Photography – Shoot & Save – Buy & Keep or Simply lose your images? What a buyer of professional photography should know today.

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Article Content: Photo lab produced photo paper Prints VS Digital files… which are better in 25 years?  How to be sure you are not taken but “taken care of” by your professional photographer.

First, “Digital Files or not”  Your decision…your memories.

  • Digital Flies  

“Please sir, would you process my digital photos for a print off my 9″x 9″ floppie disc.” …Store owner…What is THAT?”  (Actually pre-digital photo age, just making a point)

On the digital photography side we have gone from 3.5 x.35 floppies to CDs to DVDs to memory sticks and more.  How does that hurt your photography?  On the Digital side, let’s get our crystal ball out and see what may be coming sooner than we like…What format will be available to read our current digital files in 5 or 10 years?  Like the above mentioned “9 X 9” floppies, there is no way to read those now. What will you do with your Family or Wedding DVD Digital Files?  We can’t read files from formats only 10 years old now with out having to buy specialty equipment and software.  Beware – Current Digital Format File carriers may not be available in near years to come…so what will be?  That answer is always changing and we don’t know what we will be using in 5 years.  (see buying prints below to help)

  • Your Purchase to start with, Mr./Ms. Photographer, Can I get my images on a CD please?

Most photographers will provide a CD of images.  How many and the cost will vary all across the board.   They can range from $0.00 (bad) to large sums of money (not great) because you now have the ability to print the images over and over with no additional payment to the person who took them.  Is that Fair?  The price you pay and the level of photography you get determines the fairness for both sides. You do get what you pay for one way or another.  But figure this.  One 8×10 print from a pro studio averages $38.00 retail per print.  included in the print was not only the time it took to create the original image, but also includes any digital work, needed cropping, sent to lab, picked up, and given to client, or time to burn the CD and the CD $$…it all takes time…no one wants to work for free!  So the photographer, after expenses will only make a portion on that one print.  Up until recent years a studio profit model would include selling prints as part of their income, so with no print sales, what should the CD cost?  Now the CD – all the same time above takes place except for picking up the image from the lab.  You now get an ave. priced image of $38.00 in a format that you can use over and over with no additional profits going to your photographer who we hope worked to get you the best image for your personal use.  (Commercial is a whole different situation.)  You can now print your 8x10s, 5x7s and wallets for all your family from the cost of one print, if it is sold to you for a single unit price.  The right way to sell a Digital File is to increase the average cost to cover the studio loss, but not to gouge the client.  It’s not out of line to ask 3 times the cost per image for unlimited use.  $38.00 x 3 = $114.00 for one image.  So let’s say you want 10 images.  No one will pay $1000.00 for 10 images – but you can see how it deflates the income for the studio to just hand out CDs .  A CD is generally appreciated after the session fee and a minimum amount of prints have been paid for.  This way both parties get what they want and need, again, all prices will vary.   Accept a higher than one print fee – you may want to come back to an open business next year!

Photo Lab Produced Prints on Photo Paper.  A CD or DVD may only have a 5 or so year life span.  The cloud could change drastically in upcoming years – and I already know someone who lost all their images to a Verizon Cloud.  BEST CHOICE is a Picture Print from a professional photo lab (not ink jet) that will have an archival period of 100+ years and will always be there.  Easy to take care of…You wouldn’t mistreat your DVD, so you would likely take care of a print.  Q. Do you need 2000 wedding photos, or would you love to enjoy a professional album or your favorite images in prints.  Getting prints gives you many more options.  Your favorite photos professionally framed will out last your lifetime and become a great family heirloom.  Give them as gifts to family and friends too.  If the event was so very important, prints to your friends is an awesome gift.  MAIN POINT – they will outlast all other medians for your photos.

  • A TRUE Professional Photographer, what should you expect?

Many new photographers entering the photography market giving the farm away for a few extra bucks any day of the week hurts the professionals still trying to get it done the right way. But YOU, the buyer is still on the hook for making sure you get the product you pay for, and for the full understanding of  what you paid for by understanding and following a few simple guidelines.

For instance, what I call a true professional photographer is a business that is registered with the state as a business, has an occupational license, has insurance.  But, to be clear, if they have all the above, it still does not make them a good photographer.  So now you have to decide, do I want a good photographer or a photographer who can get the best images and give the best advice for what I am asking for…you are paying for this like any other service and product, so you should get what you pay for…or just get what you pay for…there is a difference.  Get information about the above mentioned and get referrals…AND CALL THEM ALL!

  • Remember how you get what you pay for…

Let’s use a wedding for an example.  How can $500.00 ever cover the cost of shooting a wedding by a professional photographer?  There are too many expenses to operating a business.  For example, pro equipment: a wedding photographer must have at least 2 duplicates of camera bodies, flashes, and lenses to start in case one or more fail.  They must be insured and provide you with a certificate of insurance.  They will have additional costs such as marketing, computers, office materials, accountant/tax prepares, and then taxes are just to start, the list can grow expeditiously from there.  The cost to shoot a wedding is a combination of billable hours (time) and studio expenses (listed above).  Figure a 6 hour wedding:  your wedding photographer can spend “up to” 30 billable work hours from start to finish.  There also has to be a cost factor for running the business factored in.   For a good photographer to shoot an engagement session and wedding, as you start your journey to find the right one for your wedding, you need to consider nothing less than $2000.00 and up just for the very basic services.  After the entire service for the wedding photos is complete, the photographer needs a minimum amount to live on after the cost of expenses.  Expenses are different for all photographers.  The better the photographer, along with the more you want, the more it should cost.   A good average to start your budget should be in the area of $3500.00.  This can give you some wiggle room and help keep you from falling into the hands of a photographer you may never see again after the wedding…ask your friends, it still happens, even with family shoots and seniors.

  • Then there is a professional’s photography knowledge

Can they shoot the images correctly “in-camera” or are they expecting to shoot and fix later?  There is only so much you can fix.  You can’t fix blur, you may not fix amber yellow if you want true skin tones.  If they expect to only shoot and  fix later – RUN away very fast!  All professionals should want to open the images up in a software format to make sure they only provide the best in the end, which is all you should pick from.  Minor adjustments or cropping that can be done quickly is the sign of a photographer who knows what they are doing.  DO NOT ALLOW your photographer to take them out of the camera and hand them to you – NO MATTER what you paid.

Think of it all like this.  You can get down the road in an old dumpy nearly broke down car…not wanting to be seen in it.  Or you can drive a decent car and still wave to your friends.   You really get what you pay for!

So if you want really good photos for your special memories, follow the pointers, hire the right photographer and make sure you create professional lab prints for your true archival photography lifetime sake.  Just a little early investment will go a long way you entire life!!!

Article by: John Phoenix, Phoenix Photography Inc., Greater Kansas City, find us here: Phoenix Photography Inc.

5x5 rusitc frame 7 dpi