Suburban Snapshots

What I Do When I'm Not At
My Other Two Jobs

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I don't usually talk about my life as a photographer here, mostly because where would I fit that in between the hilarious antics of my ever-gropey husband and back-talking daughter? But after a couple of inquiries this week from potential photo clients, I wanted to shed a little light on how we work, why we charge what we do, and what to do if you want to hire a professional, location photographer for your family.

A couple of days ago two women contacted me separately, referred by a frequent client of mine, to get some information about my fees. They'd seen my work and had glowing testimonials, but I could tell by their quick replies to my rate information that I likely wouldn't hear from them again. I know I ought not take it personally, but I admit that it irks me, not least of all because I have the luxury — unlike full-time photographers with no other source of income — of being very reasonably priced.

My story is this: I started posing and shooting family members at the tender age of nine, using a Kodak Disk camera. I graduated to shooting in a mall studio after a stint selling cameras and equipment (also in the mall) during high school. Lacking confidence, I majored in literature rather than photography because I didn't think my portfolio was good enough. Then, after working professionally as a web designer for eight years (shooting on the side all the while), I completed an amazing digital photography program in Boston, went $20,000 in debt, spent another few thousand on equipment, quit my job and hoped for clients.

I've since photographed for hundreds of hours, hundreds of subjects, and am still thousands in debt. It took me years to feel I was good enough to refer to myself as a photographer, but I know now I have the skill and experience to back it up.

So when I can tell that a potential client is going to bargain shop for the next photographer who shows up on a Google search, I do take it a little personally. There's plenty a rate doesn't tell you, like how this person will treat a client, the clients' kids, dogs or their ornery great-grandfather. What does this photographer know about client service beyond delivering great images? How much pride does she take in her work?

If you're looking for someone in your area to photograph an event or a portrait, know that there's plenty wrapped into that rate that won't be apparent. If the work is beautiful, if it moves you, if you flip through the online portfolio and sigh, talk to that photographer, get a sense for how you'd work with them, then figure out your budget.

Most of us, self-taught or otherwise, take great pride in our work. We're professionals who feel privileged being paid to do what we love, we don't expect to get rich. We're trained not only in technical nerdery, but in human interaction. We only want you to love your photos as much as we love making them.

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