Anybody Out There Know What I'M Tired Of?
Okay, I'll admit...I sometimes catch myself eyeballing the local Buy-N-Sell groups on Facebook. Yes, even from time to time, I'll throw an ad on them. Not the greatest marketing strategy, I know, but, hey....what you gonna do?
In my browsing, I came across a listing that caught my attention.
(Keep in mind that the words in quotation marks are mine. I had considered putting this in video form, but a fat, balding middle aged guy in athletic shorts yelling at a computer screen is a visual that America can do without in these troubling times.)
This particular listing was from someone who was "Tired (TIRED, I SAY!) of the prices that photographers charge", and she's out to "fix that". Clearly, at this point, this post has my full and undivided attention.
The posting goes on to read as follows: "i'm considering doing photography on weekends i'm tired of seeing photographers ask close to $600 (gasp!) for a simple photography session anybody interested let me know". (I didn't add any punctuation there because it was all one sentence, and I believe in transcribing it exactly as it was written.)
It continues: "thinking about doing like $100 for a hole (yes, a hole) session, family photos newborn photos kids ect (I think she meant 'etc.') regardless of how long it takes to get all the poses wanted i charge 75 dollers (oy vey) for a usb with all the pictures on it (NO WAY! You don't say!) i also take event photos and suprising (sic) engagement photos (....I wonder why they're surprising...?) events wedding birthday parties funerals (funerals?) ect (again) will run 300 to 500 dollars a night depending on how long the event is and a usb for events will cost around 150. For suprising engagement photos it is 100 for a session and 75 for the usb for interest and booking plz send me a pm or call or text me on my cell phone 970-xxx-xxxx some of my work is posted on my facebook in the album which are my children and family."
Still with me? Good. My rant starts here.
So here we have someone posting these really rock bottom prices for Professional Photography. What else are you going to call it? It's Professional Photography, right? She's charging money for it, and considering doing it on the weekends, because she is "tired of the prices that Professional Photographers charge for Professional Photography." She's tired of that.
That got me thinking...there are some things that I'M tired of...so I started making a list. Let me share that list with you.
I'M TIRED of people belittling this industry with this UTTER CRAP AND NONSENSE.
I'M TIRED of people who haven't a clue what it takes to run a business disparage the hard-working men and women WHO DO IT EVERY DAY.
I'M TIRED of people who claim to have a business and charge money, IMMEDIATELY BACKPEDAL and claim it's just a hobby the moment the letters "I-R-S" are mentioned.
I'M TIRED of people who, like this individual, have no experience, and will simply point people to their Facebook page or Instagram filled with pictures of their kids as samples of their work.
But mostly, you know what I'm tired of? I'm tired of people who don't give a second thought about ruining the precious memories of others, because they simply don't care enough to cultivate the knowledge, skill, and ability to do this job correctly.
REMEMBER...owning a camera does NOT make you a Professional Photographer. It simply makes you someone who owns a camera.
Look, I know all of this sounds harsh, and truthfully, it is. I can't get down on the ones out there actually trying to better themselves, hone their skills, learn, and grow. Everyone has to start somewhere. It's the people that sit back and claim that they are going to swoop in and "save you" from being gouged to death by the big, lazy camera guy. Those are the folks that really get under my skin. Those are the ones that ruin this industry.
Imagine if you needed a face lift, or a nose job. It isn't something you REALLY need, but more, something you want. You price out several different places; one doctor has 25 years of experience, has never had a complaint, has the latest equipment...but he's going to charge you $10,000. Most of the other doctors you check out have roughly the same experience, and charge about the same rate.
Then, it happens! You find a Facebook ad for a doctor who is going to "Save You" from the prices that other doctors charge! Yay!
Does he have the same experience? No...but he did play a lot of "Operation" as a kid.
Have you talked to any of his past clients? Well, he doesn't have any real "clients" exactly...but he DID pull one of his kid's teeth, and THAT went pretty well.
How about the equipment? Well, he's got a pretty nice set of Craftsman pliers, and he did get a pretty swift new razor pocket knife for his birthday last year, that he's just been DYING to try out....
BUT....the good news! He's only going to charge you $600! You're saved!
I can't imagine there's enough foundation in the world to fix that hack job.
There are reasons that Professional Photographers charge what we charge. This business is not a cheap one by any means, and anyone that tells you any different hasn't a clue what they're talking about. The average camera body alone costs around $2000. Each lens is roughly the same. That's before we even get into the gear required to carry all of that stuff around so that it doesn't get damaged. A single strobe set up is somewhere in the neighborhood of $800 (for one that won't overheat and explode). Most studio photographers have 3-6 strobes.
A Professional stays professional by keeping up on the education of the industry, which is ever-changing. Guess what? Education isn't free, either! College-level courses in marketing, lighting, Geometrics (yes, Geometrics...professional lighting has angles!) cost a small mint. But learning all that is learnable and keeping up on all the changes in this industry are what keep clients happy.
And all the cool programs we use to make those really snazzy images? Those cost money, too! Did you know, you can no longer purchase a copy of Photoshop? Nope! It's now all subscription-based, and paid monthly. Thinking about running a pirated copy? I hope you like life with no internet! Adobe now will shut down any old version of Photoshop that it detects you are running, and then threaten to sue you if you start it again. Same with Lightroom (for those in the back, like our "Savior" poster from earlier, that's one of the programs that we professionals use to translate files from our camera, to our computer.) When you have professional equipment, you don't get to just plug the camera into your laptop and use Nikon EasyPix, or whatever transfer software came in the box with your consumer level point 'n shoot CoolPix.
Do you know the best part about all of that nifty software? That's right! You have to know how to use it! And guess what? Those classes cost money, too! I've been a bona fide Graphic Designer for many, many years. I've spent literal thousands on education relating to these programs. It's a thing of beauty when you can pop a zit on a kid's forehead in post. Want to see smoke coming out of a basketball player's rear end? I can do that, too! Do you know what I CAN'T do? Fulfill your request to teach you Photoshop in an hour and a half. It's taken me 24 years to get to the level of expertise that I have today. You want to learn it all in one afternoon? Probably not going to happen, Sparky.
Aside from the snazzy equipment and the mind-boggling software, there's time. There's time that it takes to drive to locations. There's time that it takes to set up. Time that I could be spending with my kids. Time that I could be using to make money elsewhere. Instead, I'm busy matching colors, popping virtual zits, and cloning out fly-aways because your kid couldn't find time in their busy day to comb their hair. This stuff is severely time consuming. And I will be compensated for my time. I believe it was Heath Ledger as The Joker that said, "If you're good at something, never do it for free."
Did I mention credentials? Licenses? Taxes? Insurance? Any photographer that IS a photographer is underwritten by the Professional Photographers of America. That costs money, too! Any photographer that is a photographer also carries some level of equipment insurance as well. You don't think I can just run down to Mike's Camera and pick up a new Nikon because I spiked mine off of a mountain, do you? Didn't think so. And if I don't carry session insurance, and your little darlin' takes a bad step and rolls down the face of the Pawnee Buttes, guess who gets sued?
The point (yes, there is one) of this entire rant is this...Professional Photographers (and I mean, TRUE business-owning professionals) do not overcharge. If anything, most of us undercharge, or undervalue ourselves and our art to the point that we make literally NO money on some projects. Some of us know our true value. I know exactly what it costs to drive to a location, set up, spend two hours shooting, go back to the office, transfer the files to the computer, cull out the dummy images, do whatever editing and color changes the keepers require, build an album, order products, and present them all to the waiting client. I know the exact monetary value on all of this. It's because I've been doing this for a long time. I've spent too long making pennies for my life's work. I know what it's worth. I know what I'M worth.
But I've also seen the tears of the mother who cracks open for the first time the senior album that I've made for her son who's graduating next spring. I've heard the wavering breaths of the families seeing for the first time their new canvas grouping that will hang in their living room for the next 50 years. I've had bear hugs from the manliest (and hairiest) of men, because I "made Momma happy." I also know how much that is worth. Can a USB drive do that? (Hint: no, it can't.)
So, for those would-be Facebook and Instagram pros, or to anyone else who feels that they are being gouged out of their shorts for professional portraits, I ask you to do this: before passing judgement on someone's pricing, call a real, true professional portrait photographer. Ask them if you can see their process. Ask them if you can shadow them on a shoot. Heck, ask them what their overhead is. Compare it to what they are charging you. Some will tell you, some won't. There's nothing wrong with that. I try to share our process with anyone that will listen. I believe in education, and helping people find their way in the industry, the right way. Call and ask me, I'll go over it all with you. Maybe I'll change your mind!
But please...don't think you can just walk into this industry and "save everyone" from the people who have been doing it for years. Thinking that you can sustain a healthy functioning business in any way, shape, or form making $150 per shoot and giving away everything is simply...crazy. You would have to do 30-40 sessions per week just to keep the lights on, after expenses.
Consider the value that you are getting with a pro...would you rather have an album that you can share with your grand kids? A room full of warm, colorful canvas that you can pass down? Or would you rather have your memories saved on a USB drive to be quarantined to the back of a dusty desk drawer for years, until you plug it in one day, only to discover that the drive has corrupted, and your family pictures with Grandma are every bit as gone as Grandma herself is now? Goodness me, what color WERE Granny's eyes? Food for thought.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go back and find the number for that $600 doctor. It's about time for my 10 o'clock face lift.