This week I received the following question on the phone while driving home from work (don't worry, I was hands-free).
"How much do you charge for senior pictures?"
Why is this question worthy of a blog post? Because that question is complicated. And it makes me smile. Take a little stroll through the images on my website. What do you see? I'm always happily baffled when I get questions like this one. Happy because I'm happy to have been found, and happy to shoot things people are interested in hiring me for, and baffled because while I have a lot of experience with natural light portrait shooting, weddings, families, etc., that experience isn't directly represented in my portfolio.
Let me speculate for a minute what I think is happening.
In the commercial photography realm, clients need to see just about exactly the image they're looking for in your book before they'll hire you to shoot it. They want to know for sure that the result will be the expected one, and while price is a consideration, it's not the first one. On the other hand, when a parent is looking for someone to do senior photos, I'm guessing they ask me because I came up early in the Google search results (which I'm very happy about, having spent a lot of time and effort to make it so) and the first question they ask is, "What do you charge?" They continue down the first or second page of results writing down the responses and pick the one that costs the least.
I don't think this is a problem. As a parent of kids, albeit a photographically inclined one, I recognize that all I really want in a family photo is a good exposure, a good representation of our likenesses, and maybe a nice background. I don't need photography only made possible by the advanced technological gifts of an ancient alien race. I just need a shot. And since it's not complicated, the fees are naturally very low.
So I think all of this is natural and appropriate, I just find it to be an endearing source of insight into the market. That said, I do enjoy occasionally shooting some natural light, low-pressure, casually shot and lightly retouched senior portraits and the like.
If you're interested to see what I can do in high volume with natural light, check out www.bbshootsweddings.com.