When deciding on a photographer, it’s not often that you’re stuck for options. So it makes sense that you’d take some time to compare offerings, for quality, value and price. Here’s a short guide to help you in doing that.
Comparing quality and consistency
The quality of a photographer’s images is in most ways subjective. You like them or you don’t. Another quality consideration though is consistency. Can the photographer show a consistent quality of output for the shoots they showcase? It’s relatively easy to create 1 great picture from a portrait session. But quite a different matter to consistently create a good selection of great pictures from each session. So that’s one thing to look for on a photographer’s website. Do they show only single pictures from each client, or a selection of images (like you’ll find on my website), demonstrating a consistent quality that appeals to you?
If it’s not obvious, here’s why you should care about consistent quality. Let’s say, for instance, you need at least 5 different images from a portrait session. But despite clearly communicating your needs, the photographer only produces 2-3 that fit the bill. Your options then are to spend more time and money either on another photo session, or on having sub-par photos further retouched and hoping they’ll be ‘good enough’. So even if the price seemed like a bargain to begin with, you end up spending more in the end. Or settling for half of what you wanted. That’s why quality and consistency matter.
In order to compare prices you need to know what you’re actually getting in any given package. You’ll also want to know the costs of any extras (e.g. digital files) you might need that aren’t included. This isn’t always made easy by some photographers on their websites. Part of that might be due to an understandable desire to first educate potential customers on the value of good photography before scaring them away with what may actually be very reasonable prices. Another reason, unfortunately, could be a business model based on holding customers hostage over their images and extracting the most money possible through print services, without thought of repeat custom. There are a few photography studios (and some in Southampton) that operate that way, so beware.
If you know you’ll want prints, check the prices first and not just the ‘starting from’ price. If you want high quality digital images you can print or share online, check if they are actually available (some studios still don’t offer them) and the costs. Also worth checking are the standard licensing terms and any extra costs for your intended usage of digital images. I want to help you make an informed decision without the fear of any nasty surprises. That’s why I’ve made all my pricing as clear and open as possible.
Comparing value for money
Finally with a clear assessment of quality and price you can decide if a photographer offers good value. Then by comparing them with others which fit your budget and quality requirements you’ll get a sense for who offers the very best value.
Tied in with value for money is figuring out how much it’s worth spending on your images. Naturally every photographer will tell you great photographs are an investment. But isn’t it true? However much time, effort and money you spend on looking a certain way, that’s an indication of the importance your image has. It’s not a question of vanity. It’s simply true that as human beings our image affects what we end up doing in life and helps decide the people we do it with, as well as how they remember us. Having portrait or event photographs that reflect us or those closest to us and the aspirations you have well is a natural and timeless way of sharing our image and bringing us closer to our loved ones. This is why good portrait and event photography is an investment.
How subjectively good you look is not all about how much money you spend on your appearance. Nevertheless, when you want to make a special impression some cost is often involved. And when it is, it’s worth considering the proverb ‘buy cheap, pay twice’. If you go for the cheapest photographer in the hope of getting a bargain, there’s a fair chance you’ll find the results aren’t what you were hoping for. And in case you’ll end up paying again for another photographer to do the job right. In this way, a ‘cheap’ offer may not represent the value it initially suggests. Of course, neither necessarily does a more costly option. So make sure you’re impressed with the photographer’s portfolio and know what is and isn’t included in a package before booking.
If you’re wondering specifically how much to budget for your portrait photography, headshots or event photography, see the ‘How much should you budget for your photography?‘ guide.