Monday, March 14, 2011

So, You Got An Offer To Get Free Photography.....

This is a bit of venting. I want to be up front about that. If you know me, you know I am brutally honest...and I shoot my mouth off...and this is a little bit of both.

Here's the thing. There are certain standards in life, in photography. Certain things that I adhere to. One of them is making sure that I am fair when I make an offer.

Every photographer who is in business is going to need samples at times. Maybe they are photographing dogs and feel their portfolio needs a particular breed or one photographing children wants a certain age.

The standard in the industry when asking someone to model has always been a print or two in exchange for a little time. With the advent of digital some photographers have been giving the entire disc of images for that bit of time. Unfortunately, some consumers have latched on to the latter and believe that is what they are entitled to automatically if they are offered the opportunity for a complimentary session.

It should be noted here what my investment in time is for a portrait session to show why I offer what I do. From first discussion to travel time to shooting to processing to sales session to print order to print delivery I average six hours per portrait client, whether the session is for samples or hire. What does sample client get? A professional portrait session at no charge which has a value of $250 and an 8x10 which sells for $90. No obligation to purchase other images and no pressure to do so. In fact, I offer additional images at a promotional rate because I am grateful for the help and I have yet to have someone not want to buy more when they see the photos.

Recently I had a discussion with a young mom who was referred to me for a sample session. I offered her my usual, she accepted...I was so excited. Then, between the time I chatted with her and the time I got the paperwork to her she asked if she would be getting all the files. When I deferred to the original offer she declined based on the opinion that giving all the files is what is equal time and compensation for an hour or so of her time. I'd like to share an excerpt of the note I sent her that explains why I do not give the files:

"Although I was up front with you about what was being offered before you agreed for me to send you the paperwork I can see where you might expect more because of how the photo industry has changed in recent years so I would like to put into perspective what I offered you compared to what you counter offered for compensation.

Your offer was to have a photo session and receive an obligation to make any further purchase and no pressure as such. I am upfront with pricing in these kind of situations because I have yet to meet anyone who having received this opportunity does not want to purchase additional images and I want them to feel comfortable knowing what they are agreeing to and what they may be spending if they choose to. Regular pricing on what I am offering you is a $340 value which most people consider very fair compensation for an hour of their time.

As a veteran of the photography business I can tell you that there are many standards in the business, and yes, it has become common to offer a disc of images since the advent of digital to professional models when they are solicited by a photographer for a test shoot situation,  but it is also the industry standard to offer an 8x10 as compensation when the photography is for the useage I am looking at and that is how I have always worked.

I understand that you would feel that getting the full collection of high resolution images is an even exchange, but that is not always the case. And this is a perfect example.

As a portrait photographer my use is extremely limited. A photo in a slideshow to present to other mothers, an image on my website, maybe entering a competition if I have created an image that is worthy of that. 95% of my samples are from jobs where the client has paid a session fee and given permission while not receiving anything in turn other than feeling good that they are supporting their photographer who has given them good service. An 8x10 as well as my time and talent to create the images is fair compensation for what I am offering you.

Here is what the likely useage for most people receiving the full disc of images is going to be. They are going to make prints for their home and all their family and friends, resulting in the loss of income for the photographer of what could be as much as $2000. Do you really feel that is fair compensation for 40 minutes in the park on a nice day?"

I respect her decision not to work with me. But here's the thing. Photography is my livelihood not my hobby. The images are my inventory and the only thing I have to sell, the only thing I have to create income to support my family and stay in business so that when the public wants a professional photographer I exist to serve them. Six hours to work on a session without the opportunity to ever sell a single image is simply bad business. Giving away the files and waiving my possible income from that session of several hundred dollars is insanity. Expecting all photographers to give the files away because some do is just sad generalization. 

I am currently looking for babies of certain ages for my portfolio. I can guarantee that you will have a great time, a beautiful portrait session and a lovely print for your home. I get some variety in my book and you get the good feeling that a little of your time helped another person out. And that's how it should be. Fair and equal compensation for all parties involved.

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