What is Custom Photography? {Central Virginia Photographer}

Custom photography means different things to everyone, but to me it means meeting the needs of my clients to deliver an experience that will bring about the photographs they want. It is not a cookie-cutter approach. It is not using the same backdrop for everyone that walks through the door. It’s about natural smiles and having fun together.

I try to talk to my clients about what they want–learning about their interests and from there I try to plan a photography experience that will bring forth images you and your family will treasure forever.

As Marianne Drenthe of Marmalade Photography notes: “Custom photography truly is not for everyone; it requires a level of commitment, investment in time and money, forethought and planning on the part of the subject/client and requires a larger time commitment for the photographer, as well.”

I hear the question often: why does it cost more than the typical studio? As someone who has plunked down a hefty sum at those studios I ask the client to explain further. I never paid large sitting fees, true, but if I wanted different poses the photo package price would rise substantially. I had very little control in the poses of my children or the backdrops. I never had the sense that the person behind the camera was going to spend a great deal of time creating the images for me–though I could be wrong–since the first time I had spoken to that person was when I walked through the front door. My clients should know that I spend a lot of time creating these high-end sessions for them.

As Drenthe explains: “Much of the cost of a photographic print produced by a professional photographer has a lot to do with the time, equipment costs, artistic vision and reputation of the photographer, not to mention expertise and the usual costs of running a legitimate business.” I, personally, spend many hours each month attending workshops and collaborating with local photographers, as well. Beyond that Drenthe breaks down the time for a typical session:

  • booking time: 30 minutes to one hour (client contact time + paperwork)
  • pre-session prep time (30 mins – 1 hour, includes equipment and back up equipment checks + vehicle checks)
  • one hour travel time TO session
  • 15-30 minutes prep time at client’s home
  • 90 minutes-2 hours with client photographing subject
  • one hour travel time FROM session
  • 30-45 minutes uploading time from digital cards from camera to computer
  • 30-45 minutes time spent backing up the original images
  • 2-5 hours editing time to present you with a diverse gallery of edited images
  • 1 hour prep time getting ready for ordering
  • 2-3 hours time with client for ordering images
  • 1 hour sorting through and checking order
  • 30 minutes-1 hour prep time for delivery
  • 30 minutes-1 hour getting order shipped
  • any additional phone time or time needed for add on ordering, shipment issues, quality issues

In this example, the time spent per client can range from just under 13 hours to 19 hours – dependent on the photographer’s level of service.  This is time dedicated only to ONE session.  When the photographer charges $150-$300 for the photo shoot (aka SESSION FEE) you are not just paying for the two hours of session time, you are paying the photographer for 12-19 hours complete time for your session.”

Her site goes on to explain the costs of maintaining a custom photography business.

So, why would you choose a custom photographer? It’s about bringing your personality out. It’s about remembering a particular moment in your life with artistic beauty. If a picture is worth a thousand words, don’t you want it be of the highest quality and accurately telling your story?

On my website I labelled the page with the pricing “Investment.” That’s what it is, an investment. I feel that it’s a worthy investment as these are the images that will be passed down for generations.  I understand the importance of these heirlooms and feel honored when I help create them for others. I tell stories with photos, let me tell yours next.

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