What a Pain in the...
Who Knew?

Where my Photographic Mojo has Gone

Every so often, an acquaintance will see me taking pictures and ask me if I do wedding photography. The very thought makes me shudder. I don't want to be responsible for anyone's wedding photos. This is mostly because I don't trust myself: what if I messed up horribly? Or my memory card decided to die? Or they hated everything I took?

Nearly any other photo shoot can be recreated, but not a wedding. If you want me to take your engagement photos, I'd be happy to. If you have a brand-new baby you want pictures of, call me. But you know, my very favorite pictures to take are senior photos. There's something energizing about catching a young person on film, just as they are on the cusp of adulthood. They still have so many possibilities open to them. Plus, they're easy—confident enough to pose and try unexpected things and laugh and be themselves. Unlike newborns they never cry or pee on you, either.

I don't actively pursue senior portrait sessions, but I usually end up doing four or five a year. Mostly these opportunities come because someone else recommends me. I take that recommendation as a compliment: they liked my work enough to trust someone else to my photographic eye.

I did a shoot for a close friend's daughter a couple of weeks ago, and while the photos turned out great, I still am upset about that shoot. I didn't charge my friend anything other than asking her daughter to watch Kaleb for me while I processed her photos, which was fine with them. But when my friend asked me how much I would charge to take her daughter's friend's senior photos, her response stunned me:

"I would never pay you $100 to take pictures."


Of course, it's all in the wording and the tone, and perhaps she didn't mean it that way, but she left me full of doubt. I ended up phoning several local photographers just to get an idea of their prices. True—they're professionals. They have studios and they'll print your pictures for you. But still, the smallest price I could find was $150, and that was in a studio rather than at a location. Those prices were just the shooting fee—getting prints costs more, and it's even more if you want the digital files.

This made me feel a little bit better. When I do a senior photo shoot, I usually end up with about 20-25 poses. I prepare the files for the client and then put them on a disk—they own the files and can print them where ever they want. I include wallet-sized proofs with the disk. I put at least ten hours into the entire process.

I feel justified in my price.

But her comment has left me doubting my abilities. Maybe the time I put in isn't the point. Maybe it's my vision. Maybe my photos are only mediocre. Maybe I'm just not good enough to be paid for my time.

I need to finish processing those pictures. I need to get the proofs printed and everything delivered. I need to let it go. Because I realized last night, when I finally could sit for a little while at my computer (the back is still irritated and inflamed), that I haven't taken one single photograph since I did that photo shoot. For me to go this long—more than three weeks—without taking any pictures is unheard of. I am always taking pictures. But my friend's comment has turned up the volume on my inner critic, drowning out my confidence.

Can I even take pictures anymore?


Claudia McDaniel

Of course you can! Don't let one person's off-the-cuff statement diminish what you do or the value of theses sessions.


Oh man that stinks - yes you can. Go get your camera right now and take some everyday-ordinary-moment photo's of those great kids of yours. Feel the joy again. Let that negative comment slide right off and float far away never to be thought of again.

Becky K

That sucks. Don't listen to her. I know it is a lot easier to listen to negative voices, but try and block her out. It isn't worth it to let your talent wither away because of one person's lack of desire to pay for pictures. Her comment was probably more related to the amount that it cost than the quality of the work.

You are awesome! I've seen the senior pictures you do and they are fabulous.


What they said.

Pick up that camera, my talented friend!

Her $100 statement surely reflects her cheapness and not your ability.


This kind of happened to me, but with a really close friend (and not senior pictures). I did them for her for free, and I thought they were stunning—natural light, sweet not-formal shots, etc. She didn't like them *at all* and it was very awkward, confidence deflating. I think she really just wasn't looking for that kind of photo, though--she wanted studio, she got something else. I'd focus on the people who are thrilled with what they've received and know they really value the gift you've given them!! And take some pictures just for fun this week, you'll feel better : )


... and I'll bet she wouldn't pay anyone else $100 bucks either. Your photos are wonderful - please don't let her comment stand in your way. It's a reflection of her, not of you. I agree with everyone else - take some pictures now! This week! And then please, post at least one of them here, for all of us to enjoy?


I agree with everyone else. I tend to be too cheap about things myself, always wanting to get something for nothing. But that really isn't fair, is it? when I'm on the other end, I don't often want to give something for nothing.

Actually, I came over to give you a small chuckle. I was thinking about posting my gratitude for a brief respite from the dog. I've come across several people who do the 52 blessings approach, so I googled that and came to a blog called "Weekly Blessings." As I was reading along, the author referred to an eloquent post by Amy. I immediately ran the cursor over the link and thought, almost outloud, "That's MY Amy!" Ha, too funny that I claim ownership of you, even though we've never officially met. Just proof that I love you and love your blog!


Don't take it personally. Most people have no idea what it takes to take a photo, the see the shoot one hour and think that you are done. They have no idea of the time spent editing, or even consider the investment in equipment.


What you described is much less of a description of your photography skills and much more about an unguarded moment of a cheapskate. Some people think if they know someone, and that person possesses a skill or trade, then skill or trade should be offered for free! It's an attitude that really annoys me.

$100 for pictures is an amazing deal. When you told her that price, her reaction SHOULD have been, "Oh my goodness. You are so generous and kind to be doing this for free. I had no idea."

I'm not saying we shouldn't help out our friends and neighbors. Obviously, the world is a better place when we share our talents and abilities. I just hate it when the generosity gets supplanted by expectation.


Alright Amy ~ A little insight from someone that is married to a man that does not understand why we don't just go to the "Picture People" to have our photos done -- he does not get it and I try and try to explain and finally I just schedule the real photographer anyway, because I know what a difference there is and I know how valuable these pictures are, even if he doesn't. So, I am guessing she is in the same category as my dh (unable to appreciate a truly wonderful photo) and does not understand or see the difference - which is such a bummer because you are doing such a nice thing for her. Forget the comment as I am sure it isn't a reflection up on you ~ and don't miss out on all those great photos you should be taking!!! :)


I think what she was actually saying was, "I would never PAY $100.00 to have someone take pictures" not necessarily specifically YOU. She is not taking into account your TIME, the cost of your EQUIPMENT, the years of EXPERIENCE that you bring....As an amateur violinist in a working string quartet, I get this all the time. We charge $100.00/player for a 1 hour wedding gig but figured into that is our hours/years of practicing, lessons, cost of our instruments and some people still think it's too much. Yours is a gift that not everyone has (me, for example!) and who can put a price on that gift? I personally think your charges are extremely reasonable! Go out and take some pictures! We're behind you all the way!! K

Pat Passamonte

Oh Amy! Why do we do this to ourselves? Has anyone ever told you that you take great pictures? (I'd bet you've heard that a lot!) Have you ever obsessed about that, gotten a big head over it, and walked around saying Wow! I AM THE BEST! That I bet hasn't happened. So why do the negative comments mean so much more? Let it go please! Photography is art, and who can really define the value of any art? It's value is subjective. Please get that camera out! Have a great day!


I can understand why you were hurt -- that would have stung and probably resulted in me internalizing the comment as being about my ability too. However, I agree with the others who suggested it was about her being a cheapskate, not about your skill. Trust yourself -- you are worth more (in more ways than just money) than she gave you credit for. She doesn't sound like much of a friend, either, but that's just my opinion, based solely on what you've shared here. And thank you, by the way, for your current series at WCS -- I've been clearing out patterned paper with a sense of freedom. :)



That is so ridiculously absurd. I . . .truly cannot imagine someone making that comment.

The comments to this entry are closed.