Category: Customer Service

What’s the deal with Session Fees?

January 24, 2010

Session fees are often a sore point with clients. The majority of professional photographers charge some sort of session fees. These fees might range anywhere from $20 to $300 or more.

As a Beaufort Photographer, many of our customers are military. Since the military machine is not known for its financial largess, we keep our session fees at a reasonable $50. In fact, we even do away with session fees if you purchase a  portrait package.

Clients might question the reason for charging those fees. Shouldn’t this be included in the price of the photographs you get? Let’s take a look at the time involved in doing a photography session.

  • Initial consultation (30 minutes)
  • Travel time to and from location (30 – 60+ minutes)
  • Time for the session (60+ minutes)
  • Backup & Import Images (15 minutes)
  • Initial image processing & sorting (30 minutes)
  • Prepare photo gallery (30 minutes)
  • Travel to/from customer home for showing (30 – 60 minutes)
  • Photo selection session (45 minutes)

Thus far, we have invested anywhere from 5 5to 7 hours of our time, without any guarantee the customer will purchase anything.  At best, this works out to $10/hour.  Not so extravagant.

eStork – helping deployed military connect with their newborn

January 4, 2010

Being a Beaufort-based Photographer, I am extremely proud of the Marine Corp. They have become an ever present part of our life. Be it the noise of F18 doing carrier landing exercises or noticing the plethora of high and tights, the military presence adds to Beaufort’s unique charm.

As a Photographer, I love a Marine’s dress uniform. There is a richness and a vibrancy to its colors. It could very well be that I have been influenced by the Corp’s fantastic commercials – I tip my hat to the JWT advertising agency. You have to admit, no other branches has commercial sport with as much mystique.

For all the sexiness of the commercials, the military life is a difficult one. It is replete with sacrifices and hardship. Not only the physical danger, but also the strain on relationships and family caused by deployments.

I have looked for a good way to show appreciation to our military and their family for all the sacrifices they make. While we offer a military discount, I wanted to do something more. I am thrilled to announce that our studio has joined the eStork program.

eStork was created to help with a heartbreaking situation: A deployed serviceman unable to be at their child’s birth.

The goal of the program is simple: provide nice portraits of newborns that can be emailed to the deployed spouse.

Participating photographers offer a free newborn session and provide a no cost CD with images suitable for emailing.

To participate, simply contact a participating photographer and schedule a session.  In the Beaufort area, you can contact us at 263-9706 (or via our contact form). For other areas, the eStork web site has a list of photographers.

This is a small way to give back to the military community.

Season of Sharing – Thank You to our Military

December 2, 2009

I recently became aware of the PDMA Portraits of Love initiative.  The project aims to send 10,000 family portraits to deployed soldiers.  Unfortunately, it ends this week.  Had I found out earlier, I would have participated as it is a cause that resonates deeply with me!

Instead, I am offering 5 military families the opportunity to receive a free on-site photography session and a framed print.

No gimmick, no strings attached. Just a small way to give back to those who serve our country.

Simply use the contact us page.

What to do with shoe box photographs?

November 18, 2009

Most of us have a “shoe box” full of photographs. Images we have collected over time, depicting our journey through life. Sometimes, we even have photographs from our parents and grand-parents in there.

Those photos deserve a better place than a shoe box! The problem is that most of us don’t know what to do with 100 or more photographs.

One time honored tradition is to put the photographs in an album. This is an excellent alternative to the shoe box and highly encouraged! Unfortunately, we never seem to have enough time to put one of those album together.

Another alternative is to let a professional take care of it. This opens up many possibilities, especially if the images are scanned and digitized. With digital images you can:

  • email them to friends and family and post them on-line.
  • create a custom album with your images.
  • create multi-photo large prints.
  • restore damaged photographs.

In the end, you get something that you can proudly display.

Why do we take virtual photographs?

November 17, 2009

When you ask parents why they take photos, you get answers like “To record our child’s growth”, “to have memories”. With the advent of digital cameras, we take more pictures than ever before. Unfortunately, most of them sit on a computer, rarely seen or enjoyed. We have virtual photographs.

In all fairness, to go form the image on the computer to a finished photograph ready to display is quite an inconvenient process:

  • Have the image printed – upload it or drive to the store to have it done
  • Wait around for the image to print – or drive to the store to pick it up
  • Find a home for the print:
    • Look for a suitable frame, purchase it, put the print in the frame
    • Look for an album, purchase it and populate it with prints.

With today’s busy lifestyle, who has the time to do all that?

When dealing with a full service photographer, many of these inconveniences disappear:

  • The photographer goes to your home to discuss your session and could even take the photographs there
  • The photographer shows you a selection of images and you discuss together what you would like to have: framed photos or an album designed. The photographer can provide guidance, show you images of different sizes, help with frame selection, etc…
  • When the final product is ready, it is delivered to you.

The end result are photographs that physically exist and are displayed for all to see. Not just a pile of bits on a computer disk.

Why should family portraits be inconvenient?

November 16, 2009

Talk to people about having family portraits taken, especially if they have young children, and you get variations on the following scenario:

  • Get everyone cleaned up, dressed up and prettied up
  • Pile everyone in the car and drive to the studio
  • Wait while the family in front of you finishes up
  • Get the photographs taken, which magically causes the kids to fuss at each other or burst into tears
  • You have to rush through the session, since there is another family waiting…
  • Gotta make a decision about which package to get right now; while the kids are crying
  • A week later, you have to drive to the studio and pick up the prints – or they mail them and they get crammed in a mail box or get wet in a thunderstorm…
  • Now you get to cut the photographs, since they all came in sheets.
  • You have to shop for a frame (or two or three) or an album to put the small prints in

You might even have experienced this yourself. It’s a wonder family photos ever get taken! Now, let’s imagine the following scenario:

  • Photographer comes to your home to discuss what you want to accomplish and discuss some options.
  • Photographer meets you at your home, the beach, the kids’ favorite park – wherever you want – to take the photographs
    • Why just do a family photo? While we’re here, why not take photos of Mom & Dad, the kids playing and laughing. For the fun of it, let’s change outfits too!
  • Photographer meets you at your home and presents the images. You can have a leisurely conversation about frames or albums and how to present the photographs and what would look good with your decor.
  • Final product is hand-delivered to your home in person.

Doesn’t this sound like a much better alternative? In fact, you might not have to leave your living room at all!

This is what we like to offer our customers. Why should your family portrait be inconvenient?

We’re banishing Naked Prints!

November 4, 2009

In the past, I have made my dislike of naked prints known. Too many photographs simply end up in a shoe box. I believe a photograph worth having is worth displaying! This philosophy has led us to the following decision:

If you purchase a photograph from us, It comes framed.

Our prices include framing of the photograph. If you absolutely want the print by itself, our frames are easy to take apart.

At Southern Photographic Images, we want you to proudly display your photographs for everyone to see. This is simply our way of making it easier to do so.

Portraits – In the studio or on location?

October 6, 2009

One of the question that needs answered when deciding to have a portrait taken is wether the portraits will be taken in a studio or on location.  There is no right or wrong answer.  It is simply a matter of preference and personal style. Here is a short list of factors to consider.

Studio Portraits

Studio Portraits provide an easier environment for the photographer. They have total control of the light and can take advantage of this to create some truly dramatic portraits.

Studios often have a selection of props (furniture, plants, backgrounds) that allow for good staging.

Studios also lend themselves to more classical and timeless portraits, with a neutral background.

The one drawback of studios is that often, clients are less comfortable. You are in the photographer’s environment with stands, strobes, softboxes, backgrounds, etc… This can be quite intimidating.

Location Portraits

On location portraits have the advantage of being held where clients are comfortable. Instead of being in the photographer’s domain, you are in the comfort of a familiar setting.

You can get a much bigger variety of locales. You can have a beach, a park, a forest background, a river’s edge, even your living room.

Natural light can be stunning! Sunrise or Sunset light is magical.

Natural light can be harsh! Noon light makes for some very harsh shadows.

Location portraiture lends itself well to more casual family portraits.

Location portraiture can be more difficult for the photographer. They don’t have as much control over the light or the weather. It is also more time consuming, as there is some travel involved, maybe some scouting ahead of time. While we don’t charge more for location portraiture, some photographers do have a higher sitting fee for locations outside the studio.

Which One?

Factors you should consider include the “look” you are after and where in your home the portrait will be:

  • A family portrait to remind you of the wonderful summer vacation you took – Outdoor portraits would be ideal
  • A corporate headshot, a cap and gown graduation – Classic studio portraits are what you want.
  • A portrait for the formal living room that is oak paneled – A classic look would probably be better than a high key portrait.
  • Your 5 year daughter’s portrait for her room – a light or pastel background – could be studio or on location

Your photographer should consult with you before the photo session to make sure you get something that matches what you want.

Insurance? For my Photographer? Who Cares?!

September 26, 2009

It’s a reality of life: everyone has insurance in one form or another: Car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, etc… We rarely use it, but we (more or less) gladly pay for it. We get it because we realize that IF something should happen, it will at least cover costs or allow us to replace what we’re lost.

Businesses are no different. If you enter a store and a ceiling tile falls on your head, the store is liable for your medial expenses. If a client walks into a glass door and breaks his nose, the store might face a lawsuit. For a small business, this could be devastating! All smart business people cary liability insurance. I don’t think any landlord in their right mind would let a business rent space without insurance.

What does this have to do with photography, especially when done on location, away from a studio? Here are some plausible scenarios. Feel free to imagine your own:

The photographer comes to your home to take portraits. He accidentally knocks over your $2000 waterford crystal lamp to the floor. If the photographer is not insured, it will probably come out of his pocket unless he can convince you to put it through your homeowner’s insurance. You then face a premium increase and in the end, the insurance company might still knock on the photographer’s door to recover their cost. If the photographer has insurance, then he shouldn’t have any problems calling his insurance company and getting the lamp replaced.

You are shooting on location and trying to get a cool shot of you standing on a tree stump/pic-nic table/rock/… You stumble and break your leg. A photographer’s insurance should pay your out of pocket medical costs.

In fact, some venues will insist on the photographer having insurance and providing a Certificate Of Insurance (COI) naming the venue as being insured. This is in case the venue gets sued as a result of a photographic incident like a guest tripping on a photographer’s light at a wedding. With a COI, the venue is covered by the insurance policy.

In such a venue, if you have a photographer shoot a wedding without a COI, the venue might get hopping mad and disallow photography altogether, or they might charge you an extra fee so they can get insurance. Who needs such hassles on their wedding day!

Will any of this happen to you? I sincerely hope not. The odds are against it, but if you are the unfortunate one in a thousand, it would be nice to know you’re covered.

Contracts? We don’t need no stinkin’ Contracts!

September 24, 2009

When dealing with a commercial photographer,  there will almost always be some sort of agreement you must sign. Sometimes, it might be just a few lines while other times, it might be a multi-page document. To be clear, the contract is not there to protect the photographer. It is there so that everyone knows what the ground rules are and what to expect! It is impossible for an agreement to cover every possible situation that could come up, but a detailed one will cover the most common ones.

Wedding Photography is the area where you are most likely to encounter a contract.  It is not surprising since this is probably the biggest investment a couple will make in photography. Not to mention that there rarely is a makeover.  In our case, the wedding photo agreement is 5 pages!

The first page contains the basic details: name and contact info for the couple and their parents, the event information (Ceremony and Reception venue), a list of key players (wedding coordinator, location manager, officiator, etc…) as well as cell phone number of two contact persons on the day of the wedding, should something need to be clarified. The couple will be busy enough! They don’t need to be bothered by things like tracking down Uncle Vern for the family photo.

The second page contains the costs and details of the photography package purchased. Any travel costs incurred, taxes, when the payment must be made, etc.. We then have 2 pages of clauses and the last page contains the signature block. Here are typical clauses you will find in photography agreements.

COPYRIGHT: You will typically find this in all photography agreements. In the US, any photographic image is copyrighted by the photographer who presses the shutter release. It’s the law. This means that the photographers controls who can have a copy of their image. It will typically say that you have the right to use the image for your personal enjoyment, but can’t make money off them.

PRODUCT DELIVERY: When will the final image be available?  You sometimes hear horror stories about couples not getting their images for a year or more. This makes it clear when you should expect to receive your photographs.

PAYMENT SCHEDULE: In wedding photography, you typically pay a retainer to the photographer to book the wedding date. Most photographers also insist on full payment before the wedding. This explains when payments should be received.

CANCELLATION: What happens if you cancel the agreement with the photographer? Most times, the photographer keeps the deposit, but sometimes if they can find another wedding for the same date, they might issue a refund.

EXHIBITION: Most photographers want the ability to use photographs they take on their web site, in their brochure, in sample books, etc… This might also cover entering photographic contests.

MODEL RELEASE: Some contract include a model release which in effect says that they can use pictures they take of you for any purpose they so choose.  This would include commercial use like Ads, Billboards, TV Spots or any other such thing.

FORCE MAJEURE: What happens if the photographer breaks a leg?  There are riots in the street?  A hurricane is coming to town?  In these cases, most contracts provide for a full refund.

SATISFACTION GUARANTEE: A few contracts provide for the eventuality that if you don’t like any of the photographs taken, you might be entitled to a refund or a reshoot. These are few and far between, but certainly can provide peace of mind.

There are many other elements that could be present in an agreement. In any case, your photographer should explain all of them clearly and to your satisfaction.  You could even have your own lawyer review the agreement if you were so inclined.  I don’t think any serious photographer would object.

At the end of the day, regardless of the type or length of the contract, you should be comfortable with the photographer as a person. They will be around you for hours on end! You want someone you get along with and that will treat you with respect.