The Value of Custom Photography

A tourist in New York’s Greenwich Village decided to have his portrait sketched by a sidewalk artist. He received a very fine sketch, for which he was charged $100.

“That’s expensive,” he said to the artist, “but I’ll pay it because it is a great sketch. But, really, it took you only five minutes.”

“Twenty years and five minutes,” the artist replied.

-Thomas Sowell

What is Custom Photography?

Let’s start by figuring out what Custom Photography is not. It is not like the photography studio models that you will find in a department store or a mall. I think it’s important for you, the customer, to understand how those models operate in order to understand the difference between them and a Custom Photographer.

Department Store Photography Studios: The most important thing you need to know about this model, is that they are a loss leader. That is really just a fancy way of saying that the store expects the studio to lose money. Have you ever been to a studio in a department store that didn’t walk you through the children’s section? Their studio is simply a way to get you into their store and hopefully spend some money purchasing items. Those low prices you pay for your images? They don’t even begin to cover the real costs of the employees, the equipment and the images.

The Mall/Chain Studio: This model does have higher prices than the department store model. They are a model that desires to be profitable since they are a stand alone. Their model relies heavily on the quantity over quality model. They have limited scenes to choose from and you will rarely spend more than 30 minutes getting images. You will often be lured into these studio’s by a great coupon. In most cases you walk out spending much more than you intended.

It is important to note that in both of these mainstream models of photography studios, their employees are not photographers. They have no formal training in photography and are just trained to set up several backdrop scenes and entertain the children.

How is Custom Photography different?

The best way to answer this question is to walk you through a typical Custom Photography session. Once you’ve decided to go with a custom photographer the first step after picking your appointment day and time is to discuss with the photographer what kind of images you want. Do you want just your children or family? You already know you like your photographers style, but you can explain the vision for the images you want. Oftentimes your photographer will consult with you about clothing choices and how color and prints can help make or break a great image. If they do not have a studio, they will also help you choose the location that best suits your vision.

Your session with your photographer can often last 1-3 hours. Our goal during the session is to make you and your children happy and comfortable. If they need a snack break or just a moment with a camera not pointing at them, we are more than happy to oblige! The goal of the session is to have some fun and let your photographer capture that.

After your session your photographer will go through all the images shot and narrow it down to only the best. Each image will be edited to get a final product that is a work of art.

Photographers often have several ways of ordering your images. I prefer to have an in-home ordering session. At the in-home ordering session I bring a 5×7 of each image to your home where we go through them all and I can help you choose products that best suit your needs. I will bring samples and help you plan out how to display your images.

So, the simplest way to answer the question of how Custom Photography is different, is that it is all about YOU! I pride myself in creating artwork for you to display in your home and creating an experience that makes having portraits done fun and rewarding.

Why does it cost so much?

Custom Photography costs what a market determines it is worth. If you think about the quote that began this article, you’ll understand that so much goes into one portrait to hang on your wall. The years the photographer spent studying and perfecting her skills and the amount of money she has invested in her equipment just starts to touch on what determines the cost.

Just as artistic skill has value, so does time. From the preparations to the actual session to all the behind the scenes work, it is fair to estimate that your photographer spends 5-10 hours on you and your family alone.

Also, as with any business, there are cost and taxes that are involved with the daily running of that business that are also incorporated into the pricing.

The bottom line is that beautiful portraits of your family that will last generations have value. Custom Photography is not the right choice for everyone. If the beauty and timelessness of these portraits appeal to you, you need to ask yourself if they have value to you. Is Custom Photography the right choice for you?

melanie perry - September 14, 2010 - 2:12 pm

i love your website and wish to have my 3 little girls photographed soon! maybe sepia or black and white…i love anything vintage and love the shabby chic setting! urns, flowers, water…i used to live in california on the beach but never got those photos…it still bums me…i would love photos of my girls done before any more time goes by!
zoe is 8, sadie is 5, and lily is 9 months!


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