Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Photographs - Why Do I Always Have to Crop?!

In the last few weeks I have done a few senior portrait sessions. One thing that I had to explain, or will probably end up needing to explain why my photographs aren't the same as you taking in your photos to Wal-mart or Walgreens. This may end up confusing you more, but I hope this answers a few questions.

In school you always here "You're going to use this in every day life, you should learn how to do it!". I am finally finding out that depending on your field this may, or may not, be true. In photography, math is becoming a huge factor once I started getting into the mechanics of photography. While math is important on determining the print... Printing a photo, actually starts with the camera.

To explain why the photos I take are recommended to print in the 2:3 aspect (8"x12"), we need to actually look at my camera and more specifically the sensor of the camera. The camera actually takes the image in the 2:3 ratio, so when I am lining up the shot I am using all the space. If I know the image is going to be used for an 8x10, I actually have to picture the squares in my head when I take the pictures and then crop the image to that format.

Cropped 4:5 Ratio (8x10)
Not Cropped 2:3 ratio (8x12)
Cropped 4:3 Ratio (9x12)

As you can see from the two images, you lose a lot of the picture in the cropped 4:5 Ratio compared to what was being shot in the camera. I personally do not like to crop my images unless it is absolutely required, meaning my lens wasn't long enough and need to crop into the subject. I try to do all of my work in the camera so I don't have to spend so long cropping and editing later. My goal in the above shot was to show how alert the bird was, in the cropped version it just isn't seen. It looses my goal of the image. Yes, I will agree I like how the eye looks better in the cropped version but It doesn't tell the story that I wanted to tell.

This is the same to the other photographs that I sell on my site, portraits, and other images that I have printed. To me cropping an image changes the story that I was telling, in reality you are changing the art. 

So what really comes down to is that the cameras are really built to take images in the 2:3 ration, but the print that majority everyone wants is a 4:5 ratio (8"x10") or a 4.25:5.5 ratio (8.5"x11").

If you ever come across this, I would recommend printing it in the true ratio and get your print with a border. You can hide this border with a frame or mounting it. This way you get the full image and story, instead of just a piece of it. When you take them into Wal-Mart or Walgreens, they are actually cropping the image for you. I'm betting if you look at the negatives, or the actual image on your memory card, the print isn't the full image you took.

The drawback of getting 3:2 ratio prints? Hard to find frames for them. Luckily, the internet can help that out these days and can be remedied by browsing for frames for a few minutes.

Actually printing photos have more math in them beyond just the ratios that I did not cover, such as pixels per inch and/or dots per inch (there is a war between those PPI and DPI). What resolution the photo needs to be in order to get a 'good print'. And the information keeps going on an on for when you want to determine if that image can be printed at a 20"x30" size.

If you have any questions about printing, please feel free to send me a message over facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StevenSantamourPhotography
Twitter: @SteveSFoto
or the comments below and I will be sure to answer them in the next blog or over the FB page. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Explaining the Cost of a Photograph

Recently, I have been asked why I can offer my prints for so much less than many other photographers but my limited edition print costs so much more. I'm hoping this blog can iron out some those questions and help you understand the price of a picture or photograph.

In photography, the photograph is a product of the photographer. This product came to be with the cost of equipment, travel expenses, licenses, permits, time, and the actual cost of printing it. Not all photographers use the same equipment, travel around the world or print their photos themselves. Because of that, their price reflect what they invest in their photos.

Starting off with equipment this is the biggest investments a photographer will spend their profits and their own money in. Prior to starting to charge for my photos, I had already spent over $3,000...that's right over $3,000 in equipment. I started with a basic camera body, but I learned that buy the best glass you can afford. You can take the most expensive camera body and put on cheap glass (camera lens) and your photos wont be as good as if you reverse the scenario; cheap body with high quality glass you will actually get better photos. Over time I learned why tripods costs so much after the cheaper ones wouldn't even hold my camera because of the weight. I'm not saying that photos are only as good as your equipment, but you can't sell a picture if it's not sharp. Some wedding photographers charge $4k or more, but they can offer so many more options than what I can. For example, if the church doesn't allow flash photography I wouldn't have any options but to not use flash. Those who charge more may have options such as setting up equipment to increase the lighting in the church which would get around the no flash rule and therefor resulting in better photos.

I don't plan on doing portrait and event photography forever, my main goal is to become a nature and landscape photographer. For me to get these landscape and nature shots, I need to travel. Hotels, gas, oil changes costs add up quickly. My trip to South Carolina would have been pretty expensive if I went there just to get a few shots. I was lucky enough that my lifestyle already had traveling in it to help reduce these costs. Wisconsin also has great locations for what I like to take pictures of, so that also works out. However, I also want to be able to go on a cruise to Alaska and get less common photographs than what someone would normally see.

Permits and licenses are another factor when taking photographs. This includes a permit to shoot on private land such as in a Zoo or private establishment (example: http://county.milwaukee.gov/Photography9057.htm). Some cities require you to purchase a photographer's license just to be able to professional shoot within their city limits (Milwaukee for example is $100, http://www.milwaukee.gov/ImageLibrary/Groups/ccLicenses/profphoto.pdf). We aren't able to just walk in, set-up our equipment, snap some shots, and sell them. Like us with photo rights, private establishments have their own rights on who can come in and use their property for commercial use. Mainly, if you disrupt the flow of traffic on a sidewalk or walkway you will most likely need a permit.

Time. Like any job a photographer is paid just for using his time for the photo. With me, I don't live off of my photography. I actually use any and all profits to purchase and upgrade my photography equipment and website. How does a photographer figure out how much to charge? I go off of a few variables: Are you going to order prints from me, is the photo session/event only for a few hours, is it an all day event, is it on a Sunday? I also want everyone to be able to have at least one photo taken of them that they can be happy about. If you can only afford 35 dollars for a photo session, you can only expect me to give you so much time, use so much of my equipment, and offer you limited options. If you can afford 800 dollars for me to shoot an event, you can expect me to work my ass off the whole time. You can expect I will take time on photos to ensure they have the perfect color settings, exposure, crop, and other edits. You can expect me to offer you a discount on photo orders.

Cost of Printing. I don't print my photos at home, I don't have the cash to purchase a professional printer (those are about 800 now). I don't want to be in charge of printing, packaging, and shipping. Because of this, I use my website to do all of that for me. Because of that, they take a % out of the sale and I have a yearly fee for them to host my site. So when I came up with my pricing I had to figure out how much did I want to make on each photo I sold, how much it costs the photo to make, and how much of that I was going to pay to my web host. I believe I have found myself a great price for me and for you.

Limited Edition. So why is my limited edition print so expensive? First lets define what a limited edition photo is; A limited edition is normally hand signed and numbered by the artist, here is also a specified amount of prints that will be available, and once these specified amount of prints are exhausted it will no longer be printed.

So I will use my "Layers of Love" as an example. I first decided what I wanted it printed on. I found out that aluminium printing is a bit expensive, but the prints are waterproof. It is also done with recycled material and offers more detail than traditional printing mediums (canvas or paper). Because of these factors, I decided to go with this medium. I then decided on print sizes. I though this photo would look great down a hallway, so I picked 8x12. I also thought it would look good in a larger room so I decided to go with 16” x 24”. I also felt that there may be a few people out there that would want it larger than life, so I also chose 24” x 36”. Now to make this limited edition, I have to choose how many prints I want to offer. I figured a small number would be best so I decided on 25 and 25 for the first two sizes. On the last one, after finding how much it costs just to have it printed I decided to keep that at a very low number of 3. Now, the pricing of these photos. First is the cost of the printing was taken, added to the half day of shooting I did to get this shot, and then the profit estimate. I needed to determine a number that was fair to me, but worthwhile to still purchase. Once these 53 prints are sold, I can no longer print this photo which then makes it worthless to me. So I put a price on the photo; If someone asked me how much for me to buy the copyright of that photo, how much would that be. After I researched online on what a shot could go for, I divided that by 53 and added the total of the Cost and Time.

A picture of "Layers of Love" being displayed still wrapped from shipping
I've been asked, what if I print beyond the 53 photos? I technically can be sued. I am actually lowering the value of your print because it is no longer as limited as it previously was believed to be. So there is many reasons why I would not want to print beyond the specified amount of prints. By giving certificates, which I actually do print myself, it has very specific information about the print and print series to ensure that this is in fact a limited edition print.

Future limited editions. I also plan on keeping my limited editions to a very few. I decided that at the very most I will have one new limited edition each year. I want these photos to be my very top photos, so those who own the photos have even a higher appreciation of the photograph beyond just looking at it. I want them to be happy with their investment. By doing this, I am hoping that this will only increase the value in my limited edition prints.

So I hope this helps you understand why a photographer charges what they charge.

Also check out my website for photographs you can order: http://santamour.smugmug.com/