Value, How do you determine it?


I am an average consumer when it comes to grocery shopping. I have a budget, a list of things I need or want to purchase, and typically an end goal, which is to get out of the store as quickly as possible without breaking the bank.

I used to shop at a chain  superstore type supermarket. It was great, mostly. The area where I shopped wasn’t ideal, police often could be seen driving through the parking lot, the store was ALWAYS packed full of other busy mom’s just trying to get through another shopping nightmare, and the lines were ridiculously long because only 2 of the 20 checkout lanes were open. I noticed sometimes that the produce was quite as fresh as it should be, buying grapes here was always a 50/50 because typically they were bad within a day or two, but not always. There were so many shoppers that the isles were hard to get my cart around and finding someone who worked in the store to help me find something on my list was nearly impossible. I could over look all that though because I was getting a better deal than if I shopped at my local supermarket, most times it felt like a fair trade for the higher price I wasn’t paying when I shopped local. Sometimes the store was a little unkept and I didn’t particularly care to shop there after dark, but again, to save a little money I made the choice to allow this to be my shopping experience.

One day, I just didn’t have the extra time to drive the extra 15 minutes to get to my grocery superstore of choice so I decided to shop local. I drove up to the store and immediately noticed that the parking lot was not as jam packed as the superstore lot, nice, no walking for 2 miles in the rain for this girl! As I walked inside to grab a cart, I noticed right away that the store itself was cleaner, brighter, and more welcoming, though I tried not to notice too much because I knew I’d have to go back to my superstore for the next trip. I went inside with a little hesitation, knowing I’d be paying more money for the products that I could get at the superstore, but with caution, I proceeded.

I was greeted by a bright display of crisp, fresh vegetables, organics too! The colors, smells, and textures lured me in. I went to the grapes, not so much more expensive as I had thought, but more importantly, they were fresh and I had no doubt that these would last more than a day in my fridge. A little less reluctantly than I had been a minute before, I scooped them up and put them in the cart.

As I browsed around the store and checked off my shopping list, I realized that I wasn’t doing my normal Tazmanian Devil run, grabbing things as quickly as possible to avoid being in the store for an hour. With leisure and a latte’ (yes, this local market had a Starbucks inside, SCORE!) I strolled around the store and took my time, I actually enjoyed the peace and quiet that this particular trip was allowing me.

When I got to the checkout lane, I noticed that out of about 10 lanes, 6 or so were open, again, another bonus! I stood in line behind one other shopper for just a few minutes before it was my turn to check out. A lovely cashier greeted me with conversation and a smile, something I wasn’t used to at the super store. A young man bagged my groceries which was a nice change from that turn-style thing they used at the other store, that awkwardness it brought when I tried to take a bag off and the cashier would say, “Not yet! It’s not full!” Yes, that really HAS happened to me, twice. Pardon me lady but I don’t want my lady products dropping out of my plastic bag in the middle of your parking lot because you just HAD to put 17 items into a 2 cent bag! That’s obviously what I wanted to say but I digress.

As I strolled out of the local supermarket feeling like a champ, I was surprisingly calm and relaxed. I wasn’t wiping my brow thanking the sweet Lord for letting me survive grocery shopping just one more time. Nope, I was actually feeling pretty good. Now, was my bill higher? Yep, sure was. Not only was my bill higher but so was my value for that store. The experience I had while shopping was worth every extra penny I paid by skipping the super store supermarket. Instead of seeing dollars and cents, I saw value and a quality of experience. I was more comfortable, treated better, and more relaxed with the experience this time. I was leaving feeling fulfilled with no complaints, I really felt like I got what I had paid for, which wasn’t just a few bananas and some toilet paper.

My shopping experience can be compared to that of selecting a custom photographer. You can find someone who takes pictures or you can find someone who creates an experience that leaves you in awe and with beautiful portraiture. Will there be a price difference? Absolutely. What you need to determine is what you value most; the end result or the actual cash price you’ll pay. Are you ok with so-so pictures because you got your session and disc for “super cheap?” If so, great, keep on keepin’ on friend! If you value the time, talent, and experience that will go into each individual handcrafted image then you’ll probably spend more but your regrets will be far less when you see your friends post their beautiful images to social media. Your heart won’t sink because you’ll know that you placed your value on product and not price.

Every photographer places a certain “value” on their time, talent, and experience. Some price low and some price high. Some feel like a session and disc is worth $75 and others won’t leave their homes to shoot for less than $750, and that doesn’t include your disc. I fall somewhere in the middle. Every time I leave my home, I have to make it “worth it.” When I part ways with my children for a session, I need THEM to know that I have THEIR best interest at heart. A typical session will cost me around 12-15 hours of their lives total. The break down is as follows:

Planning/E-mails/Consultation 1-2 Hours

Driving the Day of the Session 1-2 Hours

Shooting the session 1-3 hours

Uploading Images from my Cards to my Computer 30 minutes-1hour

Culling Images (sorting to find the best) 1 hour

Editing (on a standard session with LITTLE retouch) 8-12 hours

Delivery (Digital or Prints) 1-2 hours between e-mails and/or driving, setting up galleries, and answering questions on how to download for new clients.

Archiving Images after they are finished 30 minutes

Every now and then I will have a new client book a session after having me explain what is included with each session fee, what the price it, etc, and they will say something like,

“Well I REALLY love your photography, it’s so bright and pretty, but I have a friend who’s just starting out who will do it for just the cost of your session fee, will you compete with that?”

The answer, simply, is no. If we break it down with a math fact, it would go something like this:

$125x 35% for taxes right off the top= $43.75

Now I have $81.25 so let’s divide that by a minimum 12 hours that will go into the session and that leaves me with $6.77 per hour. Hmmm, not quite minimum wage, certainly no way *I* want to make my living if I can help it.

Now, let’s take that $6.77 and figure in the gas it took to get to the session, the insurance I pay monthly to ensure my client’s safety while shooting, the expensive equipment that it takes to make those bright and pretty portraits, the PC & MAC licenses I pay to keep Photoshop current on my editing computers ($600 each for a total of $1200), the $100 per year expense to host online galleries, I could go on and on, but you get the idea so I won’t . 😀

 I would encourage you to go to your friend who is just starting out. I run a legit business, I pay tax, carry around $5,000 in equipment on a typical shoot, and need to also make a profit. Believe me, it’s not personal, really, but I know that my talent and experience have a value and that value can’t compete on the level with a photographer who is still setting up shop, it just doesn’t work creatively or financially. Now, what happens if you don’t think I’m worth what *I* think I’m worth? Nothing, nothing at all! No hard feelings, you know what you value most and I do too, just two different people trying to make it work best for our respective families.

I thank and respect my clientele that understand that as much as I love my chosen career path, at the end of the day, I too need to make a living. I want for my family the things you want for yours, naturally. Value is relative, what you place value on is your choice, but for me, I am choosing to place my value on experience and end result.