Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why Professional Photographers Give Newcomers the "Cold Shoulder"

I recently received an email regarding this topic. I did a little web investigation, and found that there were more than a few sites where people talked about this. One site called them "Momtographers", and basically said working pros should "...give them a break!" Other people said pro photographers were greedy and wanted to overcharge people. And of course, the pros said you grubby part timers--especially the "Mom Arrazi's"--don't know what you are doing and you don't know photographic composition from a musical composition, and should just stick to taking "pitchers" of your kids in stupid costumes, since that seems to be what you are best at.

Wow.

The relationship between part time and full time photographers has always been contentious, even though 97 out of 100 full timers started as a part timer...I know I did. Back in the sixties, full time photographers (FTP) called part time photographers (PTP), "bathtubbers"--this stemmed from most amateurs not having a darkroom, so they processed their film in the bathroom. Today, thanks in large part to the inexpensive Canon Digital Rebel, there is a large influx of female PTP. "Momtographers" as one site called them. I had a business consultant who referred to them as "Digital Debbies." And I could see how FTP could get a little pissed at some of these people.

I was photographing a wedding in Concord, Michigan as the HIRED photographer. A local real estate agent who just happened to be female, was there as a guest. One of my "Trademark" photographs was a floor level shot with a wide angle lens of the back of the bride and her father going down the aisle. This wench walked past me, went halfway up the aisle, and stood in the middle of the aisle ruining my photograph. I took it anyway to show the bride and groom. But it didn't stop there.

After the wedding, the bridal party was sequestered in a small holding area to permit guests to go onto the reception where the bride and groom would meet guests. As the wedding party filed in, she pushed past me, entered the room, closing and LOCKING the door! I got no images there.

At the reception, she showed off her snapshots (she had them printed at the local one hour lab), and in a loud voice said, "Gee, you'd think the PROFESSIONAL photographer would be able to do this, wouldn't you?"

I cornered her and said, "You have a home closing on Monday for a friend of mine. I am going to come to that closing and look over his deal. I think he might have paid too much and I think you are getting paid too much commission. I am going to bring another friend with me who has his real estate license and we are going to look things over. I'm pretty sure I can get him to void the deal."

She replied, "You wouldn't!"

I said, "After this crap you pulled tonight, you watch me. I don't know what your problem is, but I want you to know if you ever do that to me again, I believe in equality for women. If a man had done that to me I would have knocked him out. I gave you a free pass tonight, but next time I will have absolutely NO qualms about punching your lights out!" The next time she was at a wedding I photographed, she put her camera back in her car! No, I probably wouldn't have hit a woman--I think...

The second issue is that of price. I hear a lot of ignorant PTP make statements that pros are overcharging because they are greedy. The average PTP thinks, "If an 8x10 print costs me $1, then I can earn a profit by selling it for $2." No, they can't and that's why an astonishing 97 out of 100 photographers who start out part time and go to full time are not in business two years after going full time.

The FTP does not have the luxury of an income other than photography. S/he must pay their own health insurance, they often have a building and employees, and they have a large amount invested in improvements, equipment, training, insurance, and salaries. In other words, their overhead. The PTP has a main source of income, and does not have these expenses. Their undercutting of price ruins the market for ALL photographers.

Let's say Perry Pro is a FTP. He charges $20 for an 8x10 portrait. It should be $50, but the part timers in the area are cutting the price and it makes it difficult for him. Debbie Digital is a PTP. Her husband works for the local utility company and earns $50,000 a year. Debbie is not feeling fulfilled, so her husband lets her use his Gold AmEx card to buy $10,000 worth of equipment so she can do something the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day she's not busy with him. Debbie is having FUN! She takes pictures of pretty flowers, cute kitties, her kids, her friends, her friends kids, and she gives them the CD or thumb drive, or prints, or whatever. Oh, and her friends just LOVE her work and they LOVE her. One says, "You know, Debbie, your pictures are just as good as Perry Pro's...you should open your own business!"

So Debbie does just that. She finds a space (since hubby said "No Way" to running the business from home) and fixes it up "real cute"--for about $10,000. She gets a girlfriend to come in and help and join in the fun. Debbie charges no session fee, and charges just $8 a "sheet", telling her customers, "I charge less than JC Penneys!" The customers come in. They are not her friends. They tell her the pictures are total crap and they wouldn't pay $2 a sheet for this...sheet! "The customers are mean!" Debbie tells her husband. Debbie also tells her husband that she took in $2,000 in sales this month [YAY!]. The only problem is that rent, utilities, advertising, and cost of sales was $5,000.

Debbie's husband is not happy. Neither are the customers, who thought her photographs sucked. Now they think all professional photographers are like Debbie. They also think that since Debbie wasn't a good photographer, then a good photographer will charge more. Like $10 a sheet. After all, Debbie charged $8. True, she ran the business into the ground and never made a profit, but the customer doesn't know that.

So you can see why FTP might have a little problem with PTP.

Now before I get a ton of email complaints, I am not picking on women. There are more than a few really great female photographers who also run their business well. This is just an illustration. I could have made it Penny Pro and Dan Digital--so don't mail bomb me, please.

Professional Photographers are under extreme pressure today. I think we are having to deal with the same changes in our business model that the music industry is faced with. Copying is rampant, people don't care about copyright--they will freely and unapologetically make illegal copies of CDs and computer software, so they have no problem ripping you off. The problem is, people think, "Hey this is my picture, I paid for it, it's mine, so fck that photographer--s/he's charging too much anyway!"

I feel the future of professional photography--well, consumer photography for income, anyway--will be reduced to a handful of photographic specialists who work full time and command a very high price, and the majority will do consumer photography part time. I see this coming in the very near future.

All right, so we have determined that PTP get under the skin of FTP, because they are seeing their income and market share erode...rapidly. I still think FTP should be a little more altruistic when it comes to PTP. At least those that are not blatant price cutters, and do not put really crappy images on display and try to pass them off as "My images are high studio quality without the high studio price." Yeah, there was a loser right here in my area that advertised this. His pictures were real crap. I wouldn't give him the time of day.

If a PTP came to me and needed a piece of equipment, I normally loaned it. I had one guy who was struggling--he worked two jobs and did photography on the side. He had a baseball league to photograph one day and he forgot his flash unit--and it was 30 minutes back to his home. The local camera store (now closed) didn't have his model. I overheard him and said, what camera do you use? I can loan you something. I thought he was going to cry. He tried to pay me when he brought it back, I said, "Forget it--it didn't cost me anything to loan it to you." Then he did cry. Did it bring me any business down the road? Not that I can point to. But it meant a lot to him. We don't need to be so hard, especially when everyone is having a tough time of it right now.

So, what's the takeaway here? Well here it is as I see it:

  • PTP, try not to be a price cutter and run down FTP;
  • FTP, try to come to a working relationship at least with those PTP that are decent;
  • FTP, sorry, the business model is changing: you may be a PTP before you know it!
Can't we all just get along?

Are you enjoying these posts? If so, please tell your friends. Are you not enjoying them? Then why did you come back? Just kidding, if you think I've missed the mark, or you have a comment, by all means contact me!

Til next time,
Steve Bohne

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ways You can Earn Income from Photography

Happy Mother's Day to all of you Mom Arazzi's and Momtographers out there (and to you non photographer moms, too)! Remember, without moms, there would be no photographers--without dads, there normally would be no family photos, because he's never in them!

There are lots of ways to earn income from your photography. In a bit, I'm going to give you a list of VIABLE ways to earn money with your camera. I say "viable," because there are a bunch of scumbags out there that are ready, willing, and able to scam you out of your money. Most of these people have a website that promises you "Make hundreds--even thousands--of dollars with your camera!" Now, they want to sell you their eBook or a subscription to their email blast, and there is nothing wrong with that...IF the information has any value, and as long as it isn't ridiculously overpriced!

I am offering Kindle publications. They range in price for $1.99 to $9.99. They provide actual information that is useable.


On the flip side, the vast majority of these scams below ask $39, $69, $99, even $199 for the information--which is pretty much worthless. It is not uncommon for these to be a come-on, a scam, a rip off--plain and simple. Here are a couple of examples (all predicated on the purchase of an eBook, CD or PDF, of course):

A common ploy is to advertise that you will earn $1000 a day/week/month (year is probably more like it) photographing people at a fancy restaurant--the idea being everyone will be dressed to the nines, and they would love to have their portrait taken.

I'd like to see the actual sales receipts.

First of all, very few are going to do this at a restaurant unless it is a special event or holiday: New Years, Easter, Mother's Day, Christmas, etc. I have done this personally at our local country club where I was a member. And while I did all right, I sure as hell didn't earn $1000 every time I did it. Some holidays were better than others, and people will not participate each and every time. So while the BASIC premise is sound, the promised results are exaggerated.

Another one is to be a "field rep" for a company to take photographs of homes and businesses, etc. You get paid $XX for every picture you take. This is right up there with getting paid to stuff envelopes or be a "secret shopper."

Yet another one has been running for nearly 50 years: a photography company specializing in reunion photography calls local photographers and tells them they will pay them $500 to photograph a local reunion. After you send the film or digital card, they will pay you the $500, plus give you $50 for each digital card you send them. You will never, ever see any money. I cannot give you the name of this company, because they are CONSTANTLY CHANGING IT! As people get burned, they MUST change the name to hook new suckers.

An old one that has just about disappeared offers "Get paid $268 for every roll of film you shoot!" They have you take pictures for Child ID forms to protect these children in case they are snatched. They never sell any of these forms--they make all their dough off from you. When I was in HIGH SCHOOL this scam was being run, and a had a couple of friends who pooled $49.95 (back then--I think it's up to $69.95 now).

"But Steve--they give me a 100% money back guarantee if I am dissatisfied for any reason!"

Oh, sure they do: it's 100% all right, 100% worthless. Take a look at this most excellent post by Lesley Fountain explaining The Anatomy of a Worthless Guarantee on her website. It's priceless! Her website has good information, too.

Don't feel bad if you've been scammed--it happens to more people than you realize, because most of them feel too foolish to tell you they got the shaft. When I was young, I paid money for press credentials that promised me that I would be, "...permitted access to any sporting or entertainment venue for free." They were worthless.

Or then there was the stock photo scam that got me big time. You paid $100 per form--one form per category--filled out the form, sent your images, and you would be making $100 to $1000 for every photograph sold. End result: I paid out $500 (that I couldn't really afford back in 1978), never received a dime, and never got my images back. OUCH! A 55 gallon drum of KY lube should have come with those forms...

But take heart, young gunner! There are actually ways you can earn a real income from photography. The list below is not complete, there are certainly more. I have actually earned income from many of the activities listed. Take a look!


OVER 100* WAYS YOU CAN ACTUALLY EARN INCOME FROM PHOTOGRAPHY

TYPE
DIFFICULTY
EQUIPMENT
Sports Teams
**
*
Graduations
***
*
PR Events
*
*
Parties
*
*
Banquets
**
**
Reunions
***
***
New Years Events
**
**
Fashion Shows
**
*
Theatre Groups
*
**
Nursing Graduates
**
***
Model Composites
**
**
Church Wall or Directory
*
**
Golf Tournaments
*
*
Country Clubs
*
*
Magazines
*
*
Restaurants
**
**
Car Dealers
*
*
Book Covers
*
*
Model Contests
**
**
Hobbyists
**
**
School/Group Composites
**
**
Motorcycle Clubs
*
*
Period Costume Portraits
*
***
Legal Photography
**
*
Santa Photos
*
**
Easter Bunny Photos
**
**
Auction Flyers
*
**
Construction Progress
*
**
Tourist Photography
*
*
Ebay
*
***
Corporate
**
***
Hospitals
**
***
Physician’s Directory
**
**
Bar Association
**
**
Presentations
**
*
Advertising
**
***
Elemtary Schools
*****
*****
Halloween Pictures
*
*
Nursery Schools
****
***
Dance Schools
**
*****
School Dances
**
****
Headshots
**
**
HS Seniors
***
*****
HS Proms
**
***
HS Yearbooks
*
*
Candid Sports Photos
**
*
School Service
*
*
Group Service
*
*
News Stringer
**
*
Bar/Bat Mitzvahs
**
**
Family Portraits
*****
****
Child Portraits
*****
***
1st Communions
**
*
Hospital Newborns
***
**
Weddings
*****
**
Products
****
*****
Ann. Reports
*****
*****
Fashion
*****
*****
Political Photography
*
*
Architectural
*****
*****
Travel
***
****
Parades
*
*
Fairs
*
*
Races
****
****
Animals
*****
***
Photo Book
*
*
Car/Yacht Clubs
**
**
Illustrative
*
*
Dog Shows
***
***
Stock Photography
*
*
Room D├ęcor
*
*
Greeting Cards
*
**
Post Cards
*
*
Posters
*
*
4-H
*
*
Real Estate
*
*
Nursing Home
***
**
Groups & Organizations
**
**
Calendars
*
*
Trade Publications
*
*
Fundraisers
*
*
Insurance
*
*
Home Inventory
*
*
Home Portraits
*
*
Home Before/After
*
*
Garden Photos
*
*
Brochures
*
*
Photo Novelties
*
*
Custom Screen Savers
*
*
Photoshop Services
****
****
Retouching
***
***
Teach a class
*
*
ID Cards
*
*
The Categories Below are VERY LOW VOLUME Today
Passports/ID
*
*
Copy/Restoration
*
**
*The total listed is less than 100, but several of these categories have multiple ways to earn money.
"But Steve, how do I actually make make an income from these topics?" Well, some are self explanatory. I obviously cannot give you all the details in a blog post. That would be one BIG post. But I do have a Kindle book that is about to be released. In this book, I give you details on what it takes to do these, from start to finish. If you would like to be notified when this book is ready, send me an email and in the subject line please put PHOTOGRAPHY INCOME LIST.

That's all for now. Check back next week for further words of wisdom that you just cannot live without! Until then, may all your exposures be on the money.
--Steve Bohne