Signature portrait by Julia Pelish.

Professional photography services are among the most difficult purchases for families, couples and businesses to make because the choices are so varied. In hopes of demystifying the process, here are some questions you may have and the answers to them as related to my experience and the services offered by Julia Pelish Photography:

1. I’ve booked my family portrait but we want it outdoors and it looks like it will rain – can we reschedule the shoot?
Absolutely. I’ll do whatever it takes to accommodate your vision. Family portraits are keepsakes that will be passed down for generations. We will work together to get you exactly what you wish. If you can be flexible on the date of your shoot, I can be too. And there will be no extra charge for rescheduling.

2. What should I wear for my family portrait?
I’ve heard that one so many times that I wrote an article about it. You can read it to find out some tips on how to dress and if you’re still not sure, contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss wardrobe selection in more detail.

3. How soon after the photo shoot will we receive the pictures?
I post one or two photos and an article about the shoot within 72 hours on my news site. A web gallery of all edited, retouched and enhanced digital images of your family portrait session will be ready within two weeks. For your wedding, all post-production work of your digital images will be complete in four-to-six weeks. If there are any medium-format film proofs, they will be ready in the same timeframe. Once you make your selection on the prints you want to order, I will usually be able to get those to you within 10 days. Orders that include custom framing may take longer.

4. How many wedding photographs will we receive?
Plenty. Photographers shoot dozens of images during each hour of a wedding ceremony and often end up with 600 or more during a six-hour day. After editing out the test shots and “someone blinked” throwaways you’ll have a very, very large selection of images from which to select your final prints.

5. Some wedding photographers are much more expensive than others, why is that?
The same reason some hairstylists cost more than others or artwork by one artist will be priced differently than another or one wine will cost three figures and another less than $10. Experience, originality, quality, and the basic law of supply and demand are what determine prices. A photographer with one camera body, a couple of lenses and a basic on-unit flash can charge considerably less than a fully outfitted photographer with experience and education to create distinctive images. As a consumer, you should know what you’re getting and why, otherwise you may be disappointed in the quality you receive.

6. My company’s throwing an event at a local banquet hall and I’m the administrative assistant in charge of booking the corporate photographer – what should I be looking for when I make the hire?
First, don’t make a rush decision. Get quotes from at least three photographers and ask for references from each – then follow through and check those references. The candidate who has elite clients, strong portfolios, photojournalistic experience at a newspaper or magazine, the necessary equipment and a price that doesn’t stretch your budget should be the one you select. You want to make sure the photographer will shoot as many hours as you’ve requested but also be flexible enough to stay longer should the course of events warrant. You will also want to receive a CD of images with copyright signed over to you (which will likely be included in the fee).

7. We need headshots done for our business website, can you provide the photography?
Yes, I’ve done corporate headshots in Vancouver for several companies. My rates are flexible, depending on your needs. Contact me and we can discuss your plans. The headshots can be photographed in a designated space in your office or in my studio in Yaletown. In your office, we can also do a group shot, which many companies also like, and we have the options of my black or white backdrops as well as your wall space.

8. Professional photographers often charge $150 or more for one hour of service – isn’t that excessive?
It’s actually not “one hour of service”. It’s one hour of “coverage”, which equates to roughly four hours or more of total work. After the shoot, professional photographers download the image files then process each one using software such as Photoshop. Digital processing is painstaking work for many photographers because we want to present perfected images to our clients. In addition, there’s leg work involved in any project. Getting prints made, delivering finished products and pre-scouting for locations are among the elements of the job that take our time. Photographers also have at least one assistant on hand to help with setting up lights and coordinating the session. Those assistants need to be paid. Other expenses such as fuel, batteries, equipment depreciation or loss, and computer and software upgrades are among the costs included in our hourly rates.

9. Why are independent photographers more expensive than large conglomerate studios like those located in the mall?
Professional photographers who run their own businesses and don’t work with a studio offer distinctive products as well as premium personalized and customized services. There are no hard-sales tactics such as immediate consulting after the photography session with an in-store associate whose job is to sell you prints at prices and quantities you may not be comfortable with. Independent photographers will also travel on location, spend hours with you, have the freedom of creativity to deliver exceptional products and are personally vested in your satisfaction. Photographers in some studios have to match the style of the corporation, use similar techniques from shoot to shoot and don’t have their own name tied to the product, meaning they have less stake in the quality of the work and could be prone to being bored by repetition. Having started out in a production-oriented environment, I know that many of those photographers can’t indulge customers or offer them a variety of styles as well as a boutique photographer can. Most large studios do have the benefit of printing on premises. That asset, along with the short portrait sessions and discount products, allows them to offer competitive prices on some services.

10. Do you do passport photos?
No, I don’t. Sorry.

11. I thought the days of film photography were over, so why do you still offer “medium-format film” as an add-on product to your packages?

Film is now a premium product. It’s true that digital images allow photographers to produce quality photographs more consistently, but film still has its unique benefits. When I shoot film I do so with a medium-format Hasselblad camera, which has Zeiss lenses and produces images far superior to just about any other camera – digital or film. Buying and processing medium-format film can cost more than $35 per roll of 12 pictures, however. I think of medium-format film as a high-end product and when I show my clients the difference in quality, they can see its value and how pertinent it still is to the creation of excellent photographic work.

12. How far in advance should we book our wedding photographer?
Nine months is a good number for couples (for more reasons than one!). You can leave the booking until it’s closer to the date, but then you’re taking a chance your ideal photographer will not be available. You can book a year in advance, but then you may be rushing into a decision. If you book with nine months to go then you have lots of time for engagement portrait photographs that can be posted on your wedding site or sent out on your invitation cards.

13. Do you charge for travel costs?
Only if getting to the shoot is a trip then I have to charge to cover those expenses.

14. We want to have Christmas cards made of our family portrait, can you help us?
Yes. I have a background in graphic design as well as photography and can create the cards for you. We can get together to go over the style choices.

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