Several weeks ago I came across an article a friend had posted in a photography related group on Facebook. I quickly scanned the article and thought it interesting enough to post to my Facebook page and fan page. I really didn’t give it a second thought because I often post articles that I find interesting or controversial that deal with the photography industry.

The next morning, I received a text from a friend who jokingly made a comment about all the activity the link had prompted. At first I didn’t believe him, really? something I posted created a firestorm? Surely, he must have been mistaken. So, right there in the Old Navy parking lot, I jumped onto Facebook (got to love smart phones!) and checked it out. Sure enough, I had 17 comments on this one article! I couldn’t believe it.

Once I finished up my shopping and returned home, I turned on the computer to re-read the comments that had been written in response to this article. The more I read, the more the contributors turned the tide of the conversation and it became more of a debate back and forth.

It was my intent to post that conversation in its entirety. However, I did request permission, and while some were okay with it, others had their reservations. I thought the opinions given were very passionate and represented a wide range of people. Two contributors are professional photographers, one is a hobbyist, and another is a graphic designer. I felt they brought a lot of good ideas to the table.

Now, many of you are wondering what could this crazy article have been about to create such a massive amount of feedback? The article was actually a guest written post on the blog of www.Tiffinbox.org, entitled: Please Don’t Just Give Your Clients the CD or DVD! It can be read here.  I highly recommend you read the article, so you have a context of what the writers below are referring to.

Anyways, to get to the point, I really wanted to post much of what was said, however, like I mentioned above some weren’t comfortable with it, which is fine and I want to respect that. I would like to post some of what was said and hopefully in the future, I will have a few more guest writers to contribute to this idea as well.

The following is an excerpt of what was said.  Instead of the format I had originally intended to use, more of an interview, back-and-forth-kind-of-style, I chose to condense the comments and post per the individual who wrote them. It was my intention to keep the integrity of the commentators, as well as, the context of the conversation. Please know, I am just presenting the opinions that were given, because I think it’s a hot topic, people on both sides are passionate about it and I wanted their story heard.

I know it’s long, but hang in there to the end!

__________

Scott (Owner and Photographer of Furore Photography in South Bend, IN):

I hate articles like this. Times are changing. Anyone can take a “good” picture anymore because really nice cameras can be had for cheap. Articles like this are written by photographers that are fearful of losing money because of the changing industry that is going digital. The fact is, there is no need to go through your photographer for prints anymore because you can find any place online to do it as the customer. Why pay an arm and a leg for something that you can do yourself for a fraction of the cost? The argument that there will be no way to preserve digital files in the future is ridiculous. They will transition the technology to backwards compatible all those billions of photos that are digital. There is no way they won’t. Honestly, people do just want the disc, that is the world we live in now and they may hang a couple pictures that they purchase later on down the road.

I don’t see why on earth photographers feel the need to have the sitting fee and then most require a certain spend on prints as well. It is ridiculous!! What other business do you know that functions this way? Do you go to get your oil changed and they ask you to park your car in there for $50, but if you want your oil changed you have to spend $400 in oil? Or if you go to get your hair cut, it cost $60 to sit there but then another $600 to get it cut and you have to buy a bunch of styling products? The whole thing is lame. If someone asks us to take their photos, we take their photos and WE GIVE THEM THEIR PHOTOS. The session fee and then the required print is because there are too many photographers out there that are greedy OR (and this is most of the case I believe) there are photographers that are not good at their craft and have not learned to take photographs properly to make it worth their time.

What I see is so many “photographers” that shoot in automatic, have no idea what “f-stop”, ISO, shutter speed, etc even mean and do not know the basic of controlling a photograph. If you know your craft, a session should not even take you a couple hours to edit (rare cases where you have someone with extreme acne that may take longer). Capturing the image right the first time (composing the subject right so there is no need to crop) adjusting your aperture and shutter speed correctly to get the right depth of field and exposure, and then you should have MINOR things to fix and editing your colors and levels to taste to give it your style. We easily make out well doing just a session fee and giving the disc. We even put photos in a gallery sometime for those that want to buy proofs from us and that is an added bonus. All this to say, I think that people come to you for photos, and should be given their photos in the end. Make your sitting fee $700 if you want to make that, don’t make some small entry fee to a required amount later.

 Our price point is what it is because we think it is fair to the client and for the amount of time that is put into it. We simply are choosier because I already have a full time business and we just use the photography as a part time income. I guess bottom line, I think a lot of photographers need to get over themselves and their “art”. People want their photos taken and that is it. Charge what you want to get your higher clientele but don’t get offended with people that give out a disc because that is what people want.  THE PHOTOGRAPHY INDUSTRY IS NOT WHAT IT WAS 10 YEARS AGO, IT’S NOT WHAT IT WAS 5 YEARS AGO, AND ITS NOT THE SAME AS IT WAS 2 YEARS AGO! It is only going to get worse so get ready for it. Adjust your business model to what is happening with technology and realize that what you consider as art may not be art to your client. They just want a family picture.

 

Nick (web developer, graphic designer and internet marketer at www.ChurchWebsiteDoctor.com):

In addition to the worries of handling the digital media yourself, what if you leave it to your photographer? What if the photographer moves… or dies… or is abducted by aliens and can no longer be contacted? At least if I have the CD, I am responsible for the preservation, not a 3rd party whom I may or may not know very well at all.

When I hire a photographer, I pay for time. I understand that the session fee includes any retouching or mastering that needs to be done, so the seemingly high cost is actually very reasonable. Personally, I think that photographers should charge what they need to for their time and equipment maintenance and whatever overhead costs they have.

I’ll be the first to admit it feels as if I’m getting gouged when I pay 3 or 4 times per print than I could if I sent it to a reputable printer online. Hidden fees are a huge pet peeve of mine. Essentially, you give a discounted price for the session, and make up for it on the print orders. Does this strike no one else as odd?

Here’s the problem, photographers don’t educate folks on the hours they put in behind the scenes in both editing and perfecting their technique. Combine this with the fact that charging this way is considered the ‘accepted method’ and you have a bunch of clients that think that pictures are dirt cheap to produce. Which they are not. Most photographers put YEARS into perfecting their skills, and hours upon hours for each session to make the pictures really come alive.

As a businessman, I see a huge potential for photographers that are up front about their prices, and are willing to go the extra mile to educate their clients about the hours that are put in behind the scenes to make their session truly extraordinary.

So there you have it… it’s my pet peeve.

 

Allison (photography hobbyist):

As someone who is a hobby photographer, someone who pays for family photos, and someone who almost never does anything without a coupon or discount or deal, I will always seek for a photographer who will do on site family photos, edit them, and give us the cd with rights to print them. I don’t think I’d ever pay more than $150 for this service. And I’m confident I will always be able to find someone who takes quality images (admittedly, I’m kind of picky), edits them well, and will be in our price range. I’ve also got access to custom framing at cost, and understand print quality, so I’m one of those that will print and frame to preserve our family memories. I can respect photographers whose pricing serves only higher end clientele, but I’m thankful for those willing to do what I’m willing to pay for too.

I do have to say one thing more though, after that whole long conversation, I did actually go back and purchase prints from the link my photographer gave me, including a discount code, and got my prints in the mail this week. I actually quite agree with print quality being so much better from my photographer than what I would have done myself. I did only order square sizes from her, because they are harder to find than regular sizes. I felt like I got quality prints and a good deal because she gave me 25% off on prints for 2 weeks. I can still go back and order more at full price anytime. I like this option. And I even have the high res images on CD. Anyway, just a thought.

__________

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think or which side of the debate you come down on. I do hope to post more at a later time regarding this topic, so stay tuned!