THE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY 'ADJUSTMENT'...
In our present society, professional photographers are constantly battling the trends of this digital age of convenience. We are having to (more often than we'd prefer) explain to clients the INTRINSIC VALUE of what we do for a living and WHY they should consider hiring a real professional, instead of your run-of-the- mill amateur, who is obviously untrained to do the job the right way. If your photos come out looking green or out of focus or trees and power lines seem to be growing out of your head in the photo, there is a reason for that. True professionals take extra care of these details which many don't think about. Instead they think about the cost to their wallet and the bargain they are getting. Our time is spent quite often haggling price and dealing with frustrating requests for "CDs" and practically giving our intellectual property away for peanuts, just to maintain presence in this competitive industry. It keeps us looking in our own wallets, wondering how we are going to put food on our own tables. We have to decide whether to go along with the trend of bargaining and sacrifice our own well-being to make our clients happy that they were able to haggle with us in the first places. Many photographers who found great success shooting with negative film and transparencies have left the business altogether, because of the transition to digital was too big of an investment to make or they couldn't keep their rates at a fair market value (considering the value had diminished drastically in such a short period of time). And this saddens me.
Yet, there is a brighter side to this story, and I'll attempt to explain this so there is no confusion to those taking the time to read this.
MY NOTE TO PHOTOGRAPHERS:
As photographers, we have the responsibility to make people feel good about their investment in us and our products/services. And if you are a professional photographer in this industry who finds yourself questioning only the bottom line ($) and think you will get rich overnight, let me be the first to tell you: YOU ARE IN THE WRONG BUSINESS... In order to truly make it in this digital age, where the influx of images readily seen has exploded into our daily lives, we need to examine the WHY we are in this business more than the HOW, WHAT, WHO, and WHERE we find our subjects. We need to examine our value placed on what we do instead of the devaluing others have done. We need to embed our passion for seeing and sharing our love with the masses into our craft, and that alone should be our selling point. If you want to see your images embellishing the walls of your clients, friends, families, and friends of those clients, friends, and families- you will need to first adjust your thoughts about doing business. Yes, the cost of doing business can be extreme.
Yes, the mom, brother, mother, cousin, etc who owns a fancy camera who does it as a hobby might even consider their hobby could be worth a little something. They will shoot a wedding for a couple hundred dollars and think nothing of what that does to the market value of the true professionals. How can we compete? We simply can't!!! But something can also be learned from the hobbyist who we have all bashed to some extent. Although they may not intentionally devalue photography, they ARE IN FACT- embedding a certain passion into their craft. And that alone has an intrinsic value that you cannot even put a price tag on. Call them lowballers or just call them hobbyists. I have adjusting my thinking when dealing with this trend and now simply call them people with cameras. I might even take a leap and call them photographers, depending on their quality of work. Because I have battled this quite a bit in a small town where the professionalism is few and far between what one should expect. The big issue is (in a small town like this one), people have nothing to compare to. They are used to the idea of the bargain portrait studios of Walmart, Sears, Olan Mills, etc. And now that many of those studios have closed down for somewhat apparent reasons, the market has opened up to those photographers willing to negotiate some value back into the arena.They have the opportunity to thrive. But not without reapplying a value you won't ever find in one of the aformentioned bargain studios. Compromise will have to be made with price to fit into the budgets of those used to saving money. Again comes that very important piece of advice.
MY NOTE TO PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE CLIENTS:
As clients, I can't even begin to explain the gratitude I feel towards each and every one of you. I am happy you see the value, passion and expression I try to embed into my craft. Without the continual feedback and praise I've received over the years, I might have given up long ago, when trying to design a successful business. Although money does matter to all of us to some degree, I am happy to say I am not into photography for the pay alone. Because I would be lying if I told any of you I am getting rich doing it. I have the same struggle paying bills, debts and staying afloat with life in general... But I am trying. And that is what matters the most. I am passionate... I am willing... And I am fortunate to be in a career I love with every ounce of my being. Although I have had to unfortunately turn down a few clients in the past or never hear back from them after sharing my rates/terms, I am now seeing the light and ADJUSTING my business models to fit your budgets perfectly. I don't enjoy being told NO, based on the affordability. I would like to be valued as an artist first and foremost and that is why I have embraced this ability to ADJUST. I used to cringe every time someone asked me if I give CD's with high resolution, rights released images with my sessions. In retrospect, after losing out on jobs I would have loved to have done- I am beginning to understand. It's not that I was being greedy and couldn't part with my images and risk losing the quality control I provide. Or by giving images away that kept me from joining the masses of bargain bottom dollar 'burn and turn' photographers out there... It's that I didn't quite understand how providing this CD service could actually help me. I understand it now, completely. Although I still stay true to the issues about quality control in the end product, I would much rather entrust my intellectual property to people who sing my praises and give referrals without even thinking about it. This year will be the first of many, where I am redesigning my business model to fit the needs of my clients first, and the profit margins are the least important. I'd hate to be called 'too expensive' or 'out of line', so I am setting up a business model which helps everyone equally. I hope to have more of your business and bring back the value to photography, on a more global level.
As the trends of digital capture sway and shift, I intend to remain present doing what I love. I will not let anyone down, because of affordability or lack of money. I will work with clients in a more personal way and ensure the praises continue to be sung. WORD OF MOUTH is a powerful tool and if the words being said are good about me and my work are good, that is really all I need. I apologize for my occasional ranting on the subject of "low-balling amateurs trying to muscle their way into the industry and muscle everyone else out". I will try to put thoughts and articles like that far away from my own thoughts.
True artists shouldn't worry about these kind of things. We should ADJUST and OVERCOME to the challenges/trends of the industry and continue to thrive in any way we can. I hope you will add value to what we do and share this blog post with others who are on either end of the spectrum. We could all use a little inspiration and ability to ADJUST every now and then.
Until next time... Best wishes to all!!!
"Photography only appreciates with time, because time is appreciated with photography."