The Value of Photography | An Education
"Our family has been enjoying the beautiful and creative work of Heather Hall Photography for the past three years. She has captured a plethora of memories that are proudly displayed throughout our entire home and they bring a smile to our faces each time we pass. We joyously look forward to meeting up with Heather whenever we schedule a session and often find ourselves asking, "What memory would we like to have Heather capture next?"
"I was just looking back at our daughter's six month pictures thinking about how glad I am that we took the time to book a session ... It is truly worth it to take the time to get professional pictures taken ... I am looking forward to Heather capturing many more of our family memories!"
Memories. Faces. Expressions. Stories. We cling to them as time marches on and our babies grow into long-limbed, independent thinkers, or loved ones are lost, or our own youth acquires the lines, spots and experience of years. A photo can jolt us back to a moment; the light was just so, the kids were chaotic and carefree, sprinklers and ice cream were involved, laughing...lots of laughing. These things are worth remembering.
In the last three years as a professional, I've learned the value of photography in our everyday lives and have become an expert in the art of storytelling. (I love my work!) And not only do I give my clients a beautiful gallery of stunning images for the years to come, but I give them an experience and friendship. I become their confidant, encourager, and fashion sounding board. I keep it fun and simple.
But one of the things I have struggled with is placing a price on this service. In the beginning I was building my portfolio and gaining experience with entry-level equipment and I charged accordingly. Three years later I'm the real deal, shooting with prized glass and tucking dozens - if not hundreds - of sessions under my belt. Charging for what I'm worth now is scary! Will people think I'm outrageous? Will former clients look elsewhere? Am I truly worth it? My first tier of clients were friends and family and I didn't want to lose their business or friendship because they might not want to pay my rates. So I maintained my beginner prices to please...at the expense of my time, my family's time, and my mental well-being. I was "mean mommy" sometimes. I was an angry wife sometimes. I was stressed and spent and spread too thin. Clearly not a sustainable way of life.
So I had a heart to heart with myself. I had to have the courage to declare that yes, I am worth it, and yes, I will stick to my worth. I decided I would prioritize the value of my time and talents over the feelings of a client base that was no longer mine. For this people-pleaser (moi), that was hard. I lost former clients. I endured the awkward pause after telling someone what I charged and silent emails from prospects price-shopping. And I found that...it was fine! We were still friends. They didn't hate me. It might have been uncomfortable, but I got new clients. Clients who didn't balk at my prices. Clients who valued me and what I gave them. My people were out there, ready to befriend me, bring me into their homes, capture their story, all without batting an eyelash at my rates. Hallelujah! I had value in my own eyes and the eyes of others.
The question of value is tricky, but I believe a great number of things boil down to education, or lack thereof. For photography in particular, there is so much more to this business than the one hour I am with you. So. Much. More. So in the spirit of openness and a genuine desire for others to know the details behind my business, let me give you a peak into my little world...
When you hire me to capture your story, it usually starts with a phone call or email. There are several, sometimes dozens of emails to determine details like date, time, location. And now coffee is involved! I like to get to know my clients and their needs before I show up to take their pictures. I consult on wardrobe choices, looks/ideas, activities, decipher family personality, etc. I drive to our location, sometimes up to two hours away from my home which means another two on the road back. We have fun! I document it! Then we part ways and I spend hours culling your shoot and meticulously editing your gallery so you have The Best photos to smile over, sometimes 100-300 per session. Then I export them and upload them and make sure you get the link to download them, and then I blog my favorites to share on social media and my site, sometimes sharing one or two on photography sites for community feedback. I make sure you love them.
When I'm not working on your gallery, I'm usually working on someone else's, or I'm running the machine of my business. Crystallizing my genre, updating my site, blogging, answering emails and inquiries, reading photography textbooks/magazines/articles and making notes on things I want to implement, honing my abilities, mastering high quality equipment, building my client base, advertising to my niche, mentoring and being mentored, building my branding and logo, teaching workshops, working on personal photography projects and campaigning issues I'm passionate about.
(My other job is changing diapers, reading stories, being an obstacle course/nose-wiper/shoulder to cry on, Master Chef, and homemaker - AKA MAMA. I have the freedom to run my business on my own hours, but sometimes those hours are a snatched 5 minutes here and there or during naptime, or more commonly from 10 p.m. - 1 a.m. when no one can interrupt me.)
When I was just a mom with a camera, it was so much simpler! Schedules were simpler. Purchases were simpler. Now that I run a business, there are real expenses. From quality equipment to website hosting, gallery hosting, business cards, editing software, gas, office supplies, a computer, external hard drives, SD cards, batteries, a giant monitor for editing, taxes, marketing, software and equipment upgrades, SEO work, accounting, child care, domains...the list goes on. It takes a lot to run a business, and I am happy to do it. This is not me complaining - this is me educating. I want others to understand the intricacies of my work, my heart, my rates. Most of the time it isn't even work, but it still demands a lot of me and I have to put a price on what that is.
My style and services aren't for everyone, but they are for some, and that's my tribe. For those of you still not on board, there is a photographer for you! I may not be it, but there are dozens of local photographers in your area at the price point you want. Find them. Seek them out. Invite them to tell your story. Because your story matters. Your story is special. Your story is...yours.
For all of my peeps out there - holla! I can't wait to tell the next chapter of your story. Thank you for reminding me of my value in your life, and more importantly, thank you for valuing the role of photography in telling your story. You make my work so much play :)