OK, so we're back for the final piece of How to Hire a Photographer - the biggest and most misunderstood portion of photography: PRICE. And yet, it's the most simple. (You can find the other three here: Personality, Portfolio, and Priorities.)
First, let's clear up the misconception between cheap and affordable. They aren't the same. Cheap photographers lack experience, quality, service, and legal security. Cheap doesn't bring a second photographer to your wedding to ensure there will never be a missed moment on your special day. Cheap doesn't pay taxes or participate in ongoing educational classes. Cheap doesn't have a business license and doesn't pay insurance to cover unforeseen mishaps that we hope will never (but might) happen.
A legitimate business that is legal, insured, experienced, sustainable and qualified will never be cheap. Think about this for a minute. Coffee is cheap. You can make a cup of coffee at home for $.50 or less. But Starbucks is not cheap. That $.50 coffee is $6 at Starbucks. Everyone knows it's expensive, and yet 95% of my friends and family willingly hand over $6 for that coffee and they don't question the Barista about why it's so expensive. Why? Because we all know that Starbucks provides stellar customer service, a community atmosphere to hang with our friends, they pay their employees well and with great benefits, and the quality is above par. We know they pay a large sum of money for their top-of-the-line machinery, branding and facilities. They pay for health insurance and supplies, business license and insurance. They spent tons and tons of money perfecting a product and creating something that we just can't quite replicate at home. And the owners need to make a profit on top of all that, too, or what is the point of owning a business? So when you add up all the legitimate business dealings that go into that $6 cup of coffee, and you realize that you could never afford to bring all that inside your home to create the same experience...suddenly that cup seems a little more affordable.
So now let's talk affordable.
Affordable comes in many packages, from choosing quality over quantity (smaller package or less images) to choosing an otherwise more expensive photographer who offers payment plans to work within your monthly budget. So contrary to what you may be used to, when it comes to photography, you're not looking for cheap - you're looking for affordable. That changes the game.
First search for photographers who will meet your needs. Look for the other qualities that I talked about in the first three entries of this series. That's where the value is found first. Make a note of their packages and their prices. What do you get with their packages? Will they drop off a CD of images you will now leave on your computer and likely never get around to printing? That is wasted money. (Seriously - when was the last time you printed your pictures? How many times do you have to delete images on your phone because your memory is full?) Will they hold your hand through the process? Help you choose quality products? Will those products last or are they cheap snapfish or walmart prints that will fade or discolor after a few years? Will your children get to enjoy these images? That is where the value truly lies in photography. Because if you won't have these images in 20 years, you've lost money and memories.
Meet with potential photographers and talk to them about how they can help you afford their services. Some may not be able to work with you for what you need, and that is OK. Move on to the next photographer. If your preferred photographer is out of your budget, ask if they offer smaller packages. Less images of stellar quality is a far superior option than hundreds of
crappy less than stellar images that you'll never hang on your wall. Or if you need a bigger package, ask your photographer if they provide payment plans. Maybe you can't afford it in a lump sum, but you can space it out over a few months.
A good quality photographer doesn't have to be outside your budget, you simply have to look for what you need. Talk to them. Work out a plan. Most professional photographers will be happy to sit with you and determine what you need and how you can achieve it. You deserve a luxury service and your memories deserve a place on your wall.
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