How much should I expect to pay?
This is probably the hardest question to answer. One answer is: “Probably more than you would like to”. Having an understanding of the world of marketing in the photographic business might help.
One of the problems photographers have dealt with since the beginning is that most people feel uncomfortable getting their picture taken and tend to procrastinate. In order to tempt people to come in, some will a “free” session or an unbelievable “cheap” package. One old-timer said, “Do anything you can to get them in front of the camera. Pay them if you have to! Then once the pictures are done: sell, sell, sell!” A large chain may advertise a $14.99 package but they expect their sales people to end up with an average $250 sale. The selling session may be more important than the portrait session. While photography should be 95% photography and 5% selling, for some it is just the opposite. Some don’t even offer true retouching or they charge extra for it.
Other photographers are more straightforward. They charge appropriately for the session and artwork. They then will give the customer the original file to use as they wish. They can order prints or shop around. I feel that this is the most honest way of doing business.
What is involved in pricing? Four things.
“Image capture”. This is the portrait session itself.
“Image editing”. This refers to retouching and any necessary digital work. In my opinion no photographer should never release an image that he has not retouched as necessary and charged accordingly. Otherwise it is like going to a restaurant and the cook gives you a hamburger that isn’t cooked.
“Image output”. This refers to the final product, whether you order prints or receive the digital file. Some photographers will add additional charges to an image for businesses that use it for publication or advertising. At times some will only give you a lower resolution file and want you to pay for the large file or extended use of the image after one year. They say they have complete control of the use of the image. However, I do work for some of the largest law firms in the Pittsburgh area and some are international. When I asked if they would like to have some release for their use of the photo I took, they told me that it is considered “work for hire”, and it would not be necessary. Interesting isn’t it? Of course if it was a photo I took of the city and they wanted to use it, that would be different, but they hired me to do this portrait for them.
“Consultation”. This is perhaps the most critical. Any good photographer will not only spend time with you giving instructions before the shoot, but will use his experience to assist you in the selection. That can take more time than the shoot and requires patience on his part as well as maybe going back and taking more pictures with them. Any photographer that takes a whole bunch of shots and just gives you a site to go to to select yourself, or sends you a “contact” sheet, is not giving you the service that you need.