In this world there are deals to be found. Photography is almost never one of those. Simply put, good photographers know they’re good and charge what they’re worth. Sure, you can get someone to photograph your wedding for less, but you will also get exactly that: less. The following are eight “dirty little secrets” of the photography industry. They’re things everyone knows, but knows not to talk about in polite company… or at least not in company that might turn into business.
The 8 Dirty Little Secrets of Professional Photographers
1. Print packages aren’t meant to save you money.
They’re not to save you money, they’re “guaranteed” sales for the photographer. So much of most photographer’s profit is based on how many prints you buy that they will do anything that can to inflate that number just a little bit. By creating packages, the photographer is making sure you buy enough of certain (high profit) sizes to make it worth their time. Ala cart prices are often grossly inflated so that you’ll be forced to buy those ten wallets you don’t really want in order to get the 4 extra 5×7’s for all of the aunts.
2. Print prices are GROSSLY inflated.
Seriously. If this were gasoline we’d all be driving electric cars! We’re not talking just “restaurant/retail” overpriced, but “movie theater popcorn” overpriced! A minimum of 1000% markup is the norm. That’s a huge profit margin! So why do most photographers do it? Because it’s the only way they have to make a profit. Rather than charge for their time or for the job as most professionals do, they charge for something you have a higher value on: your pictures!
3. “Professional” prints are usually done at the one-hour place around the corner.
And why not? They do a great job… for most things. Most people are perfectly happy with the quality of work that is done at those places because most of the work is fine. Still, when you’re paying professional prices, it would be nice to get professional prints. For that, you’ll have to be ready to pay a heck of a lot more.
4. The photographer doesn’t REALLY want your proofs back.
Regardless of what she says, no photographer wants them. Think about it; What will your photographer do with 500+ 5×7’s of your wedding? Give up? The correct answer is “throw them in the trash with the coffee grinds and dirty diapers.” If you got it right, give yourself ten points. Photographers know that
you aren’t going to want to give back all of those prints. In fact, they’re counting on it. It’s a puppy sale; If you take a puppy home, you will almost always keep it, regardless of price.
5. Photoshop can’t make bad photos good, just less bad. (AKA: Bad photos + Photoshop = Bad Photoshoped photos.)
If you have misgivings about your photographer’s abilities, don’t fool yourself into thinking that Photoshop is going to be able to fix it. If your photographer can’t get it right “in the can” (photographer talk for the unedited image straight out of the camera), he or she is not someone to be using. No amount of Photoshop is going to make a bad photograph good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing tool that can do lots of really amazing things. Unfortunately, turning back time to allow a reshoot of your wedding isn’t one of those things.
6. Letters after a photographer’s name are meaningless.
Unless they’re PhD, those letters are completely meaningless (even a PhD only means you made it through a lot of college, not that you’re necessarily good). There isn’t a regulatory board over photographers that give official designations. There is no seal of approval beyond our reputation and portfolio. That’s not to say that the organizations a photographer might claim are worthless, they’re just not worth much on a resume and mean nothing when it comes to the quality of their work. Anyone with a bank account can join the vast majority of them. There aren’t requirements beyond that. In other words, don’t be fooled by bluff and bluster.
7. Digital has brought the worst out in photographers (and the worst photographers!).
The ability to see immediately what it is you’ve captured is a fantastic tool. I have yet to meet a photographer that doesn’t like that immediate gratification. Unfortunately, that’s caused many photographers to become very lazy in their approach. They don’t do the things they were taught like meter for exposure, double check focus and watch backgrounds for interruptions. In the days of film, these were essential. Now, you just look at the back of your camera. What’s wrong with that? Plenty. First, you can’t tell much even from the biggest camera screen. They’re just too small to really see the details. As a result, mistakes slip through. Second, it wastes a LOT of time, not only looking at the back, but also reshooting what could have been done right the first time with just a little bit of patience. The other big problem with digital is that everyone thinks they’re a professional now. Just because you can buy an expensive piano doesn’t mean you know how to play it.
8. “Photojournalistic” isn’t something you want in a wedding photographer.
Calm down and let me explain. Photojournalism, by definition, is when a photographer captures an entire event in one photograph. What most people are really more interested in is documentary photography. Sure, this is mostly a matter of semantics. What difference does it make? The difference is that MOST photographers claiming it don’t know the difference. Documentary is what’s appropriate when you have a story too big to fit in one photo. I’ve never seen a wedding small enough or emotionless enough to warrant only a single photograph.
So what should you take away from all of this?
The photography industry is just like any other: it has its trade secrets and exaggerations. There are lots of people in the industry that are aware of these discrepancies and are 100% OK with taking advantage of them. Thankfully, those people are few and far between. Most photographers are merely ignorant, either of the problem or of a better way to do things. Many times, we do things because that’s the way our competition does it. We call them sacred cows. I, for one, am a carnivore.