Uncompromised Quality Photography
By Photographer Dan Harris
A home-studio photography business in Jacksonville, FL
1124 Riviera St. Jacksonville, FL 32207 (904) 398-7668
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We have also seen too many 'gypsy' operations that fly-by-night and pitch their 'photography tent' promising to do amazing things for minimal amounts of money. They talk like they have the 'secret' but miraculous elixir that finally broke the code allowing them to actually deliver a lot more for a lot less! (Some say the secret code is 'digital' and they will go on and on about how much they are saving by not using film ...silly photographer, film is such a small percentage of the cost of the overall process, when you look at the complete business side of the digital process - expensive cameras with very short life spans, computers, media, software, batteries, labor, etc. - you learn digital is actually more expensive than film!)
These gypsies seem to last for a time and although a few people may get the 'good deal', most just get trampled when the thief goes out of business or skips town with your money. Often the gypsies run a lot of advertisements promoting their 'low prices' but don't have the 'good business practices' to insure their longevity.
Ever increasing in popularity is the 'weekend warrior' moonlighting 'free-lancer'... her motto is: "have (one) camera, will travel." The offer sounds tempting and simple (-until her camera breaks in the middle of your wedding!) For a set fee and/or a price per roll they will take the photos and while your guests are blowing bubbles and wishing you well the snap-shooter will hand you a crumpled brown paper bag containing lots of rolls of exposed 35mm film (or a warm CD just burned of the digital images just taken) as you head-out on your honeymoon. (Cut to me asking: Is there a 1-hour photo lab in the Caribbean? Does anyone know a good photo editor who can fix my pictures on the CD without charging me more than I've already paid?)
The real problem is this slick 'flash-by-night' photo contortionist now has your money and is gone forever -you have paid him/her about half the price for only doing one-third the work! Now you (with minimal wedding photography and album experience and no professional connections) are expected to successfully complete the other two-thirds of the job! GOOD LUCK!
Although the moonlighter may mean well they are ultimately doing the couple a disservice, because they already have a full-time job, they don't have the time for any 'after-the-wedding' service (i.e. editing, re-touching, re-orders, cropping and organizing your photos nor do they have the time to help you design an album . . . no wonder they give you the film or CD) They want to get the majority of the photography profit while avoiding the majority of the work! Their prey are unsuspecting brides who have an ever shrinking budget and a strong desire to 'save money'.
Today some of these 'digital only' freelancers say they are 'including digital editing & retouching' of all? or just some of the files? (automatically batch processed? or individually done by hand?) In most cases these images are copied on a cheap CD (that will be unreadable in 3 years). Did you know the type of retouching done on a digital file is fully dependant on the final output size? What looks great on a 4x6 or on a computer screen may end up looking terrible as an 8x10! Of course this whole mislead philosophy is based on the false assumption that any consumer lab can print digital photos to the same quality as a professional photographers lab, and if you believe that, then you probably also believe it is simple, easy and inexpensive to print all your own photos on your inkjet printer at home! (the ink/paper alone will cost more than 'real photographs', it takes hours of time even when everything works right -which it won't- incorrect colors will fade and run... love your blue wedding dress! Ultimately you spend more and get less! After learning the hard way you will either have to pay all over AGAIN to get it done right OR you will have just wasted lots of money and end up with nothing worth having.)
Every week I get a call from a couple who now, months after their wedding, are trying to complete what their moonlighter photographer only started. They end up paying me the money they saved on the moonlighter to help them edit and organize their photos for their album. What happens after the moonlighter is gone and there is a problem? Have you ever done any large and important project that didn't have at least one problem along the way that had to be overcome or corrected! You are now stranded and have noone with experience to assist you through unknown territory. Ultimately you will have the opposite of what you originally wanted, you will have paid more for less!
In a destination wedding location, one that is far removed from the big city, there are never enough photographers for the peak season so there are usually a lot of fly-by-night photographers around. Many destination photographers are retired or moved to that location for the 'easy' money. If they work at an out-of-the-way destination location they often take advantage of the travel costs factor charging more for less because of their proximity. (Cut to me illustrating the example with: movie theater snacks and theme-park food) Most high tourism destination locations have big fluctuations in demand depending on the season. The best photographer at a destination location will maximize their income by only taking those jobs that pay the most. A destination photographer will make more money by doing three 2-hr. shoots in a day rather than one 6-hr. event. When you find a local photographer at the resort area that is willing to cover your complete event within your budget it too often is one of these moonlighters who won't have the quality and expertise you require. Recently we have seen some 'money hungry' venues that only refer those vendors that give them a kickback, too often the vendors that have to pay to get business aren't the best.
A true professional wedding photographers job is not only to pleasantly capture the important images of the wedding day in an unobtrusive manner but to do it despite technical problems, time restraints, schedule changes, equipment malfunctions and unforeseen problems and demands while still maintaining a pleasant demeanor.
But it doesn't end there, the true professional then assists the couple along every step of the way --professional developing, editing, cropping, re-touching, finishing and re-finishing each photo to be the best it can be (within the quoted price) mounting, framing, matting, etc. so they can deliver top-quality heirloom products for your family to enjoy for generations. (Not an easy job even for those professionals who do it regularly!) In the end what do you really have? And Who can you trust your memories to, who will give you the best quality for your money? If the photography is important to you, you will be much happier to pay a little more money now for a whole lot more quality and service! In the long run that will be the best value!
Beware of faked wedding 'sample' photos or albums where the photographer hired models to create a 'beautiful' advertising photo or album that were extensively digitally edited and now look nothing like a real wedding day photo or album would ever really look, ask the photographer to tell you the 'rest of the story' behind the photos and albums you like.
*Many of the best wedding photographers nationwide start at $2,000+ for a Saturday event. I don't think you can trust someone who claims they can 'do it all' for half that price, something will have to give. Why is top-quality wedding photography so expensive? Everything photographic from professional equipment to top-quality developing/printing is expensive but most people don't realize that a quality photographer will spend 40+ additional hours after the wedding consulting, preparing, cropping, retouching, ordering & assembling your finished products.
Today there are 4 times more 'wedding photographers' than there were just 4 years ago. The new volume of suppliers has done little to improve the quality. So today you really only have a 20% chance of finding a quality photographer! Remember to do your homework and weed through lots of the pretenders and posers to find what's real!
Photography is expensive, when all is said and done a good photography studio owner takes home 25% of their gross sales in a well run studio (as documented by a 4-year professional study of studios nationwide). If they did 50 weddings per year (which may cause burnout) at $1,500 each their paycheck would be $18,750 for the year or $7.21 per hour before taxes. How many well-trained professional do you know that work for less than $10 an hour? How long can they remain in business at that price? They will either have to cheat their costs (some ways of doing this are by: avoiding paying taxes; not repairing or upgrading equipment; using cheaper inferior materials; taking advantage of contract loopholes; not delivering what was paid for; basic lying, cheating and stealing.) OR raise their prices OR get into another business. So in the end, the choices you have in the marketplace are either: 'new cheap photographers' who may not survive and the 'established experienced professionals' who charge a fair price based on their real costs and services. It's your money, gamble if you wish.