As the Class of 2019 is wrapping up their special year, the class of 2020 and their parents are already deep in thought about what they need to do over the next year. You've heard about pamarazzi (hopefully more good than bad!) but you still have questions. The senior year is overwhelming. Let me help.
Here are the answers to the most common questions that come up in discussions I have with seniors and their parents:
When do people usually schedule senior portrait sessions?
Busy, active and working seniors may start in early July. Band and fall sports kids like to get them out of the way before chaos. Some seniors want to be captured with their best "summer tan". Others prefer to wait til spring, because they know their senior will ‘change’ over the year.
pamarazzi usually likes to start things in the summer, because we usually don’t do just one session. Once I have a commitment for the school year, I will make a point to catch 'extras' (see below). Having said that, we have also successfully shot senior portraits AFTER graduation because life got in the way. Whatever time works for you, we will do our best.
Senior portraits isn't something you should decide to do today, then want finished over the upcoming weekend. You WANT a photographer who puts research and thought into capturing the personality of the senior and not just 'some pictures'. You can go to a walk-in studio for that. It's important to note that pamarazzi does not ‘overbook’, because we have to be able to handle the unexpected. Sometimes, impromptu/spontaneous last minute sessions can be added (with quick turnaround), but sometimes we have to say no. I won't say yes to a last- minute request for portraits if I don't feel I can deliver exceptional results for you, or if it negatively impacts other clients, but I will ALWAYS do everything possible to say YES.
What is the turnaround time for senior portraits from start to finish?
There is no standard. It depends on how many sessions we plan, what kinds of prints you want, if we are building an album (always recommended), how much retouching needs to be done (facial blemishes, hair, etc), and how many other balls are being juggled around always unpredictable weather. We will always try to find out what you need and by what date before we start. This way, we will know up front whether or not we can meet those deadlines OR if we can't so you can pursue other options.
We can do a 'one and done' studio session where we start and finish in a few days or a week IF it is important. However, if that's what you want, you may not need pamarazzi.
Will you take pictures of my kids' extracurricular sports or concerts?
pamarazzi LOVES her kids and supports youth performing arts and sports whenever possible. I WILL likely capture your senior at activities/events, but I will not promise or guarantee anything beyond the portrait package. If I know about an event and am available/able to attend, I am likely to pop in. Any photos taken at extracurricular events are not considered part of your portraits package, however you can certainly use any extracurricular activity photos in your senior's portrait books or collages at no extra cost. Public event photos will be shared in social media (watermarked) and can be purchased at affordable prints/digital files. You are welcome to the facebook watermarked digital file, but because of time involved and frequency of requests, we can't provide free photos on request any more. It is important to note that where I always catch MANY students (seniors and other grades) who are not pamarazzi clients, if you are using another professional photographer for your senior's portraits, I am likely to avoid snapping pics of your student OUT OF RESPECT for the job your chosen photographer is doing for you. I never want to take any action that may cause concern for one of my industry peers.
Please understand in advance that I cannot make any firm commitments or guarantees regarding extracurricular activities. I may not overbook portrait clients, but I do keep busy. For example, last year I was committed to photograph a wedding during the homecoming parade and game, and I was out of town with my daughter during SPICE performances. Those were HUGE misses. Where I can’t always get to every event, I sometimes ask or hire others to catch some shots for me, but they are not going to be the same as “pamarazzi” photos.
What if the weather is bad when we schedule?
If you want outdoor natural light portraits, flexibility is key. When we plan your portraits, we will usually identify two possible dates — the target date and a bad weather backup. But we cannot control weather. Things will change and come up.
Generally, we need a dry day (high humidity and rain can damage expensive equipment, and who wants to lay down on wet grass?), low wind (you can't always photoshop wind-tossed hair), a temp of at least 50 degrees (...unless you're a scout who regularly camps in the winter or want to wear coats and heavy sweaters in all your shots), and no more than 85 degrees (who wants 'sweaty' portraits?). Most sessions are booked between 4:30-7:30 pm M-F or on weekend mornings. Summer early morning sessions are also common. The best time for photographing outdoors is either after sunrise or before sunset, or on a cloudy/partly-cloudy day.
Can I come on the photo shoot with my senior?
If it's that important to you, yes, you can come, mom. But I don't advise it, and won't encourage it. No matter what your relationship is with your child, the person "I see" through the camera lens is ALWAYS different when the senior is with a parent. I do encourage seniors to bring a friend that they love spending time with and are happy being around, because I get really good and natural smiles when they are happy.
Once I commit, am I locked in?
No. People change their minds and plans change. What's important is PLEASE PLEASE don't be afraid to tell me if you've changed your mind. I won't think badly of you. I would much rather know than to be hanging, or to have locked in a prime session date then get your call the night before that you need to cancel without any explanation. If I've made a commitment to a session on a prime date/time (like Saturdays in the fall), and you cancel your reserved date at the last minute, it usually means I’ve blocked that time out and no one else can use it. Where sometimes I have a waitlist, I generally don’t book that way. It costs me money and other clients to have a perfect weather day and no one to shoot. I have a lot of respect for other photographers in our area and will not hate you for using someone else!
If we've started the work and I've locked in a prime date, you will be asked to pay for any work done up to the point you've changed your mind, and the initial retainer (50% of the session fee) is non-refundable if cancelled with less than 3 days notice.
Will all of my photos have your logo on them?
No. pamarazzi has very strong feelings about internet theft, which at times includes inappropriate use of photos containing minors without consent. I encourage everyone (personal or professional) not to post high resolution quality photos online (personal or professional) without watermarks for the same reason I don't post them. I also get ticked off when I see a responsible person offer to 'give' photos they've paid for (ie club/school group portraits) to other parents for free so they don't have to pay for them, even when the photographer's prices are outrageous. That is flat out theft. Aside from concerns about useage of photos posted online, I do consider myself a portrait artist, and my work to be art. I want people to know who created my art just like any other type of artist, musician, etc. Anything I post on social media WILL have my watermark. Your prints will NOT. Your final digital copies will NOT.
Will I only get a certain number of pictures?
we'll talk about how many pictures you want to be sure to get before we start. Any 'minimums' listed in a contract are generally minimums I give MYSELF - not you. For example, if our plan says you will get a minimum of 25 proofs to select a minimum of 10 images, that does NOT mean you can only have 10 images. It means I am promising to give you at least that many. You can have whatever you want, and I won't hold you hostage with upsells in order for you to get that.
What if we don’t want my senior’s pictures on social media?
Just tell me. I've done MANY seniors, families, professional headshots, etc. that you have NEVER seen. Yes, I am big on social media. Yes, I LOVE sharing on social media. Yes, I love making people happy by posting really great looking pictures that make your senior look fantastic. But not everyone is like me.
Do we have to have a meeting before we book?
No, but it's been my experience that it works best for all involved - the parent, the senior and the photographer. It gives you a chance to get to know me and how we will work together and will either put you more at ease or validate that I might not be the right choice for you.
What happens after the pictures are taken?
All photos are uploaded to an online gallery that is private, until and unless you've asked otherwise. I will ask you before posting anything on social media. Because we often take photos over multiple sessions, depending on the schedule you may see photos as they are taken or not until they are all finished. I may choose to hold proofing until I feel we have met our objectives. I may also choose to show a preliminary view if I feel that things didn't go as well as I had hoped, so that the senior can see what might need to be done differently, for example with wardrobe, facial expressions, etc.
Once we feel we are done capturing the images needed, you can CHOOSE to either place an order independently online OR we can arrange to meet over coffee to do your order together. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming. What will NOT happen is we will NOT have a meeting where I try to upsell you lots of goodies or packages, and tell you you can only have certain pictures if you buy a package. We'll know before we start what you want. PS: I will tell you now, whether you think you will or don't, you WILL want an album.
We DO need to work toward reasonable completion dates, especially if you want your finished products before a grad party or for Christmas gifts. Things get insanely crazy between Thanksgiving & Christmas and in May due to procrastinators.
What if I don’t like the pictures after they’re done?
You will. Because I don't stop working until you are completely happy with the results. I promise.
Aren't we required to use the school's photographer?
Medina City Schools has an exclusive contract with Lifetouch Studios (Prestige) for school pictures for all schools, grades and events. This school will only accept a Lifetouch/Prestige portrait for their yearbook, which they will take for you at no cost. However, you may choose any photographer to capture your senior portraits that you will share with family and friends and will want to keep forever.
If you are from another school district, we will gladly research what that school's requirements are. Many schools accept senior portraits that are submitted by the parent, others have the same agreement as Medina. Many national chains hire Photographer Sales Associates with limited experience on a seasonal, parttime or fulltime basis to fulfill their local contracts. Many work on a minimal base hourly rate plus high commission.
My personal favorite:
I heard you’re too expensive. Can I afford you?
If you think I'm too expensive, you likely haven't talked with me. Look, ‘expensive’ is subjective and means different things to different people. For some, $100 is too much and others would drop $1,000 without blinking. All of my prices are transparent -- sessions, packages, cost for various prints, and are all on my website and are listed when you click the SHOPPING CART on any photo in one of my website galleries (note, there are two price books -- one for standard portrait galleries and one for activities/performing arts events where you can buy bulk digitals). There are no post-session 'sales pitches' where you'll look at a gallery and be offered packages which include high priced items you didn't plan on or may not want. With pamarazzi, we do our best to figure out what you want to walk away with and what you want to spend, and we will find a way to make it work. The senior year is an emotional time for a parent. After spending 30+ years in corporate sales, I've attended and TAUGHT every sales technique out there. Trust me when I say that salespeople WILL take advantage of your emotions to maximize their sale. There are dozens of articles on the internet teaching photographers how to turn a $250 sale into a $1,500 sale.
The photographer's association (America, Ohio) will tell you the average senior portrait package is $1,500. If it helps, my average parent spends between $350 and $550 for their senior's complete package. I've had a few less than $200 because that was all they could do, and a few over $750 because of what they wanted to hang on their wall. I don't have costs associated with renting a large studio and I don't spend a lot of money on packaging and presentation. I try to deliver as economically as possible. Worth noting, I am not a 'mini session' photographer. I think that is a cliche' that implies you're getting a really cheap deal. I don't shortcut anyone. I can do great work for you in 15 minutes or 2 hours. There is nothing 'mini' about it.
If in the pre-planning it looks like we can't give you what you want for what you can afford, I’ll suggest other options (including other photographers). But don’t decide that we are “too expensive” based on gossip or hearsay. Because it’s subjective. And it's all out there. I am confident you will receive the best photos and get more in your total package, whether you’re spending $200 or $1,000. But please don’t call me if you want a $1,500 package with a $200 price tag. I will do a great job for you and deserve to be paid a reasonable wage for it.
Will I get the digital copies?
Of course you will get digital copies!! And they will be clean, high res files without watermark. The only question is whether they will be included in your package or purchased separately. If you purchase a session and print package valued at $350 or more, you will not pay for any digital files if your package is under that, they will cost from $15 per image up to $150 for a full set. Having said that, you won't get free digitals that you can go print on shutterfly or at walmart to save money. Yes, you can print most of the digitals you get, but I do care about the quality of my work and use a professional print lab for all my work. I don't do retouching on images that are not being printed.
More relevant, it's been my experience that parents who want to pay for a session then get digital files are trying to save money or because they're afraid it will cost them a fortune to print what they want. And if that's really what you want to do, you probably want another photographer!
My print costs are reasonable, and transparent. Just look them up in advance.
I only want digital copies and no prints - is that OK?
Yes, but think long and hard about that. If you don't print them now, you likely will NEVER print them. This is statistically proven with industry research. Just Do It!
When and how do I pay?
Many photographers want 100% up front. If you're thinking of spending $300 to $700, you may not want to put that kind of money out all at once. That's the good part of working with a sole proprieter, family-run business. When and how do you WANT to pay?
My general preferred payment plans are:
Half of the session/service fee at signing or by first session and the other half when your proofs are delivered to you to view
Half of the prints/order cost at time of order and the other half when your final prints are delivered.
That means most of my clients make around FOUR separate payments to me, over what could be a 3 to 6 month period. If you need something different, just ask! If you want to pay 100% up front, you can.
And, how do you want to pay? I can take checks, cash (not preferred), or send an electronic invoice that can be paid online with any major credit/debit card. I also take Apple Pay, Venmo and Paypal. When ordering your prints, my website will give you the option to use paypal or pay offline. You'll get a detailed invoice for all services - everything will be documented.
If after all of this, you're still not sure that pamarazzi is the right photographer for you, maybe you shouldn’t hire me. I want no regrets. If you can find another photographer that will spend more time with you, give you more and better quality images, for less money than you want to spend, who shoots in a style you prefer over mine, who you think is more savvy or professional than I am, then you should hire them. I wish you the best.
If you think you want the pamarazzi treatment, don't wait. Let's get started!