I have developed this FAQ to answer many of the questions that I am commonly asked. There are so many photographers - people are genuinely confused by hobbyists, novice, and/or amateur photographers working and acting like professionals. I am not saying this to be critical in any way, rather for the average consumer - they do not know the difference.
A professional is someone who conducts their business professionally. They often work in a commercial location or studio, have the required city and state licenses, carry liability insurance, and belong to trade associations. For example - I am licensed by City of Springfield (follow link and search for J Rosa Photography). I belong to the trade association Professional Photographers of America (PPA.com) which also provides equipment and liability insurance, including legal representation in case of liable or copyright theft.
Side note - I am sharing this information because so many people have preconceived notions about photography. I want to help you understand what you are buying. This is not about my ego or trying to rationalize my prices. I have people who tell me every day - "I would never pay that much" OR "These photos are amazing, priceless - worth every penny and more!". In the past 20 years of being a successful photographer - I will openly admit, I don't always hit the mark. Yet, when I do - it's amazing! See, when I do not deliver what my clients wants, it's usually because I am not connected. The best sessions happen when I am invested, emotionally and creatively. This is the importance of a planning session, either over the phone or in-person.
Did you own Lamb Portrait Studio?
- YES! From 1997 to 2012, I owned and operated a full-time portrait studio with a clerical staff, a production team and multiple photographers. I decided to close my studio for a variety of personal and professional reasons. Such as, being a Mom changed my priorities. Children don't care about your accomplishments, they just want your time, love and attention. Since I began my career while I was still in high school, becoming a freelancer gives me the freedom to spread my wings as an artist.
Do you sell prints and frames?
- Yes and no. I have decided to outsource it to a company I trust. I personally oversee the entire process, but I only have so much time in the day and cannot do the actual ordering, framing or delivery myself. This is the best solution for those looking for my professional assistance and expertise.
- Once upon a time, the only way you could own my photography was by purchasing prints. And, the only way you could get professional photo quality was through a professional photographer because professional photo-finishing labs only sold to photographers. Today, you may or may not choose to print your photos. Professional photo-finishing labs are open to the public and you can buy direct. Therefore, as long as everything is prepared for you, it does not matter who uploads the order.
- If you are looking for cost-saving options for printing and framing, DIY (doing-it-yourself) is your best option. There is a learning curve to printing, but I do my best to help and guide you through the process.
What is your cheapest package, price or rate?
- If you are looking for the cheapest photographer you can find - I assure you, I am not it. Nothing I do is cheap - not my equipment, hardware, software, backgrounds, props or time. People do not hire me because I am cheap, they hire me because of my quality, skill, talent and attention to detail. Owning a J Rosa original is not a sign of "value", it is a sign of "quality".
Side note - If you can't afford me, I understand - as an artist, I live on a budget too. But let me explain something about photography, quantity is NOT quality. There is no "value" menu or meal deal. There are those who want you to believe that you get more value by hiring someone cheaper. Cheaper does NOT mean better, it just means less. Less service. Less quality. Less experience. In the grand scheme of things, why hire someone who values YOUR time and THEIR talent the least? It doesn't make sense. I would never hire the cheapest hairstylist with the cheapest tools, and least amount of experience to color, cut or style my hair before for my wedding!! At that point, you are paying to be disappointed and you will regret it for the rest of your life. Shop around - start a savings, finance your purchase on a credit card as you would with any large and major purchase, but don't think less is more.
What is a session/reservation fee?
- Any fee prior to the session is a minimal investment between the photographer and client which often confirms, secures or guarantees the appointment. Although some photographers say it's the fee associated with creating the photography, this is misleading. One can not support a business based upon session fees, however it does ensure that the photographer gets something for their time.
- Fees can vary based upon how much time and resources are required for the upcoming session, including travel expenses.
- Some sessions do not have a session fee because a purchase will immediately follow. For example, Quick-takes do not have a session fee but they do require a reservation fee which applies towards the order and you place your order right after your session.
Do you provide digitals so I can print or publish my own photos?
- Yes, it is my belief that technology has come far enough that you can print your own, if you so choose. I believe that as long as I provide you hi-resolution print-ready files, it is just a matter of uploading the files to the lab, indicating quantity, and having them shipped directly to you.
- Professional labs are now open to the public. In the past the only way you could acquire professional quality was through a professional photographer. This is no longer the case. I like to refer my clients to www.mpix.com and www.blackriverimaging.com because they are known for their quality and customer service. Plus, more importantly, they are Missouri businesses which support our local and state economy.
Can I buy all of the photos on CD?
- No. I do not offer this service. It is not possible for me to provide high-end service with top quality craftsmanship at rock bottom prices. I know there are many photographers, who offer this service and find it to be detrimental to their business within a few years.
- As technology has become more affordable with cheaper cameras, more people are willing to offer on-site photography at drastically reduced prices. Today many aspiring or novice photographers offer "shoot and CD" services as a way to break into the business or build a portfolio. However, they quickly discover that all-in-one pricing limits growth. Within a few years, they either discontinue offering these services or close their business.
Can I buy the RAW files and edit them myself?
- No. How I process my images is a trade secret and the main ingredient that makes my photography different and valuable. It takes years of practice to hone these skills.
Would you explain your rates, how are the determined?
Here is where it gets a bit business heavy, however, my point is to show you - I am running a business. I conduct my business professionally in a commercial location.
- When I had my full-time (retail) portrait studio, I sold my photography based upon the print. My smallest package was $125 which included your choice of 3 standard prints in any pose. A standard print is either an 8x10/8x8, a 5x7/5x5 or a 4x6. The cost for these items which you can plainly see on MPIX or Blackriver is approximately $10, with shipping around $20. Most portrait studio use this retail business model to determine their mark-up - 20% cost of goods, 10% profit, 10% advertising, 50% overhead, 10% reinvestment to equal the total cost of 100% of the sale. For example, out of $125 sale I would have to manufacture the product (including fixing any errors) for no more than $25.00, $12.50 profit, $12.50 towards advertising, $62.50 towards rent, utilities, software, subscriptions, equipment, employees, bookkeeping, etc., $12.50 set aside to replace or repair aging equipment and to attend conferences or further education. My overhead at the time was $13,000 per month which meant I had to make $1200 per day to break-even. My average client spent $400, meaning we had to bring in 3 clients a DAY willing to spend the average, 15 clients per week and 780 clients per year to break-even.
- Today my business model is based upon time, despite this, the break-down is still very similar - 10% profit, 20% advertising, 60% overhead, 10% reinvestment to equal the total cost of 100% of the sale. My average client spends $350 and to break-even I need 3 clients a week. It's not hard to run the numbers with an average sale of $350; I make $35 profit, $70 goes towards advertising, $210 goes towards the cost of running my business (overhead), and $35 I set aside to reinvest or upgrade my equipment.
Why is photography so expensive?
- Price is always a factor when hiring someone, but when someone knows what they are doing and invests in quality tools - They will not be cheap. Let me ask you this one question, "Expensive? Compared to what?". Another photographer? What you paid last time? What you can afford? We have all heard the sayings, like "You get what you pay for" but it is really true in photography. Again, I am sharing this because I have witnessed first hand the regrets many people have had in hiring the wrong "inexpensive" photographer. Ask any seasoned photographer who has been one for more than 15 years, they will share a trail of tears similar to mine.
What is resolution?
- It is a term to describe the measurement and quality of an image. It is usually expressed in a numerical sentence with width x height along with DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch). Such as, 2000 pixels by 3000 pixels or 8 inches by 12 inches @250 dpi is a higher resolution than the same size @100 dpi. The overall size of the image is not an indicator of quality although most larger images do have more resolution. Most photographic printers use a resolution of 250 to 300 dpi, anything more is discarded. If you intend to print large photos, it is important to properly size your photo with the ideal resolution.