Custom Portraits

What is a custom portrait?  Why is there more of a cost associated with custom photography?  Without knowing the ins and outs of the photography business sometimes custom portraits are misunderstood.

This is taken with permission from Marianne Drenthe’s Consumer Guide to Custom Photography.

What custom photography ultimately is all about is choice and experience (as in THE experience). Custom photography is about finding someone who will photograph your family, give you devoted 1:1 attention without worry of the next ‘in line’ or the feeling of a crowded portrait studio. A custom photographer will typically show you a fairly extensive gallery culled to only show the good images that meet the photographers’ creative sensibilities. Often the images are fully edited images-color corrected with blemishes and undereye circles removed. Custom photographers are also known as boutique studios, offering a range of products and unparalleled service. Think Lexus vs. Hyundai, think Nordstrom vs. WalMart.

Custom photography should have you, the client and your experience in mind.

When the photographer charges…for the photo shoot (aka SESSION FEE) you are not just paying for the two hours of session time, you are paying the photographer for 12-19 hours complete time for your session.  There is a great deal of time involved in creating high end custom photography sessions for a client.  The luxury of great service, better choices and a supberb end product.  The result of all this are heirloom quality images.  The time invested at the session is only a small portion of time involved in this process.

Regarding equipment costs, a good quality professional camera with a selection of good optical quality lenses and digital storage mediums and computer set up can run from $10,000-$30,000 costs dependent on the photographer.  Even though you can purchase a really good quality digital SLR for about $2100 there are still other costs related to photography.  A good lens for portrait photography can run from $900 to $2500.  A dependable computer system with software loaded for business and creative usage can run $2500 to $8000 dependent on the photographer.

Custom photography is more of a luxury than your entry level cookie cutter chain experience.  Custom photography truly is not for everyone, it requires a level of commitment, investment in time  and money, forethought and planning on the part of the subject/client and requires a larger time commitment for the photographer as well.

Clients who enjoy taking a more active role in the creation of their families’ memories have the desire to have portrait art that is truly personalized.  These more discerning clients have been known to budget and allot time for a custom photography session.  Many clients opt for it to be a once a year special experience, some opt to have custom photography sessions done to record their child’s stages in life.  Having said this, it is clear that custom photography is not in everyone’s budget,  it is something that most families save for to splurge on from time to time to memorialize their children as they really are  (not posed and primped in the cookie cutter studio setting).

Custom photography has been likened to purchasing a fine vehicle.  To get to point B from A let’s face it, even a bus ride would suffice.  If you want to luxuriate in a finely appointed vehicle, customizing your own experience by listening to smooth jazz while sitting in a climate controlled setting adjusted purely for your comfort in a body hugging leather interior, perhaps that Lexus you so desire is your cup of tea.  Custom photography is much the same cup of tea.  It is the Lexus of the photography world.  It is where the intangibles make the experience truly wonderful and the images themselves make the investment of money and time truly worthwhile.

Custom photography can be broken down into even more levels.  There are on location, studio, mixed studio/on location, specialty location and destination type photographers.  The beauty of custom photography is in the choices and in the luxury of thoses options.  The customized service level you are sure to experience will be amazing.  The knowledge that your final images are the result of someone caring about those moments so much that they take extra time ensuring that the artwork you receive is good enough to stand by with their name on it.  That level of quality and commitment  is all but lost in the age of “mass produced,” “mass marketed,” corporate “everyone is a number”.  Custom photography is based on being unique to you.  How great an experience would be,  to be able to sit back and allow a photographer to do this highly custom work for images that you will most likely cherish for a lifetime?