A thought on giving away your work...

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by Seppi, Jan 2, 2010.

  1. Seppi

    Seppi TPF Noob!

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    I'd like to talk about something really important I believe is true about CDs from photographers.
    There are many, many new hobby level photographers out there right now (some incredible, some...not so much) due to the easily accessible nature of cheap digital cameras that are capable of creating passible images on auto settings. They don't have the experience of a professional artist who has dedicated their life to their craft. Nor the business functionality to maintain client relationships through the years. A CD is the amateurs way of shooting and getting rid of the images quickly so they don't have to deal with the client more than they have to. Shooting is the "fun part" & all that most are really interested in doing.
    I have been a photographer for more than 20 years, and only consider my self a professional for the past 10. It took time, effort, education and dedication before I felt I had earned the right to be called a professional.

    There are some great new talents out there who will make waves and contribute to our art in an impactive and positive way for years to come and I don't mean to discourage them, just educate.
    Your clients and subjects will value your work as much as you do. Shooting for free, explaining you are practicing & honing your technique is far more honest & respectable than trying to completely undercut other photographers. The only thing undercutting truly accomplishes is to heavily damage the industry and community of imaging professionals you, yourself, are trying to be a part of. If you feel you don't have the experience to charge a higher session fee or wedding fee, thats fine as long as your client knows why your charging them less to take their pictures. If they like your images enough to purchase them and hang them in their homes then they should pay a reasonable fee for their prints. And if they love all of them so much they just have to have a CD, charge appropriately, its your work they love, don't make it the price they love. They will value you as much as you value yourself.

    How much would you expect to pay if you went to a gallery and purchased a painting for your wall, even from a new artist?
    Thats your photography, thats the respect it deserves from you, the artist.

    The other effect the CD attitude creates is the expectation that every photographer gives away their work with the price of a sitting fee and clients begin to expect it. So as you grow in your photography business your client base is made up of people who expect you to be cheap and give away your images on disc every time. Even after you decide you're worth more and up your prices, even a little, your previous clients will ask for a discount. They have set your value where you set it in the first place and it won't change for them. So if you really want to make a living on your photography, every time you up your prices (if you started cheap) you will have to practically start over trying to get new clients who can afford you, making a career in photography a constant up hill struggle.

    A solution? Market research, find out what photographers in your area are doing for their clients. You may not be capable of offering the same services as a well established studio, but you need to recognize how you impact the industry and act respectfully in support of the art you have chosen to be a part of. Not offering the same services as other photographers places you in a special position to compete in a creative way rather than just price, you can offer your unique and valuable viewpoint to the world, and git it the value it deserves. No one else can do what you do.

    Be unique, not cheap.
     
  2. chip

    chip TPF Noob!

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    I am an amateur photographer. I am not taking pictures for money. Most of what I do is self taught. I have taken photography classes in high school and college. I just like taking pictures as it is fun to me. I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and have been a member of my local church for that past 20+ years. Over the years I have been asked by friends at church to shoot their wedding many times. They are people who could not afford to hire a professional photographer. They have seen my work and figured it is good enough for them since I am free. Each time I do a wedding I create a photo album for the couple with all the pictures that I took which I deemed good. Usually I take 1000 shots and around 300 are worth printing. I always provide the couple the negatives and now all the pictures on CD/DVD. This way they can choose whichever shots they wish to reprint or enlarge for themselves and their family and friends. Even though I am an amateur photographer, photography has been my hobby for a long time and I take my work very seriously. I realize that taking pictures at a wedding is something not to be taken lightly. In a day and age when over half of the marriages end up in divorce I view wedding photography as a ministry. I want to document the wedding in a way that tells a story. I want the pictures to remind the couple of their commitment before the Lord, their family and friends, and to each other. I want the pictures to rekindle their love for one another and their vow to be married as husband and wife..."until death do us apart". We all are imperfect human beings. Husbands and wives will fight and arguments will arise. There will be times when they hate to see each other or be very angry at their spouses. (I ought to know as my wife and I have fought over the most trivial things) It is times like these that looking at their wedding album could somehow help people of their commitments. People have told me over the years what their wedding pictures meant to them and how they have reminded them of their love for each other. When looking at it this way, the joy I receive to provide wedding photo shoot for a couple is absolutely priceless.
     
  3. r9jackson

    r9jackson TPF Noob!

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    I think when you first start out you have to give some shots away. I took about 125 shots of kids coming to my door at Halloween last year and posted them on my SmugMug site and let the parents know that they could download the shots for free. I think only about 25 took me up on the deal and I got some good publicity in the local blogs and the local press.

    However, I do always keep my standard prices with plenty of margin and then use coupons or other discounts off the top.
     
  4. Heretotherephoto

    Heretotherephoto TPF Noob!

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    This is something that goes around in my industry too. People are willing to take flying jobs for much less money because they already have enough and that means my salary will inevitably fall. It is a big problem if you can't afford to work for little or nothing. Like me.

    However as another poster put, there are times when I will do shoots for free or for very little money. One of the few is a wedding for a couple I know usually through church, where they are not going to be able to afford a pro. I tell them very clearly that I am NOT a professional and that I am still learning about event photography. I stress this so as not to misrepresent myself. I also refer them to some pros to consult with just to make sure they look at the options. If they decide to go with me its great for my practice. If they decide to come up with the money that's great because they get great quality photos. A couple weeks ago I was approached by a couple who were originally going to buy a 300-500 dollar camera and give it to one of their friends to shoot their wedding. I showed them some of our work and also referred them to a couple pros in the area. I have not heard from them since. Hopefully they came to a good arrangement with the pros.

    For my landscape work I don't do freebies. This is something I have worked on for a long time and been somewhat succesful in making sales at this type of photography. I would not want to undercut myself and the effort I have gone to.
     
  5. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    A very wise businessman once told me:

    "I have enough to do running my own business.

    So, I waste neither time nor effort trying to run someone else's."
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2010
  6. SpeedTrap

    SpeedTrap TPF Noob!

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    Agreed!!
     

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