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Photography is, and has always been, a luxury item. That is why this business suffers so much during a recession. If $350 is two weeks pay, you don’t have any right to spend ANY money on photography if you’ve got a newborn in the house (babies are expensive). I almost cringe to say this, but at least if they splurge and go to JCPenney or Walmart they know what to expect and will at least get what they pay for.

Allow me to ask your question from the other point of view. If money is that tight for these families, is it ethical to take their money from them when a fauxtog doesn’t have the consistency to guarantee good solid work? People don’t even question this in other areas. Doesn’t everyone deserve to own a BMW? Should they be doomed to drive an old beat up Buick just because they can’t afford said BMW. If you went out and promised a BMW, took what money they had and handed them a 1/12 scale replica what would you be? The word that springs to mind is fraud.

Besides, being inexpensive does not make someone a faux. I personally see it as a lack of pride in ones own work to provide images on a CD (printing is half of the process), but that doesn’t really make someone faux either. A lot of new photographers (real ones) charge lower rates when they first go pro. And there are a LOT of fauxs who have no concept of their skill level charging big bucks. Pros run the gamut of both skill and price, there is no need to go to a faux, you will never get a better product from your faux than you will from a competent photographer in the same price range.

I have ridiculously “high standards” for photography, or at least that’s what they fauxs seem to tell me. I expect every single photos that you deliver (not take mind you, only deliver) from every single portrait session to be (before editing):

Exposed correctly
Lit well
Framed well
In focus
Artistically sound
Emotionally relevant
Makes the subject look as good or better than they do in real life.

Yep, those are my “higher standards.” I know that I am very unreasonable to demand that of anyone who calls themselves a pro. I also expect the client to get exactly what they were promised or more. And I expect the photographer to be able to make the shot they intend, not just spray and pray.

That is all I ask of others, and I don’t think that is too much, though I ask far more from myself and anyone who work directly with or for me.

Click it nailed it, before the faux boom that was exactly what new photographers, competent ones still in school, or those who shot on the side to supplement their family’s income did, gearing their work toward short, quick, lower paying gigs. Once you make the shift into full time, you have to aim your sights on higher end clients and jobs because your expenses are too high to make it on nickle and dime jobs. (A photographer has to clear $500 profit a week (or more depending on market) just to keep a decent size studio and pay the utilities on it.)

Besides, I’ll work with clients, as will most photographers, to find a way for them to get good photos at a reasonable price. They may not get everything they want, but they will get what they need. I’ve had teens from lower income families work as salesmen booking other kids from their school for sessions in order to earn the commission to pay for their shoots because they wanted me to do them. And if they do good work without grumbling about it, I’ll discount their session and pay them the difference or hook them up with bonus time or prints in appreciation of their hard work. I’ll work it out to use someone as a model for a training session.

The general rule of thumb on a wedding is that the photographer should be about 10% of the cost of the wedding less catering and open bar if applicable. Knowing this, I’ve put together a package that is affordable for almost everyone. My wedding packages range from $500 (Off season, three hours, ceremony, formals, cake, toast, and getaway) to $2500 (in season, two photographers, full coverage of rehearsal, preparations, ceremony, reception, formals, proof set, and press printed 10×10 custom designed wedding album). If I were in another market, I’d probably be charging double that for the big package, but about the same for the small one. One comes with a lot less, but either way you will get consistently good results you can count on.

To answer Sharra’s question, the difference is time, consistency, and experience. If you hire me for $500, you’ll get me for 3 hours and I’ll shoot 500 shots and deliver, in general, 150 or so, every last one of which is fit to print. If you hire me for $2500, you get me for 15-20 hours, plus a second photographer, I’ll take 1500 shots and deliver in the neighborhood of 300 or so shots every last one of which is fit to print. This also takes out the guesswork as to what the best pictures are.

If you hire Joe Smoe down the street who “has a really nice camera” and “takes nice pictures” you might get him for 20 hours for $500 bucks. He’ll shoot 4000 shots, dump them onto a DVD, unedited and sight unseen, and hand them to you. You’ll have to sort through hundreds of out of focus, badly exposed, and generally abysmal pictures trying to hunt out the 100 that are decent, then look through those hoping and praying that there is one in there that is worth making an 8×10 of for Grandma to hang up with the pictures from the other grandchildren’s weddings. I know this because I’ve had dozens of couples that I know personally come to me begging me to help them fix the photos taken by hack fauxtogs that were offering “so much more for the money.”