Custom Photography… Worth the Investment | WNY Newborn Photography

I am writing this blog post with a pit in my stomach, knowing I will probably offend some and get a round of applause by others.  Neither responses are my intent.  When I started this photography blog, I started it as a platform to showcase my recent sessions, but to also allow my current and soon-to-be clients, those who stumble across my page to get a chance to know me… the person behind the camera.  So hear goes nothing…

Today I was surfing Facebook as my youngest littles were settling in for nap.  I came across a post by another photographer… incredible photographer,  who after 10 years was shutting down her business.  Intrigued, I continued to read.  She was giving up her business for the same reasons that keeps me awake at night…  the reality that photography is not seen as a legit business or career path.  With that being said, please know that I am still in the infancy of my photography career and in NO WAY think I have arrived!!!!

I started on my business path 3 years ago, yet tinkered with photography for 7+ years before that.  However, Candidly Inspired Photography, in my heart didn’t fully start until January 2012!  My first 2 years, when others new of the business as “Illuminations Photography” and “Kimberly Ann Photography”… well, lets just say, I NEVER SHOULD HAVE CONSIDERED MYSELF OR MY WORK SELLABLE!  This is the part where I need to shell out a big ol’ apology… to all those clients that I took pictures of, I am eternally grateful, however, though my prices were extremely inexpensive, looking back I wish I would have delivered better images for you.  This was the time I was building my portfolio, my confidence and skills.  Granted, I can rationalize with saying that my time is valuable and this is in fact what you were paying for, and we all start somewhere.  While this is true and everyone has a starting point, I should have waited to start booking clients until I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was representing the work I wanted to be known for!  Unfortunately…I look back today and I’m embarrassed!  You deserved quality images, and I did not deliver.  So to those prior to December 2011… my deepest apologies and my sincerest thank you!  Thank you for allowing me to take pictures of your families, without you, I would not be to where I am today!  With that being said, the ones of you who started out with me and are still allowing me to capture images of you and your family, you will never know how much your support means to me!  And to those who are no longer clients, I completely understand!

With all that being said, it brings me to the issue that I have laid awake at night worrying about, the same issue that the photographer I read about today is closing her business.  Candidly Inspired Photography, this business I am building, by God’s grace, could someday be completely gone… not by my hands, but quickly by what the photography industry is becoming.  I have spent countless hours laying awake at night contemplating that my skill set, creative mind and eye, cannot keep up with the vast amount of new coming “photographers” into the industry.  Every day, there are hundreds, probably thousands of people stepping into the photography world and wanting to claim it as their career.  While I do not ever want to discourage anyone, this scares me in a big way!

I use to sit back and get offended when I heard other really good photographers gripe and complain about those newbie photographers charging pennies for horrible images and taking business away from them.  I still get offended when they gripe and complain with no class or regard for other peoples feelings, but they do have a point!!!  Granted, it’s not just the photography business, it’s seen in this industry and so many others… another brand comes into the marketplace at a cheaper price and everyone flocks to the cheaper product… only problem… everyone wants the same quality!  Here’s what I mean… recently I wanted to make a cookies for my family!  Nothing exciting… just the ones that come in a package and you throw on a cooking sheet and bake.  When I arrived at the store I was faced with a decision… to buy the cookies that I knew my family loved and were pricier then the other “off” brand, or to go with the cheaper of the two and just hope and pray my family didn’t realize the difference.  So, being frugal… I opted for the off brand.  Went home, placed them on a cookie sheet, baked, then served.  The first bite was ok, but then my kids noticed a big difference…. and there the cookies sat.  No one eat them… meanwhile, had I made the choice to opt for the pricier, better cookies, my family would have enjoyed them as a treat and wouldn’t have been disappointed with the outcome!… I know cookies and photography really don’t have much in common, but you get my drift!  Had I made the decision to go with the pricier option, knowing that “you get what you pay for”, I knew what the outcome would have been.

This is the same for the photography business.  In 2013, just like every other business, I increased my prices.  Drastically, no… not in the least!  Did I lose clients because of it.. you betcha ya and I’m still losing them!  On average, I receive 20-30 inquiries per month for newborn photography!  This excites me greatly!  But it also discourages the pants off me because I cannot tell you how many client guides and price list I have sent to people, to either never hear back from them, or to have them say… “sorry, you’re too expensive… my ________ does photography and is going to take newborn pictures for me”.  This breaks my heart!  Especially because I know how much love, time and attention I put into my sessions and especially with newborn sessions, you can never get that time back!

So why am I writing this post, because my heart is frustrated!  My heart hurts for this photographer who has spent the past 10 years taking a dream and turning it into a reality, only to have her competition tear it to pieces because they are charging next to nothing for something that should be valued and charged accordingly!  And I am even more sorry because 2 years ago, I was one of those so called “photographers” jumping on the band wagon and delivering a less then valuable product! Instead, I should have come out of the gates having perfected my craft, been proud of my work and confident in my prices and not started until I could provide a product that was compatible, apple to apple with my competition!

I think that is where I get frustrated the most, not only with what I did, but what I see so many others doing.  There are chain franchises out there that can charge $99.99 for all of your images… the difference…. HUGE!!!!  The person behind the camera is unexperienced, as clients, you are walking into a germ infested place, the “photographer” doesn’t even open photoshop, and all of the images look the same!  If that is what people want to pay, then I have no problem with that!  But it’s when I receive an inquiry for my photography, newborn especially, and this is the price that they were hoping for!

To break it down for you, the time I spend shooting (anywhere between 3-4 hours), culling & editing 30-40 images (each image to hand edit=10-15 min… so 16-17 hours editing per session),  answering emails, proofing session, designing albums, ordering, packaging of your images, delivery/pick up arrangements… essentially I spend 25-30 hours on each session… making about $12-15 per hour.  I think that is reasonable!  But then I receive the response, “sorry, but we have chosen a cheaper photographer” and my heart just caves!  This is why my heart is hurting so!

I guess this post is three fold!  To apologize for how immature I was in my beginnings as a photographer, to ENCOURAGE those who do want to take this on as a career, and to enlighten clients as to why it matters when you hire a custom photographer.   Again, I am so sorry for those I offended and did not give a product that I want to reflect Candidly Inspired Photography like my current work does.  And for those of you who are embarking on this as a career… please take it seriously!  Please do not make the same mistakes I did!  Please do not take money out of the pockets of those photographers who have worked really hard learning the craft and spent hours on end perfecting it.  Keep practicing!  Keep shooting!  Please don’t start charging until you can be compared (apples to apples) with those around you.  Or set your market price to those you want as clients!  And please, please, please I beg you… the infants that are in your care during a session need to be treated with the utmost respect.  They are little, delicate people who should not be forced into any pose or position… regardless of how badly you or the client wants the shot!  And please do not try any poses that you have not been trained by a professional to do!  Lastly, and certainly NOT LEAST… for those looking to have WORKS OF ART adorn your walls, please know that it will come at a price!  When researching for your professional newborn photographer, ask yourself and that photographer the tough questions… “Do they have experience with newborns; have they been trained by professionals in the industry; do they have quality work to show you?”  If you want a quality product, just like anything else, you’re going to have to pay for it!

  • April 11, 2013 - 12:30 am

    Kim - Kimberly, I couldn’t agree more. It’s a tough business to be in, but you my friend are a skilled and talented newborn photographer.

    You just keep pressing that shutter— your business isn’t going anywhere except up! While not everyone sees the difference in quality custom photography, you need not worry. The best clients are yet to come!!ReplyCancel

  • April 11, 2013 - 12:54 am

    Abbie - Love this!! You wrote and said it so well Kimberly!ReplyCancel

  • April 11, 2013 - 1:08 am

    elizabeth - well said!! I kept reading, thinking, “me, too”.. “me too”.. and “yep, that is happening in my town”.. thank you for being so real.. and I thank you for expressing what so many of us who are in this business to use our creative gifts to make a living. there is such a big difference between, ‘being’ in business and ‘running’ a business. facebook has made it all too easy for everyone to start up a business and devalue the industry. It is natural for an industry to gain new members from time to time.. but this has been so widespread and so quickly!I feel so bad for the veteran photographers that have built successful businesses only to have to close their doors b/c of the saturation of $100 for a CD of images. I feel sad that the majority of people out there are not willing to put a priority on quality of their precious memories. everyone is so concerned with the cheapest deal out there.. and well, that saying is so true ‘ you get what you pay for”.. I know.. b/c I wasn’t putting out the same quality then that I do now.. but my fee has since increased by 700% !!!ReplyCancel

  • April 11, 2013 - 2:26 am

    Mindy - From the perspective of a small business co-owner I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about…but everyone does need to start somewhere. From the perspective of a client, I both completely understand (and agree with) what you’re saying regarding cost and also can understand the flip side. With our first son I chose a photographer that offered a “milestone” package– 3mo, 6mo, 9mo, 1 year. I wasn’t overjoyed with the images, but there were a few we were able to choose after each session. It was like a “big box” studio on a much smaller scale. When our newest was born I did not want to miss the newborn window, which is why we went looking for a newborn photographer and THANKFULLY found you! Although the dollar amount is steep, it is beyond worth it for what you provide–like you said–every image we received was not just an image, but a work of art. It’s like comparing caviar with canned tuna. Here is where I’ll put on my honest client hat…my family can’t afford caviar every three months, so (sadly) I have to settle for tuna fish for the next few milestones. However, making the best of things with tuna salad will allow me to save up for that caviar again, and I cannot wait! I hope that makes sense and isn’t offensive…Truly, what you create for families is priceless. The love and passion you have for your work is what sets you apart and will keep us all coming back year after year!ReplyCancel

  • April 11, 2013 - 2:31 am

    Kelly Meyers - Well said. And I LOOOOOVE seeing the progression – awesome! And, I read the blurb by the experienced photographer about why she was closing her business, and got really turned off by it. There is always going to be someone cheaper, and there are always going to be people who care more about the bottom line than the quality. And, it’s the photographers who take each $100 CD they sell and save up to be able to educate themselves and attend workshops who are the ones who are going to be the cream that rises to the top (and will end up raising their prices), and the rest will fade into the background.ReplyCancel

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