Frequently Asked Questions
How much time is really involved in being a photographer?
Here is an example of time break down for an average contract and what I do with each client’s portfolio:
- Session prep time (30 minutes or so to check batteries, get memory cards ready, researching location and shots to meet client needs and vision, etc)
- Consultation and planning with the second/candid shooters or videographer (30mins)
- Travel time to and from the session (varies)
- 2-3 hours in phone consultations or visits (I average 19 emails with each client and 90mins in phone conversations with each client)
- 1-2 hours for engagements, 1-2 hours for bridals, 3-10 hours on the wedding day (depending on the nature of the event)
- Uploading, backing up the original images, editing, blogging, uploading to the on-line galleries, and archiving (3-4 hours of editing per one hour of shooting, roughly)
- 1 hour for print orders; 5-10 hours for album orders
The time I usually spend per client is around 20-30 hours .
How much does it cost to become a photographer or videographer?
A good quality professional camera and lenses and storage mediums and computer set up and high definition editing software are around $15,000; personally, I carry about $9,000 in equipment in my camera bag for every shoot (if you a thief, I do bench press 315lbs); of course, factor in maintenance, insurance, taxes, software updates, printing, discs, cards, batteries, second shooter wages, and licensing, etc., and you can see quickly that it’s very expensive to operate and maintain a good photography business.
Why do costs vary so much from one photographer to another photographer?
Photography truly is an industry where you get what you pay for; some people think that, as with other industries, you can get either the name brand or the generic brand; in medicine, the generic drug has the same chemical makeup as the name brand, but with photography and videography, there are no generic professionals; each is unique and charges more or less based on their level of expertise. You are commissioning an artist when you hire a professional.
It’s kinda like renting a car. You can have the economy class up to the Full Size SUV; there are different prices for each class of vehicle; the same is true to photography companies. Simply put, not all photographers are the same nor are all rental vehicles the same. You can, undoubtedly, find cheap prices (some people with nice cameras who are starting out and have little experience will charge a few hundred bucks for the shoot + copy release on the images). You can find expensive prices (some professionals charge $10,000/wedding). And you can find everything in between. There are so many people now that would love to come and take snapshots of the most important day of your life; in contrast, you can commission a true professional who will come and create photographic works of art for your family to cherish forever.
What do you think makes good photographers really good?
In my opinion, photography is all about three things: the product, the photographer’s personality, and their level of experience. I’ve always said that a great image is 50% the shot and 50% the edit; choosing a photographer is 50% their personality and experience and 50% their product.
Who shot your wedding when you were married?
My wife commissioned Steve Mackley and we still love every shot that he and his former partner, Tamra, took! And he’s amazing still to this day.
Why not have a family friend cover my wedding? In other words, why do photographers charge so darn much?
Good photographers charge good money because they’ve had experience; simply stated, professionals:
- offer a great, consistent product and can guarantee a superb portfolio;
- handle low-light settings
- both extract and capture personality from a couple;
- work well with diverse family situations;
- anticipate the shot before the moment occurs
- handle ISO, f-stop, shutter speed, bokeh, exposure, metering, tint, white balance, ambient lighting, noise, and raw processing
- have backup equipment and gear to shoot in bad weather
- are great with people and can put couples and groups at ease because of their persona
- don’t rely on kissing shots for every portrait session
- will have variety in composition and poses and will deliver a very unique and interesting and timely portfolio
- offer practical advice about the wedding day and can be a champion in helping with the ebb and flow of the event
- most of all, they know what to do in any situation because they’ve done it a hundred times before.
That, simply stated, is why we charge what we do. There are good people with good cameras, both professionals and family members and friends, who would LOVE to come spend the day with you; regardless of their photo skills, any image taken at the most important day of your live will be a treasure. Spending a bit more to have a professional capture and document the day, however, is worth every penny, in my opinion. That day can never be recreated and having a treasure box full of superb images (rather than a few occasional good shots) is what I hope every couple or family receives in the end, budget permitting, of course.
Do you ever get funny calls from people?
I don’t mean to offend anyone, but sometimes I get calls from people with a certain vision but without the funds to match their dreams; they have a lobster appetite but are on a tuna fish budget. “I LOVE your work! It’s AMAZING! I have seen your prices; can you cover my wedding for $200?” or “Well, I’ve been looking around and I’ve found a few companies that are cheaper than you…can you give me a deal”
Two contrasting examples:
“Eric! I can’t believe how inexpensive your rates are compared to other people of your same calibur! I feel like I’m cheating you but you’ve been top on our list for years now and I had no idea you were so cheap!” (Emily)
“Mr. Richards, my fiancee and I cannot begin to wrap our minds around the prices you charge to take pictures. Thanks for the information, but there is no way we will pay you (or anyone else) that amount to take pictures. Best of luck to you – and if you want some advice, stop ripping people off.” (name withheld)
Tell me some random things about you-
Ok… here are a few random things:
- I’m left handed
- I got a 32 on the ACT
- I hold the California state record for fastest Water Polo shot at 48mph, 7 mph off the world record; I was All American in Water Polo and All State in Volleyball and Swimming
- I coached and played water polo and volleyball in college
- Cooking is one of my passions – I love to marinate and grill meat and food is sacred to me
- My wife lived in New Zealand where she was an exchange student for a year. She fell in love with Polynesians there, which helped me when it came time for proposing
- My son’s nickname is ‘Awesome Dawson’
- My daughter Kali’s middle name is Meilani (May-Lawn-ee) which means “Eternal Growth”
- My son’s name Isaac is spelled Izak; his brother and sisters call him “Little I-Z”
- Our baby’s name is Melia (Ma-lee-ah) which means “Calm Ocean”
- My nickname in high school was “Darkman”
- My father is Tongan and my mom is Iowan (from Iowa)
- I fire dance
- I love chocolate
- My favorite ice cream is Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food
So there you have it! Nothing earth shattering, but it’s fun to share some random thoughts and insights and information with people. I hope it helps and gives perspective on me and also on the photo industry as well.