Updated: Aug 26, 2019
Note: This is a broad topic and this is just my very minor take on it.
When hiring a photographer, it’s important to know a few things before jumping into it. For starters, what exactly do you want? Do you want simple photos with minor or no editing, or do you want something more extravagant? At least those two questions you should think about first before moving on to the others.
In the Virgin Islands, we have dozens of photographers. It seems that every day there is a new person joining the career field. For many, it is just a hobby, for others, it is just a quick buck, there are some working full-time jobs while also shooting as professionals and then there are the ones who have turned it into a full-time career. Each of these come with different styles and more importantly, cost.
Let’s start with me. When I first began shooting, it would be easy for me to take 20 photos, don’t edit and give you all of them for $50 or $70 bucks. This was amateur photography and the money mostly supplemented the main income from my full-time job. However, to make a decent profit, I would have to do multiple photoshoots, sort through hundreds of photos and essentially overwork myself and my camera. But, again, it wasn’t a career for me at the time, it was just a hobby. Now as I’ve moved into properly branding myself and learning how to retouch, that era has come to an end.
With that said, I also spend more on my gear. Lights, stands, props, education material, laptops, software, backdrops and supports, lenses and new camera bodies. Changing from a hobbyist to more career-oriented, meant spending thousands. And now, after much practice, the value of my work has also gone up.
However, this means now that I have to deal with the dreaded “no” and “you’re too expensive.” Also, this means I get the “can I just have the unedited photos?” question because people believe the shoot will cost less if I don’t edit.
I have thought about cutting costs for myself because I don’t want to risk losing money. However, it took encouraging words from other photographers who have been in the game longer than me to realize that I’m not losing money from that “no.” A client who wants your work will pay for it. Majority of the time, people have money for what they want. This is why budgeting is important. Let’s take a prom for example. I try to be understanding because I know you’re spending a lot of money already for the memorable moment, but let’s be honest.
You paid the seamstress, the driver, and the makeup artist the prices for their work. You can do the same for the photographer.
Also, Did you really spend $1k on a dress for a $50 photograph? Note, you can also spend $1k for a photograph of a $50 dress. It’s really up to you, your budget, and the end product that you want. I also want to point out that a $50 photograph can look better than a $1k photograph.
Art is subjective.
What’s important is making sure you sort through the work of photographers and decide which of these you feel would work best for what you want and if you’re willing to pay the cost. It’s that simple.
Also, for me, I now do a session fee and it comes with some images. Afterward, you pay for any more images that you want.
A lot of people think that the photoshoot starts and ends at the location, but you’re wrong. The shoot starts the moment the photographer drives to the location–or for those with studios, the minute they begin setting up and running equipment. When the session is over, the work isn’t. You now have to cull through dozens of photos, select the right ones and for those of us who edit we have to include the time spent in post-processing. Then, you get your final images.
Let’s talk editing. Every photographer has their own style of shooting and editing.
My editing is part of my process, my product, my brand and my style. It’s part of why you hired me.
If you don’t like edited photos, then I may not be the photographer for you. This also means, if you just want pictures for the sake of it and don’t want to spend more than $50, I’m also not that photographer for you. There is nothing wrong with that. Find that photographer. They are there.
With that said, if you want the unedited photos, the short answer is no. First of all, even I don’t really want the unedited photos. It’s not that they’re terrible, but they don’t have the artistic value that I have branded myself on. The unedited photos are the blank canvas for me, and I work from there. It’s buying the ingredients for a cake, and editing is the cake that you purchased. Also, do you know how many photos are those “unedited” ones? It’s subtle things like an arm movement, a stray person (lord, St. Croix and these stray pedestrians), an unwanted car. I shoot in natural light so maybe the sun was too hot and gave me too much light in some shots. Others may be too dark. Some of them are making you move from the left to the right or just redoing it over and over again until I get the perfect shot.
You. Dont. Want. These.
Why would you want to join us in looking through all of this???
Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t have a say in what photos you want. During the shoot, I’ll show you as we’re going along. This is more for you than for me to be honest. The more you see you’re doing a great job and the photos are coming along nicely, the more confidence you have in me that I’ll produce an amazing end product. I make note of the ones you definitely reacted to and those are the ones that I put the most effort in as well. To be honest, if you don’t enjoy yourself during the shoot and look forward to what comes next, I’m not doing a good job.
You’re not just paying for a photograph, you’re also paying for an experience.
Which brings me to another point. If you want a photographer who is going to just point at you while you just stand there, I’m not the photographer for you. Modeling is work. You’re going to have to do a lot of movement and many times over. You may have to climb some things or sit in precarious places. Essentially, it becomes a bit of a workout. You might sweat. Make sure you drink water, please. I have to do the same because I am not a photographer who is going to just watch you. I will be on the floor, on the road, and climbing with you.
However, I pride myself on you enjoying yourself so that you don’t even realize how much work it is. This is why I continuously tell models that it takes more than just a “pretty face” (you’re all gorgeous, you just need the right angle) to be a model. It’s also an attitude. If you lack confidence, all that beauty means nothing.
Also, part of this experience is seeing what both us envision come to life. It is not MY shoot. It is YOUR shoot. With that said, I typically turn away clients who do not know what they want to shoot but ask to shoot. If the location doesn’t come to mind, at least know what type of shoot you want. Give me examples and I’ll shoot some ideas back at you. This dialogue is so important. Telling me you want to shoot means nothing to me if I can’t see what you want. Otherwise, we’re just wasting each other’s time.
Also, if you agree to shoot with me, note that there is a contract. A lot of you reach out to me via Facebook, and I really wish that before you do, you would read the contract on my website.
The contract answers a lot of questions that you have and explains so many things. Please read and sign before sending a deposit.
Also, a deposit is required. Once we have agreed to a definite date, time and location a 50% deposit will be required. Why? This ensures that you are not going to waste my time or your own. Time is money and since you already paid half of the shoot, I’m sure you will be there for the other half unless you have money to waste. This also ensures that I am there unless otherwise specified. Refunds depend on the terms as stated in the contract.
I hope this explained enough. I just want us all to be on the same page. This topic is hard. Nobody wants to disappoint a client, especially when they’re being paid.
Which brings us to the most important point.
Problems surrounding this generally can be very easily dealt with by communicating expectations before the shoot, during the stage where all the other details are being worked out.
By the way, look out for photos from my recent shoot with Deidre Dubois, a local model from the Virgin Islands. One of the photos is being used as the cover photo for this post and also inside the article for the unedited images. Be sure to visit my Photography Website for the final shots and post about this shoot in Downtown Christiansted.