Get a professional studio photo done

I was prompted to write this following a recent experience.

Professional photograph of toddler

Photography is my passion. It's the pixels flowing through my veins that keep me alive. It's an addiction and if I go more than a few days without pressing that shutter button I get withdrawal symptoms.

So why, might you ask would someone like me recommend using a professional photographer?

DISCLAIMER! At this point I should add that in writing this article I won't get paid a penny, and neither shall I be recommending any photographers. This article is just me expressing my opinion.

We have two small children at home and watching them grow up is one of life's joys. And to preserve this for the future we naturally take many photos of our little ones. The thing we can't do at home is take top quality photos that we are all in.

So we spent some money and went to a professional photographer's studio to have some photos done of all of us. A photographer paying another photographer to have photos done – were we nuts?

It's the really special photos
No, not really. The photos we got are the sort of photos that are real treasures. The ones that in decades to come, not years, decades, we will look back at and really cherish.

Professional photograph of familyThe photos we take day in day out are good enough. And they tend to range from snapshots to quite good photos.

But none are the real proper stunners that you can only get using professional equipment.

So, hands up if you have studio lights at home? How about a $3,000 camera with equally pricey lenses to match? How about a suitably skilled friend to take the photos?

If you can answer "yes" to all three you are very lucky! I'll bet that most people will be unable to say yes to even one of those on the list.

And that's my point – we can all take a decent enough photo ourselves, we just can't take the really great ones – largely through lack of professional quality equipment.

Now, there is obviously a cost involved here. The photos we recently had taken cost over $1,000. That's no small beer! But we don't plan to do this sort of thing every week.

We might do some more in a few years time but not before. What we have captured is a moment in time in our family's life. A moment that will never be repeated (kids really do grow up fast!) and in a picture that gets us misty-eyed when we look at it.

Worth every penny!

Aren't they ripping me off?
Whilst here, I'd like to add something about that cost. A lot of people will look at $1,000 (and it could easily have been more) and think for that price the photographer must be raking it in.
Professional photograph of mum dad and children
No, they're not. As the customer you will get an hour or two of the photographers' time. But that's just one part of the whole process.

Before you arrived at the studio the photographer would have spent time organising the studio, checking equipment to make sure it's functioning and doing the necessary admin.

Then you arrive and the photos are taken – here you are paying for his or her skill with the camera. The skill required to take pin sharp photos where everyone in the scene looks good.

Then you leave and the photographer sets to work going through perhaps 200 photos. Not the way most people go through photos, but going through with a very critical eye – examining each one. This alone can take 2-3 hours.

Then there's the pruning of the selection to ensure you get the best photos. Then there's your presentation to organise so that when you come back to the studio to see the photos everything is in place.

You get to see somewhere between 30 and 40 photos. And from these there are the little touch ups to be done using software.

And finally once you have made your selections there are the prints to organise. And not just any print, but ones where the colour has been calibrated to ensure accuracy.

Add it all up and that photographer will probably spend 10 hours on your shoot. Subtract the ongoing costs (such as studio hire, utility bills, spare equipment…) and the photographer is only seeing half that $1,000. $500 spread over ten hours work is $50 per hour. Which sounds okay, but there are slack times he or she has to budget for as well. Work it out over the course of a full year and if they make more than $40,000 they'll be doing well.

So they aren't ripping you off, just trying to earn a decent wage.

By the way, if photographers start using hard sell tactics on you I would walk away. I've heard of people that have been pressured into buying photos where the photographer has said "if your kids died tomorrow how would you feel about not buying these photos of them today?" Nasty. Steer clear and go to a different photographer. There are plenty of good honest ones out there.

Think of it as fine dining
To summarise, I'd like you to think of having a professional studio photo done in the same way you might think of fine dining. Sure we can all cook at home, but who has the time, the skill or access to the sort of ingredients you get from a fine restaurant. You wouldn't eat there every day of course, and you wouldn't get studio photos taken every day either.

Thanks for reading,

PS: The photos you see here are of us and were taken by Elliot – lovely fellow and great photographer. He works out of Snappy Snaps in Wokingham and I'd like to thank him for taking our photos!

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