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I had started writing a similar article/rant about this very subject, but then I stumbled on this post which very perfectly summed it up.    Yes, there are many photographers who charge so much less than DCPG or other mid to high-end custom photographers, but price is just part of the consideration.    Please, please, please, read on:

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The digital revolution has brought amazing flexibility and ability to control various factors during the image taking and making process. Photographers, the hobbyist, the professional, the amateur all benefit from this ability to manipulate pixels. However, with flexibility comes a price. Digital camera equipment is still considerably more expensive when you factor in its’ lifespan, the need for additional resources for processing those images, the time it takes to get a usable image and the effort that goes into creating a work of photographic art.

We all know that you can go to the local Walgreen’s and pay a $1.99 for a print – as a client you may wonder why you may pay upwards of $50, $70, $90 for a custom photography print. Photographers hear this statement every once in awhile:

“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:

  • 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.

The COSTS of Maintaining a Custom Photography Business:

Regarding equipment costs, a good quality professional camera with a selection of good optical quality lenses and digital storage mediums and computer set up can run from $10,000-$30,000 costs dependent on the photographer. Even though you can purchase a really good quality digital SLR for about $2100 there are still other costs related to photography. A good lens for portrait photography can run from $900 to $2500. A dependable computer system with software loaded for business and creative usage can run $2500 to $8000 dependent on the photographer.

Then come lab costs for specialty products. A good photographer knows the lab is integral to their success. Photography labs dedicated to the professional photographer often cost more and offer a range of products that allows the custom photographer to continually offer new, innovative products for you, the discerning client.

Discussion other costs of running a photography business could take awhile so we’ll skip many of the intricate details. There is of course much more: including costs of running the business, taxes, studio rental/mortgage if the photographer has ownership of a dedicated studio, vehicular costs, costs of advertising/marketing, costs of sample pieces that the photographer will likely bring to your session, etc.

APPLES to ORANGES to BANANAS:

Often times clients will mention to their photographer that X studio in the mall/department store only charges $19.99 for an 8×10 “sheet” or they may mention other things related to discount photography chains. The fact is those discount chains make their money on volume, not on customized 1:1 service. In February 2007 leased photography retail space by a rather well known discount department store that started in Arkansas closed down 500 of their portrait studios across the nation? The reason is simple, you cannot make money on 99¢ “professional” prints if you do not sell enough of them. Interestingly enough – those same studios that offer the loss leader packages often charge much much more for their a la carte pricing (as high as $40-50 for an 8×10). The whole reason the big department stores began offering portrait services in the first place was to get you, the savvy consumer, in through their door so that you could spend more money with them in other departments. Your “PORTRAITS” are considered the “loss leader”.

Going to a chain studio, as a consumer, you don’t have the benefit of 1:1 attention for 2 hours at your home where your child is allowed to explore, play and be comfortable in their home environment, nor do you get the experience that many custom photographers are known for or the lovely captures of natural expressions. You simply get a bare bones, “SAY CHEESE” experience. Keep this in mind when selecting a photographer.

REPUTATION/EXPERTISE of the PHOTOGRAPHER:

Being in demand, being well known for quality work, having a good reputation often costs time on the photographer’s part. Their expertise comes at a cost, their time learning their craft and learning the intricacies of lighting and the commitment put forth on their end to create a persona about their business that oozes professionalism. A great number of photographers go a very long time from the time that they purchase their first good camera to making money at the business of photography. Many photographers, when first starting out, rush in thinking that the business will be easily profitable in no time, how expensive could it be to get a camera and use it to create their dream? They often neglect to factor in the cost of business, the cost of equipment, software, back ups, etc..

Being of sound reputation, a better professional photographer knows that they must always reinvest in their business to create the reputation of being top notch. To create good work good equipment, reliable equipment, back up equipment is a necessity. The photographer who desires to be known as better/best/unparalelled reputation-wise knows that the most important thing they can do for their business is reliability and dependability. This is how reputations get built. Good work often is a wonderful side product of building that good reputation.

I hope this (lengthy) article helps shed some light on WHY a custom photographer is a better choice for your family’s memories. The photographs that are produced as a result of the professionalism and dedication that your photographer has will be cherished for a lifetime (or more) and great thought and consideration should be placed into hiring who is right for your family’s most precious investment.

content is inspired by discussions with other photographers, my own personal experiences and outline based on an article by San Diego Photographers Caught On Film Photography

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Couldn’t have said it better myself! I hope this helps you guys understand our industry…

I have been meaning to post some before and after examples for a really long time because one of the main things that separates DCPG from other photographers is our post-processing (aka editing, retouching, and yes, “photoshopping”).   Don’t get me wrong, we do not believe that Photoshop can “save” a bad photo or is a substitute for fundamental photography skills, but we do know that it can make a huge difference.    We know full well we could just shoot-to-burn and make tons of money that way; it works just fine for lots of photographers.   DCPG sees the art in what we do and treat each individual photo as such –  this love and attention before, during and after we take a photograph is what our clients pay for.  

Over the years, we have run into a little bit of resistance.  Some people want photos straight from the camera to save time.   Others wonder why our prints and products are more expensive than say, Wal-Mart or Picture People.   True, there is no cheap, same day, in-and-out service with DCPG.   However, what you sacrifice in so-called convenience is worth it to get a one of a kind piece.   Anyone who owns a small business, has a family or is getting married will tell you how central it is to their lives.    We respect and revere that by making sure that the final product beautifully displays your vision, your love and your history.  Your reflection, our artistry.

Long story short, we are going to break our long-standing rule of never posting unedited images just to show you the DCPG difference.   Here is a sampling of unedited photos and their finished counterparts:

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More “before and afters” can be found on our Facebook page!

In other news, we will be releasing a Mother’s Day promo soon.  Stay tuned…

How did I not blog this yet?? Yikes!

24SevenCities.com / Taste Magazine, a new local website + quarterly themed magazine (first theme being food, obviously), launched on the 16th! DCPG worked extremely hard on this first issue – we photographed and edited shots of food, chefs, details and interiors for 21 local restaurants all in about 5 days.  We were exhausted beyond belief, but seeing our photos in gorgeous print and covering a good 90% of the magazine was amazing.  It was also really cool to experience all these restaurants that we’d either not heard of or never thought to try out.  Big big thanks to Hannah and Allison, the editors/owners of SevenCities and all the restaurants/chefs/owners who graciously welcomed us! Definitely check out the website, but please, also pick up a copy of Taste – it’s beautiful!

http://www.24sevencities.com/magazines/taste

The launch at Big Easy was packed, but fun.   Here’s DCPG enjoying the fru-its of our labor:

Also, be sure to check out Restaurant Week!! Our personal faves (from being heffers and eating most of the food we shot) were the Boot, Rajput, Imperio Inca, Shula’s, and Eurasia.

Here’s our cover image, shot by Lester.  This yummy looking steak was from the ultra luxurious Byrd & Baldwin Bros.  in downtown Norfolk:

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A few outtakes and faves —

Some delicious looking steak also from Byrd & Baldwin:

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The beautiful dining and bar area of Terrapin, near the Oceanfront.   This was my favorite restaurant interior design.  Very simple, but well done:

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Chef Willie Moats of the Big Easy on Tazwell:

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Bar area at the Big Easy.  How awesome is that floor? Also, note the cameo appearance of SevenCities editor, Allison Hurwitz, working hard in the background:

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Taste’s preview/advertising guide making a guest appearance at the Terrapin staff line-up:

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Josh and Dave (formerly of Relative Theory Records), who own and run the Boot – great restaurant and great venue:

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All this restaurant work plus the hotels that Mendell shoots has inspired me to start plans for a new DCPG website devoted to our commercial work.   Keep an eye out for that!  Speaking of new websites, if you haven’t visited our glam/boudoir/makeover division at www.dcpgmalaya.com, please check it out!

Cheers to a new magazine, new president and a new year!

– Cies