In DEFENSE of Momtographers Everywhere…

Debate about momtographers the Improve Photography Facebook page

The momtographer debate. I liked these and other comments on the Facebook page. Many people had valid points.

For years, I’ve heard well-known photographers on the web (I’m resisting a strong urge to name names here) bash people–often young moms–who begin a photography business without the training and experience of seasoned professionals.  Today, on the Improve Photography Facebook Page, a mini-debate broke out about so-called “momtographers” and their place in the photography business.

Emily Straw, Erika Darcy, Mary Vogt, Erin LaSorsa, Mindy Woodford, Alexandria Wilcox, and other members of our community made valid comments on the topic which I appreciated.  But in this debate, I feel like I have to speak out a bit too.

Momtographer in action

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What I’m NOT Saying…

I am not advocating that someone pick up a camera, call themselves a photographer, and then advertise that they shoot weddings.  That is a fantastic way to ruin someone’s wedding, and for the photographer to get sued.  I understand how important family photos are, so the thought of once-in-a-lifetime events being treated carelessly isn’t a winning proposition to me.

If I were a beginner who eventually wanted to do photography as a business, I would take my time.  Take courses (I happen to know someone who teaches online photography classes….), practice like crazy, shoot casual family events to learn the ropes, get critiques, and then slowly dip your toe into the market.  It is possible to make a great living as long as you have good business sense.

Oh, and the last thing is that I’m using the word “momtographer” only because that was the word thrown around in the mini-debate on our Facebook page.  My wife is a stay-at-home mother of two young children, so please don’t get the wrong idea–no one in our society deserves more respect than mothers.

What I AM Saying…

First of all, business means competition.  Photographers have watched competition in action as point-and-shoot camera sales have plummeted over the last few years.  Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Kodak, and other camera manufacturers have watched as consumers have chosen to use their camera phones as a substitute for point-and-shoots.  Consumers have decided that a camera phone is “good enough” because they don’t want to pay for an additional device.  The manufacturers could certainly complain that camera phones don’t capture good quality and consumers are idiots, but that wouldn’t get them more business, would it?

A similar thing is occurring with momtographers (and dadtographers as Curtis Isaak pointed out on Facebook).  Inexperienced photographers, who flatly cannot deliver the quality of a seasoned pro, are offering cheaper prices.  Customers–hundreds of thousands of them–are choosing to purchase a $100 session with a new momtographer rather than spending many hundreds (sometimes thousands) more to hire an experienced professional photographer.

It is frustrating to be undercut.  As an entrepreneur and professional photographer, I can sympathize.  I support my family through photography, so the thought that someone would have the audacity to undercut me with virtually no experience is frightening to say the least.  HOWEVER, it’s business.  And not just any business.  In this business, the customer looks through the photographer’s portfolio, sees the price, and then signs up.  These startup photographers may not offer the quality of a seasoned pro, but for the most part, the customers know what type of quality to expect.

When I first started in professional photography, I advertised $50 for a one-hour shoot of any type.  It was completely unsustainable as a business, but we had recently moved to Florida, had a newborn, and I couldn’t find a job anywhere.  There is no shame in doing the best you can to support your family.  I think that’s what most momtographers are trying to do.  I didn’t produce 5-star photos, but I was honest about my lack of experience as I advertised to potential customers and I showed my photos to potential clients so they knew what they could expect to get.

With time, I improved.  I worked extremely hard to learn the craft and my prices increased to match my skills.  Eventually, I was charging several thousand dollars for weddings and several hundred for portrait shoots.  I came to the point that I supported my family 100% through my photography.  I’m grateful for the success I had, and I’m also grateful for the lower-end of the market that allowed me to gain experience and build up my gear to be able to create a sustainable business.

If you’re a professional photographer who likes to whine and gripe about momtographers–you need to face the facts.  Not every client is willing to pay $500 for a senior portrait.  If you don’t like that, then offer a service to the clients that is so good that they won’t be willing to accept the newer photographers.

2 Things Professionals Have Done to Groom the Market for Momtographers

  1. Hanging on to the digitals.  I completely understand why professional photographers refuse to hand over the digital files.  In fact, I rarely sell anyone a digital file of my landscapes.  I want to control the original and makes prints for the customers so I can make money off the prints and assure they are printed properly.  HOWEVER, it’s a digital world.  When my wife and I were engaged, we hired a professional photographer to shoot our engagements.  The photos were beautiful (I have it hanging on my office wall), but we were too poor to purchase more than one photo, and now the other photos are gone forever.  That once-in-a-lifetime photo shoot is gone forever, and I am MAD that I don’t have the pictures of it.  It’s frustrating.  Does that make me more likely to choose a newer photographer who would give me the digital files?  Absolutely.  This is one example of a practice by professionals that is driving away customers, even though it makes us money.
  2. Refusing to mentor newer photographers.  I often hear well-known photographers online advocating that new photographers “shoot second” for a while or assist pros before taking on a wedding; however, I hear from the newer photographers every day who would love that opportunity, but can’t find mentors who are willing to help newer photographers.  In a way, that’s the mission for–to be that online mentor for photographers everywhere.

So what’s my point?

There’s no shame in being a momtographer, who spends every ounce of energy she has to learn a new skill in order to provide for her family.  Everyone gets their start somewhere, and as long as they are honest about the service they can offer clients, they ought to be applauded rather than criticized.

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment below and tell me your thoughts.


  1. Krissy

    I cannot stop applauding you for your outlook on this. You hit the nail on the head when you said that “as long as you are honest and upfront about your experience” that is the key. These people are CHOOSING to go to this momtographer because it is what is financially manageable for their family. And however they are able to get semi nice or nice family pictures more power to them. I see both sides of this. A family member of mine is a very good pro photographer, with a lot of experience under her belt, so some of the photographers that just bought their slr and already have a website and charge her prices, those tick me off. But the ones who charge fifty dollars for a cd of your pics so that they can learn and get better, that’s ok. It’s always best to go to someone who really knows what they are doing, but not everyone can afford the best.

  2. Heather

    Thank you for defend Momtographers and those starting out! Like yous said everyone has to start somewhere. While it is true people should know as much as they can about photography before they jump into a business it doesn’t always work that. I struggle to understand some professionals need to pick on the newbies.

    Thank you for finally pointing out that many professionals create their own “problems” when it comes to being undercut by their competition. In reality you are your only competition. No one can “steal” clients from you because if a client chooses to go elsewhere they obviously don’t appreciate your work.

  3. Priscilla

    As one of those mom-tographers, thank you!! We all have to start somewhere. Even out in the “regular” job market, you don’t apply to be VP as your very first job experience ever (or if you do you certainly don’t get it but kudos on the confidence). I have taken my daughter’s photos for nearly 5 years now, and only this year branched out to friends and acquaintances, I would NOT offer to do a wedding (unless it was as a 2nd or back up photographer) because I KNOW that my skills, experience and equipment are not on that level.. I would never want to ruin someone’s once in a lifetime photos! I am very honest on my page and have lots of examples of my work so that anyone who wants can see my quality. Thank you for standing up for the little “guys” like me who are just starting out <3

  4. Melissa

    I think this is a fabulous article and I think you have very valid points. The beautiful thing about this business and many other is that there is opportunity through creativity. “Momtographers” are using their gifts and talents to provide a service to others who may think that what they have to offer is perfect….if not then the consumer should move on to a different photographer that suites their needs. Any profession has newbies and many of the seasoned professionals have opinions of them and their level of training…my personal thought is that I would rather live in the world of opportunity to choose my photographer, painter, plumber, etc. based upon their service, expertise, and ability to provide the service that I need instead of purely based off of how long they have been doing it for. At the same time I agree that the newbies should be honest with their level of training. In the end business is business and who is to say how it should be conducted unless they are the one purchasing the final product, the consumer is the one that has to live with their choice hanging on the wall.

  5. Shannon Williamson

    While I was not part of your discussion on facebook today, I would love to say that this article is very well written. I worked as a professional studio photographer for a couple years before I had a child & started staying at home. I am now one of those “momtographers” but I do think that I have enough of a background to call myself semi-pro in the field. I do charge lower prices because I think it’s what our financial times call for. I charge more this year than I did last and I agree that as my skills are increasing so are my prices. Thank you for “sticking up” for those of us out here who are just trying to make it by. Slowly but surely, we’ll be right up there with you. Loved the webinar last night… very informative!

  6. Emily Slimm

    Most people are aware that they get what they pay for…pay a small amount for a shoot and you will get mediocre prints but maybe if you just simply don’t have the sort of money that the pro’s are asking then second best is adequate – to have a few pics that are better than the family snaps, and at a very reasonable price. It’s the same market, but not really competition for the pro’s as they are at the high end of the market and the momtographers at the lower end of the market – no worries!! It would be a bit like thorntons worrying about tesco value chocolates….

  7. Tiffany Hendrickson

    As an admitted MWAC (mom with a camera) I completely understand both sides of the story, particularly because I have daydreamed about making photography more than a hobby. I started (like most moms) because I wanted to take better photos of my kids. So, I bought the DSLR, actually read the manual, took a deep breath and got started. Photography is addicting, as most pros should know. To see a crisp, candid image that YOU took of somebody is enticing. However, I know enough to never think I will ever know enough to be a wedding photographer. Or a photographer worthy of $500 sessions. But if the neighbor family wants me to take their picture for $50, do some entry level editing, hand them a CD of their pictures and be on their way, then who am I to say no? They would never have shelled out for even a $200 session, so am I really hurting the “business”? We are not a threat to professionals everywhere. We are creative moms who know what it’s like to yearn for professional images of our children. And we are not dumb. We know these images from a MWAC won’t have that certain Je ne sais quois…But it’s enough for us. There is enough room for everyone.

  8. James

    As the saying goes… “Hater gonna hate”. This is especially true when someone’s livelihood is involved.

    I am an IT guy by trade, but I am also an amateur photographer. That means (to me) that I like taking pictures, and sometimes I am lucky enough to get some good captures. Even though I am not a professional, family and friends are always coming to me, asking me to take pictures for them.

    More often than not, they are very happy with the pictures I take, and sometimes like mine better than the ones they paid a “professional” good money for.

    I do however, always try to steer them to a professional first, especially for memorable events. Like I said earlier, my great shots still involve more luck than skill, and I’d hate to be responsible for messing something like that up.

    p.s.- Lighten up on the “momtographers”, you don’t see me getting all pissy when you fix your Mom’s computer for free do ya? 😉

  9. Leslie e

    I agree completely. Either “you get what you pay for” is true or it isn’t. The market can’t command the outrageous prices that some ( and I mean some) commanded in the past. Equipment has come down and accessibility to editing and printing services has gone up. The pros have to step up their game and make their services desirable again.. Not to worry. After one bad experience with the novices, the customer will be back for good.
    Insulting your competition (and these “momtographers” are your competition whether you want to admit it or not) by name-calling is petty and unprofessional.

  10. Meredith

    I appreciate your article and see both sides of the debate as well. I am just getting started as a “momtographer” and having a blast learning as much as I can and meeting new people and families. A photographer’s talent and pricing will ultimately dictate their client base so the pros shouldn’t worry as long as their results remain worth it to the consumer. I treat my clients the way I would want to be treated by offering the digital files. I wouldn’t even think about going to a photographer that wasn’t willing to sell me the digital files of my own family. I love the pros and learning from the best so hopefully they don’t view the lil gals as stepping on any toes. As you said, we are just trying to provide for our families and do something we love to do!

  11. Julie

    I like this article. It made me feel a little better. I have to say some of the comments left earlier almost had me wanting to run away with my tail tucked between my legs. I am unexperienced but totally willing to learn everything I need to know about photography. Its something I’ve always wanted to do but I also have 3 kids and they come first. I have a fb page that shows the pictures I have taken and people have paid me to take their pictures. I’m learning as I go and the people that ask me to take their pictures know that. I’m certainly not trying to compete with anyone and would never claim to be a professional. I just found the “improve photography” page yesterday and I’ve already learned a lot and have gotten some great advice. What I need most is constructive criticism, which I started trying very hard to get after a very rude person saw one of my pictures and told me that “just because I owned a camera doesn’t mean I am a photographer”. The bad part about it was she wasn’t even a photographer herself.

  12. annette

    You did an excellent job of presenting your view and I agree with you wholeheartedly!!! Every professional had to start somewhere too.

  13. Mindy Woodford

    I agree, Jim. There are aspects of this subject that are great. I went through some tough times as a photographer and still do. Here is what I have vowed as a current photography business owner: pay it forward. I am currently mentoring about three people. I have found that yes, there are tons of snooty photogs out there who want to see people fail. These three, I hope they sincerely learn what they are looking to learn and even teach me something along the way. As far as the mentoring, you are so right. So many aren’t willing to help. I think the roughest part of all of it is that there are a few out there who know that there are points that need improving (admittedly, yours truly has those points – we all do) but if you aren’t willing to “fix” it, that is a tough hurdle. Some feel it as an insult because they can’t take constructive criticism (I used to not be able to either) or even you don’t know what you’re talking about and don’t trust you. I guess though, if you aren’t willing to learn, you will hang your own self and try to remind myself of things like that. Yes, I do tend to try and make myself different to avoid these things and move past but there is always going to be these issues and just have had to learn that with the trade. Thanks for sharing. I think it will help people to understand and maybe even soothe some others and help people to understand the frustration from others a lot better and vice-versa. Looking forward to some more learning!! Thank you again for the webinar!

  14. Jaime

    You have no idea how glad I am to hear this from a pro. I have read so much negativity from pros about newbies that I have almost given up. Its very discouraging.
    I recently did a wedding for a friend of a friend. This person knew what to expect from me. They knew I had no wedding experience, I made that very clear. She wouldnt have been able to hire a wedding photographer otherwise and would have relied on guests snapshots to remember her wedding by. She was so happy with the pictures that she cried. I didnt undercut anyone, as she couldnt hire a pro. I got the experience and she has wedding photos that she is happy with. I see nothing wrong with that, and honestly thino its a great way to get started. It benefits the photographer and the client. We have to start somewhere, just like everyone else. Also I am a single mom trying to make ends meet, and if someone is willing to pay me to take their photos, you can bet Im going to do it.
    Thanks for the encouragement!

  15. Shannon

    I LOVE this!!! I too am starting out very slowly. I don’t have a mentor either, but took high school and college photography classes because it’s been a passion of mine my whole life. I shoot my friends free simply because the reward of seeing how much they love the photos, and sorting out ones that I’m impressed with myself is far more gratifying – and confidence boosters! It’s so nice to see a professional photographer, and a great one at that, encourage those of us starting out. Thanks so much for this, and for the wonderful tips!!!

  16. Judith

    Well, I’m not a mom yet, but the momtographer, as defined here, sounds a lot like me. I’ve enjoyed playing around with cameras and taking pictures since my mom let me get my hands on her .0001 megapixel Sony way back when. I’ve had my first and only DSLR for about 3 years now and have taken my time reading, researching, talking to professionals when the opportunity presents itself, and picking up lenses or accessories when the money is available. I’d absolutely love to eventually make a living from photography…but I could not offer my services for payment knowing that they’re not quite to the level I would want them to be if I were a paying customer. There are a few local 20-somethings who took a film photography class in high school and have subsequently started photography businesses that offer weddings for SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. I look through their portfolios and scratch my head at who in their right mind would pay so much for such poorly exposed and composed pictures that I would not drop even $50 for.

    As someone who would eventually like to, as you say, dip my toe in the photography business, I am grateful that such shoddy work apparently can sell. But as someone who has taken the time to actually learn about exposure, composition, and post-production, as well as what proper, basic portrait photography equipment entails, it irritates me to no end that as soon as someone gets their hands on a DSLR, they immediately set up a photography website with a price list before even trying to shoot off auto.

  17. Liz Jury

    Thank you. As a newbie and coming to it later in life because I was always hung up on not having ‘studied properly’ so never followed the dream of doing this as a job, because I thought I “would never be qualified ” with a piece of paper to show it. I spoke to a few people who were self taught and wondered if I could do this. I have spent the last year pretty much glued either to my computer learning everything I can, or with my eye glued to my camera practicing. Am I good enough? I dont know. But I have started to get a few jobs. I get nervous everytime someone pays me for a session but I am totally dedicated to doing the absolute best I can by them. There is still residue of that feeling of being looked down on by a “proper photographer”, but thats up to me to get over, and up to my clients to decide whether they think Im good enough, and want to use me.

  18. Angie

    Thank you. It is so easy to get discouraged in this day and age of digital perfection. Your article just fuels me to keep learning and developing my skills. At the end of the day, I usually shoot for friends, family, and friends of friends. They are ordinary people who would not have paid hundreds for a session but now have sessions that capture those family moments. In my mind, I feel no guilt for “momtographing” for them if it means memories or no memories.

  19. Deborah

    I don’t consider myself to be a professional but I do have repeat customers who appreciate my work. I also charge $50 per hour and I do make it affordable to those who can not afford a professional. While I have had satisfied customers when think back I remember the mistakes I made and I wish I could go back and fix the photos. I have sense learned a lot and I always looking for photography tips to improve my skill. I went to one photography workshop but they tend to be expensive. I would like to get more gear but I have to do my best with my Nikon D40 camera until I can afford to upgrade. I do believe that there is a lot to learn and I intend to in the very near future. Your article shared both the perspective of the professional photographer and the novice and I can appreciate both angles. So, I will continue my hobby until I can become the professional as you have become.

  20. tiffany

    Thank you. I am a stay at home mom and Yes photography is my passion. Finding a mentor is exhausting and I am so glad I came across your website yesterday. I took photography in high school and I have learned more in the last two days from your site than I learned in high school. So thank you for “keeping it real” 😉 and providing a FANTASTIC tool for those of us who can not afford to study photography the traditional way (financially as well as time)

  21. Mary

    I’ve been taking pictures for 40 years, but my career was in Stained Glass….then I switch from film to digital ~No more darkroom, no more chemicals! I closed down my glass studio and at age 50 began my 2nd career in photography.

    It’s been a humbling experience as I’ve had to learn all things digital and make less money than I used to. Call me an “Empty-nestographer! And yes my prices are lower and I sell my clients a digital files on a CD but I’m learning, and able to bless people who can’t afford a pro. It’s a win/win for both of us.

  22. charlotte

    I am a fairly new photographer, been dabbling in it for a few years. This year is my first year pulling together a portfolio and trying to build a business. I do not charge much for sessions because I know I am new and don’t compare to a more experienced photographer. I have given many free photos to family and friends just so I can get the practice in every aspect of photography. I am also seeking out community projects for those in need to offer free services as well. One, for good practice, two because these projects are important to me in helping others.

  23. Camilla

    Thank you for this article! It’s sad when we are our own worst enemies, rather than our biggest supporters. As a photographer, I still need to hire other photographers to photograph my own events that I personally need to be in the photo. I will not hire those who I know have been unkind to me personally or those I mentor. I think in the long run, ‘being nice’ is just better business.

  24. Jeff

    James, I agree. However, my brother and sister in law hired a photographer to do their outdoor wedding. I just hung around the outskirts of the audiance and shot pics using my zoom. In the end, they liked my pics better than the ones they paid for. So, as a good brother in law, I gave them to them.

    Also Jim, I agree with the fact that there are alot of people who either will not or can not pay for a professional. We have friends that cannot afford it and so as a Christmas gift to them, I do it for them in my country back yard.

    About the digital files, I to agree. We have a family member who passed away suddenly and it would be great to have the files of them that were taken just a month before. We were not aware at the time that it would be the last time they would have a professional portrait taken. So now, irregardless of the cost, we will only hire a professional who will allow us to buy the copyrights to them.

    We are also Foster Parents and I have taken pics of Foster kids so as to offer a service that no one else is, at least in our area. Quality or not, these friends do not have the resources to pay high fees. And yes, $25 is high. If it gives you a boost into this biz, or you are helping out friends and family, your talents are yours. How you spend them is totally up to you. If Annie Leibovitz wants to photograph a friends kid for free she can and charge me a ton that is up to her. Just sayin.

  25. Molly Dockery

    Great article. I started my photography business about 2 years ago and have experienced a measure of success. I have to say, though, that a great deal of the success I’ve had was due to help from established photographers who were willing to share their knowledge. Some were not interested in helping the competition. I sincerely believe, though, that helping someone technically will not hurt your business. You cannot teach someone a style. Each of us has a style that is uniquely ours. We all learned from someone and I feel a debt to new photogs to offer the same help that I was offered. That is the beautiful thing about art, people can copy your style but it can’t be duplicated. And I do not feel like my business has suffered from helping out other photographers. People who connect to their style hire them. People who connect to mine hire me.

  26. Kristy

    Excellent article! Everyone starts somewhere/sometime! I only wish that more of the professionals were open to helping out. I went to high school with someone that was always carrying a camera around. Now, 15 years later he is a very good photographer. However, when I try to ask him questions he is very difficult. Like because I didn’t start out years ago in HS I’m not and can not be in ‘the club’. Luckily for me I have another photographer friend and she is only to happy to let me pick her brain for hours! If we lived closer she would let me tag along and learn.

  27. Harry Briscoe

    I have no problem with new photographers who are just starting out. My problem is some of them are producing work that is sub standard while charging pro prices for their work. They fly”under the radar” of the “tax man” and have no business license. Some charge low prices for their work because they already have a full time job to support themselves or a spouse who supports them. This lowers the standards for us who are Professional photographers.
    I think in time the market will shake out and the consumer will come back to the studio photographer and get away from the “natural light” photographer.If the “Person with a camera” wants to be a working pro,they need to get educated by joining the local,state,or national professional photography organizations. They also need to get a business license along with a state and federal tax number.this way they can pay taxes like the rest of us.

    Harry Briscoe
    Briscoe Studios

  28. Monica Ramirez

    One word to describe this artical, AMAZING. I was one of the comments up in there about this topic. I myself started as one of these women. And my goal when I started it wasn’t to gain a large amount of money. It was to gain a passion/career that I have always dreamed of and capturing the priceless memories that we can hold onto. With that being said, it has allowed me to be a stay at home mother of 5 children that God has called me to be. Along with capturing life long memories for others. I took my dive into the photography world not knowing a thing about photography, turned it into a business within months. I have now been in business for about a year and half and I keep striving for more ways to learn new things. I was givin the honor of shooting 3 weddings so far, and those were truely amazing experiences. I will continue to strive and keep learning the art that I love to do. Thank you for backing up Mom-photographers :)

  29. Jeff

    also would like to add that in any industry there are those who cater to the wealthier client (Nordstrom) and those that cater to the more budget contiouse customer (Walmart). Each does well in different financial times. But they are both still in business, because there is a lot of business to go around. We live in a town of 3,000 and there is more than one photographer. It seems that there is still enough business to go around. In larger towns, why the fuss from pro’s.

  30. Deedee

    Thank you for writing that. I followed the mini-debate on Facebook today and while I resisted weighing in, it frustrated me. Glad to know you don’t share the view of some of those commenting. I am a mom who enjoys taking pictures, learning about photography, and trying to improve. My motivation for learning and improving is wanting to capture my kids as they grow. It bothers me when people act like you need a license to own and operate a nice camera. There are all different levels out there for hire, and that is the beauty of a free market. People get what they pay for, and consumers know that. I rarely hire a “pro” anymore because I can get nice family shot for $100 and I get to keep the digitals. On very special occasions, splurging on a “pro” is definitely worth it. Maybe those frustrated by the “momtographer” should adapt to the market by offering classes and lessons to the armature. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! :)

  31. Tom

    Excellent article, Jim, and I totally agree. As a long time professional, I have watched the industry change dramatically in recent years. And while the changes have been painful at times, overall the changes have inspired most professionals to deliver a higher level of service, higher technical quality, and greater creativity.

    In that regard, the seasoned professionals of our industry owe a debt of gratitude to the mom- and dadtographers. It is far too easy to become complacent, even entitled, when only the elite professionals can lay claim to delivering well-lit, well-posed photos.

  32. Shane

    The first thing that concerns me is the person holding the camera and lens incorrectly for a portrait mode photograph. For starters, your right and left elbows to the right (and left) side of your belly (and in to your hips) will be imminently more stable that holding your elbow in the air. I don’t care what anyone says. It is a simple ergonomic fact.

  33. Blue Tortuga

    I have unfollowed and unfriended many of photographers because I got tired of hearing the “fauxtographer” rhetoric. I have always found your insight to be nonjudgmental and safe. The so-called haters have made me extremely self conscious about my work and honestly it was not until I was chosen one of the finalists in the portrait competition that I even shared my website with ANYONE (family or otherwise). I have yet to set my prices and I certainly don’t plan on shooting any weddings anytime soon…
    Thank you for your encouragement and more importantly sharing your knowledge with those of us that are trying to make a career out of a passion. We appreciate you!

  34. Sarah Anderson

    Great article! My hackles went up when I first started reading the debate on Facebook because I fit the bill of what was being described. I am a mother, teacher, wife, and so much more. I also love photography. A few years ago I bought an entry-level DSLR and started shooting anything and everything. I took a class. I got Photoshop. I upgraded to a professional level camera. I read everything I could get my hands on. My skills have improved to the point where many people look at my pictures and insist they look no different than professional (including professionals I know). Word gets around in a small town and I have gotten some significant business. Word of mouth now has me booked for five weddings this summer. Am I charging $3000? No…but I am photographing weddings for people who would NEVER pay that. There is a market out there for mid-range pricing. Like I tell my friend (a professional photographer who chastises me for my $600 weddings). I am not seasoned enough to make $3000, so I am happy to make $600, improve my skills, provide a service to people who would be without it otherwise, and use the money to slowly but surely upgrade my equipment. But for me, it’s the joy I get out of taking great pictures. This is not my career, it’s a hobby and I make sure my clients understand that. And I have happy clients who have pictures on their walls that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

  35. Maria Trader

    Great article, thank you! As a momtographer I know I am under priced for what I produce. But I am still starting out and I really like that I offer a service at an affordable price for families in my area. I cannot afford to spend $500 on a session but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to have beautiful photos of my children to cherish. And neither should my clients.

  36. Rick

    I didn’t produce 5-star photos, but I was honest about my lack of experience as I advertised to potential customers and I showed my photos to potential clients so they knew what they could expect to get.

    That’s the most important sentence in this entire article. If your work is worth a grand per session, you’re going to be able to command that. The rest of us are going to get everything else. And that’s ok. The people paying $100/session are likely not going to pay $1000.

  37. Claudia

    Business is Competition. The business climate has been shifting for as long as I can remember, and the trend today is “something for everyone and a price all can afford”, hence Target selling Missoni. What this means is that there is space for photographers of all price and experience levels. This is a good thing. Competition is healthy and anyone crying about it clearly needs to up their game and attract more clients instead of wasting time wringing their hands and wailing.

  38. Phil

    I am an amateur shooter who has sold some fine-art prints and am trying to increase my skills. I may never shoot a pro portrait – that remains to be seen. So giving that as my background, I would like to say that this is by far the best written, most encouraging, balanced, helpful and realistic article on this subject that I have ever read. Thank you.

    As a potential new pro photographer someday maybe, it often seems to me that some pros view photography as an exclusive club that is no longer accepting new members. What a shame.

  39. rachel

    thank you so much for this. us beginners have to start somewhere and it’s nice to get some encouragement on that. :)

  40. Kelly Chiodi

    I’m not sure this whole pick-up-a-camera-and-call-yourself-a-photog is new. I know two people personally (one who took my wedding photos) off the top of my head who happened upon film cameras and tried to hang a shingle and get wedding gigs. Neither had any particular talent. (I never even got any of my wedding photos printed… my fault, I know, but also my budget’s).
    Sure, the numbers are probably exponentially larger than they used to be because of the cost and ease of use of the new DSLR’s, but it’s not new.
    These guys (yes, men) wanted a side job that paid well and used their cameras to get it. Like I said, neither were particularly inspired.

    Another point I never see mentioned in the MWAC debates is that despite the industry rejecting them (or at the least calling them names), it must recognize that they filled a need/desire that obviously existed that wasn’t being met. Particularly, what we know as “lifestyle photography.” When my kids were young, a few short 10 or so years ago, if I wanted their photo taken, I’d (on the cheap end) take them to Picture People or JCPenney Studios (or some such) or if I had a bit more money (I never did) I’d go to a private studio, where not much was different except the backgrounds, and maybe the camera that was used? But, really, sit, pose, smile (matching shirts optional) was the name of the game.

    MWAC’s have given us the in-between moments, capturing the image of a toddler trying to climb on a chair. We now see window lighting and balloons in a park. Back-lighting is an option and at the extreme end, so are stylized sessions.
    None of this would have come about if moms hadn’t picked up their camera, read the manual and started shooting life the way they saw and felt it. What was once a simple portrait has evolved because of MWAC’s and regardless of what they’ve done to the industry’s profits or exclusivity, it can’t be denied what they’ve done for it as an artform.

  41. Shirl Pilcher

    I bought my Canon 50D about 3 years ago. My husband bought me a point and shoot a year earlier and I was hooked. My friends loved my pictures, asked me to take pictures for them at family events, etc. It didn’t take long for me to realize I loved taking pictures and wanted an improved camera. A family friend was getting married and had no funds for pictures. They asked if I would take the pictures for them. Two days after buying my Canon 50D I was in the church taking their wedding pictures. Yes, I was shooting on auto…….had no clue what the other options meant. I fortunately got some great shots and they were extremely happy. The problem? I thought I was great! (I didn’t charge them). After several more shooting events I finally started to notice my pictures lacked……..something. I started taking some classes and learned what all the other creative modes were and now shoot manual most of the time. I’ve also joined a local photography clubs and do alot of reading to learn more. I’m better but by no means where I want to be. I still do shoots from time to time but everyone understands I am not a professional and that I am getting as much from them as they are from me……a win win situation. Many if the people I shoot for have limited funds and would probably not be able to document their event if I wasn’t able to. I’ve photographed several seniors, 3 weddings, family reunions and babies. I’m still not charging but I continue to get better and better. My husband is now really behind me and our based my first L lens for me this Christmas. I am now looking forward to my next L lens purchase……..maybe soon I will be able to afford one. I do let everyone that I do pictures for know that I am not a professional, am just learning. I would never promise what I couldn’t deliver. For the weddings I have shot I do tell them that if they can afford it they might consider a more seasoned photographer as it is a one time shot. I do hope to one day charge for my services and possibly have a studio one day. This is an awesome trade and I love the endless creative opportunities.

  42. ladykatza

    Just my two cents: I’m a Mom, and I like to take photographs. I want to take good ones too. I have NO INTENTION of making it into a business. Its purely a hobby. So just cause we’re a Mom with a DSLR doesn’t mean we’re out to take away business from real professionals.

  43. Shannon

    I just want to thank you. I am sort of a momtographer except I have taken many photography classes before I officially started my business. I started out low on price and have upped my price to help my family and also take into account that I have spent money and time to take classes and gain knowledge on photography. It has been hard and I have taken it super slow. I am glad I have done so and gone through the “pains” of growing as a photographer. It is a tough business to get started in and the fact that many photogs are very stand offish to help or allow a new photog to learn from them. I try to be an open book to newer photogs that do not have the education and have started out just wanting to make more from an interest they have.

  44. Bob Pease

    Awesome discussion to have! I’ve been photographing for a little more than a year and I’m starting to get friends & family ask me if I would shoot family sessions for them cheaply. This is a bit different than this discussion, but it does make me wish I was getting opportunities more often. At this stage my photography isn’t 5 star but the rate at which I learn and improve is far greater than anything I’ve done in the past, so I think it’s important that I keep up small, cheap shoots like this. I do advertise that I will shoot on the cheap but only to people I already know.

    The issue of an amateur undercutting a professional has a long history and spills into many other industries. As a web designer I’ve heard countless potentials say “why would I pay you hundreds when Johnny next door will do it for $50?”. As a professional (or anything more than an amateur really) I think it is important to educate clients on the value of hiring a professional. It’s the best you can do really.

  45. Iulian Ignat

    I’m following your website everyday and this is my first post, because is something that intrigues me every single day about the market difference between different countries/regions around the world. I’m living in Romania (Europe) and this is a beutifull country but with relatively poor people. The difference between social classes is huge and, as ussually, the most is relatively poor.
    My note: with such a low market, here the most of the proffessional photographers (and I mean proffessionals – the skills and the gear have no border) can’t get a wedding job above 400-500 USD. If anyone tries to convince the bride/groom about the quality of the service provided, they just start mentioning about their cousins/brothers/uncles that have a DSLR and can EASILLY replace the proffesional. With such a mentality, the market is obvious very very low. I really don’t know ANY photographer that has photography as a primary business. With such small winnings none of my photgrapher friends can make a living. Just to make an example: the most active wedding proffessional in my region earned only around 8.000 USD for the entire 2011 year.
    Another point: I started small events photography by 3 years now (parties, baptisms, children parties) and, because none of the organisers had no intention in hiring a proffesional, the only things I gained were the skills and trainings. Just after 3 years I’ll have the first paid wedding. As much as I love photography, is just the wrong place to make a living from it.

  46. Bushtography

    Fantastic article in my opinion and I fully agree with what you’re saying. If established professionals can’t compete with the newer, less experienced and, more importantly, cheaper photographers then they need to have a look at what they offer and how they are going to make themselves stand out.

    Hanging on to digital images is an interesting problem. Having recently got married I’m surprised at how few photographers were willing to offer a DVD of printable quality images at any price.

  47. danielle

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I started hobby photography about a month ago, for two reasons:

    1. A friend photographed my wedding, saving us a TON of money, and I’d like to do that for someone else one day.

    2. To take amazing shots of my (future) children that will make the rest of my friends jealous.

    After reading this article, I realized that while I’m not a mom (yet), I AM a momtographer.

  48. Kristen

    Thank you so much for this article and your point of view! Everyone has to start somewhere. And I’m sure some of the seasoned photographers started out under similar circumstances. Yes, classes and experience are key, but so is a love for the art. While I would love to have a professional shoot photos of my family, I simply cannot afford hundreds of dollars to do so. That’s just the simple truth for most families these days. I am proud to say I’m a momtographer and do hope to grow this into a business…someday. For now I’m content with the family and friends who are more than happy to be my guinea pigs!

  49. Doug

    I understand what everyone is saying but let me put in a bit of the other side. I shoot youth sports photography and have for over 20 years. It took a long time to build my business to the point it is today. Like any business, I have overhead expenses. What I don’t care for about the parentographer is most don’t have a sales tax license so they don’t collect or pay sales tax. They don’t declare the money as income so they don’t pay taxes on that “part-time” money. I pay good amount every year for liability insurance,workman comp, etc.

    I understand everyone has to start somewhere just like I did many years ago. I just suggest they follow the rules like everyone else when starting a “business”.
    Just another side to the story.

  50. Caitlin Kristine Photography

    I appreciate the concept behind the post. And for the most part, I’m grateful for the comments defending moms with cameras. I’m a mom, I’ve been trained (though I hold no certificate) and I’m paying my taxes for sure. However, those who are defending charging lower prices because of their lack of experience is perhaps unwise for the ‘momtographer’ who wishes to actually build a lasting business. Consider this: If your experience for a wedding warrants only charging $600, what happens when your experience warrants $2,000 or $5,000? Bride Sara tells her engaged friend, Bonnie, that you’ll do her wedding for $600. Well, not anymore, because your work warrants WAY more than that. Clients don’t like seeing your prices rise. As a consumer, I don’t like it when Redbox and Netflix try and charge me more, and they’ve only gone up cents! Think about where you’d like to be in 3-5-10 years from now and what kind of client base you’d like to have. Also, DO THE MATH on the cost of running your business. Set your prices accordingly and then have ‘portfolio building sales’ where you can offer discounts. Set yourself up for success in the long run. Don’t sell yourself out for a $50, 1 hr portrait session. It’s NOT worth the time away from your family. It’s just NOT.

  51. Tracey

    I agree with you 100%. Especially about the hoarding of digital files. That’s a practice that needs to get with the times. I don’t print pictures. I don’t make photo albums. If I’m paying you top dollar to shoot something for me, hand over the digital copies because that’s how I’m going to want to look at them for the next 50 years.

  52. Marlo

    I don’t consider myself a “dadographer” as I did have a freelance business years ago. I put down the camera when darkroom/processing and organizing thousands of slides started costing too much time and money.

    Do the new digital technologies open up photography as a business to more people? Absolutely.

    The problem most pro photographers have is they are afraid of competition. They mock the mom with a camera because they say their customers think she can take as good a picture as they can.

    Get real- your customers think an iPhone takes a world class picture. They’re willing to settle for mediocre images based on convenience and cost. It will be very difficult to convince them that they should spend hundreds for a portrait.

    Just a note- I had foresight… when our wedding photographer offered to sell us our medium format negatives for $75 back in 1995, I jumped at the chance. He’s out of business now… I have my negs. One day, I’ll get them scanned. EVERY event photographer should offer to at least sell the digital files to their client at some point in time, even if it is one year after the event. It’s the right thing to do.

  53. Kaylene

    I agree with Harry Briscoe about not setting up an actual business. There are a lot of folks who pick up photography as a hobby and charge people for it. Unfortunately there is a stereotype, with women who have husbands who can support their hobby.

    If your rates are not sustainable, you are doing yourself a disservice. I have a couple of friends who are excellent photographers, but they haven’t made the move from hobbyists to professional photographers – even though they are charging people for their services. And the rates they charge are not sustainable in the long term. Earning a few quick bucks is not running a business.

    Here’s a tough thing to consider: if you haven’t gone through the process of setting up a business legally and paying taxes like you should be, what’s the difference between you and an illegal alien? You’re both working illegally.

  54. Debby Landrum

    My daughter and I used a momtographer last summer for my grand daughters birthday pics, we did this for several reasons first she couldn’t afford to pay 400.00 for b-day pics, second she was a friend whose pics we had seen and really liked on Facebook and third Emily was 3, very active and at that time totally averse to sitting for pictures and into making the strangest faces when a camera was pointed at her. Well anyway our friend met us at the park Emmy was allowed to just do what she wanted and we got probably 20 or more beautiful pictures. True she isn’t a professional photographer but the difference in those pics and the ones we paid a fortune for the summer before is not enough to make me go back to paying a fortune and getting very few pics and no cd. It doesn’t make sense to pay between $500 and $1000 for a few pictures when I can get all the pictures on cd for one quarter the price. We did have a professional photographer come to our home 2 yrs ago and we got gorgeous pics but we paid for them believe me the sitting fee alone was staggering. So would I use a momtographer instead of a pro.. Yes, yes and yes. Her pictures are beautiful and the price is right and the fact that she had no actual training matters not one bit to me. I think she just has a natural talent for taking great pictures. I think my daughter does as well and I would encourage anyone with talent, schooling or not to go ahead take pictures if people like your work and choose to use you instead of a more expensive professional then that’s their choice and that’s the whole point it’s a matter of choice the person with the checkbook gets to decide who takes their pics for them and hey bargain price pics that make me happy is what I will pick any day of the week.

  55. Doug

    I have to say Debby that it is your kind of thinking that has landed the United State where it is today. Everybody wants it cheap and good. That’s why almost every single durable good we buy today is made in China or some other country. There is always somebody willing to do it cheaper. If your families main source of income was cut off because the job had been shipped overseas how would you feel? The reason Wal-Mart dominates today is people are wiling to buy at the prices they sell their goods even if it means lost jobs for their neighbors. It seems like a great deal for us when we are buying it but when we lose our jobs or the local factory close because they either can’t compete with China or decide to outsource their own productm we cry foul. I’m under no illusion that the trend with parentographer will stop and it is our job as professional photographer to educate our customers about the difference and to always change some of our business practices to better suit the marketplace.

    Again, if a friend wants to charge you $50 and give you prints and images, go ahead, but ask to see their business license. I agree with Kaylene above, most are working illegally and that is unfair to the legal tax paying person.

    Just as an aside, this past Christmas I did try to buy gifts that were made in America. It wasn’t easy and sometimes impossible but I knew it was helping Americans stay at their jobs.

    I’m trying to keep my photography business afloat so I can pay my bills and feed my three kids while the mom or dad down the street decides to do it “as a hobby” for $50.00. I’m just asking you to think about the vicious circle it creates.

  56. Kristine

    Thank you for this post. As a younger, single, sometimes jobless women who also has an insatiable imagination when it comes to starting my own business (or improving someone else’s!), I find it frustrating when the “professionals” snub me out or insinuate that I should not be trying to become a photographer, or Golden Retriever breeder. My thought that comes to mind every time I hear a hurtful comment is “if no one is allowed to practice doing what you do as a professional, and you are most unwilling to help us learn, how is anyone ever supposed to become a professional?” Professionals are not born overnight and those who think they should forever hold the market obviously never remember what they went through to become professionals! I would be willing to bet that they had other professionals mentor them…
    I know I have a long way to go before becoming an actual professional. I know I do not have the experience of seasoned photographers. However, if I just sit at home mourning these unchangeable facts, then I will never ever change. So I say go momtographers (as much as I hate that name LOL)! Like Jim said, don’t say you are a professional if you are most definitely not, but don’t let that hold you back. And practice, practice, practice!

  57. Tj

    I have been a professional Full time studio owner/photographer for 17 years. I read in these posts that it is the responsibility of season pro’s to teach the newbies? Here is how I got into business and have maintained my business for almost 2 decades.

    Worked at a studio as a office grunt and learned sales and production for a year

    Then I went to and PAID for college to earn my degree. I ate top ramen so that I could do this.

    Every holiday I asked for equipment, worked full time as a food server to buy my equipment and pay for professional instruction.

    After I graduated I went to interviews and landed a studio photography gig at a mid/high end studio. Made min wage and learned the rest that I needed to learn to be a professional photographer.

    After 2 years I PURCHASED A BUSINESS LICENSE and already had the equipment I had worked hard to acquire, the knowledge and experience behind the camera and the tools to effectively run a studio.

    Since then I dedicate 2 weeks and $2000 every year to further my education, I also teach and speak for our professional Assn, often for free.

    I do not feel that I owe anyone the free advice that I paid for with time and hard earned money. I was patient, I did it right. I am still here, those that jump in after a couple weeks of practicing at play dates won’t last. For those who think pros don’t like the competition, I get my competition when I enter print judging.

  58. Michael

    I have two young nieces (both mothers) that have started photography businesses with an entry DSLR and the “kit” lens. They are doing quite well with baby, high school, and family portraits, with an occasional wedding. Their rates are quite reasonable, and their business is booming. They are both very talented and produce great results with two distinct styles. I applaud them for their accomplishments.

  59. Brendan WIlliams

    I am 17, going on 18 years old… and am an enthusiast. i saved up for my first DSLR for the longest time, about 8 months of part time work to get it, and have worked with it for about 2 years now. I know I would never make it in the photography world because I am not good enough to make it there. Going to the college in the fall, I am pretty much majoring in the farthest thing from photography, aviation. I shoot for friends who want a little bit extra that what they can do. Is that really hurting professional business? Heck, I did a shoot for someone on a barter agreement. I vehemently disagree that this is hurting business. The experience gained, just for pleasure, and making those small shoots the best they can be by talking with experienced photographers is second to none, however.

  60. Libby

    Personally I’m grateful for the momtographers because I’ve picked up so much retouch and recovery work from them over the years from shoots they’ve blown. Let them keep shooting.

  61. Igor Wedding Photography

    There is a lot elitism among photographers. What’s important is not if you are full time professional photographer with the latest Nikon or Canon or a part time momtographer, what really matters is the end result, the photographs that are created are really the only thing that really matters, and I seen moms and paps that are better photographers that some pro’s. The photography market will regulate itself and weed out the bad ones!

  62. Bob McAllister

    I am one of those “dadtographers” that you mentioned. I have been told by many that I “have a good eye”, and have been asked to do several weddings. I tell them up front that I am NOT A PRO, but do to cost they ask me to do the shoot. I never set a price, I let them pay what they feel is fair AFTER they see the shots. I appreciate your point of view and applaud you for stating it so well. I really like “Improve Photography”. Thanks

  63. Jane

    What I find interesting about this issue, is how being in business seems to instantly legitimize someone as a “photographer” to many people, regardless of the quality of the images. Someone taking images that are of mediocre or less quality but selling them, or running a business based on them is a “photographer” in most people’s eyes, yet someone who is producing images of clearly higher quality, but not selling them, will generally not be referred to as a photographer. I wonder if the decision to go into business is, for some (not all), a way to feel “legitimate” because selling images makes them feel worthy of the title of photographer?

  64. Frauke

    I totally agree: Markets are changing in many professions. Online business, legal changes, advanced, affordable technology make it harder to “keep people out of the trade”.

    Quality counts high – but also has its price. I can only advice professionals to point out what the customer really gets.

    Not everybody buys Versace, but Versace still makes a good business.

    I just think, customers should know what they are getting. When friends ask me to shoot their wedding, I will do it, but only after telling them that they should hire a pro and not rely on a hobby photographer. I tell them that I will do my best and bring my equipment and take care, but that I do not take responsibility for it being great. Due to my experience and status I do pretty well, or so I am told and think, but I am by far not a pro.

    Therefore I prefer baby picture shoots and such to practice: If I do not do that well enough the parents can hire someone else the next day :o)

  65. Jamie

    I appreciate this article. Im a new photographer and never heard the phrase “momtographer”! =) I thought it was funny, but, I guess people might call me that. But, I agree w/ you 100% when you say I should let my clients know what to expect… and I have. I have people telling me to take it out, it doesn’t sound professional… but IM NOT! And, I admit it, but, I figured I have to start somewhere to keep learning and push forward, and if I can make a little profit from it and build up my equipment and experience, then I’m going to go for it- while being honest to my clients of what to expect.

    And you’re right about pros not wanting to help learners, well not all professionals.. I couldnt believe when I started asking for help or looking for someone to train me how difficult it was. I’m thankful for a local photograher who was more than willing to train me. I appreciate it SO much and made it known.

    Thank you for this site, I find it very insightful as a beginner! =) Take care!

  66. Jean

    Your article is wonderful, thank you. I have always loved photography but before the digital age and being a mom of three boys, the cost prohibited me from continuing further with it, sadly. Now my boys are older, technology has changed everything and I’m looking to start anew with the hope of maybe earning some kind of an income. Intimidated by it all and knowing I will probably never acquire the expertise of a professional, you have given me hope that there is an opportunity and I am excited more today since I read your piece. You’ve opened my eyes. Thank you.

  67. Dan

    Very interesting. Two points I thought I’d make (hopefully not made yet, there are already a lot of comments!) is that amateur photographers who hope to make a living are often shortchanged by family and friends who want them to take their photos for free. The other day I heard of one who gave up their business because no one wanted to pay her. Two, customers can’t always tell the difference in quality between professionals and amateurs, especially if the amateur is talented. What the customers want is their mug on paper, not the Mona Lisa, so they are going to go to the cheapest person. This makes it hard to be a professional at all, but hey, people might not want professional photographers. People’s desire to be a professional photographer does not a profession make.

  68. Jay

    Great article. I’m still a somewhat new photographer. I’ve never had a mentor, so I’ve had to learn everything on my own. I have tried to learn from others, but many in the photography community don’t like the new up and coming photographers for number of reasons. I just recently found this site, and love it.

    Some of my photos are now chosen before other established photographers, because I’m trying different things. A message to the pros out there is for you to start trying to mentor a new photographer, you will learn just as much from them, as they will from you.

  69. Lura

    I can see good points on both sides of this arguement and I find myself at both ends quite frequently. I am a hairdresser who hated every single day of beauty school. I buy professional products, pay my taxes and have to set my prices accordingly, and it never fails that someone always wants advice on how to fix an at-home haircolor mistake with more at-home haircolor. I hate to give out this advice because not only do I not have a clue what is available on the public marketplace, but maybe what I tell them won’t work, but I still tell them anyway.

    I am not by any means a professional photographer-I just purchased my first dslr this past fall-but I do know a thing or two about hair. IF photography is anything like hair, I can tell you that what works in one situation might not work in another. I still learn things after 14 years and I would imagine that would be true in photography as well. After all if everything had already been done there wouldn’t be any appeal, right?

    And, like already mentioned earlier, everyone does not require professional results, but to those that do they will be paying professional prices. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

    As free advice is concerned my stand is that what goes around comes around. If you aren’t willing to help someone once in awhile then hopefully you won’t need any help in the future.

  70. Rebecca

    I was once a momtographer and after 12 years, I’m now a seasoned professional. I’ve shot for many major media outlets, magazines, models, concerts, pro athletes, major sporting events and more, all from starting as a momtographer. Moms often re-enter the workforce with a whole new career than they originally left. We learn our craft, research, talk to people in our field (network), etc. If you go into real estate or open a clothing store, both require great skill and knowledge to be successful and yet you’re not calling it a title with mom in it. It seems very odd to me.

    Pros are dogging on the moms who entered the field because they are competition, which makes them uncomfortable, and they feel that degrading them somehow makes remain superior. I got so many jobs early on because people were sick of not only the high price for professional photos, (warranted or not), but they were tired of the arrogance. Even as a pro, I now win jobs because some arrogant “pro” came in and behaved, well, arrogantly.
    Unfortunately, this is no longer a profession controlled by an elite inner circle with a price-fixed brochure and we need to adapt. On the one hand, we can (and do) produce a higher quality product than a new-comer and can charge more accordingly. It’s great if you can get it, but most people don’t care about our certifications or even know what they are, nor do they know the difference between a snapshot and art.
    In the long run, we’re all business people and personalities as much as we are photographers. We (most of us) have to charge what the market will pay and check our egos at the door.
    Remember, JK Rowling was once a mom-author and she blew all the seasoned pros out of the water.

  71. Dhi

    Well put together, Jim. I’m one of the momtographers too, whom I believe most started from their passion in photography. The market trend has definitely changed – almost everyone has decent camera and photography tutorials are available everywhere for free, resulting in more photographers available for that market. This market doesn’t belong to the pros who charge ridiculous price anymore. Perhaps create another market – like providing tutorials, courses or workshop to this new breed of photographers instead.

  72. ashley

    I love this article! I, am fortunate enough to have a husband that makes enough for me to stay at home with our young son. I also have been fortunate enough to have a friend who is a pro and he has taught me a great deal. I have made a gallery to showcase some of my photos from my old p&s camera and now I have had several offers from friends and relatives to shoot for them. I have accepted, but under the condition that they a.) Only pay for their prints if they want them and b.) That they realize that They are letting me practice on them – so they are providing a service to ME. (Donations for new equipment is welcome though! ) 😉 but I just bought a new canon digital rebel xt 350d and im really trying to adjust to not having live view option. But it is so exciting. Glad someone on the pro level is advocating for us ‘momtographers’! Btw my website is: please visit and give feedback! Thanks!

  73. Ling

    Thank you for this!

    I am one of the so-called momtographers. I love photographer. And i am always honest and upfront about my skills or lack of.

    I was asked by my cousin to photograph her Khmer wedding so i did and i explained to her i wasn’t a pro and she knew. She loved it!
    Then one of her brides maids loved it so much she asked me to be her photographer for her wedding next year. I kindly excepted because it’s what i love to do. But i did explain to her that i wasn’t a pro and i’m still learning. She understood but she still wanted me to do it because she said she saw the pictures and love them and it’s what she wants.
    I am just glad someone liked my pictures enough to give me something to do.
    I am taking classes and i am purchasing a new camera so that i can at least make the pictures better.

    Sometimes when i take the pictures in public i feel embarrassed…because i have heard people saying i wasn’t a pro why am i getting paid.
    Please people be kind….we are just doing what we love, it’s not our fault that someone else likes what they see in our pictures.
    And sometimes i don’t even charge…they just buy me dinner! :)
    But if they like they can pay me and yes i have no shame in taking the money because how else will i pay for the camera, programs or ink if you need me to print them out? Or the cd when i make a copy for you?

    I am still trying to improve…i’m not a professional. It’s just a hobby that i happen to love to do.

  74. Nicki

    I love this article as well. I bought a Canon DSLR, just because I enjoy taking pictures and wanted to get better shots. However, there is an issue I have with some people that just buy a camera and think they are a photographer. After buying my camera, I had a friend get one shortly after because he was interested in photography as well. He started taking pics and had some nice shots. But a month later, he advertised himself as a company and offered wedding pictures, and started critiquing every picture I took trying to sound like a professional. I dont mind constructive criticism, but to have a negative comment about how something could be done better on every shot by someone that is clearly not a professional either, is quite frustrating. Being honest about what you do and what your capable is great, I know if I was to hire someone, as long as I know what I am getting, I will be completely happy.

  75. Steve Bohne

    Great topic. Most full time professionals–including women, BTW–refer to “momtographers” as “Digital Debbies.” Most full time pros look at Digital Debbies as taking food off their family’s table. After all, how would you like it if they went to your husband’s employer and said, “Hey, I can do this guy’s job for half of what you are paying him!” You wouldn’t like it, would you? So that’s why you may feel a little coolness or animosity from a full time pro. Plus photography is a highly competitive business. Where most pros really get steamed is when these folks buy a camera and business cards and now they are photographers. They know nothing about posing, even less than nothing about lighting. Do a Google Search for “Photographers Jackson Michigan” and you’ll get an idea. But nearly every pro started out as a part time photographer–I know I did. Just do it the right way. Don’t do like so many people do and print, “In business since 2002” when the truth is you’ve been in business since 2:00 PM this afternoon. Good site Jim, keep up the good work. If others are interested, they can visit my blog, “Photography for Income” on

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  79. dianne

    Good article. I’m a freelance editor and have been for years. The same happens in this industry. ‘Momeditor’ who loves to read decides this is a great opportunity to work from home while raising junior and hangs out a proofreader’s shingle with vastly reduced hourly rates. This hurts the entire industry, lowers overall standards, skews the bell curve for contracts, etc. Senior editors have worked hard to charge a fair rate. When undercut, we continually need to justify our rates based on skill set and years of experience.

  80. Cindy Quigley

    I have a wonderful Professional mentor in Lori Faith Merritt Photography by Faith. I have no desire to make my photography a business but I would like to be able to shoot professional quality photographs. It makes a huge difference to have someone like Lori Faith to work with.

  81. Joanna

    Great article. So true. There is a market for lower budget photography – this is the perfect spot of portfolio builders. Consumers know “you get what you pay for”. Someone who values experience and quality will choose the professional, but there are momtographers who do very well . . . pleasing their clients and growing their business.

  82. Barb

    I am an amateur, with a huge desire to learn, but not to go into business. Your point about not having the original files of your wedding reminded me of something that happened to me. I was asked to shoot an even for a friend, as a favor. The shots came out better than expected, but before I could edit blemishes and red eye, she wanted the photos. I gave her a disk of the unedited files. She then posted them on Facebook. I’m not going to go into business, but I felt embarrassed. On the final images, I removed blemishes, and fuzz on a suit, and some trash that had blown onto the lawn. She also applied effects she found on a photo-editing site. Since we had no contract (I am not in business), I have to keep quiet. Bu I learned my lesson. Client or friend, no one gets files that I need to edit!

  83. Joanna

    Great article. You make some very good points. They may not be undercutting other professionals but charging what they are worth!

  84. Jann

    I really enjoyed the article. I am a single mom of a senior. I started researching prices last summer and soon realized I would be restricted to the number of photos I could purchase. All of the local photographers charged $200 or more for a CD. I wasn’t going to settle for a few pictures, so I invested in a good camera (by my non-professional standards). I got a good price on a model that was no longer available and started practicing at family gatherings to get a feel for my new SLR camera. I knew my pictures wouldn’t be as good as a professional session, but I was determined to get some good pictures. Sure I had to take a lot more photos to get the good ones, but we had fun. My son has a large selection of pictures, so I know my camera was a good investment. By investing in a camera I was able take pictures for his friend, whose single mom couldn’t afford a professional session. My son & his friend are not the only ones in their class that had pictures taken by family. Therefore I don’t think these beginner photographers are undercutting the professionals….I think they are offering services to those who can’t afford a professional, while they gain experience. Though I have no plans to become a professional I was flattered that many were surprised that I had taken their pictures. I have already had other family members ask me to take their kids senior pictures next year, so I hope to be able to take you class in the near future to improve the quality of my pictures, and reduce my time editing.

  85. Agnes

    I work in the fashion industry and we make our clothing locally. Of course you always get mums working for a tiny little wage for themselves who undercut you. It’s frustrating and I am not sure why they do it. But you just have to get on with it. Guess the same is true for photography. Frustrating.

  86. Farrah

    I loved this article. Not to mention I am a young mom of a 1 year old daughter. I’m working as much as I can and going to school full time yet I am still spending every penny I make on necessities with nothing left over. I recently started up a small side business shooting my friends and family. Nonetheless, I am an amatuer but I do believe I have skills. I always show my prospective clients my portfolio and let them know my situation. I couldn’t agree more with every sentence in this article and I appreciate you standing up for those of us who apparently (it wasn’t to my knowledge until now) get bashed for trying to support ourselves and our little worlds! I really appreciate it. and look forward to reading more from this website.

  87. Steffanie F

    As one of these awful undercutting “momtographers”, I just wanted to say that I think photographers who bash amateurs should take a step back and think about the fact that it is difficult for a family on a budget to pay hundreds of dollars for a few pictures of their child. Maybe some momtographers undercut your prices not to insult your experience but to allow families to have beautiful memories captured without needing to take out a second mortgage.

  88. Cathie

    I have no problems with “momtographers” who work at what they do, and actually try to learn the trade. Unfortunately, I know a few who do not. They literally got cameras, such as a Canon Rebel, and started charging people. When I was a “momtographer” I offered free sessions and very inexpensive prints…it was practice not business. I feel really bad for people who hire inexperienced photographers for weddings. My wedding pictures were HORRIBLE because it was a total novice (he did it for free, and my mother picked him). The only advice I can give for “momtographers” out there would be not to charge customers for your first YEAR. Unless you’ve taken classes, consider your first year your skill building class. Learn how to get off of Automatic (if you don’t know what this means, learn it), and learn to use your controls. Consider your 2nd year your Amateur year, and don’t charge an arm & a leg. You’re going to screw up. You’ll have unhappy customers who want re-do’s. Beat them to the punch and offer a re-do if you’re not happy with the images. Be your biggest critic.

  89. Robert

    I’m someone who was a pro for a while, got out of it when there was a ton of money to be made in computers, and recently returned.

    I LOVE your article! I’ve mentored & taught, and have used the term Momtographer in not so kind terms… but… not for those who actually wanted to learn everything about the craft.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard novices who charge say that they didn’t believe in lighting subjects outdoors, and had no desire to learn anything about lighting… Those are the people I have no respect for.

    Oh… If you use a “free” photographer, you always get what you pay for!

  90. Chantel

    I don’t have a problem with ‘momtographers’… as long as they’re willing to follow all the same business practices that professionals are supposed to follow. To this end, I mean things like accounting, insurance, etc.

  91. Mandy Frehner

    Great article. People need to understand there is a niche in every market and price point. Some people can not afford to spend hundreds of dollars on pictures…yet should not be denied family portraits. So many “momtographers” are filling that need.
    If you are a “professional” instead of feeling threatened, step up your game.
    If your a “momtographer” be honest with what you provide and your skill level.
    And by all means, if you are a customer, make sure you are going with a photographer that fits your style and budget!

  92. Tasheena

    It’s interesting to me that so many of you professionals feel that us “momtographers” are “undercutting” you. From my perspective, I think it would be entirely presumptuous to try and walk into such a competitive and somewhat inhospitable business and have the audacity to charge competitive prices when my experience, skill level & equipment are so completely inferior. I appreciate this article because it makes me feel like I am approaching my desire to start a photography business the most appropriate and respectful way available to me- as a mother of four with a lifelong desire to pursue photography. I’m dipping my toes, reading, practicing, studying, offering my services for free or minimal price because I sure do hope my clients realize what they’re getting. I’m not charging undercutting prices for professional quality photos. I’m asking for people to take a risk on a newbie entering the business and trying to learn and build a portfolio. And I’m grateful that there are people out there who are willing to take a chance on me and who are in turn grateful for me to spend my very precious and limited time helping them make memories they might otherwise be unable to afford. I’m pretty sure I’m definitely not going to be the one who’s stealing your business. If they can afford you, they won’t glance at me.

    1. Sonia

      Ditto! I offered free shoots and photos for about a year to build my portfolio and experience. Some opportunites presented themselves…i.e events, friend having a baby, holidays, and parties. Some opportunities I had to seek out – asking a friend to let me shoot them for practice. Once I even traded free portraits of a friends daughter just to have access to private stables for an equine shoot. I took the time to learn how to use my camera, lighting, composition…..I am still learning. I now charge for my service but feel the minimal pricing is parallel to my quality. And like you, am grateful that they are trusting me – the newbie – with capturing some of thier most precious moments. I do draw the line as I know my limits – no weddings, formal events, or anything I feel I can’t handle alone or with a fellow photog and still produce great photos.

  93. meghan

    to sum up the lesson to be learned here…don’t call yourself a professional if you are not. i have been building my portfolio for several years and still do not feel comfortable calling myself a professional photographer. i tell people that my prices are cheap b/c i am a portfolio building photographer. being just a beginner, i can say that it gets on my nerves to see momtographers pick up a dslr, use the on camera flash, have poor focus skills, etc. but since they somehow can afford the nice equipment they figure…i am a professional photographer and advertise as such. i know one in particular who claims to specialize in natural light and it just makes me want to stab myself in the eye when i look at her pictures! she is making no attempt to learn how to use lighting, no attempt to use manual functions on her camera and relies solely on a free photo editing program to complete her pictures. then throw in the fact that her poses are so cliche and all essentially copied from other sources and i want to scream. it makes me so mad for the people i know who actually have been trained and take such emotional, fantastic, practiced pictures. so…i guess the momtographer name and its negative connotations is aimed at the unwilling to learn/be trained amateurs that right off the bat call themselves professionals and charge before they even have a substantial amount of practice or portfolio sessions under their belts.

  94. Lucy

    I am a Momtographer who does not charge for photos (yet). I take photos at school and sports events and share them (yes, the digital files) for free. People who see my photos invite me to take photos for them and I do it free of charge at this point because I view myself as still a student (this is sort of my free internship period). Anyway, the point is, I don’t solicit business away from professionals – the opportunities come to me from the products I produce (my event photos). This is exactly how free enterprise should work in my opinion…he/she who produces the highest quality products at the best price gets the job! If some ding dong customer hires an inexperienced photographer to photograph their wedding without checking their credentials/portfolio – then shame on them and don’t blame the photographer. We don’t need to protect consumers who are too lazy to research what they are buying (i.e. stupid Nutella lawsuit). I love Momtographers and cheer them on as this is an awesome creative outlet for a lot of us who choose to be home raising our kids and volunteering in the community!! Thanks to web resources like yours, we are able to improve our skills at home on our own time. Thank You!

  95. Madolyn

    I don’t think most of the people who are having issues with “momtographers” are talking about the ones who are dedicated to the craft & work their butts off to learn it. I think the problem arises when a bored housewife who can afford whatever camera she wants decides to pick one up & then (because DSLRs are *really* good) passes herself off as a pro.
    It took me years to be able to afford my first “good” camera – but in a way, it helped my work… because if I could get great shots from a point & shoot or a D40 with a kit lens, then I knew I was growing as a photographer.
    It’s just that all too often there are rich moms who decide that even though it’s only a glorified hobby for them, they can justify charging for their work. The ones who just want to be able to take good-looking shots of their kids day-to-day don’t bother me at all.
    Honestly, I think the client/public needs to be educated & have our attention focused on them. Because as long as they refuse to recognize the difference between someone who thinks it’s a lark & someone who has actually taken the time & energy to develop their art, then we’ll see more & more clients slipping away. They have to realize what an investment truly good photography is.

  96. Caitlin

    This week I received a disc with 140 images I paid for from a Mumtographer. I never knew these term existed until I stumbled across your site via pinterest. The Mum who did our shoot was recommended by a friend. I had my misgivings, but the truth is there is no way I could pay for an expensive experienced photographer, and I would be limited to choosing only some photos. Sure, she shot with her baby in a pouch much of the time, and it wasn’t perfect, but I still have some beautiful images that are much better than anything I could have taken. For family photos, you are paying for memories after all, and something is better than nothing. You make a wonderful and very true defense of the Mums out there. Also, I did the same thing with my first son and his photo shoot, and now that photographer is in the top leagues and for the price I paid for a full disc of images, I would only get the sitting fee. Maybe sometimes photographers might remember that you may be improving and able to rise your prices, but those of us who helped you in the beginning are still raising children on a single income and still need to be frugal, even though we would dearly love to benefit from your experience.

  97. Sara

    Just wanted to say THANK YOU for your fresh perspective on MomTogs :) I may not be a ProMomTog, but I do have several friends who are with growing businesses and I appreciate your view on them.

    Maybe you could do another article on the different types of MomTogs.
    1) Hobby MomTogs – (like me) who take photos of their own kids/family to avoid those high costs you mentioned. Be sure to mention here that friends and relatives EXPECT you to photograph their party/event for FREE simply because you have the camera and the time.
    2) WannaBe ProMomTogs – They think just because they have the nice camera and the time they are pro-photographers and should charge $ like one. This is the group that offends the rest of us.
    3) True Professional Photographers who happen to be moms – they know what they are doing and they know what to charge.

  98. Tommy

    As someone who took the time to get a photography degree from an actual college with walls and classrooms, I have nothing but contempt for momtographers. Hubby makes a nice check so you get all the best equipment and still shoot the same overexposed pictures of ghost white babies and white skies. Every one of them should be required by law to shoot with an old Nikon FE or Pentax K1000 for a year before they are allowed to touch a digital SLR. Thanks to them, I can’t get a maternity session, or newborn session, as every woman on the planet has a girlfriend with a 5dMKII (Canon is the official camera of Momtographers), who believes themselves to be a professional photographer.There should be testing and licencing, and fines for those caught conducting business without a license.

  99. Jeena

    I AM a momtographer(in training). I used to be a nurse, have always loved photography but just recently became a stay at home mom and now have the drive to learn it all. I WANT to learn it and do a great job. I want my friends and family to see what I see and have great photos! I have an old camera that uses film…I wanna tackle that beast too! Not just digital.I am happy to finally follow a dream and if someone throws a buck or two my way, sweet!Im keeping it as cheap as I can, for now. I just want to do it right. Not make others mad. I respect those that took photography in college, I thought nursing would was good at the time. I did it backwards but I am here!

  100. Amy

    Geez Tommy, maybe it’s your winning personality that’s scaring away your potential clients.

  101. Deb Guzik

    When you say “handing over the digitals” what exactly do you mean? (Obviously I am NOT a professional, but I’m trying). I’m sure you don’t mean giving the client a disc of their pictures. Are you referring to signing a release allowing the client to make prints or do as he pleases with the photos?

  102. Melissa

    Just a -point of reference- story. May be of interest to some + “LUCY” might want to listen as well…A dear childhood friend & I reconnected after some years. It was a wonderful friendship- as it had always been. After a few years she asked me to photograph her Moms Upcoming birthday & huge family reunion. She had seen & was a fan of my work… I was yet to consider myself “professional”. We all knew she had been ill… but many good things were happening for her now and she was on the mend! I talked with my husband …expressed my feelings of excitement… that it was another paying job & moreover the exposure and the business it could possibly bring would be great. However, also relating that I was feeling timid and not sure if my skills were up to doing a GREAT job for this l Great gathering. After much consideration…I referred her to a photographer that is incredibly talented & has logged much more time and experience than myself. I could not bear the thought of this once in a life time event for my friend and all the members of her extended family somehow not being all she dreamed of! The images were fantastic and I never felt regret. Five months had passed, she had an unexpected health issue and passed away after 4 weeks of fighting. This photo shoot was the last for her and her family members- a true once in a lifetime event. The last images for her Mom & Husband…for us all to have to remember her by. One of the images was enlarged and was placed next to her casket . That once in a lifetime shoot, that I passed on- I never had any regret. I am so thankful that I had the sense to know my skill level and to be honest with the situation- to gladly help out not just a customer- a friend.
    Like a wedding….etc. You see “Lucy”…and anyone else that is not honest with their customers or with themselves…it does no one any good. It is a disservice and can only hurt the industry …Just be honest and if you want to be called professional- Great- then make sure you are! As someone else said- insurance, taxes, accounting and true post production work! I think I would start by not calling potential customers “ding-dongs”…just my opinion…..We are here to provide a “professional” service…not call names. BTW, I do think there is room for all & hopefully with ethics!

  103. Jenn

    At what point are we allowed to call ourselves professional photographers? Who sets that standard?

  104. stephanie

    Thankyou for this,
    I am a so called mom photographer but i don’t charge much but i am honest that i am studying photography because at the end of the day the only way to become a full time professional creating beautiful artwork is by practise, and thankfully i have good friends and family willing to let me capture their memories and create art with them :)

  105. t-fiz

    Jenn: I LOVE your question cuz it’s one that’s confused but yet surprised me as well. I never went to school for photography and even though I have a DSLR, I have never (and still) never consider myself a professional. But the funniest thing kept happening when others would see my photography-as-a-hobby pics on Facebook and they would comment that I must be a professional because my pics amaze them (somehow, LOL). But from that they would ask me how much would I charge for such-and-such pictures. I choose to play-down the ‘professional’ status in other ways too, e.g. ALWAYS shooting jpeg instead of RAW (lol), using auto white balance, using a non-manual mode on the camera (heaven forbid), not using the lens hood (there seems to be some sort of prof-status mentality of ‘my lens has a hood so that way you can tell I’m a pro’. (which, btw, why would you need a hood on a 70-200mm lens when shooting at night? On a similar note, I’ve heard of photogs painting a red ring around the edge of their non-pro lens to fool people into thinking they’re a pro because of their equipment…yikes!) I consider myself an ‘unconventional photographer

    Anyway, back on this excellent article’s topic and discussion here, MomTogs have at least one advantage over the pros, which is their potential customer base and pricing standard. Like musicians, artists, actors, dancers, any of the creative arts, we can all be photographers, we’re just at different levels, performing for a different audience.

    A final thought, why are photographers distant from and even rude to each other at events like they’re criminals? (haha, just something that I’ve noticed).

    1. Kimberly Schultz

      “Like musicians, artists, actors, dancers, any of the creative arts, we can all be photographers, we’re just at different levels, performing for a different audience.”

      Perfect comparison!!! So true!

    2. Kimberly Schultz

      “Like musicians, artists, actors, dancers, any of the creative arts, we can all be photographers, we’re just at different levels, performing for a different audience.”

      Perfect comparison!!! So true!

  106. Don Clark

    I think what concerns most “pro” photogs here is that technology has evolved to the point where a relative novice can actually produce decent photos. And while all of our extensive training lets a “pro” see that these photos are losing detail in the highlights, have poor skin tones and aren’t tack sharp – many consumers don’t notice it, and are OK with paying half price for a lesser product. That’s not a knock – it’s just a fact that not everyone can tell the difference between the $9 bottle of wine and the $30 bottle. If you are having problems selling your work, target the consumers who demand the quality you can deliver as a pro. I always tell wedding clients that they will spend thousands of dollars on everything from flowers to catering, and it will all be gone the day after – but photos will last forever. Also – he is spot on about retaining digitals if it’s weddings or portraits.

  107. Jane Clark

    There’s a HUGE difference between an amature with an expensive point & shoot and a professional photographer. There should be a huge difference in price, but you get what you pay for. Any professional worried about being undercut by a momtographer would be better served by being worried about the quality of their photography instead.

  108. Alisa McCormick

    Such a wonderful article! And so well put especially given that it’s such a hot topic right now. Thank you for having the courage to address it. And for the record…I agree with you 100%

  109. Kimberly Schultz

    You know… Everyone has to get their start somewhere… I bought a DSLR back in 2008… It wasn’t until my daughter was born in 2011 that I made the effort to “take the training wheels off” (AKA – auto and scenes mode!). I took an online course offered through the college I work at… And then I found this site. This site reinforce what I had learned about aperture, shutter, and manual modes. I was so impressed with the wealth of information I found, I decided to take the beginners course.

    If the other momtogrophers out there are like me… They finally found something they enjoy doing and wanted to share it with others and learn more about a field that brings them joy!

    As far as “pros” complaining about momtographers undercutting their prices… Not everyone can afford to pay top dollar for portraits. Perhaps it’d be a better business move to come up with a lower priced package to attract clients that want photos, but don’t want to break the bank to get them! Face it, business is business! Complaining about the competition (regardless of how good it is) won’t get you more clients!

  110. Erica

    I love this article! I started photography as a small business a few years ago. I love doing it and enjoy meeting with clients and editing photos. For our family, paying someone hundreds just isn’t in the budget, so I love to give people that chance to get them if it’s not in the budget, since everyone deserves family/senior/baby… photos. I don’t call myself a professional. I did graduate with a fine arts degree and I believe that helps tremendously in my photography. I know that there are photographers out there that have spent way longer than me learning and shooting and respect that! I love learning more and more, and always seek advice. I don’t advertise, just word of mouth so that I don’t “hurt” the market. My family is a single income, but we don’t rely on the photography to pay the bills, so it is enjoyable, relaxing and fun since I don’t have to stress about bringing in more clients. My family and kids come first. I have been asked to do weddings, and I am not ashamed to tell people that I simply do not have the equipment or knowledge, and suggest great photographers I know of. Weddings take up so much time that I want to spend with my family, and I know there are other amazing photographers that use weddings as their income. Thank you again for this article and hope that I am showing respect in many ways to professional photographers

  111. jativad

    I always thought momtographer was a term for people who have only taken pictures of their family members and have little experience. Maybe it has different connotations to different people?

  112. Lyndee

    I think this article is well put. And in addition, in most circumstances, the momtographers are not stealing anyone’s business. Because the people who they do take pictures for are obviously not willing to spend the money, or do not have the money to spend, on higher priced professionals. Whether the professional photographer’s pricing is justified or not, those people would not have ever been a potential client for them anyway. So I hardly see it as a loss for them. I wish I had the money to spend on beautiful professional pictures. Photography is very important to me. But being a stay at home mom, with my husband in school and about to enter an masters program, I cannot justify that kind of money while living on food stamps. :) Bare essentials only.

  113. Dawn

    I have to agree with Lyndee. I cannot afford to go to a ‘proffessional’ photographer. I just don’t have that kind of money to dish out on pictures. It’s just not a priority. So if a ‘momtographer’ comes along and can still give me decent pictures for an affordable price of course I’ll go with her. I don’t see how she could have ‘stole’ me away from the proffessional though, when he never had me in the first place. Perhaps instead of hating on us, they should become more affordable for the average person.

  114. Samantha Piersol

    Thank you! Although I am not a momtographer, I am a poor college student who offers portrait sessions for cheap in order to help pay for my bills during school. Sometimes I feel like professional photographers look down on me, but I just let it go and know that although I am not professional, offering cheap portrait sessions allows me to learn more and gain experience and I ALWAYS let my clients know that it is a learning process for me. And they are fine with that, especially since they usually don’t have the money to afford to pay a professional thousands of dollars!

  115. Sonya

    I never even realized this term existed until I read this article. In the past I always had pictures done by “professionals” at high dollar studios and paid for prints I didn’t even like. And then about 3 years ago, a friend of mine offered to do our family pictures for free so she could get some practice, and did an amazing job! I LOVED her photos. She is truly talented, and we booked her the following year. The difference was that she took natural pictures of my kids the way I saw them! Some people just have a natural talent and ability to do this. You could go to school and learn all kinds of technical terms and be certified, that works for some people. But somebody else can just learn on their own if they have a love and desire to do so, and still achieve the same level of greatness. And that is OK!

  116. Krystal Hague

    Everyone has to start somewhere so don’t be so quick to judge. Photography is an art. It’s addictive and fun. Can you blame the mom with a shutter bug who has a passion for photography. That mom is also trying to help support her family with the flexibility of being a photographer, and the added bonus that fulfills her need to be creative. She will learn the craft and perfect it as YOU did, through time, on her time.

    “Every artist was first an amateur.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Just don’t be so blinded by greed that you cannot find the fellow artist in that momtographer.

  117. Kristin Link

    My husband and I are wedding cinematographers but we have many photographer friends and have witnessed this silly debate many times.

    Photography and cinematography aren’t any different than any other businesses. If I’m shopping for a new tv, and both Best Buy and Walmart carry the SAME tv but it’s cheaper at Walmart where do you think I’m going to buy the tv? The only reason I might – for any reason – but the tv from Best Buy instead of Walmart is because Best Buy might give me a better customer service experience and offer other extras that Walmart doesn’t. But it’s not going to be because the CEO of Best Buy whines to me about how Walmart is ruining his business.

    If the TVs at Best Buy and Walmart are DIFFERENT, than I have a choice to make. Do I spend more for the better quality TV at Best Buy? or Do I take the ‘not-so-fancy’ tv and save myself some money? If I have the money and I want something that’s going to last, I’m going to buy the more expensive tv. But if I just really need a tv but I’m on a tight budget, than I may have to go with the less expensive tv . . .even though I like the one at Best Buy better.

    What makes photography or cinematography any different? We all deal hunt. Sometimes I shop at Whole Foods if I have the money – I like their produce better. But sometimes our budget is low and I have to settle for our local grocery store. Does that make me evil? Does that make the local grocery store evil for being cheaper, even if their broccoli doesn’t look as nice? And why should I expect consumer behavior to be any different for my own personal business?

    If you work on wowing your customers with the total experience, not JUST the final product, you don’t need to worry all the time about what new people are picking up a camera and popping up. And you know what – good for them for trying to pursue something they love. They may succeed, they may fail – but at least they tried. And if they satisfy their customers, then that is all that really matters.

  118. Dave

    I’m a self taught dadtographer. Went to a few professional photography sessions that I purchased as a package for my newborn son. The session fees were always reasonable, but the prints were outrageous. After the 3rd session and almost $1000 spent on prints and the digital files, I bought a 60D with a nifty fifty. Taught myself with the help of this site and others. Now I’m getting keepers all the time and not spending a fortune on prints.

  119. Tricia

    The problem is the consumer is getting taken. If you are a professional service then you can be sued. I think the time has come for state regulations. Just like other professions have standards before hanging out their shingle (lawyers, doctors,therapists) so should photographers now. If you are not a CPP photographer and can’t pass the basic written and portfolio review then honestly should be offering your services to the general public.

    Anyone can earn from me but not steal from me. If you want to learn from someone offer them a non-compete contract and be a paid assistant. Then you’ll get a job. Otherwise, it’s a business. Or offer a professional photographer money for the lessons they are teaching you. Don’t expect to be taught for free.

  120. Daphne

    I have to disagree with Tricia. I am a “momtographer” just starting out. I have only done 2 actual paying sessions, but I made both parties well aware of the fact that I had very little experience and no official training at all. Both customers have been very happy with their pictures and I did not charge anything until I knew they were happy with the quality.

    I am a stay at home mom that discovered I truly enjoyed all things photography while taking pictures of my 2 small children. I have spent 3 years just taking pictures of my family and searching online for better ways of doing just that. Being a single income family means we have to give up on some of the extras most people take for granted, one of those things is the “professional” family pictures that are just too expensive for us to justify at this time. I know many other families in this economic market that have given up on family pictures as well, because of the price. So, I have offered my services at a much lower cost and filled a gap in the market that I can just about guarantee the “professionals” aren’t even trying to fill. I am by no means saying you should lower your prices because of this either. I am saying the “momtogropher” offers a service that may compete with the “professional” but it is filling a place that has been empty. Some families just cannot afford the cost and thus go without. I offer a solution and I am very honest about my ability and the quality the customer will be getting.

  121. Melisa

    I agree with Daphne. Jim, thank you for writing this post. Anyone who frequents your site or has taken your classes knows that you are a world-class photographer, so lending your name to this is a great boost for amatuer photographers!

    I wouldn’t say I’m a “Momtographer” since I’ve been doing photography for about 6 years before I became a mom, but it is my only job outside the home now and I do my absolute best to improve my sills every day. I agree that not everyone with a DSLR should be out there shooting portraits, but those of us who have some talent, a desire to get better, and the means to shoot a decent portrait shouldn’t be shunned by the rest of the community.

    Tricia, no one is being “taken” (unless low-end photographers are really misrepresenting themselves and, say, stealing other photos for their portfolios or something…) Consumers can view the work and its quality before purchase, so no one is expecting a hi-end wedding portrait and getting a family snapshot unless they’re choosing to bury their heads in the sand.

    As far as government regulations go, photography may be a business for us, but its an art form. There’s no life hanging in the balance, there’s no livelihood that will be affected by someone taking a bad photo, so comparing to a psychiatrist, doctor, or lawyer is a little unrealistic. At best, complaints can be taken to the BBB.

    The point is, there’s room for everyone in this business, whether you’re a hi-priced pro or an “economical” newbie. If you’re the former and can’t deal with the latter, you are in for a lot of frustration. Every business has competition: if you’re an incredible artist, but not savvy enough to compete, that’s on you, not “Momtographers.”

  122. Deborah

    I just love photographing the world around me. I am a “Momtographers”. As a matter of fact, my facebook page “Just A Hobby” is literally just that. It started out as my personal hobby. But others saw photos I had taken and entrusted me to photograph their events.

  123. Teresa

    I am a “newbie” as well. I have been taking classes local and online. I am very encouraged by this article and Tricia seems to feels threatened & has a chip on her shoulder concerning this issue of “momtographers”. Everyone has to start somewhere… certainly you didn’t start at the top. Everyone has to find their way. My clients as well as other “momtographers” clients know what they’re getting before they choose to photo with us. When is it considered someone has “enough” experience to be called “professional”? There is no one who can make that line in the sand. I recently saw a very popular photographer’s work in an add on the back of a local magazine. There work was awful…the children looked like plastic dolls. It all depends on what a client is looking for. Our family has only one set of professional photos, which makes me sad. But there’s no way my husband or I would be willing/able to pay $1,000+ for a session. Improve Photography, thank you for your hard work in helping newer “professionals”!!

  124. Kristi

    Fellow Momtographer here, (actually my kids call me the Mom-arazzi) … I have had conversations with a few teachers at the local Elementary School, who where ‘given’ a free session for Teacher Appreciation, from a local ‘Professional’ Photographer…. Once the session was over and the images were ready to be previewed and printed, The photographer was asking $1500 for prints. One teacher said to me “I hardly make that amount in one month” , so all of the images were deleted. She was so upset and told me how excited she was to hear that I was starting to offer sessions. She said she cried when the photographer wouldn’t even let her see the images before they were deleted…. I have only been practicing for a year, and for now I only charge $50…. I have plenty of ‘teacher’ clients, who get all of the images that I have edited, I also inform them that I would prefer that they only get future prints from the photo service that I use. I don’t want them printing poor quality images…. Here is my point…. The Professional that gives out free sittings to the teachers at the school, and then charges them amounts that they can’t afford, lost a good bit of her clientele to a Mom-arazzi…. Not because I undercut her fees, but because she gave out ‘gifts’ and then charged a high amount for the finished project. The teachers are thrilled with the photos that I have done for them and it’s at a price that they can afford, and it puts a little bit of money in my pocket so that I can continue to learn this profession. The Professional has made comments to a few teachers about “Well if you are will to go with lesser quality” . She feels, I’m sure, that I came in and undercut her prices…. but is that really the case? The one teacher was extremely hurt that she wasn’t even willing to show her the images of her toddler and new born…. It’s business and sometimes you have to be willing to bend a little to keep up in the marketplace. My work is not even close to the professional photographers, however my work is a higher quality than the teachers can do, and at a price that they can afford.

  125. Julie

    I have been a professional photographer for five years, working for a national company that specializes in hospital newborn photography. In the coming months I am branching out into doing infant, children, and family portraits on my own. I’ve researched pricing, packaging, printers, websites, etc., before deciding what exactly I’ll be offering to prospective clients. I wouldn’t consider myself a “momtographer”, however, I am only starting to build an portfolio of my own images (the company I work for maintains the copyright, of course.) I can see both points of view. Seasoned professionals believe amateurs are diluting the pool, lowering the perceived value by charging next to nothing. And amateurs, thinking they’re doing people a favor, produce decent work for next to nothing, even if only to start. I would encourage those just starting to really think about pricing. Don’t sell yourself short. Photography is much more work than people think, and you are an artist with a valued skill.

    In response to the comments about regulations, I am particularly sensitive when I hear of (very new) amateurs attempting certain newborn poses commonly seen online. What many people don’t realize is that many of these are composites, and if one isn’t careful they could seriously injure a newborn. With my experience I feel more than comfortable around infants, but perhaps a new photographer starting out may want to mentor under a newborn professional before attempting a solo shoot. Maybe this is one area where a specialty certification would be helpful for both photographer and client.

  126. Mila

    There is an ugly part of the photography business that I am coming to loathe. Pro photographers who are snobs, unwilling to share their expertise for the sake of ART and who are turf defenders. Of course some of this can be understandable to a degree, for all involved trying to make money out of their photography, but the attitude steaming from some of these ‘pro’s’ is really off.
    Agree with what has been said above, there is a gap in the market and there are photographers willing to fill it. They may not be as experienced but (hopefully) have the skills to capture great images and provide clients with wonderful memories. What are these snob pro’s worried about when they are not even catering to this gap in the market? These clients would not even consider your services if they can’t afford it.
    As to the mentoring side of things.. It’s been very hard for me personally to find a mentor to critique my work without having to pay a $1000 or more for a mentor workshop. So online I go. It really is a ‘community’ of individuals out for themselves sometimes. And that said, I’ve met some generous people who are willing to offer quick snippets of advice without being hung up on whether I am taking their business away.
    Thanks for this insightful post.

  127. Cliff

    I am willing to help newer photographers, but yes, I charge them. Why should I pass along for free what I have spent thousands of dollars on (workshops) and spent years practicing?

    Want my help? Pay me. OR join the local PPA affiliate organization where we share tips and techniques. Just don’t show up and expect tons of free information.

    It is true that there are many educational opportunities on the web. Some are very good, some are crap – but there is no substitute for in-person, hands-on training. There is also no substitute for critique from persons who are not friends or family. Someone who does not care if you like what your hear or not.

  128. E.W.

    Do all mom/dadtographers have business licenses?

    Are you declaring the extra income on your taxes? If not, isn’t that tax evasion?

    It’s just something no one mentions about these hobbyist photo sessions that charge a customer for the prints or digitals.

    Someone mentioned the BBB… If no one is complaining, and they don’t have a business license, they don’t have data.

    It’s public information at your city, county, or state level to see if a ‘photographer’ offering services has a business license. Anyone can check by making a phone call.

  129. Candi

    I was interested in photography before I had kids & after popping out 4 of the two legged time suckers (love my kids) my time was limited, as was my money. I’m not a professional, nor do I state that I am. I never advertise but I have been approached by several asking if I would because they know I always have my camera in hand. Do I charge? Yes, only because my time is precious. Do I financially rape them? NO!!!!! I tell them to pay me what they feel they are worth. This is a good experience for me. But I have been given up to $1000.00 for my pictures. Do I consider myself a professional after saying that??? No, but I do have an eye for this & a heart that enjoys what I do when I have time to do it.

  130. k

    good article!! pro photographers just relax… if people have thousands of dollars, they WILL find you and if they don’t, they WON’T. how easy is that! just except people can’t afford a $1000 session plus the price for the prints!! people who choose a momtographer over a pro, they KNOW what they are getting into and they know what pictures they are expecting. they are not DUMB!!

  131. Debby Landrum

    Sounds like a lot of people feeling really threatened by momtographers, I’ve always believed a little good honest competition never hurt anyone. If you’re not willing to fill that gap then keep your mouth shut when others do..

  132. MamaSquat

    I am a momtographer. I have always had a passion for snapping pictures. I am not formally trained. I took 4 years of photography classes in high school. But that was 10 years ago. I started my business for the same reason Daphne said. I didn’t have money to pay a pro photographer for family or newborn portraits. I was so sad that when I did go to a professional that advertised a FREE session just to find out that the price of a single 8×10 was $100. I had to charge my credit card just to get one picture of my family. She did an awesome job but I couldn’t buy what I wanted because of me being a new stay at home mom of two girls. I made the photographer mad because I told her I couldn’t afford her $1,200 package deal. She said what you don’t purchase I will delete! How sad to know that you had these awesome pictures and that got deleted. Still makes me sad. So after years of being my kids paparazzi I got a nicer DSLR. I got serious, took classes and read every dam tutorial and book I could. I just got booked for my first wedding. I think I do a good job. I do do it for cheaper than a pro, because I am not one. But I do have enough talent to get the customer what they want and plus some. I offer professional printing but I also give them the option to buy the files from me. Encourage one another not bash. I will improve enough to be called a professional someday. But I will never forget where I started from.

  133. David

    “..for the most part, the customers know what type of quality to expect.”

    Not necessarily. Customers won’t have the luxury of seeing side-by-side what a pro photographer _could_ have produced for them. Often times customers don’t know what quality is or how it looks. As Steve jobs once said “If we had asked customers upfront what they wanted in a tech gadget we’d never have produced the iPod/iPhone”.

  134. Jennifer

    I am a Mom…&….I consider myself a semi-pro photographer. I have been taking photos “seriously” for a couple of years. I posted pics on facebook & such and people started requesting that I take photos for them. In the beginning I told myself that I would not advertise my services and if people felt that I was good enough to hire, then they would. People hired me to take their photos and were pleased with them. Then last October I lost my “real” job… the present time photography is the only job that I have outside of the home. I look at this as an opportunity to grow my photography into a “real” business. I recently increased my prices and people are still coming!!! I don’t understand why “pro” photographers feel so threatened….& yes I do turn the money I make in on my taxes :-)

  135. Stephanie

    Let’s be honest…
    No one hates momtographers. Everyone hates crappy photography. I’d be angry, too, if I seen someone charging the same prices (well, ballpark same prices) and their photography was just contrast. Please. It’s an insult to professional photographers everywhere, I think.
    Nothing to do with moms. It could be Joe down the street or my neighbour.. Anyone. I agree with you Jim, just be honest about your level of talent and experience and we’ll all be fine. But I know I personally hate coming across photography business pages that advertise “expertise” and “unique” products when a trained eye can tell the only thing you did was move a contrast bar.

  136. John

    I don’t know what to call myself.

    I’m a dad with a degree in communications, which means I took all sorts of photojournalism classes in college, I studied fine art photography for two years prior to that, but that was all back before the digital era. (I’m dating myself now.) I definitely know my way around my camera, it’s the software that I’m still working through. Because I’m still learning Lightroom, I don’t want to overcharge for my work. I’ve been shooting photos for nearly 20 years, but mostly for fun. People pay me on occasion to shoot their portraits and I have repeat customers. I have a small photo studio in my home, but it’s nothing like the studios of photographers I’ve shadowed. I am so aware of my limitations, I would never dream of charging what the full-time photographers charge. Yet, I don’t feel like I’m undercutting them at all. I offer the best I can, which is pretty darn good, but I don’t claim to be able to do more. I’ve shot a total of 4 weddings in my life and every client knew that I was still new at it. I have an hourly rate that most photographers would laugh at. But it’s enough for the people who come to me.

    I’ve seen “professional” photographers with far less equipment and clearly less of a skill set than me who charge more than I do, but I’ve never felt like they were taking away my business because I’m barely in the business.

    I wish I could step out and shoot full-time, but honestly, I couldn’t if I wanted to. I have a child with special needs and I would never qualify for insurance on my own. So I work in marketing and shoot an occasional photo now and then to support my habit.

    I wish I had the time to devote to improving my skills so that I could justify raising my prices, heaven knows I could use the money. But even after all these years of shooting, I still feel inexperienced and a little nervous about misrepresenting what I am and what I can do.

  137. Esther

    Well, I guess I’m a momtographer, although I haven’t heard that word before. And thank you for your understanding. :)

  138. Kelly

    Thank you! I’ve heard way too many negative things about “momtographers” (that’s a new term to me). I just see it as there is a market for everyone. Same market as engagement ring shopping, there will be the people looking at the $300.00 rings and people shopping for $30,000 rings. I’ve been doing photography on and off (mostly off) for about 18 years.
    I actually do a donation system with my portraits. (I don’t do weddings, that’s a special day, a seasoned professional should probably be doing those). I look for low-income people with kids who just want some nice looking photos of their little ones. Kids change so quickly and I know too many people who are concerned about having to come up with several hundred dollars for a pro-photo session! I have referred people to real professionals at times when I feel something is out of my league…but I’ve also read on some of their websites how annoyed they are with these momtographers. Can’t we all just get along! Lol.
    Sorry to ramble! Thanks for your fair article regarding those who just do it for fun, and in my case, to give back to the community!

  139. Rhyan

    You have no idea how much I appreciate this article! I am a proud “Momtographer” and this article really put into words many things that I’ve been feeling or frustrated with. I chose to go to school for a Dental Hygiene degree – not photography. I have a small child and a small budget, so taking a lot of “formal” education is not an option. But I do read a lot (I’m here aren’t I??HA!), watch a lot of tutorials, and ask a lot of questions. I do photography for fun and to capture those quickly passing moments of the ones I love. One of my BIGGEST frustrations is that no one will mentor me. No one will take me along on a photo shoot just so I could observe more closely what they do, and write down questions to ask once the shoot is over. My observation is limited to when I’m IN FRONT OF the camera as a paid client, and lets face it – when trying to wrangle a two year old for pics, that’s where my main focus will be. If I EVER get to the point where I have my own business, I WILL make it a point to be a helping hand for someone who is at the point I am now. Not look down on them condescendingly and tightly clench my beloved Canon to my chest in fear they will steal my business.

    My other beef has been just as your first point stated on hanging onto the digitals. When my daughter was born I searched high and low for someone to take her newborn pictures that would also sell me the CD. I found someone alright…they wanted to sell it to me for $300. And that was after a $200 sitting fee, minimum $110 print order, and some other fee I can’t remember. It was going to be close to $700…and I didn’t really think her photos were that great of quality. So I did some more searching and have found two great gals who do photography as a hobby on the side – one’s a nurse and the other a teacher. Both include a CD with the images for no additional fee. And not only were their images better than the more expensive ones, but I have used them NUMEROUS times and have sent them MANY referrals – including a wedding.

    Like the poster above me, I want to be an option for people that maybe can’t afford hundreds or THOUSANDS of dollars. Just because you can’t spend a ton of money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to get some quality pictures. I will never do this to support my family (that’s what my DH degree is for if need be), but photography will always be a passion and hobby to me…part of who I am. There’s room for everyone on all levels and tiers….and there are people willing to pay for all those niches! We need to grow up and learn to share and play nice! :)

    Thanks for a great article and sorry to be so wordy!

  140. Ryan

    OMG. Happened on this site by a facebook referral. This was the first post I read — and it is RIGHT on. Everything from the inability for many pros to adjust to the change in the market (competition, consumer needs, etc.) to the perfect idea that there is room for every level of photographer — provided we are authentic with our work and up-front with our clients. It’s not undercutting – there is room for Honda Civic’s and BMW’s out there.
    Thanks for this – looking forward to reading more.

  141. Cortney

    Not a pro or momtographer but I appreciate people who know their limitations and don’t pretend to be the pro they are not.

    When my husband and I got married we were on a tight budget for our photographer. Her fee was $250 for about 3 hours on site. The photos she posted on her facebook looked decent for the amount we were paying. Not amazing but I wanted somebody to be able to capture all the special moments. When we got the pictures many months later (it was a huge struggle to get even unedited copies which if after you had seen the pictures you would realize why she was holding back) I wanted to cry. This girl had no clue what she was doing. Most of the pictures were trash. The most important two pictures to me of our first kiss and walking back up the aisle together, BLURRY! Many of the photos were out of focus and had exposure issues. She might as well have taken the photos on her cell phone camera because she didn’t know how to use the camera she had.

    Basically what I am saying is even if your a momtopgrapher, just starting out, what have you, even if you able to charge a lower fee, please be realistic of what your capabilities are and leave the special occasions that you cannot recapture to the seasoned pros.

  142. Joe

    I think the main reason people look for non-professional photographers (non-pro) is that pro photographers charge a LOT!!

    In my humble opinion all of the pros are overpriced and they usually claim “my work speaks for itself and it is 100% worth, it cost me 30 years of experience and tons of money invested in fine gear plus I have an advanced degree in fine arts plus update courses in visual arts and have attended Canon workshops and Nikon contests and so and so”. Guess what, customes care nothing about 30 years of experience nor about tons of money put into the finest gear on the market plus serious courses or advanced degress in fine arts. Customers only care about photos they like, period.

    If we were talking about celebrities that’s another story as they may really care about your resume as a pro and that’s because celebrities make money out of their image. But the average John in the street marrying the average Jane in the street couldn’t care less. They just want a memory and they usually think “why pay $200 or even thousands for a few photos I can not even have control of, while my dad or my brother can take literally hundred of photos with their compact camera for me to choose which ones I like then print them at wal mart for a few coins?” People want memories. Common people are nnot celebrities. If a pro wants to make lots of money, he/she should be focus on celebrities, they have the money and the will to pay for it. Not only that, celebrities NEED photos as it is a world that lives out of visual stuff. Going back to John marrying Jane, I guess they should get what they want: good quality pictures for fond memories.

    Not only do pros charge a lot of money, I mean, more than $300 and usually more than $500 for a small bunch of photos?

    And what is worst, pros want to keep control of original files.

    It would be nice a pro handed you the raw files so you as a customer are able to edit it for fun or have another person to edit it for you at your will and print it at will.

    It is ufair that pros want to keep everything.

    That’s another point. Not only pros charge a lot, buut they also limit you too much on the amount of photos, the time, the size, the schedule, the editing time. Ive seen pro’s ads stating “editing increases costs”. Oh man! It seems to me that pro photographers have missed the point that, as Canon’s CEO have stated “today, everyone is a photographer” and that manual modes and fancy digital cameras allow you to shoot literally hundreds of photos in an hour then just choose the good ones and that’s what customers want, they want what they like, they don’t want nor care about a proud self paid guy bragging about decades of experience with advanced degrees and a portfolio of literally thousands and thousands of excellent outstanding photos.

    Customers are not hiring a neuro surgeon, not hiring a rocket scientist, not hiring a plastic surgeon, not hiring a civil engineer to build their house. Customers just want an ok memory. They are not celebrities worrying about their public ratings.

    Well, lets face it, pros, by charging lots of money, you are just shooting your own foot and doing a disservice to photography. You just open the door to unskilled uneducated non-pro people who ruin an otherwise unforgettable moment. Some of these non-pro people are really excellent photographers and have invested time and effort and are even much better than pros. That’s usually not the case, but it happens.

    Pros complaining about non-pros should accept the fact that technology has desacralized many activities. Photography is one of them. The once sacred niche in which pro photographers have lived as in an ivory tower has just vanished and pros can not accept it, for their own bad.

    Ours are the times in which photography is just another merchandise in store, not a sacred activity in which only fine artists deserve to be called “pros”

  143. Frances Bast

    I read this article a long time ago and came across it again tonight. It is a very good read.

    I am definitely one of those Momtographers out there that busted out a DSLR and started calling myself a photographer. BUT, I was honest about it. I was offering my services for free for the first 5 months of my “career”. My “clients” KNEW what they were getting, they knew what they could afford and hired me because “something is better than nothing”. I befriended photographer friends and asked to learn from them. I second shooted for professionals that have been in this business for years and was able to nurture my own skills by doing so. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I shot, I experimented, I played with every single setting, I played with the light during all times of the day, indoors, outdoors, indoors with sunlight, outdoors with shade. I chose to advertise to a market that could not afford $$$$$ professional quality. Why? because I was(and still am) one of them. When I wanted maternity photos done, I had friends who were not professionals do them for me for free. When I wanted a birth photographer, I looked on craigslist for one that was just starting out and looking to build her portfolio. I had that mentality. I can’t afford the good stuff so I’m willing to pay for whatever I CAN get, even if the quality of my photos are not top notch. There is NOTHING wrong with clients wanting this, and there is NOTHING wrong with a new photographer advertising in this form.

    My skills have improved, my photos are better in quality, and I spend 5 times as long editing photos than I used to. My prices are still extremely reasonable and clients keep telling me that I need to be charging more. I hesitate. Why? Because a part of me still feels like I’m not good enough. Which is true, I’m not. But also because my heart belongs to those who cannot afford it. The military wives that want to capture their husband’s homecoming but can’t afford more than $100. The stay at home mom that hasn’t had family portraits done in 7 years because she is always always always keeping a strict family budget. The newlyweds that are so in love, share one car, and live with their parents because they are saving up for a house. These are the people I do this for. These are the people I reach a hand out to and say “Hey, don’t worry, I would be HONORED to photograph for you.”

    How did I begin my journey, you ask? Well, I did not become a photographer so I could just have something to do while being a SAHM. I didn’t just one day wake up and say, “Hey what can I do that is easy and fun?” NO. Never in my life would I have imagined myself a photographer if it had not been for my Mother in Law. After I had my daughter, I was taking photos of her like the new mom does. I was snapping photos of her with my point and shoot, with my phone, with my dad’s phone, with anybody’s camera I could get my hands on. I was sharing these photos, I was showing them off, because I just couldn’t imagine not being able to share the new love of my life with anybody and everybody. My mother in law being one of those people I showered with photos, sat me down one day and laid it all out for me. She told me she saw talent in my pictures. She said I had an eye for it. She said I needed to do something about it or my talent would go to waste. So I did.




  145. Bill Smith

    All though I appreciate that everyone out there has some skill or talent that they are proud of in this very competitive market.
    But please charge fairly for your work so that you are getting what your worth.
    Many of you wouldnt even wash dishes for the hourly rate your paying yourselves .
    Figure it out people ,
    Just because you enjoy what you do , don’t give it away.
    If your not comfortable taking someones photos because you dont think your good enough , then don’t .

  146. Q Smith


    Just happened to come across your site, and felt compelled to comment after reading this article. I suppose I’m a “dad-tographer”, and have recently branched out to doing photography on a part time level at a fairly low starting price point. I used to be very into photography for a number of years and considered it professionally in college, but a poor professor in my first year squashed that dream. I relegated myself to taking many, many pictures on my point and shoot cameras through the years, and recently upgraded to a DSLR last November to coincide with the birth of my first child. I figured I wanted to have some better equipment to make sure I was able to capture some good memories.

    Well, as I went about taking pictures of my little girl over the past 6 months, I branched out to take some macro shots, nature and landscape shots, and just photos in general of anything I found interesting. I sought out additional information and taught myself about my camera, basic lighting, software, and editing tips, and other bits and pieces of information so that I could take increasingly better pics. The more shots I took and shared with the world via Facebook, the more people began suggesting that I do something professionally, and eventually began contacting me and asking that I do their portraits or what have you.

    I fought this tide of requests for a few months, until a friend of mine who has been doing photography professionally for a few years urged me to dip my toe in. I finally conceded and started out by doing free “portfolio building” sessions for for a few of my friends so I could try to get over my nervousness. I’m now charging discounts for 1hr portrait sessions, and assisting my friend as a 2nd shooter in a few weddings to get my feet wet before I try my hand at a few low key, small ceremonies later this year.

    I know a lot of professional photogs I’ve spoken with have expressed some manner of irritation with the newer generation, but I’ve taken every effort to prepare myself for the transition, and I’ve been eager to continue learning and growing as I become more established. I’m thankful to my friend for giving me a push to try out this path, and letting me in on the opportunity to shoot at some of the weddings she has planned over the next few months. I’ll also say thanks for this article, and for sticking up for those of us who don’t want to take away someone else’s business, but want to try and create a space for ourselves and our craft.

  147. Odile

    Wow.. There’s always a term for everything… Moms always get the short end of the stick. Add “mom” on a word, “some” people will try to make it sound deragatory, almost belittling. Mom bloggers etc… Momtographers is really new to me 😉 I work in a financial industry on the intranet side of things. And usually work with graphics and stuff but not all the time. I would say I am an expert in graphic softwares such as Photoshop. And guess what, Photography is a hobby. I have been making pictures since before I had kids. I was never serious until now. I have no plans really to become a master. More of a hobby. If I do change my mind, I will make sure I have the backgound for it. As of now I always say on my photoblog that I am a “Hobbyist amateur photographer.” One day, I am hoping to remove the word “amateur” and just use “Photographer”. I know I have to earn that title. But really, I am not ready for that yet.

    Some people have just big egos (x and y) and when they start making a few good ones, they say they are a professionals. If people are honest about their capabilities, people won’t be distrustful and upset.

    It all starts with a few bad apples… unfortunately.

  148. Jane

    Ha, well I guess I am a Momtographer too. I live in New Zealand, and I price pitch in the middle range, yes I could charge more, but then I won’t get booked to shoot on the beach I will end up at the expensive venues and to be honest all of the ones around here have terrible lighting, give me the beach or a farm to shoot on any day. And I have been shooting weddings now for 7 years, self and internet taught. I avoid the NZIPP, because I find most of the photographers are arrogant, self serving whiners, always criticizing others, and are quick to say they are the best – yet their work to me is same ol same ol, seen it all before, no innovation and well behind the times in reference to computer capabilities & the awards are given out amongst themselves; cronyism at its best – I am tired of hearing it should be done in camera and not in editing….. I reckon if it is what the customer wants and that is why they booked you just do it. (I only shoot 22 weddings per year plus I sell through microstock agencies – this is enough work for me and I am always booked) Plus I mentor others and I NEVER criticize others work,I make suggestions if they are interested.

  149. Tony

    Do the “pros” think photography is the first industry to be turned upside-down by digital technology? FACT 1: professional-grade equipment is now cheap enough for anybody to buy. FACT 2: there is free information on the web about every conceivable aspect of photography. With a little bit of raw talent a lot of determination anybody can take facts 1 and 2 and become a “pro” grade photographer. There are plenty of chefs, fashion designers, painters, sculptures, graphic designers, writers, etc, etc who’ve never had a single day of formal training. Why is photography any different?

    1. Gwen

      So Tony, you’re saying anyone can go out and spend $40,000 (yes forty thousand dollars) on a professional camera (think Hasselblad H5D-60). Then they can just simply read a few things on the web and watch some youtube videos and call themselves professionals? Sorry but which planet do you live on?! Even the slightest changes in environmental conditions would throw off anyone you’re referring to. Photographers both professional and amateurs have learnt their art and have therefore earned the label of ‘Photographer’.

      Even a professional Canon or Nikon camera costs $6000 and that’s only 35mm format, I don’t see everyone having that much disposable income to just readily go out and buy one for the sake of it.

      A Photographer, needs at least a second or even third camera for backup, more lenses and then backup lenses, flashes etc. They need to know what each does and what it’s limitations and strengths are and when to use them. They need insurance for their equipment, they need business insurance which covers against any mishaps that can occur. They also need to be able to run a business and that’s just to name a few things!

      [A portion of this comment was removed as it violated the Improve Photography comment policy]

      Whenever booking a photographer for an event, the first question to ask them is ‘do you have insurance?’ followed by, ‘do you have backup gear?’ if you get 2 yeses then and only then should you start talking money, otherwise it should be responded to with a ‘thanks for your time, goodbye.’.

  150. Josh

    I just stumbled across across this site. I’m a former full time Pro Photographer. I can’t make a living at it any longer due to all the new part time photographers. Don’t get me wrong I have no problem with competition except I don’t consider most of my competition doesn’t compete fairly. When you are not charging sales tax and not claiming the money on your income tax your going to be able to beat my pricing every time. And I’m sure some of you are doing both of those things but the vast majority of the stay at home Mom’s and Dad’s I meet are not. And how do I know I ask. When I meet someone that says they are a photographer I never tell them I’m right away. I just start asking questions and normally get a lot of information. And I will tell you the ones that really upset me are the Mom’s and Dad’s that are not collecting or paying taxes on their ” Photo Business ” because that means that I’m paying for the schooling of their children. I don’t have kids and why I think everyone benefits from educating our children I don’t think its fare that I’m supporting my competitions children and they are not. I have met many many Mom and Pop photographers that think of photography as a way to make some weekend tax free cash.

  151. Janna Ashton

    I appreciate your post and attacking it from both sides of the fence. That is what a good debate is made of after all!! I am a stay at home mom, and photographer and I went to college to become a photographer. The thing about this business and craft is that it is a lifetime of learning. And just like anything there are stages to learning. I constantly am in competition for clients with other “momtographers” where I live at in North Carolina. I don’t let it frustrate me though. I only allow it to motivate me to keep learning and trying new things so I can stand out against my competition. My business where I am living at now is in its infancy, and because of that my prices are reflected as such. I don’t feel confident enough to charge an high amount and nickel and dime the digital files to my customers. My clients are SAHM’s, army wives actually, and on a tight budget, just like me. The way I see it is if I can make enough that my time is paid for and support my passion then it is a win-win situation. And maybe that is all these other moms are trying to do as well. I write a blog for tips and hints and post it out on FB in hopes I catch the eye of these other “momtographers” so as to help them better their craft. Everyone is a beginner at everything at some point, everyone should be treated with respect and in time they can grow to something truly great.

  152. E

    This was encouraging. I dropped off on working on my “momtography” for a year because of seeing sites full of people complaining about women like myself. But my husband bought me a brand new higher end camera a couple months ago hoping I’d jump back in and I only started to dip my toes back in this month. Its terrifying when there are droves of people who are straight up angry with women who start from scratch. But the point illuminated by so many comments on here is that there is a huge gap here and it needs filled. I, personally, can’t afford a $700 portrait session. I have 5 kids and my husband is the only one pulling in an income. So if I pay a “momtographer” $100 for our family portrait, the pro never lost me because they never had me because they were out of my budget to begin with. I’m not looking for magazine quality images. Not a lot of people are anymore, honestly. In this economy, MOST people (not all, of course) simply want memories nice enough to hang on the wall, and many momtographers are able to provide exactly that. I am willing to fill in that gap, and because I am not aiming to support a household on it, I can afford to do so. There are plenty of families who have used me before and I make my prior shoots readily available so people can know what to expect as far as my skill and my style. I don’t present myself as anything “bigger” than what I am.

  153. E

    And I should add, I do NOT pretend I’m at a level to shoot weddings. That is a huge day to many people, and a VERY easy one to screw up, and I do not want that riding on my shoulders. I stick to what I know I can accomplish.

  154. Terryl

    “These are the people I do this for. These are the people I reach a hand out to and say “Hey, don’t worry, I would be HONORED to photograph for you.” ” …

    Yes … that’s why I do what I do. I am NOT a seasoned professional and don’t proclaim to be. But God has given me a gift and a passion for capturing moments through my camera lens, and I want to bless others through that gift!

  155. David

    The biggest problem with so-called ‘momtographers’ (or any amateur trying to sell photography in the marketplace) is that they have driven prices so low that I’ve now largely left the social photography market. If someone asks, fine. But I concentrate much more on the commercial photography now and have replaced the lost income from family portraits by teaching either via the local college or my own workshops.

    Year ago, I always used to price at the lower end of the going rate to keep a busy calendar. Now even beer money pricing gives sticker shock. A £1000 wedding with an album used to be a heck of a deal (when some would charge £1500-£2000. But now you get emails from people saying some dump-to-disc chancer from Gumtree can shoot 5000 images for £100 and why are you so expensive. Utterly nuts.

    Now, some monographers produce pro images, some competent but hardly expert images, and many complete junk. The truth is many photographers buyers aren’t hugely visually literate and can’t really see the difference between poor, mediocre and great. They’ll ‘get all the images on CD’ for peanuts and that’s all they see.

    Now, it’s a free market so if someone wants to bring whatever service to the market at whatever price well that’s okay. Others must adapt to the disruption as I did by really hitting the corporate market hard and getting into teaching.

    The only thing that riles me is momtographers with no insurance that don’t declare their extra income for tax purposes. That’s just naughty.

    1. Sunnie

      I have to laugh at the “consumers aren’t visually literate” comment. I think the photography industry has created a standard that they as professionals feel is important, but over all the consumer couldn’t care less. The consumer drives the market. THEY set the standard of what is acceptable photography and what is not. Consumers write your paycheck. It doesn’t matter if you think they are “visually literate” or not. Your elitist photography standard means nothing to them. I think this is where “momtographers” win. They offer an affordable service that keeps consumers happy. That’s a big threat to self important photographers, isn’t it?

  156. Julie Martin

    I am a momtographer who knows her work isn’t “sell worthy” at the moment. I did a senior photoshoot for a friend who wasn’t going to get her daughter’s picture taken AT ALL because she couldn’t afford it. I take my kids sports photo’s every year because the photographer our school uses doesn’t seem to understand lighting or composition and I was tired of wasting my money on pictures that looked horrible, and poses that made me frustrated. Yes I buy just enough to get the team photo. I am learning more and more everyday by being part of these blogs and by playing with my camera as often as possible. I want my pictures to look a certain way, and I am learning how to get that look. I don’t want a snapshot, I want a portrait. When it comes to special occasions, I still call a professional. I would never in a million years shoot my sons/daughter’s wedding. When I think of everything you have to remember to get a good picture, I know I am not capable of doing that, yet. But how do you get there if you don’t practice? My family LOVES everything I do, and I thank them, but I know they are very supportive and can’t tell me what I need to hear. So I need to do more shoots that are not family related. I’m learning. But does that mean my time is totally worthless? Right now, I am comfortable “helping” out a family or two who wouldn’t be able to afford something anyway, by donating my time to help me learn. I have not, and can’t justify charging someone for my time at this moment. You can get a cheap hair cut from a new stylist trying to make a living. Or you can get a whole new style from someone who knows what they are doing. I think people know it is the same with photography.

  157. Aleeya

    I love it when people complain about how newbies drive down the market by offering cheap packages then turns around in the very next sentence and talks about how they offered cheap packages when they were starting out to gain experience.

  158. Greg

    Like you said, it’s business. Sure I get annoyed that all of my wife’s friends on Facebook are advertising themselves as photographers and one botched my sis-in-law’s wedding. But many people can’t afford pro photographers and are happy to get less than pro work. They know they are getting what they paid for. You can’t just complain about it like you are owed their business because of your training. You have to reach out to customers and market to them to show why you are worth the extra cash and why they should want higher quality. Maybe you have to go niche and pursue only the very wealthy clientele where you can charge gobs of money or go with the extreme artsy angle. You can’t just whine. Life is replete with new technologies and businesses disrupting the established names. Maybe advertise to these people that the momtographer isn’t charging low enough. Get them to expect photo shoots for $10 & maybe they will figure that the business isn’t worth it.

  159. Sally

    Essentially, you get what you pay for. If the customer wants a cheaper option, that’s up to the customer. The photographer will eventually feel a little ripped off that they are putting in so much effort for so little money, but hey, we all have to start somewhere. I’m a bit confused by this ‘Momtographer’ label though. I’m pregnant and have just gotten back into photography after a few years away from shooting professionally. I went to art school, majoring in photography and digital imaging and worked in the industry and I’m not really sure that this label is fair to people like me who happen to be in this circumstance. Perhaps ‘amateur photographer’ is more appropriate?

  160. Carrie

    I’ve got a friend who’s been in the photography business a couple years she’s humble about her craft unlike most she will mentor anyone who wants to get a start. She started out “cheap” she’s gotten better and has gone from traditional weddings portraits to more of an event and print photographer. What professionals lack when they get that title of pro is the humble attitude towards those who want to get a start or at least a feel for it. My friend and others I’ve come across tell me it’s something I should get into I just laugh I love photography and would be happy the rest off my life if I could make a profession out of it but I love it to much to go to a new level and let the money that comes from it ruin my passion and the love I have for the art I’ve come across photographers that lost their passion because they’re blinded by the money and to worried about competition stepping on toes I was never a painter sculptor and crafty person I was never really good at anything but I found my niche in photography when I was 10 I go through photo withdrawal when I don’t take photos the world around Mr is a daily inspiration I’m not a portrait photographer or a professional I guess I could be what professionals call a hobbyist. Don’t get me wrong I respect professional photographers they’re work is amazing obviously to get where they’re at but a little compassion to those who’d like to follow in your foot steps.

  161. Chris

    I too have seen the massive influx of people going out and getting a DSLR and then marketing themselves as photographers. Many are people I grew up with and still keep in contact. They have no formal training in photography. I have my BA as well as my CPP cert. Two of these people already tanked. They aren’t getting bookings because they are too expensive or their photos are substandard (previous clients reviews.) It is illegal to advertise yourself as a doctor without the proper credentials. It is immoral at best to advertise yourself as a photographer without proper training or gaining that learning curve. ANYONE can take a few great photos. Compiling them into a portfolio and wearing your dslr does NOT make you a photographer.

  162. Susan

    if the professionals would lower their prices for the average income of a single person producing family and be willing to give digital files so we can be creative; then I think they would have more business in the family portrait area. I was able to purchase a beautiful piece of gear and multiple lens for the same price as some photographers charge in my area for baby, family and everyday photos. Because I love the photo editing with Lightroom and raw files, I don’t have to be perfect yet at this craft. I find my poses and lighting are better than many “professional” in my area. What makes a “professional” anyway? Having a good eye? Great editing? Great posing? Or their price?


    What makes a Professional is getting the job right every time, on time no matter what the circumstances. It is knowing what to do, when to do it and how to achieve it with a smile…whatever the circumstances. All this while charging enough to earn a living and not just some pin money. Nobody has the right to a competition free business, however photographers not charging a sustainable rate is daft beyond belief, both to themselves and others in the business.

    Many people new to business fail to consider their overheads properly, cost of equipment, website, bookkeeping, tax, travel costs, insurance, adverting, training, let alone the number of hours required to do the job and process it….need I go on? Maybe think what your Lawyer would charge, £200+VAT per hour?….oh you want a letter, add another £75+VAT…again, need I go on?

    Training – If a photographer turns you down as a second shooter, it may well be that it is not suitable or appropriate for them. Don’t just think they are keeping secrets, because there are none……oh sorry, there is, Professional photography is hard work.

    Yes I did not charge enough when I started in 1981. Coming up against all those that I then thought of as ‘overpriced’ professionals. It does not take long to work out, you are working long hours for nothing and those established businesses are not actually as ‘overpriced’ as you once thought!

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