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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mr. In-Between (Part I)

Howdy Folks!
Yep, it's me again...sitting in for the Blogger-In-Chief, Tina, who's nursing a bad case of writer's cramp from all the "Letters From Alcatraz" book signings. Ahhh...such sweet agony!
How many out there reading this are good amateur photographers? Not professionals, but just as talented? Ever been asked to photograph a wedding, party, portrait, etc. by a friend, neighbor or family member? Did you do it? More importantly, did you CHARGE for it?? During my 40+ years as an amateur shutterbug, that's a subject often debated by many other good, talented amateurs I've met. Some say "Yes! Always charge!" Others say "No! An amateur shouldn't charge!" Still others are caught somewhere in between. That's me...Mr. In-Between. I say it depends on who's asking for my services and the type of gig to be photographed. More on that later.
First off, why are they asking you, an amateur, rather than going to an established professional? We'd like to think it's because we're close friends, neighbors, coworkers or family and they trust us to do a good job because we're damn fine photographers. We'd like to think that, but we'd be...WRONG! They ask us because they're frugal (a politically correct term for CHEAP!) They've checked out the pro's, saw how expensive they are and, "Hey! You're a buddy! Right?" What they don't see or understand is WHY the pro's are expensive.
Let's compare an established, professional photographer with, say, a doctor. Doctors are expensive. Everybody knows that and expects it. They go to school for many years, serve more years as interns, have hugely expensive equipment and, unless they're working for an HMO, have medical assistants and office staff and the expense of buying, renting or leasing a suite of offices. A good thing for most patients is that medical insurance helps lower the out-of-pocket expense. You need a doctor? You go to a doctor. You don't go to Uncle Charlie who's only medical experience is puttin' on a Band-Aid and pickin' up his meds at Walgreens!
So why are pro photographers so expensive? Well, the last time I checked, Blue Cross and Medicare don't cover photography (x-rays, yes, but not weddings!). And, to a lesser extent, the pro photographer has studied, practiced and honed his/her skills for many years. Most have been assistants or interns, if you will, to established pro's. They also have hugely expensive equipment, an office/studio and pay a staff of assistants and outside processors to get the job done. Today, set up and maintenance of a web site is mandatory. Like the doctor, the pro photographer has to constantly keep up with the latest in equipment, techniques and trends. Both the doctor and the pro photographer are MAKING A LIVING at their careers and the cost of doing business ain't cheap!
Now that we understand just a little about why pro's are expensive we can understand why our "Buddies" and family turn to us. They know we have some camera equipment, have probably seen some of our work and, "Hey! Uncle Charlie (or Aunt Betty) will do it for little money...or FREE! He doesn't have all the expenses the pro's do!" What they don't say is that they've seen the work of the professionals and will expect the same quality from you!
Now, back to the original question: Do you, as a good, talented amateur photographer, charge your friends, neighbors, coworkers and family for your services? Well, I've done weddings, parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, family portraits, individual portraits...all that stuff (some are shown here). I've done it for family, close friends, mere acquaintances, neighbors, complete strangers. Do I charge? Well, it's only my opinion and practice, depends. What opinion??? Depends on what??? Tune in for part II and I'll tell ya!
Respectfully submitted,
Jay Stafford
Photo's copyright 2010


  1. *gasp* I can see ankles. I hope you know I'm joking. I just read your post about apparently x-rated pics. These are some great pictures.

  2. LOL ~ That's funny Anna!
    Jay is an amazing photographer! I'm thrilled that he's contributing to Eastcreek Photography!

  3. Jay...I have been asked to do things and I'd say yes because I like what the project is...thinking in the end I would get compensated...NOT! I have even went as far as saying an amount and what will be done for that amount and I have been burned about 4 good times. The projects were flower design and party decoration. I went home to Los Angeles from San Felipe` Mexico to pick up a special order of Roses, put them in a controlled refrigerator, went back to San Felipe one more day, came home Did the flowers.....she burned me!
    Gave me some song & dance.
    No More!
    I make out a form now and have the client sign it!