The purpose of this page is to provide an understanding of perspective between proprietor and client as well as allow the novice photographer to improve their skills in producing a better photograph. A mutual respect provides for a better experience for all!
1. Why do photographers charge the amounts that they do?
First, they have to cover costs. For myself, I factor in the wear on my equipment. As in any business, any tangible asset has a life expectancy. Cameras are rated to operate anywhere between 100,000 – 400,000 actuations. Professional Cameras are expensive….and that’s not including the lenses….which can be much more expensive than the cameras! When you add in the computers and software used to sort, clean, edit the photos as well as the color-calibrated monitors, SD/Compact Flash cards, lighting equipment, backdrops, standards, batteries, back-up gear, insurance, taxes, lease agreements wear and tear on vehicles and salary…..hopefully you get the idea!
I feel my rates are justifiable because I value what I do and the time it takes for me to complete it. If you value what you do, you should be able to justify how much you are compensated. FYI, I feel I am priced on the lower end of what photographers charge as I am relatively new. As time progesses, my time and expertise will also correlate to a higher charge.
2. I have a nice camera, why can’t I get the shot I want?
Basically, you are in a dance with light, time and positioning. You have to figure out the steps to the song on the fly by knowing the camera you are using and which setting is the best. It’s not always obvious. First, if you are using the “Green Box” or Full Auto Mode…stop. It’s good sometimes, but if you want to understand how your camera works better, start using the “Av”Aperture, “P”rogram, “Tv”Time or my favorites, “M”anual or “B”ulb modes. You also need to understand your light source and its effect on the target. Is your subject backlit by the sun? Are you in a room with florescent lighting? Is the white balance on your camera in the best setting? Does your lens have image stabilization and should you be using it right now or no?
I am always experimenting. I still do not always get it right, but my guesses keep getting better year after year. My advice: Shoot! Then shoot more. Change settings. Then shoot again.
3. Quality camera and gear vs. the person taking the photo….which is more important?
The person makes the biggest difference, but a great camera and lens certainly does help! Any one can get and make a great photo. But in a given scenario, someone who understands the scene, lighting, type of action and how to fully utilize the camera, the experienced photographer is more likely to get that quality shot than the amateur.
Also, cameras do have limitations. I have a nice camera that can take good pictures in low light as well as capture action at almost a dozen frames per second. Most camera’s sensors have quality issues in low light as well as only snap a picture 2-4 frames per second. The likelihood of you getting the same picture as I is low simply due to camera limitations. Editing a photo only goes so far if the base image is of low quality to start with.
You would be amazed how much a decent tripod and a remote trigger can improve a photo.
4. What is Aperture, ISO and shutter speed?
Referred to as the “Exposure Triangle”, these three variables are the major players in what your picture will be like once you click the button on your camera.
Aperture – basically, it’s like the lens of an eye. It determines the amount of light that will enter through the lens once the shutter is activated. The smaller the number, the larger the opening – hence, the greater amount of light that will be captured by the sensor.
ISO – there is conflicting information as to what this actually stands for, but my best understanding is that it is short for “International Standards Organization” which is a nebulous and general term applied to lots of things. But what it is in regard to photography is the level of sensitivity of light your camera’s sensor will be set at. Lower the number, lower the sensitivity. Higher number, higher sensitivity. Typical range is between 400-1000. But you can have cameras that can reach down to 50 ISO and well over 200,000! Believe me, that’s impressive.
Shutter Speed – the rate at which the shutter (basically, the camera’s eye lid) opens and closes. It basically will determine if a moving object will appear blurry or frozen in time. Depending on your environment, changing the shutter speed can have a dramatic effect in what the final photo will say to your audience. If you are having a hard time imagining what this does, look at a fast moving wind turbine, fan, or wheel. Stare at it with without blinking…this is similar to a slow shutter speed….the blades or rims appear blurry. Then blink fast. The blades and rims may appear much clearer for a fraction of a second which is like a fast shutter speed setting.
All three of these variables work together. Depending on the quality of your camera and how you manipulate these settings will provide you a significant range in outcomes even for the same scene.
6. How do I pick a photographer?
References and word of mouth feedback from friends is huge. Personality is key. View the photographer’s website, if available, or ask to look at a portfolio. I keep only a small portion of my photos online, but I utilize secondary galleries like like Flickr.
Also, when somebody refers a photographer, ask about their “bedside manner”. Is the person giving you the recommendation similar to you in personality and nature? Are you an introvert and require someone that will be sensitive and not in your face? Are they overly demanding which only makes it an unpleasant experience for all? Are you overtly social and need to be reigned in and focused so that your goals are met and photo session completed in a timely manner?
Picking a photographer can be tough. There are a LOT of good ones. It’s like picking anything else really. If you enjoy the style they present in their work and you think it’s a good personality fit, then try it. The next time, you can always choose somebody else.
7. What is the DNG or digital negative? Is that what I am buying when Merski Photography gives me my photos?
This is akin to the negative in film photography. The “RAW”, unedited file. This is where photographers are able to make the most meaningful and useful edits that other file formats (like .jpg, .png, .tiff and many others) cannot accomplish. The final edit from the DNG or RAW file can be sent to you as a .jpg, .tiff or other relevant format, but photographers (including myself) are quite reluctant to hand over the digital negative. Although, a full .tiff file is fairly close to the original in quality.
8. What format should I use and have given to me after you edit them?
Different photographers have different theories. I will give you what you need or ask for (other than my RAW file) Typically, depending on what you’re planning on settling on for your print, most times .jpg will be just fine. If you plan on having a large print (usually over 13×19″) you should use .tiff.
What’s the difference? .jpg lose data every time you open, edit and save again. Basically, they are subject to degradation. But they are relatively small files sizes and take up less storage space and are easy to process and give to you. On the other hand, files like .tiff do not lose integrity, are great for larger prints but the drawback is that they are much, MUCH larger in file size and take up a ton of room on my hard drives and require more give to you.
Conclusion, .jpg is the most used file format. If you do not plan on re-editing them and your prints are standard size…no worries. Also, if you go with a print vendor, they may require a specific file format depending on the machinery that they use, so you may have to ask them first before receiving your photos.
9. Why will you not give me the DNG/RAW file….isn’t that part of what I am paying for?
To be blunt, no. The best analogy to this that I can remember being told is: when you go to a restaurant and you order a meal, you do not go back to the kitchen and ask the chef for their raw ingredients and tell them you “got it from here”.
If you were to think of me as a sketch artist, you will see only my final drawing, not all the sketches that didn’t make the final cut. Photography is an art form. You are paying for my equipment, my editing skills and my perspective and artistic license. But, to continue my honesty, I only want out in the world that is created by me that best expresses my skills.
Sure, you may be hearing me click the camera hundreds of times….trust me, they’re not all winners. Only about 30% make the first cut. For every 100 photos from a given session, 20-30 may make it past the first round and only about 10-15 may be “keepers”.
10. Why are you having me sign a contract?
Contracts can be uncomfortable, but I believe in them. They are a layer of protection for both you and I. First, it’s a mutual sign of respect between a client and proprietor. It is a document that states I will be responsible for completing the role I have been hired for and that the client understands all the expectations and roles of that particular job and what they will receive in the end.
In most circumstances, you receive a basic contract that states what you want, what I am responsible for and what the monetary compensation will be. In addition, clients typically sign a “Model Release” form. This is a document that expresses that I may use these for advertisements and licensed work for Merski Photography. This is how photographers show other potential clients their work.
In regard to the “Model Release” document, it does not matter if you are an actual model, adult, elderly adult or child. It applies to anyone who is the main focus of the photograph, especially if it is taken in a place that is a private facility or residence. Even public venues, if you are deemed the main primary focus of the photo, a photographer is strongly suggested/required to have a “Model Release” form signed if used for commercial purposes.
11. Why are shipping expectations sometimes 1-2 weeks or more in some cases?
Some products take more time than other to get completed. We use vendors that have their own work loads and we do tend to be conservative with our time estimations as to not set unrealistic expectations. We can be more anxious to get the product to you as soon as we can than you are! Rest assured that Merski Photography always wants to deliver the best service and product to you in the most efficient time possible.
12. I have a photo that I would like for you to alter or make into a humorous Family Photo, can you do that?
Quick answer: I don’t know! Many of the tricks with family humor photos that I do involve several exposures being manipulated and blended together. It’s not as easy as throwing an image into Photoshop and away we go. File quality, even lighting, correct poses and just a few of the many variables that go into creating such images. Some scenes look really funny and good when they look unrealistic and do not match the rest of the image, but if you want realism and people asking, “how did you do that?”….well, that takes more time….which is why the rate is higher!