Investment: Seeing 'The Whole Picture'
1) Communication before the session. Advising on locations, clothing, date/time, etc.
2) The Portrait Session
3) After the session I go back to my office and upload your images to my computer.
4) I import the images to my editing software
5) I sort through them and delete the "bad" images.
6) Another round of sorting images.
7) Adjust remaining proofs for color, contrast and cropping.
8) There may be another round of sorting images to narrow down to the best.
9) I schedule a viewing session to come to your house and show your images on a large screen tv, or, if not possible, I will upload your images to an online proofing gallery and spend time creating a personalized email with instructions on how to place your order. Sometimes I do both.
10) Once your order is placed I retouch your final files to the exact size, resolution and sharpening needed for each specific product ordered. See CONSUMER vs PROFESSIONAL PRINTS and ASPECT RATIO and CROPPING for more info.
11) I place the order with my printing company with your final retouched files.
12) I receive, inspect and deliver the order.
THE PORTRAIT SESSION:
Custom photography ultimately is all about choice and the experience; finding someone who will give you personalized attention, from pre-session to delivery of final photo products.
Every session is different. The dynamic and number of subjects, the purpose of the session, the time needed, the locations chosen, whether there is a lot of walking around involved and the expectations of what will be done with the final images.
Post session, a custom photographer will typically show you a fairly extensive proofing gallery to show the good images that meet their high standards. Final images are color corrected and retouched.
Custom photographers are also known as boutique studios, offering a range of high quality service and products. Think of Lisa Sandler Photography + Design as your personal photographer vs cookie-cutter services such as JCPenny, Lifeftouch or Picture People.
THE POST PRODUCTION:
The editing and post-processing of the images from the Photo Session takes 8-10 hours. I don’t just snap the images and hand you a disk. Every photo I take gets my personal attention.
How do I crop and color it? What feeling do I want that photo to evoke?
Will I need to brighten eyes, smooth skin, crows feet or dark circles under the eyes?
Is there a great photo of the four of you but one person has their eyes closed? I might have to borrow a head or set of eyes from another photo.
My post-processing style is artistic, creative and unique. I use my background in graphic design, combined with extensive industry experience in editing, to turn memories into art worth framing.
WHY DOES IT COST MORE?:
The digital revolution has brought amazing flexibility for the photographer, the hobbyist, the professional and the amateur. Camera equipment is still considerably more expensive when you factor in it's lifespan, the need for additional resources for processing those images, the time it takes to get a usable image and the effort that goes into all of this.
Even though you pay $1.99 for a print at your local drugstore and paying for film is pretty much a thing of the past (I still have to pay for memory cards and storage hard drives) many clients wonder why you pay $30 and more for a custom photography print. Professional photographers hear this: "How can you charge $30 for an 8×10 when it costs me less than $2 to print at the local drug store?"
The answer is has to do with the time, equipment costs, artistic vision and reputation of the photographer, expertise, the usual costs of running a legitimate business, AND most importantly, QUALITY. See CONSUMER VS PROFESSIONAL PRINTS.
Keep in mind that most of what you pay for an 8x10 print does not go to me. I still have to pay the printer and factor all the time involved in getting that final file ready for printing. That digital file you think just takes "a click of a button" takes a lot of time after the click.
THE TIME BREAKDOWN:
You hire me because you saw my work on my website. Let's say I'm traveling an hour to and from your on-location Portrait Session.
Session prep (30 mins - 6 hours: includes charging batteries, equipment and back up equipment checks + vehicle checks)
one hour travel time TO session
• 15 - 30 minutes prep at client's Shoot Location
• 1-2 hours with client photographing subject(s)
• one hour travel FROM session
• 30 - 45 minutes uploading from digital cards from camera to computer
• 30 - 45 minutes backing up the original images
• 2 - 8 hours editing to present you with a diverse gallery of edited images
• 1 - 3 hours exporting and uploading files to client's online proofing gallery
• 1 - 3 hours traveling to client's home to show images on large screen tav
• 10 - 40 hours retouching high-resolution images in the photographer's style
• 1 hour prepping for ordering
• 1 hour sorting through and checking order
• 30 minutes - 1 hour prepping for delivery
• 30 minutes - 1 hour getting order shipped
• any additional phone time or time needed for add on ordering, shipment issues, quality issues
As you can see, average client time for a Photo Session ranges from 12 - 25 hours dependent on the number of photos taken and editing time required. This is time dedicated to your Photo Session and culling ONLY. This does not include Post-processing and Retouching.
Equipment and Software: A professional camera with a selection of quality lenses and digital storage mediums and computer set up can run from $10,000 - $30,000. I have three cameras, five lenses, five portable flashes with triggers so I can use them off camera, various stands and modifiers to use with the flashes, mono-lights that plug into the wall, backdrops for head shots and much more. Sometimes I need to rent a lens or other equipment. A good lens for portrait photography can run up $900 to $3500. A dependable computer system with the latest creative and business software, hard drive space for storage of digital files and images runs from $5000 - $10,000. I have to maintain and fix camera and photography equipment when they have issues.
Professional labs: Print labs dedicated to the professional photographer cost more and offer a higher quality range of products that allows the custom photographer to continually offer new, innovative products for my clients. See CONSUMER VS PROFESSIONAL PRINTS.
There is of course much more: including costs of running the business, taxes, insurance, auto and gas costs, costs of advertising/marketing, costs of website domains and hosting.
REPUTATION AND EXPERTISE:
Becoming well known for quality work and a good reputation takes a LOT of my time. My expertise comes at a cost. I spend time learning my craft; hours taking classes, learning the latest in both camera and computer equipment and software. I belong to professional photography groups who help each other with technique and style.
As a professional photographer, I am constantly reinvesting in my business to create my reputation. I designed and maintain my website myself. I write all the copy/text in my site and on my blog, such as this page about custom photography. I have FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM accounts to share my latest work. I have to order new PHOTO PRODUCT samples to be able to show my clients what I offer.
Custom photography has become of a luxury than a chain department store experience. It's not for everyone. It requires a level of commitment, investment in time and money, planning for subjects/clients and requires a larger time commitment for the photographer as well.
Clients who enjoy taking a more active role in the creation of their families’ memories have the desire to have portrait art that is truly personalized. Clients looking for head shots should hire a professional who understands lighting different skin tones and retouching final images. There are what my industry calls, 'Shoot and Burn Photographers.' These photographers charge a small fee and throw all the images on a disk for you. No editing, no care taken with making sure all images are their very best art. If that is the way you want to go, I am not the photographer for you.
There is a great deal of time involved in creating high end custom photography sessions for a client. The luxury of great service, better choices and a superb end product. The result of all this are heirloom quality images. To sum up, the time invested at the Portrait Session is only a small portion of time involved in this process.