
That’s what custom photography is about.
A professional photographer is an expert in her trade. She has professional equipment, yes, but as I’ve said, it’s really not the camera that matters. What’s most important is she KNOWS how to work that camera. She has studied and mastered light and how to manipulate it to really flatter her subject.
When you choose a professional photographer, you will get impeccable customer service. You will get that 1:1 experience and will never feel like a number. Your photographer won’t suddenly stop your session short because she has another wedding to shoot.
And the results of your photo session will far exceed your expectations. You could have a screaming toddler for a whole 40 minutes during the session, but when you finally see the edited images, you’ll be shocked how many shots she got of your child grinning from ear-to-ear, looking like a perfect angel.
To put it simply, professional photographers are artists, and they create art.
So you see, just like the Audi, custom photography is a luxury item. It is not a commodity. It is not for everyone.
It’s not something you can just go off on a whim on because it’ll be fun.
It takes commitment, preparation and planning, and is truly an investment–both of time and money.
You can save some money and choose a beat-up Volvo or ride the bus–find an inexpensive photographer to take your family’s photos. Or, you can invest in a top-notch vehicle such as the Audi–hire a professional photographer to create art and preserve your family’s memories.
Whatever your decision, know this: You get what you pay for.
Life is too short not to invest in professional photography.
If you’ve made it reading this far, I hope I’ve enlightened you in some way, and that next time you’re considering booking that $50 photographer, or an ad on Craigslist, or your Uncle Bob for your family photos, you’ll think twice about it.
In closing, I’d like to include this little excerpt from an article written by Marianne Drenthe of Marmalade Photography and can be found at the Professional Child Photography site at HERE.
There is an old story about a ship that cost a company millions of dollars. Something went wrong in the engine room and the ship was stuck in dock. They called various “experts” who spent weeks trying to fix the issue to no avail and at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars. Finally a older gentleman was called in who simply brought in his small tool bag and a hammer. He set about pinging on various parts of the vast engine with his hammer, finally settling on one area. He spent a few minutes pinging in that area, took out a few tools and fixed whatever what was wrong. After a few moments the man straightened up, looked at the captain and instructed him to “start her up.” The captain disbelievingly went to get the engines started while the man sat in the engine room listening as the engine roared to life. The man tipped his hat as he exited the ship to the staff who sat dumbfounded because they had seen all the experts come on board for days with their expensive equipment only to have the ship not fixed. This man did it in a few minutes with a few pings of his hammer! A few days passed and the man sent the shipping company a bill for $10,000. The accounting department contacted him immediately. Why all the rumors mentioned that this man had only spent “a few minutes” fixing the ship “with his hammer and a few other random tools”. When questioned about why his bill was for $10,000 – did he accidentally leave an extra zero on the bill? The man confidently responded: “In fact the time was worth the $1,000. The other $9,000 was for the years of experience and the ability to discern the issue as quickly as possible for the company.”