One night I lay in bed with my laptop and I tuned into a CreativeLive webinar featuring Australian photographer Sue Bryce. While I am quite a different photographer than Sue, you can always learn something from other photographers and one of the most amazing nuggets of information she gave me was this: “educate your client.” If I learned nothing else for the rest of my photographic career, that tidbit of information is by far one of the most important things I have ever learned.

Most often we take our clients for granted that they know what we do in order to produce an image. But more often than not, we find ourselves at some point having to explain to a client what it is we do; why we do what we do; what works and what doesn’t work; and why they can’t have something done a particular way. This usually ends up with feelings of confusion and at the end of the day, a disappointed client.

We are one of the few professions that provide both a service and a product and we want to keep our clients happy so they will (a) be a returning client and (b) refer others to us.

But the more I work, the more I realize our clients really have no clue what it takes to produce a  professional quality photograph. The only thing they see is us snapping away and the final image and the bottom line is, there is a lot that goes on between my 1/200th of a second and the printed image that is presented to them. I decided to take the Sue Bryce approach and do an educational blog, hence the title of this one.

I charge a considerable amount for what I do. Any one of my comparable peers will charge in the same ballpark and whilst you (the client) may gawk at my price and may go elsewhere, I am met with the repeated cry of “you charge X amount of money for a photo shoot? It’s ridiculous!” Well with the advent of digital photography, the ultra megapixel cell phone cameras that are on the market, everyone is picking up cameras and calling themselves professional photographers and charging what they deem fit for a photograph. But let me explain to you what you ACTUALLY pay for.

  • You pay for the studio time.
  • You pay for my transportation to and from the studio (as well as my travel time).
  • You pay for my consultation.
  • You pay for my model scouting.
  • You pay for my hair/makeup referral.
  • You pay for my set up and break down time.
  • You pay for my assistant.
  • You pay for the electricity it takes for me to use professional lights.
  • You pay for the internet in the studio.
  • You pay for the camera actuations that I must use to produce the image (an actuation is when I press the shutter release on my camera and you hear that clicking sound that happens when the photograph snaps. Each actuation is like a heart beat, it pushes the camera closer and closer to death, so when I capture the perfect image in 10 frames or less, I then have to satisfy the client by taking an additional 125 frames of the same look, because it is inevitable you think you are not getting your money’s worth, therefore producing more wear and tear on my camera).
  • You pay for the hard drive space that these images are going to take up.
  • You pay for the server space that your images will take for you to view.
  • You pay for my archival hard drives for the images.
  • You pay for my time to transfer the images to the archival units.
  • You pay for my time to edit down the images.
  • You pay for my time to upload the images and create a proof site.
  • You pay for my viewing time.
  • You pay for my time to amass the images to begin the retouch.
  • You pay for my time to do the retouch, or you pay my retoucher to do the work.
  • You pay the inks, paper and wear and tear on my equipment to produce a print.
  • You pay for my time to upload images to third party printing companies to produce the prints.
  • You pay for my delivering the final images to you.

The only part that you really pay attention to is the actual photo shoot. So a lot of the things that actually go into producing a professional photograph, you don’t actually see. So when a photographer quotes his or her price to you, think about all the things you don’t see when that final photograph is presented to you.

Thank you, Sue, for teaching me to educate my clients.