What happened to 957 pictures for $5?: The price of custom photography
I promise I’m not trying to be smart… I mean it literally. If I were you, the client. Well, a potential client actually. Here’s what might be on my mind.
“I want professional photos of my family, but my brother’s friend’s cousin’s daughter’s babysitter just got a really nice camera and she’ll take photos of us and give me a disk of all the images for only $90. She has a website, so she is legit.”
Here is an analogy for you:
I have bad hair. It’s too thick, it’s sorta curly, sorta wavy, frizzy and a bad ashy brown color. My brother’s friend’s cousin’s daughter’s babysitter Jackie will cut, weave and blow dry my hair for $90. My other option is going to Jeff the hair stylist at the salon across the street. He charges me $250 for a cut, weave and blow dry. I decide to try both.
I’m sitting in Jackie’s laundry room waiting for her to gather her things when I realize she’s going to wash my hair in the utility sink. Leaning over the sink kneeling on a folding chair proves a little difficult, she gets shampoo in my eye and water drips down my neck into my shirt. We go in the house and she sits me down in her dining room, her husband is sitting on the couch watching Nascar and drinking a 40. He leans forward to grab a bag of chips and I notice his butt-crack. I remind myself that Jackie only charges $90, she probably can’t afford to rent a station in a salon, so I divert my eyes and forgive her. She begins to cut my hair. It seems to be taking quite awhile. She looks a little nervous. I remember that she’s still fairly new to cutting hair. I rationalize that she’s still better than I’d be at it, after all. Plus, she has like 500 fans on her Facebook page, and that has to mean something, right? Jackie disappears to mix my color. She’s gone for a long time. I get nervous that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. What if she screws it up and my hair falls out? I start to wonder… maybe there is a REASON why she only charges $90. Is that the only way she can get clients? Then Jackie weaves a beautiful blond into my hair. I try to forget about my nerves and begin to get excited. A cut and color for only 90 bucks, I can’t wait to show everyone my hair! She finishes up the blow dry and I turn to the mirror to discover its really yellow and brassy. The cut is a uneven and boxy. I take a deep breath and calm myself down. Well, it looks better than it did before, I guess, and I only paid $90. The next day I meet up with some girlfriends for drinks. No one says anything about my hair, and I’m afraid to ask what they think because I know it just looks average, or maybe even bad. I feel disappointed. $90 seemed like such a great deal.
I suppose it’s only a deal if the value is greater than $90.
Two months pass and I find myself sitting at Jeff’s station in the salon across the street. The receptionist offers me a cold drink and the most recent issue of People magazine. Jeff comes over introduces himself and asks me what I’d like to accomplish today. We talk for a few minutes about the specific color of blond I’m looking for. He asks me questions about how I style my hair, what I like, what I don’t like, and tells me a little about whats in style right now. Jeff seems as excited as I am for my new look. I look around to see all the latest flat irons, blow dryers, collections of brushes and combs. Jeff rattles off instructions to his assistant while examining my hair and she’s back in a jiffy with 4 bowls of color. As Jeff begins to weave in and out of my hair with light blond and medium honey and chestnut brown I close my eyes and listen to the calming music on the satellite radio. I feel relaxed and confident. I trust him. I sit with my hair under the dryer and once again I’m offered a cold drink and a magazine. Jeff comes over to inspect the progression of the color. He exclaims how perfect it looks and brings me to the shampoo station. There is a big cushy leather recliner. I put my head back and he begins to wash. The shampoo smells like mint and lavender and he spends an extra few minutes on a mini scalp massage. Jeff dries and styles my hair with ease. When he’s finished he spins my chair around and I hardly recognize myself in the mirror. I look like I belong in a fashion magazine. The cut frames my face perfectly. It’s sassy with a hint of modern, just the right amount to suit my style. The color shimmers as I turn my head. It seems almost as if there are thousands of shades of blond intertwined throughout the locks of hair. It reminds me of what my hair looked like when I was little, after spending all summer in the sun. I feel proud. I meet up with some friends for lunch the next day. They must have commented on my hair 10 times. One of them demanded Jeff’s phone number and asked me how much he charged. “$250″, I told her. She replied, “Well it looks a-MAZE-ing, what a great deal.”
The $90 Jackie charged me wasn’t a great deal. The $250 Jeff charged me was. How is that possible? They both gave me a cut, weave and blow dry.
The difference was the experience and the quality. The $250 that Jeff charged me included a cold coke, and comfy chair, state of the art equipment and supplies, experience, knowledge, and a quality product. It included a feeling of pride and excitement that lasted until it was time to return for more. The $90 Jackie charged me included cheap dye, dull scissors, a wet shirt and a butt-crack.
When I thought about it later, I thought, well wouldn’t it be great to find someone who was somewhere in between, you know, someone who is amazing and cheap? But the problem is there is no such thing as in between. When someone offers quality, they have to charge for it, they have to cover the cost of running the business, continuing education, supplies, marketing, and they have to cut themselves a paycheck. Otherwise they are not running a business, they are the proud President of a Non-Profit Organization.
So if you find yourself presented with what seems like a “great deal” for your family photos, ask yourself if the $90 is worth an experience with Jackie. Personally, as a client, I’d rather pay $250 for an experience that feels priceless, than waste $90 on something sub par. Value is a magical thing.Borrowed from Claire Alyse Photography