Why Custom Photography?

Why should you choose Custom Photography?

I constantly receive coupons and specials in my e-mail inbox for portraits at chain department stores, I’m sure you do too. But, there are many differences between Custom Photography and a Chain Studio, and it’s not all about price.

  • Studios are not focused on the customer. The reason why department stores started offering portraits is to lure the customers into the store to buy things. Some stores even have you walk through a maze to get to the portrait studio. Have you ever noticed WHERE it is located in the store? Normally, close to the children clothing, and you may have to walk past some high-end items like electronics or home decor too. (You are my only priority)
  • Chain Studios book in 20 minute increments. You are not their priority, they need to fit as many people in as possible and sessions run over and the lines get longer. When you arrive, it takes a while for someone to acknowledge you, you wait and wait. The studio is running behind. The customer in front of you is seeming to take forever to make up their mind. You’re still waiting. You had planned it perfectly for your children to be happy, fed, not tired… but you’re still waiting. Finally, it’s your turn. The photographer goes through their typical “rule book” poses, the same ones they used on the family before you. Your children are unhappy and at this point very “uncooperative”, but 20minutes is all you get. You go to the sales computer to see your portraits, and your photographer keeps trying to up-sell you. You brought in a coupon, but come to find out, if you want more than one pose, you will be paying for their a la carte prices. What? You didn’t read the fine print? In the end, you booked a 20 minute session, were there for 2 hours, and left either feeling jipped or unimportant. (You will never wait in a line, I typically book only one session per day)
  • Chain Studios don’t hire photographers. They hand a camera to a new hire, put it on auto, and show them a red dot to put the child on for optimal lighting. Typically, the “photographer” that works there doesn’t know anything about composition, lighting, or even their equipment, it is just a paycheck to them. At the end of they day they won’t remember your name, if they even learned it to begin with. (I am dedicated to photography, to growing, to capturing your family in the most natural way)
Basically, what custom photography boils down to is value. The value of the customer, the value of the experience, and the value of the final product. Do you want to be important and have timeless images you will cherish for a lifetime? I have been a patron of chain studios. I did it because I didn’t know of any other options! I’m here to tell you, there is another way! There is a way for your family and your portraits to be valued. A way for you to have an enjoyable experience, something you will cherish for a lifetime. Unlike a big screen TV or an iPad; your family portraits will only appreciate in value. As the years pass and memories fade, your portrait art from a custom photographer will become priceless.

“What custom photography ultimately is all about is choice and experience. Custom photography is about finding someone who will photograph your family, give you devoted 1:1 attention without worry of who is next ‘in line’ or the feeling of a crowded portrait studio.”







“How in the world can you charge $60 for an 8×10 if it costs me less than $2 to print at x store?”

The truth of the matter is the answer to this question is multifaceted.  Much of the cost of a photographic print produced by a professional photographer has a lot to do with the time,  equipment costs, artistic vision and reputation of the photographer not to mention expertise and the usual costs of running a legitimate business. The cost of TIME Approaching it from a time standpoint, let’s imagine that you have hired a photographer who has work that you love.  This photographer is traveling an hour to your destination to photograph your session.  Here is an example of a time break down:

  • booking time: 30 minutes to one hour (client contact time + paperwork)
  • pre-session prep time (30 mins – 1 hour, includes equipment and back up equipment checks + vehicle checks)
  • one hour travel time TO session
  • 15-30 minutes prep time at client’s home
  • 90 minutes-2 hours with client photographing subject
  • one hour travel time FROM session
  • 30-45 minutes uploading time from digital cards from camera to computer
  • 30-45 minutes time spent backing up the original images
  • 2-5 hours editing time to present you with a diverse gallery of edited images
  • 1 hour prep time getting ready for ordering
  • 2-3 hours time with client for ordering images
  • 1 hour sorting through and checking order
  • 30 minutes-1 hour prep time for delivery
  • 30 minutes-1 hour getting order shipped
  • any additional phone time or time needed for add on ordering, shipment issues, quality issues

In this example, the time spent per client can range from just under 13 hours to 19 hours – dependent on the photographer’s level of service.  This is time dedicated only to ONE session.  When the photographer charges $150-$300 for the photo shoot (aka SESSION FEE) you are not just paying for the two hours of session time, you are paying the photographer for 12-19 hours complete time for your session.

Thanks to Marianne Drenthe of Marmalade Photography for the breakdown of why custom photography costs more.