As I begin this post I want to say that I am not proclaiming to know all the answers or that the way I run my photography business is how others should also run their business. This is simply how I do things in regards to my pricing & what has worked for me and my clients. I have dear and talented friends who run their photography businesses completely different than mine and that’s alright. It’s what works for them and if their clients are satisfied than more power to them!
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about why I have chosen to share the copyright of the images I take with my clients. I say “share” because I own them as well. In my collection pricing, the copyright is always included. It’s something I am passionate about. I want my clients to have full access to their wedding/family/newborn images without having to pick and choose which ones they will have moving forward. It is very common in the photography world to charge a “sitting fee”. Basically, what that gets the client is the time with the photographer and nothing else. All the images will cost extra, sometimes to the tune of $200 per image. Personally, that business model doesn’t sit well with me for many reasons; but I will start with the fact that a client should know what the total investment is going to be before a session or wedding is booked, down to the penny. When a photographer just charges the sitting fee with the “option to add a collection” ( i.e. own & use any of their images) they have no clue what the total investment will be. Even if they agree on a collection beforehand, once seeing the images they may decide they want more; and why shouldn’t they have access to ALL of their precious memories? I believe they should. An image that may not seem as valuable at the moment you are making your selections, however, down the road that one image may carry a significant meaning. For example, that shot of the wedding guest that past away a couple years after your wedding and you decided not to include it in the handful of images you have/own. How heartbreaking. A lot of times a proofing gallery is only available for a short time after a wedding, limiting your access to your images down the road. And let’s be honest, some photographers don’t keep your images on their hard drive for more than a year after your session/wedding. I have a feeling I may be coming across a bit harsh or matter of fact, but it’s because I am very passionate about this issue.
In my opinion, any money you pay a professional photographer should get you more then just your time in front of their camera. It should get you access and ownership to YOUR images, for a lifetime!! Yes, a photographer that charges a sitting fee of $300 looks financially more appealing at first, than one who charges $800 for a session which also includes the copyright. But at the end of the day, you will most likely be paying more than that $800 if each of the images is costing you $50-200 per image. Be mindful too, that I am referring to professional photographers, not great Uncle Frank, who owns a fancy camera and is willing to give you a deal.
When hiring a photographer, please do your research and ask questions. What is the exact amount you will pay? Exactly what will be included for that amount of money? What if you would want to look through all your wedding images a year from now, will they still be available?
The photography industry is evolving and this is a heated topic right now. Many photographers who have been in the industry for 10+ years have used the business model centered around clients paying a “sitting fee” and then later purchasing a collection. Like I mentioned before, if they are able to run an honest and successful business with that method, then great for them. I however, don’t agree with that being the absolute best, most straight forward business model for MY business. I stress the “MY” because this is just my humble opinion! This method has allowed me to grow my business as quickly as I have. I believe the industry is ever evolving and therefore to operate a healthy, thriving business, one must be willing to evolve as well.
Below is a shot taken of me by my second shooter at a wedding a few weeks ago. Loved this venue! You can view the wedding images here, and you better believe they got access & ownership to all 1000 images.