Moondoggie.  has some pretty exciting news. He’s been dating Mimi for a year now! It’s their first anniversary! Aren’t they a cute couple?
 Such a special occasion deserves to be celebrated. He asks Mimi what she’d like to for their anniversary. Excitedly, Mimi dives into a description of a new restaurant she’s been dying to try. It’s called Pagoda’s, and it’s in a gorgeous garden setting. Sumptuous meals are served by attentive waiters in private garden nooks. The multiple courses take several hours to consume, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the company of those you’re dining with, and the glorious surroundings. There is no rush. Your personal chef works with you to create the perfect dining experience. All of Mimi’s friends have raved about it.
Moondoggie says “Sure, babe, sounds great,” and then asks around to get more info on the restaurant. He’s shocked when he hears that the average dining experience will cost approximately $300 for a couple, plus gratuity. Three hundred bucks? For ONE meal? Seriously? Everyone says it’s “expensive but worth it,” but Moondoggie just can’t seem to wrap his head around that.

“Mimi, look, for three hundred bucks we could go to Burger Joe’s ten times, and totally pig out every single time! We could have chicken and fries and burgers piled high – over and over again! Why would you want to spend all that money on ONE time at Pagoda’s, instead of MANY times at Burger Joe’s?!”

Yeah.  Ok.  Burger Joe’s.    There are a dozen of them around town.  Every one is  the same.  You can’t request anything special besides ‘hold the pickles,’ because Burger Joe’s is just not the kind of place where you get top-notch service.   You stand in line to pick from the usual fast-food menu, you get your paper-wrapped food on a plastic tray.  You sit on a plastic chair at a plastic table and eat your food in ten minutes, while listening to dozens of screaming kids on the indoor playground.  The food is not good quality, you know this – it’s fast food!
When you go to Burger Joe’s, you’re not looking for a top-quality dining experience.  You’re looking for fast, cheap food, and a lot of it.  We all know how fast food works, right?  It’s a volume business.  Volume businesses can charge less per customer because they are trying to get as many customers in and out as quickly as possible.  When you buy from any volume business, you’re not there for quality.  You’re there because you want fast and inexpensive.   Businesses that are NOT volume businesses cost more to patronize.
* * *
Photographers services in many areas these days fall into similar categories.  Whether you’re looking for top notch experience from start to finish, or the fast-food low quality equivalent, you can find it.
The top notch photographic experience, which is provided by photogs, is very individualized because in most cases, the photographer has built their own business and their own unique way of taking care of their clients.  But you can expect some or all of the following:
  • A talk with the photographer or his/her assistant to ensure your photographic needs are a good fit for what their studio offers.
  • A pre-session planning consultation (by phone or in person) to help you determine what types of products you’re interested in, and where they may fit in your home.
  •  website of information to help you prepare for your session, including help with clothing options and locations for your session.
  • An unrushed, relaxed session – usually with at least an hour set aside just for you – to ensure plenty of time to capture your family.
  • A professional presentation of your images, either in the photographer’s studio via projection, at your home with samples, online with a slideshow, or perhaps even at a coffee shop with images and options shown on an iPad – the options these days are many!  Regardless of the presentation method, your photographer or their employee is there to help you narrow down images and choose the best products for you.
  • Top of the line products meant to stand the test of time.  Again the options vary by photographer, but you may be able to choose hardcover books, gallery-wrapped canvas, framed prints, custom collages, and many other items.  Often items can be custom-designed to meet your needs.
  • A guarantee.  Professional photographers stand behind their work, and want to be certain you’re satisfied with your purchase.
  • A professional who continually updates his or her equipment and education to be sure they are offering the best to their clients.

As you can imagine, providing such an experience means that the Professional Photographer invests a lot of time into each client, and the best quality photographic products that they provide are expensive to produce as well.  Accordingly, their prices are higher than a “fast-food photographer,”  who typically doesn’t invest nearly as much time and money in their skills, education, equipment, and products.
* * *
So, the typical fast-food photographer delivers a quickie session, very often with low-quality images produced.    But *you get all the digital files!*  Well, sure you do, because the fauxtographer isn’t interested in making sure your family has well-printed images that last for generations.
The fauxtographer is interested in quick and easy and CHEAP, just like the fast-food restaurant.   Quite frankly, it’d be way too much work to give you good quality stuff, and he/she isn’t interested.
The fauxtographer who boasts about being inexpensive and giving you all of the digital files is basically piling a bunch of greasy fries and chicken nuggets and  sugary sodas in front of you and trying to convince you it’s a gourmet meal.

Let me just say: there is nothing wrong with digital files.  I sell them myself, in my business.  But it’s not ALL I sell.  I understand the desire clients have, in this digital age, to have those files for archival purposes or to make 100 wallet portraits to pass out to friends and family.  I get that.  But any good photographer knows that the ONLY safe way to ensure an image stands the test of time is to obtain a high-quality print and store it properly.  Hard drives fail, people.  CDs fail all the time.  People do *not* make copies of disks regularly.  A lot of people think an external hard drive is a great way to store files, even though those drives have a high failure rate.  Even if a client does a good job of safeguarding their files, do they really have the resources and expertise to produce high-quality prints of those images?  (The answer is *NO*:))

Yup, it will cost you more to use a professional photographer.  It can be a big investment.
But I really do feel that the most important reason to use a professional photographer is:
You deserve it.  Your family deserves it.  Your event, whether it’s a wedding, family portrait session, new baby, or a session for your dog, is WORTH the investment.   The experience of a quality portrait session once every year or two, and the gorgeous images you can display in your home and enjoy every day, is a far more meaningful investment than a bunch of cheapie sessions where the fauxtographer emails you a few digital files that will never see the light of day beyond a brief moment on your Facebook page.
Your memories aren’t replaceable.  You can’t get today back, after it’s gone.  Investing in quality on the things that matter is never a bad choice, and memories matter. 

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