Summer often means picture time: family pictures, senior portraits, weddings, and special occasions. I recently sat down with Daisy Portraits’ Larissa Annen, to ask those questions that we all have when we think about hiring a photographer.

I have a nice camera and cute kids, why do I need a professional?

Your kids want to remember your family. They want to look back in twenty years and say, “That’s what we looked like together. That’s who we were.” They can’t do that if Mom isn’t in the picture. She can’t be absent.

Also, any parent knows that their kids (and frankly, most husbands) respond better to a stranger than you. I tell a six-year-old to stand a certain place or smile, they generally do it. If they don’t, I don’t get stressed out by them the way a parent would. Coming to a photo shoot, you’ve already had the chaos of getting ready on time and looking nice. The whole family comes in a little bit frantic. Adding to that by also being in charge of the shoot would pack on too much emotional baggage that shows in a picture. Then you tell them you’re going to do it again next year and they dread it!

Also, let’s say you finally do it. You get everyone there, in position, everyone looking, smiling, and boom take the picture. Something always messes up, always. Maybe the camera shakes, you just miss the smile, or a shadow falls. There’s always something. I’ve trained for a significant amount of time to know how to avoid those problems, how to fix them, and how to make it good. With me there, the pressure of the perfect shot is off you.

But professional photographers are really expensive. What are we paying for?

The average photographer charges about $250 for an hour session. Let’s break down where that goes. First thing off the top is the fixed expenses:

  1. 10% Taxes
  2. 10% Marketing and business expenses
  3. 20% Equipment maintenance and upgrades, rentals, props
  4. 10% Child care costs if they are a parent

The rest of the money gets split up into an hourly rate, not just the hour that you are with the photographer. Here’s the amount of time spent on just one client:

  1. 2 Hours Actual Shoot: travel time, getting there early to set up, picture time, client wrap up, cleaning up
  2. 1 Hour of Communications: email, phone, setting up shoot and reviewing photos with the client
  3. 3-5 Hours Editing and Culling: reviewing and cutting pictures into those useable
  4. 1 Hour Finalizing: preparing, loading, and delivering CD with final photos

That doesn’t even take into account the hours necessary for the business:

  1. 1-2 hours a week on continued education and knowledge
  2. 2-3 hours marketing and business up-keep
  3. 50+ hours of initial training before starting business
  4. Stress of deadlines, time away from family, and continued customer service even during personal crisis.

We don’t get royalties. This is our art and passion but once we put it on a CD and hand it to you, it’s gone.

So, how do I find a photographer?

The best way is through word of mouth. Ask around or look through your friends’ social media. When you see something you like, ask. If a person had a great shoot or a horrible shoot, they’re going to want to tell you about it.

Don’t go through Google or Yelp. Some people have really horrible business practices online and you might not get a good idea of who they are.

How do I know that person we find is good?

Always follow up on suggestions by looking at a professional’s work. Each photographer has a different style. Make sure they aren’t soft, running through a meadow if you want bold color and people looking at you or vice versa. It’s also good to make sure they’re consistent. Do the pictures from all of their recent shoots show the same quality?

Choose someone who knows how to work with what you want. Don’t ask a wedding photographer to photograph your newborn or a family photographer to shoot your wedding. They require different skills and knowledge.

Any message you’d want to give to the world?

What kills me is that we so easily spend $100 at Target or getting our hair done every six weeks but hesitate to spend money on memories that will last forever. You will always have plenty of candids. A professional can edit out all the karate bruises, boogers, spit bubbles, and closed eyes. If we’re really nice, we can avoid or get rid of that awkward bulge you might get when you sit. Essentially, we give you a statement piece that is a work of art on your wall.

Many thanks to Larissa Annen! If you’d like to see more of her, you can check it out at DaisyPortraits.com or on Facebook at Daisy Portraits.

Come back next week. Larissa will be giving me tips for taking great candids!