I recently came across this great article by Genine Gullickson about “Custom Photography”.  Many moons ago, and before it was my world, I am not sure I fully realized that there was another option to the standard mall studio when it came to children and families.  In fact, when I initially asked my wedding photographer JP Elario to photograph my husband and I with our first daughter, I was somewhat surprised he was willing to do it.  Since Lifestyle and On-Location Custom Photography is still a new concept to many, I get a lot of questions from clients about pricing and what they are really paying for.  Genine’s article provides an great glimpse into the “behind the scenes” of Custom Photography…

Custom Photography – 411

More and more you hear people as well as families talking about Custom Photography.  And probably more often than not, they as well as others don’t really understand what that means!  What’s so different?  And why does it cost so much more? Both great questions, which have excellent answers!

Over the years I have been asked –If a 5×7 only costs around $1.00 to print; Why do you charge $35?” My answer… “You’re not paying me for the piece of photo paper. You’re paying me for the image.”

This really is only the tip of the iceberg!   So let’s back up to what Custom Photography is.

Custom Photography – or a Custom Portrait Session is a unique experience tailored to you and your family.   Generally clients and I speak multiple times prior to a session.  We’ll discuss their families, what type of setting they are considering, the collections offered, as well as specialty products.  It’s during these very first contacts that the 1:1 experience begins, and the relationship is started.

Some photographers have studios; others shoot onlocation or a combination of the two.  I shoot solely on location which means I travel either to my clients’ homes, or a location – even locations where they would like to have their portraits done.  Obviously this isn’t a mall styled appointment!

Your wants ride in the front seat of the trip from start to finish.

During a Standard Session with me, I spend approximately 2 hours shooting.  Hundreds of images are taken to create a superb gallery.  Now here’s where the time really begins to tick.  All photographers cull down these images to cream of the crop.  Each image is given individual attention – adjusting colors, exposures, skin softening, blemish removing, under eye circles — and the list goes on! Easily 4-6 hours of time can be spent for this process!

Done?  Not yet!   Images still need to be…

  • Backed up
  • Resized and watermarked
  • Sample layouts created
  • Loaded into the gallery
  • Preview images loaded to Blog along with a text post
  • Preview images loaded to Facebook

Now we’re getting a bit closer. J

Depending on the Photographer or Studio, an in person or online ordering appointment needs to be scheduled.  I use the online style – but personally consult with my clients as they review their images.   Again, personalized is the key word.  It’s not uncommon for me to spend an hour or more on the phone with a client discussing images and the best collection for them.  Once the decisions have been made, the order then needs to be filled.  Another list of to-do’s for the photographer!

  • Images need to be uploaded to the professional lab or labs being used
  • Products ordered
  • Invoices produced and sent
  • Cross checking of all ordered products received
  • Repackaging and shipping to client
  • Follow up call/emails to clients

It’s time to switch gears.   What does your photographer need to make all of this possible?

The obvious answer – a camera to start.  Professional cameras, professional lenses (yes we need many) flash/lighting systems, a computer system, professional editing software etc.  Thousands upon thousands of dollars are invested.  A single lens can run around $2000!

Hypothetically, anyone could go out and purchase these items.  Having and Knowing – two totally different things!   Just because someone has the tools – doesn’t mean they have the skills.

Custom Photography is a unique experience.  One that requires clients as well as photographers to commit to the experience and process.

I truly love what I do – love the personalized experience, and connection I make with people.  And of course love that I get to showcase part of their lives in stunning portraits.