When you have a very intimate knowledge of a particular thing, you can spot inconsistencies and the people in Hollywood who have no clue what they’re doing. (Which is why watching legal movies with Cody is a TOTAL DOWNER.) The season premier of Parenthood featured Ray Romano as a supposedly “legendary photographer.” Yet he replaced the kit lens (!!) on his camera with a 70-300 for a family shot of 8 people who were less than 8 feet away from him. Those of you who know cameras? You get it. For those of you who don’t? Sorry, don’t watch TV with me I guess. You’d think that SOMEONE on the set of a popular show would spot an inconsistency like that, but I guess it’s not called Photographyhood. (In case you think I’m being picky? My photographer friend called me the day after and said “DID YOU SEE WHAT THEY DID ON PARENTHOOD?” She gets me.)
I love taking pictures. I love telling stories. But photography and I have a funny relationship, it requires a huge level of commitment in time, money and more time. For anyone who has ever started or currently owns their own photography business then you know that it takes a hell of a long time to break even and even more time to actually make money, let alone decent money.
In an effort to bring a little more peace and harmony to the world of hiring and working with photographers, I asked around what my other photographer friends wish their clients, friends and family understood about their career.
“That’s a great photo, you must have a really nice camera!” is one of the most insulting things you can say to a photographer. Would you ever go up to a chef after a really great meal and say “That was a really great rack of lamb, you must have a killer oven!” or tell your favorite author “Whew! Good book! You must have an amazing typewriter.” Yes, we have nice cameras, but the artistry and skill come in knowing how to use it properly. If you ever need proof that the camera does not make the photographer, I’ll show you some of the shots my husband has taken with my fancy camera. A true artist is able to make a compelling photograph using any camera. (The above photo was taken with my phone and is one of my favorites.)
Photography costs a lot because you’re paying for a skill. It’s the same reason a department store haircut is $20 and a high end salon haircut could be as much as $200. I’m not saying you need to go out and spend an enormous sum of money to get good pictures, but you need to align your expectations with what you’re willing to pay. If you just want all four of your kids in the same shot so you can give it to grandma for Christmas? A $20 department store shot will do the trick. A photographer’s job isn’t done with the last click of the shutter at the end of your session, there’s post processing, equipment costs, maintenance, editing, packaging, printing, proofing, advertising, website maintenance, and taxes. TAXES. With every session I do right now, 47% percent of what I am paid goes straight to the government. Most photographers are self-employed, local, small businesses. Respect them and their need to make a living.
At an event, say a wedding, most photographers want to go unnoticed. It’s why we wear a lot of black and practical shoes. I promise you, if we want you’re attention, we’ll get it. Just keep acting natural as though we aren’t there, it will be hard at first, but worth it in the end. From experience, you look funny when you’re the only one smiling uncomfortably at the camera while the rest of your friends are caught up in a riveting dinner conversation. If a photographer is around to tell a story, don’t ruin the story by staring at their lens with a blank stare.
“Make me look skinny!” *sigh* You’re not paying me to make you look ugly and I’m doing my best to bring out how truly beautiful you are. I don’t know what your self perceived flaws and insecurities are. (And chances are you’re the only one who sees them.) I do my best to ask my clients if they have a favorite side, a favorite feature or something their particularly proud of. One client had a scar on her chest from open heart surgery that she wanted it in as many photos as possible. If you have a big hairy mole or something similar that you would like removed in post processing? Just ask. It’s not a big deal. However, if you want to look 30 pounds lighter with blonde highlights and a tan? You’ll have to work on that one yourself.
Look around until you find a photographer that fits what you’re looking for. One you feel comfortable with and one you’re ready to invest in. Many photographers do not include ‘pricing’ on their sites, only ‘investment’ because that’s exactly what photography is. Taking a vested interest in preserving your family exactly as they are at this exact moment. Communicate with your photographer, don’t expect them to know what you want if you don’t tell them. Otherwise, trust in their skill and talent to capture the very best bits of you and your family.
Lead photo by Kim Orlandini
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy or her Babble’s Toddler Times. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.