Buying Professional Photographic Services

by William Lulow

As I have written many times, buying photographic services can be a bit complicated these days. Digital photography and equipment has made taking photographs quite a bit simpler than ever, but, when you need images for brochures, catalogs, advertisements or even personal use, “simpler” can often mean “of lesser quality.”

Many people think “Why should I pay current market rates for photographs when I can just do it myself or have a friend do it?” We live in a DIY world these days. Well, you always have to ask yourself if you really CAN do it yourself. And, your friend or a student doesn’t really have the right expertise. Knowing how to use a camera may seem to provide you with what you want, but it really is not enough these days. Suppose you need a portrait for your website. You can save yourself some money by having a friend take the picture with an iPhone. But, you can’t really control the lighting with an iPhone. You can’t really control the quality with an iPhone. And, you even need some bit of expertise with your computer to get the image from the iPhone into a usable file.


Some people think “Why should I pay current market rates for photography when any old image is good enough?” Well, ask yourself, if “good enough” will really do it for you. If you are selling handbags for example, will an iPhone image really sell your product the best? If you’re selling ANYTHING, will an “okay” image do it for you? You’ve spent good money and time on a decent website and product development, why would you settle for an okay image just to save a few dollars? Remember that good portraits, for example, entail much more than just snapping a shutter and recording an image. Portraits that really communicate a message about someone, or what they’re selling is a much more complicated procedure. It’s much more than a simple “capture” of someone’s likeness. That’s a passport shot.

Lately, I’ve seen a beautiful woman post pictures of herself on Facebook that were  “selfies.” Everyone is taken by selfies these days. The problem is that when you hold your camera phone at arms length (or if you use a “selfie-stick”), you cannot really control it adequately. Moreover, it’s usually held at a high angle that distorts your face. Why would you want that? And, further, why would you publish an image like that? I’ve been tempted to message her, telling her that she is beautiful but that she’s ruining her “image” by taking so many selfies. But, I have refrained.

When you try to cut corners on certain expenses, it usually translates to lost revenue down the road. You often have to spend more to correct a bad photograph than you would have spent getting the best one from the beginning. There are certain things for which it pays to spend money! Having a good portrait done is one of them. After all, you’re spending money on YOUR image!

With all this said, photographic services are best bought by the day. Most photographers have a “day rate.” It’s the fee they charge for their time and expertise for an eight-hour work day. There are additional charges for such things as: transportation, digital processing, prints, assistants, makeup artists, hair stylists, special backgrounds, etc. But if you have quite a few shots to do, a good, professional photographer will be able to tell you how long it will take him or her to shoot all the images. I have often photographed twenty or more executives during the course of a normal workday. This translates into huge savings for the company as opposed to them sending me one person at a time. The most costly part of a photographic project is the initial setup. If all the other shots can be done with the same setup, the client will realize a big savings and get quality, professional images in the process. When I do a corporate portrait shoot, it takes me a while to set up the first shot. After that, all the other shots are done with the same setup, but leaving room for individuality. The other costly part of a shoot is the post production. These days, images have to be processed in the computer, sized and retouched. Many people don’t realize the time it takes to do all of this, so it should be a billable expense. With all this added in, if a photographer can shoot many images in one workday, the client will save a pretty good bit of money. This is the way to buy photographic services. In addition, your friendly, local photographer will welcome you as an informed consumer.