Frugality is on all our minds these days. In these tough economic times, we prudently take extra steps to economize wherever possible. Where we would like a Lexus, perhaps a Toyota will do. We cut back on eating out or downgrade where we eat out in the interests of trimming costs, yet still living and enjoying our lives to a reasonable degree where possible.
For a high quality service such as custom artistic photography, there are real costs incurred. A physical shoot location such as a brick and mortar studio or a high value parlor suite is a heavy cost adder. The other main component is the cost of skilled labor, or what should more accurately be called "talent". Dedicated hair style and make up staff are a critical component of a successful shoot. And finally there is significant time invested with a client during the consultation, the photosession, and on retouching and creating the final products.
The time factor is an important element of the shoot. We often find that clients relax into their true personal style 30-45 minutes into the shooting part of the session. The most dramatic shots usually come after this initial period. Moreover the shoot is constructed around the style you want to achieve. Everything from austere bodyscape art through Victoria's Secret style images and beyond. Capturing images that are beautiful and flattering to your form usually takes effort and time to tease the inner beauty out to complement the outer beauty.
In general, mall photography is a time limited affair designed for a high volume market. Actual shooting times in such establishments often range around 20 minutes, barely enough time to start to feel comfortable let alone get compelling, communicative shots.
Their marketing often relies on low entry price lures to bring the customer in for a session; the revenue is then increased on the back side of the session through upsell/upcharge sales techniques. Moreover, as a volume oriented business, the studio is designed around tried and true props and shooting styles. While this does create a studio consistency in the look and feel of the work, it also tends to limit the uniqueness, variety, and innovation that is possible when working individually with a client.
Surprisingly, the average sale from a mall photo session experience is not always markedly different from the cost of a custom photo session. Whereas the balance between studio expense and talent costs are weighted in favor of talent with a custom photographer, they are instead weighted in favor of studio expenses for the mall studio, necessarily because of the exhorbitant costs of retail sales space.
What this means is that while a client ultimately pays similar prices for either experience, it is the custom artistic photographer that will provide the better quality and service because that is where the greater share of the revenue is going.
The difference in quality also comes from the custom photographer spending far greater time with the client as well as the caliber of the experienced staff's artistic talent.
Why is it expensive? Because it costs a lot to deliver this service. And it is mostly a service. The value of the delivered product is in the time, effort, and skill it took to create and capture the images, not in the actual prints. In my business model, I prefer to be honest about costs so my clients dont have a surprise bill when they try to leave a session with a few finished prints.
For me, its a matter of integrity and a part of the ethics with which I conduct my business.