A Note on Content

The purpose of this blog is twofold: (1) to advertise my services as a photographer, and (2) to provide useful information to people who want to take better pictures, particularly when it comes to photographing children.

Although I have not organized the blog posts in any particular order, I have tried to start with basic information and build from there, so those wanting to learn more about photography and visiting the site for the first time may want to start with the oldest posts first.

If you have questions or comments about the blog, please feel free to leave a comment or to email me directly. I hope the photos and other information presented here help you appreciate the art of children's photography, and inspire you to take great photographs of your own.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Photo Pricing

Alright gals--and I say "gals" deliberately, as I'm relatively certain women make 99% of the decisions when it comes to purchasing children's photography--let's talk about pricing.

Photo disks are all the rage these days. So, for example, you pay $200-300 to a photographer and you get an hour long photo session (maybe more depending on the number of subjects) and then you get a batch of proofs and a disk with all the proofs that you can use however you see fit: send them to Costco, email them to friends and family, blow them up to poster size. Whatever you like. Good stuff, right?

I have my doubts, honestly, and here's why: think about the incentives there. You pay the photographer regardless of the quality of the final images. Don't like them? Tough. And what about that quality? The photographer's incentive is to do the bare minimum to keep you happy. In other words, because the photographer gets paid no matter what, he/she has every incentive to minimize (1) the amount of time devoted the session, and (2) the amount of time spent post-processing in Photoshop or some other program. In some sense, the more time a photographer spends getting you your images, the less money that photographer makes in relative terms. The photographer needs to be good--good enough to generate positive word of mouth and repeat business--but not too good.

In my personal and professional life, situations with skewed incentives like that (a benefit by one party comes at the expense of the other) rarely lead to an outcome in which both parties are satisfied. Rather, the best solutions occur when interests are aligned: if I win, you win.

What does that mean in terms of photography and photo pricing? Well, maybe the interests should be aligned there too.

If you're just paying for a photographer's time, where's the artistry? You're just paying them to record stuff--compensating them for time and equipment rather than the artistry and expertise they bring to the session.

If, on the other hand, you view photography as art (as I think we should), then you should only purchase what you want to purchase--the perfect moment, the classic expression, the work of art. That's the idea behind my pricing scheme: keep the sitting fee to an absolute minimum, and the consumer pays only for the images they love and want to keep for ever. In that scenario, my goal is clear: if I want to sell photos, I better produce the best possible images, no matter how much time it takes me to get them. The better the images, the more photos I'll sell. Bad images? Bad business.

But I repeat: photo disks appear to be all the rage, and if that's what consumer's want, well, that's what they'll get, even if it means so-so images.

Any thoughts?


  1. First off...you are the man. I am completely impressed that you took the time to blog between play dates and summer camps!

    I absolutely agree with your thoughts here. I hesitate to ever just hand over a disc of images. Even after you've poured your heart and soul into creating masterpieces...you have no idea where the client is going to get them printed. Like you mentioned, probably the cheapest place they can find. Quantity over quality. Never a good idea.

    I like your style. Classy.

  2. I'm in full agreement.

    Clients tend to respect your work in direct proportion to the amount they're willing to pay for it. Nickel and dime clients will do just that––nickel and dime every detail in search for the best bargain. Quantity (the disc) over Quality (the art). In the worst cases, they may even assume creative control over the work, and you become nothing more than a production monkey.

    Over the years I've gradually raised my rates for design work. Each time I've lost clients but retained those who still value my creative talent. The result is a smaller client list but a healthier client relationship and the freedom to create better work. It's no surprise that my worst client relationship experiences are with the clients who grudgingly paid the least amount for my work, and that my best, happiest clients often pay more than I ask before I expect it.

    Maybe it sounds pompous of elitest, but it's taken years for me rationalize those higher rates. I'm confident that what I offer is worth the amount. Ultimately, I'd rather be inspired by my work as it inspires my clients. Work that inspires will be well worth the cost.