Note: this article was written when I lived in China, but the principles still apply
How much does it cost?
That’s a great question - but would you understand the answer?
Please don’t think I’m being condescending! What I mean is, if I rattled off a number, that will not give you any indication of what you can expect to receive. The experience I provide my subjects is quite different compared to typical high-volume studios, and a dollar amount will give you no clues as to what is involved or how you will be treated.
When I was first getting started, I used to just work out a number based on an hourly rate, but I soon realised that would not work. I was astounded at the actual cost of quality photography. After I worked out how much it actually cost me to create high-quality fine art images, I was shocked. Especially now that I’ve seen what some studios offer - I just can’t believe that they are in business!
In our neighbourhood mall, there is a family portrait business. My family and friends were worried that this place would be too much competition for me. On the contrary, I'm not worried about it at all, but we'll get to why that is soon.
I was curious, though, so I looked at their prices. I think what they provide is very affordable, but my immediate thought was 'at that price, are they truly able to give customers the experience that they deserve?' Judging by how cheap it is, even for China, I have to wonder how they afford to pay for the rent, staff wages, equipment, and advertising.
Don’t get me wrong, their images seem to be quite nice, and I wouldn’t scoff at someone choosing to use their services. The last time I looked, it ranged from 250 yuan ($35usd or so) for a basic portrait, up to nearly 2 thousand RMB for a full family sitting (about $290usd). If this sounds reasonable to you and you want this kind of thing, by all means, head along there. I’m sure they will do a fine job.
Perhaps it’s the close proximity to the food court in the mall, but I just can’t shake the analogy of a fast-food restaurant whenever I see it. The whole idea of cheap and cheerful quick service that you regret consuming immediately afterwards really gets me down.
I guess that’s what it ultimately comes down to though: how does it make you feel?
If you eat at a fast-food restaurant chain, you’re often treated like cattle and served rubbish, with little to show for it afterwards. When you buy a pair of Nike, an iPhone, or a fine wristwatch, you’re not only paying for the item but for the experience and the feeling you get from owning it. That's a huge difference. That’s why I wanted to provide a fulfilling and enjoyable service to people who recognize the difference between a photograph, and art.
Sure, phones and Nike shoes are far from art to most people - that's not the comparison I'm trying to make. What I'm saying is that these items represent more than the intrinsic cost you pay to own them. They give you not only value beyond simply owning and using them.
"a dollar amount will give you no clues as to what is involved or how you will be treated."
Sure, I have operating costs. I have a family(and cats) to feed and care for, and you know as I do that quality photographic equipment is not inexpensive. But most of all, I invest in the experience my subjects will carry with them and re-experience each time they see their portraits on the wall or in an album. Additionally, you receive the benefit of my experience of different cultures and modes of thinking - I have been a photographer since high school, and have been around the world with my cameras. I let my passion for the exotic and luxurious inform my creative choices, and encourage my subjects to play in that space, too.
So what are my prices by comparison?
Well, that’s another great question! Most of them can be found on the Portrait and Headshot pages. The reason I won’t list them here is that I want this article to last a long time, and I don’t really want to update it every 6 months. Careful and clever readers will be able to work out a ballpark figure, from this article though. Also, I have multiple packages and offers, so discovering which option will be right for you might require a conversation.
I hope that I can work with you to provide you with value greater than the investment of time and money we spend. Above all, I do this to ensure that you have memories you can pass on down the generations. A legacy.