Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Imagine sitting down across a table from two people. They are strangers, but they are really looking you over, assessing your every movement, every word. One of them clears her throat and unfolds a piece of unlined white paper.

"I have a few questions I ask you..." she says. And you can see that the list extends down the entire front of the page and onto the back.

Welcome to the world of wedding photography meetings. Today, you will switch chairs and play the part of the photographer...

We get asked a lot of questions in the process of working with our weddings clients. Some questions we get asked more than others. Many are answered in the FAQ of our website but we certainly don't mind giving you all the information again to help you make an informed decision about who you hire for such an important event.

Whether its in a client meeting in our studio, or a quick interrogation at a wedding show, these are the questions that come up the most:

1) Why is photography so expensive?
All photographers hear this one, be it for weddings, portraits or catalog shots.
The business of photography is incredibly expensive. It is a myth perpetuated by TV shows and other fiction that photographers make tons and tons of money. A few do, but most just make a decent living. Some barely get by. And before we get into the costs I will tell you that absolutely 100% of the time, you get what you pay for when you hire a photographer.

Here is a little bit of why:
*On average, high end cameras cost between $1500-$5000. They must be replaced every 150,000-500,000 pictures, or about 1-3 years, and there must be several backups in case they go down.
*Photographers need peripheral camera gear: professional grade lenses usually cost $600-$3,000 each, of which several are needed and they must be professionally cleaned/serviced every year and replaced every 4-5 years. Flashes cost $300-$500 each and most photographers own 5-10. Extra batteries, digital cards, camera bags, etc. etc. These add-ons quickly rocket into the thousands.
*Computers that can process the necessary volume of images start at $2,000-$5,000. Multiple computers are practically a necessity for batch processing of images, and they will need to be replaced or updated about every 5 years. Don't forget printers and a scanner!
*Software for processing and production of images can add up to several thousand dollars and must be updated every year to every other year. Photoshop CS4 alone costs $699; Adobe Creative Suite4 costs $2,499. These programs are just the basics, you still need other specialty stuff too, to be effective and efficient.
*Backup DVDs and hard drives are used to store, manage and safeguard clients photographs.
An average photography studio invests at least $1000 per year in DVDs & CDs; Hard drives, at least another $1,000. Professionals must be very serious and cautious with storage in the digital age, lest they lose your pictures.
*Products such as albums, prints and studio samples really add up, too. Not only are many of these products expensive to produce, you must have multiple samples to show in your studio and update them every year. Cost this in the thousands annually as well.
*Studio rent or mortgage and all associated utilities, internet and phone needs (Whether at home or commercial)
*Studio equipment such as lights, umbrellas, backdrops, gels, cords, props, furniture.
*Professional memberships, website, marketing materials and graphic design, business cards.
*Liability insurance and insurance on all the above listed equipment and studio space.

Is this boring yet? Because this list is not comprehensive by any means.... Ask any high school guidance counselor and they will even tell you that photography is the most expensive major you can sign on for as a student. It doesn't get cheaper when you go pro. It's very expensive to be a professional photographer. Now you get it.

2) What is your style? What does photojournalism actually mean?
Our background IS photojournalism. We are actual photojournalists with real training and real experience. Being a photojournalist means that you can tell a story with a photograph. You can capture fleeting moments of time that show raw emotion and evoke feelings that are seen in the picture. A photojournalist can be thrust into any situation at any place, at any time and deliver stunning images capturing real moments.

3) Who will actually shoot my wedding?
Rissa and I are the principle photographers and nearly always photograph weddings together. We have two assistants and two second shooters who accompany us at larger weddings. We don't employ just any photographer, our team has been carefully selected over the course of many years and they uphold the very high standards that we built our business on. To be a part of our team at Balance means that you are on the cutting edge, creative, technically sound, and highly professional.

4) Will I get a CD of my pictures?
We feel that in today's highly visual multi-media world, there are incredible options for you out there to consider for your images. We always give CDs to our clients for just that reason and even share a list of fun websites to order photo gifts from with their files. Once again I want to emphasize, you get what you pay for. The products and services we offer for your photographs can't be found outside our studio and are one of a kind. We want you have the freedom to do what you want with your pictures, yet also have the opportunity to get products only offered to professionals as well.

5) Where are you located?
We are located in Catonsville, MD but also have mobile offices anywhere Starbucks is located.

6) How far will you travel?
Anywhere in the world. We all have valid passports, too.

7) Have you been to my venue?
We have worked at a pretty extensive list of venues but we always love to go someplace new. Being a photojournalist means that you can go anywhere and make great images so not having been to your venue should by no means be a deterrent to hiring us.

8) I hate being photographed! Can you make is easier in any way?
There are no bad subjects, only bad photographers. We have years of experience photographing people of all sizes, shapes, colors and tempers. Our clients always look good. We have a pretty filter, after all. : )

9) How many formals do you take? How many candids?
We take as many formals as you want, and focus on documentary images the rest of the time. Also we prefer to do something called "informals" which you can see on our website. We are truly flexible in this and really try to deliver to you exactly what you want. If you want nothing but formals for your wedding photos however, we are really not the right people for you.

10) When should I book? How far in advance?
1 year in advance is best. 6 months out is a gamble for your date especially during busy months like September/October. About once every 2 or 3 years, for various reasons, we will book a wedding 1 week before the date! Talk about procrastinating.

We are an exclusive studio. If you want us, you will get us, not "Joe the photographer." We are only two people and to offer our skills and creative ability to droves of people is not possible. We limit the number of weddings we take on each year to 35. This allows us to truly give each client all the attention and service they deserve. Currently we have 15 spots left for this year.

11) My church won't allow flash photography. What can you do?
No worries, our skills and our equipment are top of the line. We will capture your ceremony no matter what, and even have a few tricks up our sleeves -- especially when dealing with grumpy church ladies and dark chapels. Trade secrets.

12) What happens if it rains on my wedding day?
You might get wet, your plans may slightly change, but you will still get married. That is the most important part and don't you forget it! Consider having funky umbrellas and go with the flow. Try a clear tent, that's what we did. We can always find a pretty place for pictures no matter what happens.

13) You guys look young. How many weddings have you done?
Over two hundred. People have not hired us before because they "thought we were too young." Well, we've been in business about a decade and have been shootign weddings since we were teen-agers. We are both in our thirties now. Ask us our anti-aging secrets when you meet with us, we'll be glad to share.

14) Can I build a custom package?
Absolutely. One thing we are all about is getting you exactly what you want. Not everyone wants the same thing and no single package is right for everyone. Our packages are based on what most couples have wanted.

15) Can you do special effects, like black & white, fisheye or sepia?
We can do and have done just about anything you could imagine. If there is something specific you are looking for, don't be shy, tell us and we will make it happen.

16) How long does is take to get the photos back?
Two to four weeks based on when your wedding is and which package you get.

17) Do you put pictures online for my guests and family?
Always. The pictures go out to you first, followed by your friends and family. If you have a list we can contact them for you. We proudly use Collages.net to host all of our images online. You can view your wedding photos as a slide show, compare images, order prints, email photos to friends, and view them as color, B&W or sepia.

18) What kind of albums do you offer?
We use 9 different album companies and each offers multiple variations. We can offer you over 1,000 album options (literally!!) and once again try to get you exactly what you want. Leather, wood, cloth, acrylic, metal, glossy, matted, flush, mounted, press-printed/coffetable, accordians, you name it, we have access to it. All the album companies we work with create top quality, archival products that you will be proud to own and share.

19) What is your background/education?
Rissa attended NYU's Tisch School of the Arts for film-making & screenwriting, and also studied photojournalism & art history at Western Kentucky University. She graduated with honors. She has been a photographer for most of her life and got her first camera at age 7 for selling Girl Scout cookies. Nathaniel studied photojournalism at Western Kentucky as well, and is a 3rd generation photographer. His grandfather, Jack, is considered a legend in the photojournalism industry and trained not only Rissa & Nathaniel, but many of the important photographers alive and working today.

20) What kind of equipment do you use? Do you have back-up equipment?
We use all Nikon equipment.We have both digital and film camera, use all Nikkor lenses and Nikon flash units. we like Lexar and Sandisk digital cards. Our computers are all Macs. And yes, we do have back-up equipment. Always!

So... as we end this interrogation session, I hope you have learned a little more about us and the photography business in general. And if you have more questions ~ seriously, don't hesitate to call or email. We are happy to answer any and all!
~ Nathaniel

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