Sunday, October 17, 2010

4 Things Your Photographer Is and 4 Things They're Not | Boston family photographer

After spending countless hours, days, weeks and months perusing photographer forums I've come to the conclusion that there are 4 things your average family photographer most certainly IS and 4 things they are NOT. Please bear with me as I try to be funny through my sickie Sunday :D

4 Things Your Photographer IS...
1. A Parent
Every single family photographer I know is a parent. This means we are used to the hissy fits, the tragic meltdowns and the oil-to-water like aversion your toddler has to the camera. Every time I get an uncooperative toddler the parents apologize profusely for their behavior. Don't sweat it! It makes me feel better that my kids aren't the only ones that think standing still for 3 seconds is akin to getting your limbs ripped off. One simple apology will do just fine.

2. Patient
Sometimes it takes 10 mins of running around, dancing like a fool, making silly noises, and talking about crazy monkeys just to get ONE good shot. Don't bother demanding your child to sit and smile because as I'm sure every parent knows, the harder you push a toddler, the harder they push back. And an irritated toddler doesn't give good smiles!

3. Busy
Taking pictures isn't the only part of our job. Sometimes it's not our only job at all! Please please please (yes, I'm on my knees begging!) be on time to your shoot. If you aren't going to be on time, at least give us a call and give us your ETA. We may have clients lined up right after you, we may only have a babysitter for a certain amount of time. Whatever the case may be, it's just plain good manners to let us know if you're going to be late. Barring a true, provable emergency, if you don't bother showing up, don't expect your deposit back. Just because we didn't shoot pictures doesn't mean we didn't spend time preparing for your shoot by gathering props, creating a pose list tailored to your shoot, checking the weather and lighting, etc.

4. An Artist
Photography is an art, just like painting. Each photographer has their own style. If you don't like what you see on their website, that photographer is not a good fit for you. People who like Picasso like his style. He is unique. Every photographer has their own unique style as well. You should hire your own Picasso. Don't hire any old photographer and request they change their style to what you want. Most photographers have spent years perfecting their style. Asking them to change it is not only insulting but also doesn't give them the necessary years of practice and will likely result in images not nearly as pleasing as you expect. Also, our status of being artists entitles us to be a little kooky and eccentric. It's the fun part of our job description. :-P


4 Things Your Photographer is NOT...
1. Walmart
As much as we'd LOVE (I think love isn't quite strong enough a word) to be grossing $405.6 billion per year, we aren't. Heck, I'd love to gross $405.6 thousand per year! But alas, we are all small businesses. We don't have the sales necessary to offer $5 portrait sheets. We also don't utilize cheap ink or poor quality paper just to keep costs down. We charge what we need to to not only keep our business afloat, but also food on our table. If that's outside of your budget, that's perfectly fine. Most photographers fall into the "starving artist" category and can't afford to book themselves, so it's not going to offend us if you can't afford us. It WILL offend us however, if you request us to price match someone else. Our price point is unique because our business is unique. Nobody but nobody is going to have the EXACT SAME costs as anyone else. Please understand that 99% of us aren't priced to be making $100,000 per year, we're priced to afford preschool for our kids, shoes for our feet and food for our bellies. If you want Walmart prices, go to Walmart! Just don't expect personal photographer quality for Walmart prices, and visa versa.

As a subnote to this, we're also not able to give things away for free no matter who you are. Asking us as your friend to "take a few shots of the party/event since you're here" would be like asking your dentist friend to "examine the teeth of all the guests for free since you're here". It's not okay to ask that. If we want to take a few pictures, we will. If we want to send you the pix we take, we will. Unless you're willing to pay our regular rate, please don't ask us to take "just a few pictures". You may get lucky and have a friend with a special friends and family rate, but remember, you wouldn't do your job for free, please don't expect us to do ours for free.

2. Plastic Surgeons
Photoshop is an AMAZING tool! Unfortunately, it doesn't substitute for a scalpel. We can easily hide zits, conceal under-eye bags and sometimes even shave off a few pounds here and there. We cannot turn a new-mommy-body into Gisele Bundchen's body with a few key strokes. (And if we could, we'd be in Hollywood making the aforementioned billions!) Moms are expected to have normal size 14-ish bodies, complete with a little pooch belly, and sometime, yes, even the feared double chin. If you can't love yourself the way you are, perhaps getting giant paper printouts of what you look like in all your natural glory isn't the right thing for you right now.

3. Magic
We can, in some ways, be thought of as magicians. We can take your memories, your precious children and photograph them in such a way that you will treasure their portraits, the captured moment, forever. But we cannot wave a magic wand and make your sugar-buzzing 3 year old sit still, brush their hair and smile like a Gerber baby. You are paying us for our time and our artistic talent. If someone (who may or may not even be of toddler age *cough* DAD, I'm talking to you!) doesn't want to cooperate, we can only try so hard. You (in most cases) are not obligated to buy prints if you don't like them, but please don't expect to be refunded for the session fee if pictures didn't turn out to your liking through no fault of our own. Please remember, we were out there, trying as hard as possible to get great pictures for you. We deserve to be compensated for our time. Depending on the situation you may even be offered a free or discounted re-shoot, but don't expect anything. Sometimes the child is a lost cause and will refuse to be photographed no matter what the situation. That doesn't say anything to your parenting or how good your child is, that just says your toddler is normal. Toddlers are miniature control freaks and if they don't want something to happen, it wont be happening no matter the bribe!

We also aren't mind readers. If there's a certain something you do or don't want, please tell us! Nicely :-)

4. A Robot
We are human. We feel overjoyed when we have a great shoot and we feel devastated when we have a terrible one. There is no need to treat us like anything other than living, breathing humans. We make mistakes sometimes. We don't deserve to be berated or ridiculed because we didn't get the shots you hoped for. When we get a shot you love, tell us! Share your joy! And for the love of pete, BE POLITE! Please and thank you go a loooooong way. I know several photographers that give free gifts and prints to clients that treat them like human friends instead of contracted camera slaves. Besides, it's just good manners :)

Despite all of the fun little intricacies people rarely consider, I still see my job as one of the funnest there is, and I know most of the photographers that inspired me to write this do to. I don't think any of us would trade it for the world. I think our goal is just to remind people that though our job is fun, it's still a job.

40 comments:

  1. This is amazing. I feel like I was sitting there telling you what to write...Thank you! ;)

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  2. Fabulous!! I agree with everything here!

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  3. That is great!! I almost want to copy it and post it on mine :) You hit it all!

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  4. I'm with you through everything but "If we want to take a few pictures, we will. If we want to send you the pix we take, we will." Do you really think it's rude for the host to ask guests to send copies of pictures they take? It seems to me you're either at the event as a guest because you're a friend/family member OR you're there as a hired, professional photographer. I'd never dream of asking any friend to work an event without compensation, but if you're at my son's party as a guest, why would I think twice about asking you to send me the pix you took? If you bring your camera and take pictures unrequested and then won't send me copies because they're your "art", wouldn't you be using my family as free models the same way I'd be using a friend I asked to "come take a few shots" as a free photographer? Or am I over-thinking this?

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  5. Anonymous, we aren't allowed to use your family as free models because that requires a model release you'd have to sign. Also, it isn't rude to request copies of pix people take at a family party. I was referring to those who only befriend and invite photographers (or their kids) JUST so they get free pictures of their event. Or when the photographer DOES send a few edited pictures, the host complains about "didn't you take more? Cant you edit more of them???" It's hard to imagine people so underhanded, but it's a very common complaint on the boards I frequent :( And every single time one of the photographers stop bringing their pro camera to birthday parties and such? They stop getting invited. It's really sad. So you weren't over-thinking what I wrote, you're probably such a nice person you never even considered there to be such rude people in this world! <3

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  6. Anon, I'm a brand new photographer and I have been finding that many of my good friends are asking me to take their kids party pix now! I've been saying yes because I'm very flattered and I've been taking these opportunities to practise and also I love them! But I've realized the problem for me going forwards is this: if I take MWAC (mom with a camera) pix that they'd have been happy with before I was a "photographer", then a) they may be disappointed that they are not pro-quality edited pictures and b) if they judge my work by those shots (and show those to their friends as my work) it's simply not a good representation of my professional services! But if I work hard throughout the event to get just a few really great shots and professionally edit them then a) it doesn't allow me time to relax and enjoy socializing with friends at the party because I'm working and b) the editing takes valuable time away from editing for paying customers. I'm a mom too so just don't have that many free hours! It's difficult to understand until you get into the business but I'm learning the hard way and may unfortunately have to start leaving my camera behind for parties because I just want some time to relax and enjoy my friend's company and no longer want to show anyone any pictures that aren't a good representation of my best work! But again, I'm just starting up so... Others may feel differently.

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  7. Alana, absolutely relate to many of these situations and this is only my first year of training as a photographer!! Well put :)

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  8. Amazingly, perfectly said! Thanks for putting what's in our heads into text we can share.

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  9. Wow, BRAVO !!! I so agree with everything you said and you worded it perfectly. GREAT job :)

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  10. This is a great post!! Will it be OK to share it On FB?

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  11. Sandy, of course it's okay! All I ask is you post a link back
    thank you so much!! <3

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  12. Thank you! I'm posting your Blog Link so everyone will be reading from your blog.

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  13. Oh And i linked back to your fan page :)

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  14. Dead on regarding Wal-Mart. People want an 8x10 for a couple dollars, but we have to factor in our time, post-processing, professional camera equipment, professional printers and professional grade papers and inks, among other things. Ergo, $30 for an 8x10. If you don't like it, go to Sears or Wal-Mart and let them take your snapshot.

    By the way, I didn't become a parent until one year ago, but I've been a photographer for about 15 years, and families were among my specialities.

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  15. Awesome. Could not have said it better! My perspective is slightly different - I'm a 55-year-old grandma returning to a photography career I left 30 years ago. My youngest is now 31 years old, I have one 3-year-old grandaughter and another to be born in a few weeks - they live two hours away. Obviously, my recent experiences with toddlers are limited. Your words help me realize that the hard work I put into my "practice" shoots with my toddler grandaughter, which often result in one good shot, sometimes none, are perfectly normal. A good thing to know as I move on to "real" shoots with paying clients. Thank you!

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  16. Hey Alana, I saw this post on FB where it was butchered and passed around without your name on it. I appreciate you posting a link there to your real post--I took down where I had originally shared the facebook version and posted a link here. I love it even more with the inclusion of the first point (which mysteriously disappeared somewhere in facebookland). kudos for the well-written points you make =]

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  17. Thanks Rik! I found it very humorous that in and industry so concerned with copyright, someone stole and edited my article! The irony gave me a little giggle. I must say though, it's pretty cool to have people think you're good enough to steal from! And I'm not being sarcastic either, I was totally flattered before getting annoyed LOL! Maybe copyright will be my next silly blog post hahaha

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  18. couldn't have been said better- LOVE IT! I will be linking it for sure :)

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  19. I agree, couldnt have said it any better! Thanks for sharing!!!

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  20. I don't think anyone could have written this article better! Way to go... The part about being a magician actually came out of my mouth a couple weeks ago. Luckily I don't think the girl heard it, and if she did, she probably knew that she had it coming...

    Rock on GIRL!!!

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  21. Thank you Thank You Thank you for sharing this blog!!! Amazingly well said and I appreciate every point. I do hope our clients will realize this once your blog has been read.

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  22. Alana,

    Very well put. If you don't mind, I will post a link on my website and Facebook page so clients (and potential clients) can read. You put it much better (and nicer) than I could!

    Dan

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  23. What more can I say! Bravo! You have put it so nicely that no one can be offended and gotten your points across. I too discovered this as a photographer via FB and hunted out your page to say thanks. I would really like to link to this from my shoot preparation page if that is ok with you? I think it's a nice little article that could solve a lot of headaches for both client and photographer. Again Bravo!

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  24. Alana, this is a WONDERFUL post! I'd seen it a while back, and I find myself continually reading it. Do you mind if I place a link to it on my photoGENESIS Facebook page? I think a LOT of people could learn a few things by reading it!!

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  25. What a great post. I am a new photographer and this is just great info. Would it be possible to post on my FB page and my website with a link back to you? Thanks!

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  26. This is wonderful!!!
    I am going to share this and link back to you...

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  27. The subnote of #1. Got sucked into that one without realizing it and will never do it again. Figured a "friend" would at the very least give credit where it was due. Sadly, it made me realize how much they really weren't my friend to begin with. True friends don't take advantage of their friends.

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  28. Well I can understand why the first point was removed! I've been a photographer for 6 years and I'm not a parent either!

    Although, I used to work as a nanny, was an early childhood educator and preschool teacher all at one time.

    That said, I don't know very many professional photographers who are parents. I do about 75% weddings, 25% family/maternity/newborn sessions which is the case of the majority of the photographers I am close to, so that may be why. But the post still applies to us as well! And parent or not, we still get it, or at least, I do. :)

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