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Professional Photography is a Luxury, not a rip off

Recently a friend of mine expressed outrage at the prices that professional photographers have to charge to stay in business. Needless to say, it struck a chord with me. I haven't been able to stop thinking about why people feel that photography is a rip off.

One parallel I have drawn in my head is to abstract art. Many lay people who do not value art (or perhaps just not that style of art) will look at an abstract painting, with it's splatters and big blocks of color and squiggly blobs, and say "What!? I could paint this! What a rip off!" While an untrained person could splatter paint on a canvas, it wouldn't be the same to the people who actually value that kind of art. People who appreciate abstract art see a value in the paintings and are willing to pay more for it than someone who doesn't. That's not going to stop that person who doesn't value it from voicing their negative opinion to everyone they possibly can, from badmouthing the artist, and from even considering becoming an "abstract artist" as a get-rich-quick scheme! (Can you imagine how unsuccessful that would be?)

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Another thing I can compare photography to is a luxury service, like massage. People who are trained in the art of massage usually go to school (which is expensive) to get good at giving expert massages. People who value expert massages are willing to pay several hundred dollars an hour for the service because it is worth it to them. They don't need to get a massage, it is a luxury. Although many people can't afford to pay what expert massages cost, few of those people think that being a masseuse is a get rich quick scheme, or think that massages are a rip-off. Few people would go on craigslist and find listings for free or $10 massages and think "now this is more like it!" Most people know that a person giving away free massages is either not very good at them, or a weirdo (or both), and know that it is worth it to pay for an actual professional.

If instead of presenting photography as primarily an art (which people generally do not seem to value) we present photography as a luxury service (which people do value), we may have more success in convincing people WHY it is worth paying for. However, photography is a luxury service which by definition means that not everyone will be able to afford it. There are always going to be people that would rather have cheap snapshots and save the money, people who are perfectly content with the pictures from the school photographer or Uncle Bob who takes ok pictures at their wedding. There's nothing wrong with being one of these people. It's up to you to decide what is important to you, and whether photography is a luxury service that is worth it to you.

Allowing a stranger into your life to photograph your children or your relationship or a highly personal event with lots of family (like a wedding) is just as personal as allowing a stranger to give you a massage, perhaps more so if you stop to think about it, so at least put the same amount of scrutiny, effort and money into finding a photographer as you would a masseuse! Remember that a photographer gets to know your family and will help you create artwork that will preserve your legacy for generations to come. That 2 hour photography session will leave behind preserved memories that will last many years. So choose wisely!

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Posted in Photograph Post Date 06/16/2017