A few weeks ago, I got a coupon for a $7.99 portrait special at a chain studio. I’m not going to say which one, but it rhymes with…just kidding, I’m really not going to say which one.
I thought it might be fun to go “behind enemy lines” and get the department-store experience. I figured I could write an epic post comparing custom photography and chain studios. But then I realized something. Or a few things, actually. First, I realized that there are already some great articles about that here and here. I’m not going to explain it any better than those photographers already have.
But more importantly, I realized that chain stores aren’t really competing with custom photographers. Not even with $7.99 portrait specials. Sure, they cost less, but that’s because you’re only getting one or two standard poses and a sheet of prints. Department stores aren’t focused (no pun intended!) on your photographs — they just hope you’ll stick around after your appointment and shop for some new clothes or an HDTV.
Honestly, I think most people can see the difference.
You might feel like you need to wait for a major milestone — a first birthday, a first communion, a high school graduation — to justify a custom photography session. But custom photography doesn’t need to be limited to special occasions. Even if you’re just looking for a simple studio portrait, a custom photographer can capture your kids as you know them. My “spy mission” at the chain store reminded me of this. For $7.99, I got a blurry, blue shot of my son staring at the camera with a distracted half-smile. And then I took the photo on the right, which captures his happiness and silliness and mischievous energy. No, he’s not sitting in the chair like I asked/begged/bribed him to. But I can show this photo to someone and not have to explain, “He really is a happy kid…he has the best smile…honest.” This picture melts my heart and makes me smile every time I see it.
THAT’S the real difference with custom photography. And it’s worth investing in anytime…even “just because.”