Custom newborn portraits are something that most everyone can afford. No really. I’m serious. Having been in photography for about 4 years now and seeing photographers come and go and seeing every range of pricing you can imagine,
I’ve learned I’m learning so much about why custom newborn portraiture costs what it does and why it truly is so much better than having your portraits done at a “superstore” studio. If you’re anything like me, this is how a session at a superstore studio goes: get a coupon for a complete print package and session for around $29.99. Spend 45min to an hour getting ready for said session. Drive to store, wait anywhere from 10min to nearly an hour. Get a full session that lasts approximately 15 MINUTES. Have 3-4 poses to choose from for the package you have a coupon for. Oh but wait, you want two different poses? Well, the coupon only covers 1 pose, but you get around 50+ prints of that ONE pose. What a bargain! So, back to you want a second and maybe even a third pose? Okay well that’s gonna cost you extra. And not just a little extra. Want a black and white? OH…that’s going to be $40 extra. So if you’re anything like me, you leave out from your 15 minute cookie-cutter portrait session with a total bill of anywhere from $120-$175. I’ve honestly NEVER left one of those studios with less than $100 out the door. Because let’s face it…you really want more than one picture to show off your newborn, right? (Or your family, your children, etc. The idea is the same).
The pictures below were purchased with one of “those” coupons you get in the mail from a superstore. It came with a 10×13, 2 8×10′s, 2 4×5′s and a bunch of wallets. We ordered a couple extra 8×10′s and 5×7′s and spent a total of $129. Tried to take a pic of the receipt, but it’s so faded you can’t really even see the pricing. And folks, this was 13 YEARS ago we paid that price. So even though we used the other images, you see we have a bunch of leftover wallets. Wouldn’t it be nice to have been able to order 5×7′s or an 8×10 instead of the wallets that we didn’t need 1000 of?? Okay okay, I’m exaggerating about the 1000 wallets obviously. But you get my point. Right? Right!
So on to the next example. Same superstore studio. 15 minute session after waiting for nearly an hour with 6 poses to choose from. Yes, it was Easter time, but we DID have an appointment also. This actually ended up being my most favorite session in a studio ever. As you can see, we ordered alot of prints. We went in with a $39 coupon; and we paid close to $350. What was lacking here was someone who was experienced in decorating with portraiture. What I mean is, we bought several of everything, without really knowing “how” to display them in our home. Some ended up in frames, many ended up in the package. We had several 5×7′s that came with the coupon that we really didn’t need or want either. And again with the wallets. I didn’t photograph them here, but there were tons again. We just aren’t a family who really needs wallets. It would have been nice to have been able to switch out wallets and the 5×7′s for poses we did want/need.
So bottom line, IMHO, is that even though you start with a cheap coupon deal, you’re still going to end up spending some serious $$$ for pictures. Why not book a custom photographer, spend an hour or so with them, and then get professionally edited images and get them in the sizes YOU want for the same price, or close? A professional photographer can help you decide how to best spend your allotted budget to get the look you want for the images in your home? Do you want a lifestyle session? A more formal session? A beach session, field session, urban session? That’s not something you can go to a superstore and get.
For those of you who say you can’t “afford” a custom session: Let’s use me as an example. (women you will likely get this comparison easily!). My hairdresser is not what I consider “cheap” at all. I usually spend around $150 each time I go and get a cut/trim, color and highlights. Why do I spend that much when I could easily go to a strip mall hair salon and pay only $50ish for the same thing? Well, duh, that’s an easy one! I choose my hairdresser because I know that she is a professional and I will have an amazing cut, color and style when I leave there. I know that it will be exactly what I like. I trust her judgement and her skills to provide exceptional service. Because she runs an amazing salon, I also get “freebies”–a personal consultation each and every time I go, a scalp and neck massage, a coke (or even beer or wine if I wanted that!). She works on me for two hours. That’s $75/hr you say! That’s outrageous that someone would charge that kind of money! Well, not really. As a salon owner, she has costs also. She has a license to upkeep. Business related costs to pay. Continuing education and learning so that she can keep up to date with the latest hairstyles or techniques. Try getting that when you go into a strip mall salon. You may get lucky with that, or you may not. To me, peace of mind is worth paying that extra and knowing that when I walk out, my color will be correct, my cut and style will be AMAZING and I will have had a great time chatting with and catching up on news with my hairstylist. She makes it her job to make sure that when I leave, I am satisfied and happy will my new style and/or color.
One last thing, related to my hairdresser. When I first started using a professional stylist, I thought I couldn’t “afford” to use someone that expensive more than once or twice a year. $150 is quite a bit of money for me. But you know what? I started looking at what I was spending elsewhere frivolously. Lunch out on almost a daily basis – $8ish per day or more. Family dinner out – $60+ easily for the four of us. A 20th pair of flipflops that I really didn’t need. Coffee from Starbucks at almost $5 each. The list goes on and on. As adults, we spend money on things we really don’t need all the time. 20 years from now, when I look at my family’s portraits, I want to see that they were professionally done and that my hair looked amazing! Okay, yeah, I know that’s a bit of a stretch about the hair, lol, but hopefully you understand what I’m saying! Something that you spend $150 or more on today…15 or 20 years from now, is it still going to be worth that to you? A $500 TV for example, that you just bought. What’s it going to be worth to you in 15 or 20 years? Most definately not $500. What about a family portrait session that you spent $500 on? What’s IT going to be worth to you in 15-20 years? Would you part with it? Would you sell it? No! Because it’s going to be PRICELESS.
Your newborn is only a newborn for a very short time. It is a once in a lifetime chance to get some amazing images of him or her while they are so new and so tiny. Those precious little humans change so darn fast. Are you going to trust that to a superstore studio to capture those moments with a couple poses? Or do you want to spend just a little more and get amazing, unique images customized to your likes and desires, along with macro close-up shots of those tiny little fingers, long little eyelashes, etc? Folks, there’s just no two ways about it. This is an amazing time, and you most certainly want to do what you can to capture every precious second of it. 20 years from now, you will think nothing of the money you spent on those beautiful beautiful portraits you have of when your off-to-college-baby was a newborn baby.