Every photographer cringes when hit with the "How much?" question. Most photography clients do not realize how scared professional photographers are of those two little words. Why? Well photography is very unique, because it includes both services and products together. One cannot exist without the other.
Clients do not hire a photographer to spend time with them, they hire them for images, the actual tangible good. In the end what matters most is what the client will hold in their hands and the experience they had. They do not care that the photographer spent ten hours working on the images, purchased crazy props, used their $4000 camera and have awesome business cards. And to be honest they shouldn't.
With that said, most photographer’s price lists are overly complicated. They have to address their services, which includes very long list of costs, and products. On top of that is the whole digital image sale, which is slowly moving from half way product to final product. People love to share their images on social media, and in many cases they are not looking for a print. It is one of the new trends in photography that growing stronger and stronger. Some photographers love this idea while others hate it.
So when a photographer hears "how much?" they need to have ability to clearly communicate all the components that make up the price and everything the client will receive for their money.
One of the biggest things I have learned during my research on the subject is just how crucial it is to EDUCATE the client on the photographer’s process and pricing.
A simple price list is completely lacking context. For example imagine that you are hiring contractor to have your floors redone in your home. You ask how much and they send you price list. The price list will have products varying from $1000 to $10,000. So which one do you choose? Which one will fit your budget in long run. Which one is the most durable? Does it have a warranty? How long it will take between you hiring contractor and having your house back to normal with floors you want? So in the end you will have contractor coming to your house and giving you estimate of their labor and materials, you will look at the floors he offers, you will consult and interview that person before deciding on a product and price. So tell me why you would do it differently with a photographer?
Taking the time for a photographer and client to meet face to face is a crucial part of booking a session. The photographer should be able to tell you exactly what they offer including sample images, products and a detailed explanation of the entire process. The client should be prepared to ask any questions and ensure they completely understand the prices. The meeting will also indicate if you "click" together. The session will be an intimate and personnel experience and believe me when I say that feeling comfortable with person capturing you is very very important. If you do not like the personality of your photographer there is high chance the images won’t turn out the way you expect, even if the photographer has stunning portfolio.
But the photographers personality should not be the only factor, how they carry themselves as a professional is just as important. When you hire someone they should be punctual, responsive and certainly able provide you with a set price list, a contract and deadlines. If any of these items are questionable...run!
The last question to answer is "what if?". What if I don’t like my images. Will I get a refund? What if photographer doesn’t show up? What if I cannot afford to purchase all products I want?
Every one of the questions goes back to the initial one of "how much". Professionals will have answers, provide a money back guarantee and arrange everything to your satisfaction. They will assure you are happy and satisfied. You get what you are paying for. If price seems too good to be true, then maybe it is. That risk falls on the client. Your wedding, your homecoming, your child's birth can be compromised by you not investing into right person.
The price range of photographers in the US varies widely. Many photographers are building their portfolio and will offer significantly discounted and even free sessions. Even if no money is changing hands, the photographer should still carry themselves as a service provider. You should be treated as client, have contract and all details should be clear from the beginning.
So next time you ask "how much" you know the response should be "I would love to talk to you in person". One hour of your time will save you dollars and disappointment.