Something we must do.

So here is an interesting thing. I got a notice to bid for a job from one of those pay per bid companies. (How I wish I had thought of that idea) But I digress… the client needs 23 images of a single product and is willing to pay $75 to $150 for the whole thing. Their generosity has no bounds. Twenty three different shots of the same product. Even if it was a ‘widget’ on white seamless it will still take the better part of a morning to shoot and then the rest of the day to post. But, it’s not a widget. It is a rather large, handcrafted product on location. So now I will need to hire an assistant, pack up my gear, drive to the location, shoot the project, drive home, etc,etc. This is now a 1 day shoot. The following day will be for post production processing and delivering the files, which they have requested be ‘High Resolution Photos’. So now I am into this for about 2 days, the results of which you can read in my response at the bottom of this post.

So what is “something we all must do”? In a word it is ‘educate. Not just ourselves but our clients as well. More importantly our would be clients. Or what I like to call my ‘Could Be Clients’ These are the people who could be clients if they understood the difference in image quality and therefor the value, from a professional photographer. We have spent years upon years, some of us decades, trying to deliver the best possible product to our clients. Not always an easy task. Sometimes their expectations are a little unrealistic. So what else is new? This has been happening in business forever. We all want more for our money and so do they. I remember a friend of mine relaying a story to me about an art director walking into his studio and saying “OK, let’s see some magic”. His response was “your budget doesn’t cover magic”. Brilliant!

Digital technology has made it possible for everyone on this planet to think they can be a ‘professional photographer’. It has saturated the marketplace with watered down versions of ourselves willing to shoot for little to no fee. It has given the client a perverted view of what image quality is and how to achieve it. So that leaves us with decades of experience competing against soccer moms and teenagers and brothers of girlfriends, etc., etc.

So what can we do? We can educate. Plain and simple. Show them the difference your work can make to their business or wedding or family photograph. Whatever it is that you shoot, be better at it than the amateurs and continue to deliver the best possible product you can. If they still can’t tell the difference you can always say what a dear friend once said to a ‘could be client’. “If you can’t tell the difference between their work and mine, you need me more than you know.” Brilliant!! Just so you know, he got the job.

Here is the response to the company from the original paragraph.

I am writing this in the hope it helps you understand a bit more about what we do and what you are asking.

So, Let’s break this down. You have 23 shots but “are not limited to just these shots”. You want to pay up to $150.00 for everything. That will be about 1 day of shooting, if it is not to complicated, and one day of post production processing. Let’s not even talk about usage rights for these images because you probably think you will own them, which is not the case. So, my CODB expenses will be about $120.00, $20 for fuel and $100 for an assistant, which is an insult. Which leaves me a gross profit of $30 for 2 days work. Divide that $30 by either 23 images or 16 hours, which gives me $1.44/image or $1.87/hour respectively. 30% goes to taxes, leaving me about $10/day to pay for all of my fixed costs such as rent, insurance, gear, repairs, software, computer upgrades, etc,etc,etc. Can your business survive on a $10/day gross profit? I didn’t think so.

The craftsmanship in your products is beautiful and you say this is an important project. If that is true then please try understand the real value in what you are purchasing when you hire a professional photographer with the expertise to produce the images you need to sell your products.  If you don’t hire the right photographer to showcase that, then all that work is lost. I hope this has helped you understand the difference between hiring a professional in oppose to hiring someone who happens to own a digital camera.



About Jack Foley

Beginning my journey in the film lab business many years ago and was lucky to have some great bosses who were also great teachers. They gave me a priceless education into what happens to film during the back end, which in turn taught me, how to be a better photographer. Being a bit of a nerd I moved to digital capture pretty quickly and have never looked back. I do miss those long quite days in my darkroom, but I don't miss the toxic chemicals we used. I have shot everything form weddings to high end fashion advertising and loved most of it equally. I also teach at the Center for Digital Arts and am currently working on a new body of work that will, hopefully, inspire some and become many of this blogs topics.
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