Four Things Your Photographer IS and Four Things They’re NOTAfter 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 IS and 4 things they are NOT.
4 Things Your Photographer IS…
1. A ParentEvery 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. PatientSometimes it takes 10 minutes 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. BusyTaking 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 ArtistPhotography 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.
4 Things Your Photographer is NOT…
1. WalmartAs 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. A Plastic SurgeonPhotoshop 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. A MagicianWe 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 RobotWe 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.