There have been quite a few photographers who have recently written blog posts about why custom photography costs more. Many of them are spot-on and very informative for people who may not have ever had the experience of a custom, on-location photographer before. In fact, most of us are so used to the "in-and-out mall studio" experience and their super-cheap promotional pricing, that when presented with the price list of a custom photographer, our eyebrows raise sky high! Some people even look at the cost of custom photography and say, "Oh, my! Why would someone spend that much money on pictures? Is it really that much better than the mall studio?"
Well, folks, better is a subjective term. Is a $300 Coach bag really better than the knock-off $20 version you can get at the purse kiosk in the mall? Ask anyone who owns a real Coach bag and they'll tell you. Is your $4 cup of coffee from Starbucks really better than brewing it at home for pennies on the dollar? Many people obviously think so - there's a Starbucks on every corner and they always seem busy! So, the value of any item is subjective. It's just a purse...it's just a cup of coffee...it's just a picture. It's not about brand name (although we all know that branding is a big part of US consumerism) but the difference in price on any item is often a direct result of the quality and experience. In this blog post, I'd like to address a question that I know some of you are asking yourself. "Is a custom portrait session with Kimberlin Gray Photography really better than the mall studio? Is it worth the extra cost?" Let's take a moment to compare the two on a few key points:
Personal Attention: When you go to Studio A, you may have an appointment or you may walk in. A receptionist checks you in and you wait until your photographer is ready. You may or may not have ever met that person before and went into the experience totally on your own as far as clothing choices. But, when you choose Kimberlin Gray Photography, you are getting personal attention and service. I will chat with you on the phone or via e-mail before our session to be sure you know what to expect and we discuss location and wardrobe in detail. I will give you suggestions, helpful hints, and even help you choose outfits and accessories. I want to be sure that the portraits you have taken reflect more than just what you look like that day. There is no waiting around entertaining your child in a 10x20 room. It's all about you!
Experience with Children: Studio A reminds me of a line from a book my daughter likes to read: "You get what you get and you don't get upset". The photographers at Studio A may or may not have ever worked with children the same age or with the same type of personality as yours. You never really know what you're going to get as far as the personality of the photographer or his/her experience (both with photography and with people). But, when you choose Kimberlin Gray Photography, you are choosing to go with someone with plenty of experience with children - and their parents. I have a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and over 10 years experience teaching young children. I also have my own children - a spunky 4 year old girl and an active 15 month old boy. This is what makes your experience with me different. I know kids. I engage with children, I talk with them, I capture their true smile and their real personalities. With newborns and babies, I am patient. I understand that it takes time and coaxing to capture such a precious and fleeting time. At Studio A, they give you a certain number of shots and finish within a set time whether or not your child has warmed up or even cracked a smile. You either get a white backdrop (which does not always look good with certain skin tones or outfits) or a color/fake scene backdrop. With Kimberlin Gray Photography, there is no limit to how many shots I take or how many "poses" or "backdrops" you choose. We walk around, we play, we take our time. I strive to give my clients a variety of poses and groupings. For example, in a typical family session you'll see photos of the family all together, but also each individual child, siblings together, mom with the kids, dad with the kids, mom and dad together....I don't stop at 20 poses. :D
Image Detail - One of the hallmarks of Studio A is the idea that you can walk out with your pictures that same day - even in just a few hours! Unfortunately, what you sacrifice to get those pictures so quickly is quality and attention to image detail. The photographer loads your photos on the computer in the back and quickly adjusts basic exposure and cropping to maximize the image for presentation. You see basically a straight-out-of-the-camera shot. And, that's what you get to take with you from their big, industrial printer in the back room. They print how they print and that's what you get. However, after a session with Kimberlin Gray Photography, your images are looked at individually and processed one-by-one, not as a big batch. I have many digital techniques that I use to help make your family's images really pop! I also work with people when they have special requests. I have taken bruises off little boys' faces, smoothed out distracting fly-away hair, touched up stretch marks "love stripes" on pregnant bellies, and made a few new mommies look just a bit less tired under the eyes! If I convert an image to black and white it isn't just by pressing a button. I am very careful with my black and white conversions to be sure that they really enhance and make an image beautiful. Sometimes I see images from Studio A that make a baby or child look like a character from Twilight - a little too gray and "undead" for my taste! :) The bottom line is that while Studio A takes about 30 minutes to process your photos, Kimberlin Gray Photography spends hours and hours in the "digital darkroom" so that every image you see in your gallery is a perfect representation of your family. Then, the image is sent off to a professional lab who specializes in printing on premium paper and it is lustre coated for longevity. Finally, I package them up beautifully for you so that when you see the final product, you are blown away!
Unique, Specialized Products: When you go to choose your pictures at Studio A, they have packages based on "poses". You can get 50 pictures for $9.99!! WOW! What a value, right? Well, yes and no. What you get is 50 of the exact same picture. After that, you pay their premium price for a sheet - and again, all photos on that sheet must be the same. So, you are proofed 25 photos, but you have to choose one. Okay, maybe two. At Kimberlin Gray Photography, you get what you want. You are not bound by certain sizes and you don't have to have the same picture printed in a hundred different sizes. Not only that, you get to select between unique and fun products like canvas prints, storyboard collages, magnetic mini-albums, and cool photo storage tins!
These are just a few of the reasons that a custom portrait session with Kimberlin Gray Photography is different than the studios you are used to. So when you see that my minimum order requirement is $200, you now know some of why the cost is higher. You are not paying $200 for a few pieces of paper - the cost is not for the paper that the image is printed on. The cost is for all of the custom work that goes into the session - from before we even meet until after you receive your portraits.
Now, if your goal is to simply get a few photos of your child and buy an 8x10, two 5x7's and a few wallets to give to family, then Studio A is a fine option. My intent here is not to say that the mall studios are inherently bad or that you should not use them. In fact, I have taken my daughter there many times and have some very cute photos of her. But, I always went in thinking it was cheap and somehow ended up spending between $100-150 and never felt like the photos were truly that good. With Kimberlin Gray Photography, you are choosing to spend more - but you are also guaranteed to have a fun, personalized experience that results in beautiful portraits of your children and your family to display on your walls with pride and treasure for years to come!