Monday, August 26, 2013

#6 & #7: Ten Things You Should NEVER Say to a Photographer...

NUMBER SIX: "You charge HOW MUCH? Just to push a button?"


Don't you just love being a professional photographer? It's great isn't it? Now I have to admit with number six, it is getting to be harder to defend. When I was a film photographer - using RZ-67 and Hasselblad cameras - there was a lot more than just pushing a button. I had to focus, determine exposure, etc.

Today, the general populace uses the same equipment we do in many cases, and in their eyes it IS just pushing a button. The camera does pretty much take care of the rest. Having said that, there is still the matter of composition and posing, not to mention the post production work.

When a customer says this to me, I always reply, "I wish that was all there was to it. But there is a lot of work that takes place AFTER I have made the initial image. And I do have a substantial investment in education, equipment, etc. So I do try to make a profit as a matter of customer service. You see, if I cannot stay in business, I won't be here the next time you need or want a great photograph taken. That's important, wouldn't you agree?"

That pretty much takes care of the matter.

Number seven is very easy to answer. Whenever someone says that to me, I take the 8x10 and place it on the table so only the white back of the photograph is showing. I then say, "That is a $50 piece of paper." I then flip it over to show the image of their family, baby, senior, bride, etc. and say, "It's the image on THIS side that makes it worth $50. I think your family (baby, senior, bride) is worth at LEAST fifty dollars... [PAUSE] don't you?" I then I don't say another word.

I once had a guy come in and tell me, "$50 for an 8x10 is outrageous. I do some photography, and I know what an 8x10 costs!"

I didn't issue any rebuttal at that moment. I said, "I understand how you feel. What do you do?"

He said, "I have a trenching business. We do trenching so you can lay pipe, cable, etc."

I asked, "I need a 10' trench at my house. I want to run power from my home electrical box to my new garage. How much will that cost me?" He replied that it would be about $125. My reply was, "You charge $125 to dig a hole!? It doesn't even cost you anything! Talk about outrageous."

He was hot right now. "You don't know my expenses. I have equipment, wages, insurance, overhead!"

My simple reply was, "And I don't?" And that was all I said. His wife said, "I'll take it from here."

I continued to be his family's photographer for many years...but he was still always a cheap so-and-so, even though he lived in a huge home and always drove a Hummer or Escalade. Ain't it always the way?

Again, never argue with a customer. Just lay out your case, be quiet, and smile. It's the best way if you are doing Photography for Income. Til Next Time!

Monday, August 19, 2013

#5 - Ten Things You Should NEVER Say to a Photographer...

"Hey, could you do this photograph for our event/fundraiser/brochure/etc. for free? It would be excellent advertising for you...word of mouth advertising is the best, you know!"

If you are brand new (or fairly new) to doing Photography for Income, be on the look out for this one. Many people and/or companies actively look for new photographers for jobs. They then play to the newbee's lack of experience: "Hey, you need to get the word out...this will be great for your business!"

And the new photographer thinks, "Yeah, maybe he's right!" and does the job free. Big mistake. There are three basic problems with this move:

Number one, often you will not get the photo credit--too late to do anything about it.

Number two, very few people pay attention to who provided what in the program. They don't take them home and use them as a resource guide.

Number Three, think about this: most JayCee events are sausage fests. By that I mean it's all men. Who is the number one buyer of portraits and wedding photography? It sure as hell isn't a member of the JayCees. His wife is a different matter. So if the request is by the Opera Society, and you want to do a little networking with that crowd, it might be worth it.

You cannot eat photo credits. It is OK to do a job for a cause you believe in. But if the greater Slobsville JayCees come to you and pitch you on the fact they will list you in their program and give you a photo credit, I'd tell them "Thanks but no thanks" UNLESS you really feel this job would give you valuable experience that you do not already have.

If someone asks you to donate a portrait for a fundraiser, do so ONLY if the following is agreed to by the group:

1) You are the ONLY photographer in the auction;
2) A member of the group reads a short bio that you have written, then tells the crowd what the item is that is being auctioned and the value, and then introduces you; and
3) YOU do the auctioning of the portrait.

You want VISIBILTY! You want people to know who YOU are. You do not have to be a great auctioneer. This isn't a farm auction, it is a charity auction. Two other things:

1) Don't auction an 8x10, you cheap bastard! I see this all the time and it makes my teeth grind. Give a 20x24 on canvas. They'll buy the gift sizes--be smart about it for Bozo's sake!

2) Dress up! For the love of Mike, don't go in t-shirt and jeans. Wear a suit. If the affair is black tie, rent a tux. Women: this event is perfect for that little black dress that's hanging in the closet that you always complain you never get to wear.

Sometimes you see women wearing a man's tux to an event. Here's a tip: don't! 8 out of 10 women end up looking like a dyke, and I've heard men AND women in the audience make comments to same.  Sorry, it's the truth. Understand, I'm not slamming homosexuals in any way, shape or form. If this is for a fundraiser for gay and lesbian rights, go for it. Otherwise forget it, unless you look like - and are built like - Carmen Electra, Megan Fox or Halle Berry.

I think three fourths of the population thinks photographers and artists are "funny" to begin with, and there's no reason to add to their perception. I would never suggest that a person hide their true self. If you can't be true to yourself, how can you be true to your customers or your craft?

If you are gay, then you have to pay special attention to your appearance. It may not be fair, but it is a fact of doing business in mainstream America today. This means no wallets in the back pocket of bib overalls for women and men, feather boas. Keep the swishy look for your Friday nights at The Manhole, okay?

Bottom line: you can dress anyway you want to in your long as you are willing to accept the consequences.

To recap: Make it a rule to make donations ONLY if it lets you increase your visibility in a physical way (such as being in attendance at the event). After all, this is Photography for Income. Til next time!

Monday, August 12, 2013

#4 of Ten Things You Should NEVER Say to a Photographer...


"Is this all you do? You don't have a real job?"

This will ordinarily been said to you by either:
A) a relative, or
B) some schlub that makes half the money you make

I had a guy tending bar at a wedding ask me what I did during the week. I told him the truth: "I take pictures."

"No sh*t! Really? Well you probably don't make much money playing around with a camera."

Okay, I took it for as long as I could, and figured this douchebag was not going to be a customer of mine. I asked him, "Hey, what are you driving?" He was driving a 10 year old beater.

"Well. I drive a Cadillac Seville. A new one. Not leased. How much do you make a year?"

He replied, "I have my regular job, then I tend bar at parties like this nights and weekends. I make thirty grand a year buddy!"

I told him, "Wow, that's pretty good. I made that much, too...IN AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER! So to answer your question, yeah, I make that much money playing around with a camera...dumb ass!"

When the dude told me, "You're full of horsesh*t," the guy helping him tend bar - who was actually a customer of mine - told him, "Hey, this guy is the best in town. He has three studios. He makes more money by mistake than you make on purpose, so I'd shut my mouth if I were you."

The guy kept shooting off his mouth, making comments that I was "stealing my pay," and the like. Remember Steve's number one rule of life: "There are far more horses' asses than there are horses!"

Now if you are not making a ton of money as a photographer, that's okay. There are different levels of everything. I made good money for me, but I didn't get close to what guys like Gary Jentoft or the late Monte Zucker made. So it's all relative.

That being said, don't ever apologize for earning money from your photography. You have a skill, you should get paid for it. After all, it is Photography for Income! Til next time!

Monday, August 5, 2013

#3 of Ten Things You Should NEVER Say to a Photographer...

Wow, it's August already...didn't the kids just get out of school last week? Well, it seems like it anyway. Here's hoping all of you high school senior shooters have had a great season -- and with the economy coming back, great orders as well. After all, it's all about Photography for Income!


"Wow, your work has really've gotten a LOT better since the last time I saw your photographs!"

Now ordinarily, this is not an affront if it is said IN PRIVATE by one pro to another, or one amateur to another, or from a pro to an amateur or semi-pro. However...

This was said to me by an AMATEUR photographer as he stood in the reception room of my department store studio...AND THERE WERE CUSTOMERS THERE! This sawed off little snit shall remain nameless (but his initials are R*my R*squill*).

What did I say? I croaked out a, "Gee, thank you very much!" while my wife held me by the arms to keep from choking him to death on the spot. Hey, it gets better...

While he was there he overheard me talking to a part time photographer who had stopped doing weddings and was selling a Hasselblad camera. This fine Filipino "friend" promptly left my studio and called the photographer, offering him $100 more than the price we had settled on.

I'm long over it now, but for a period of several days, I plotted his grisly murder. Just kidding [kind of].

This is not limited to photographers. I had a woman who wanted my retouching business. She came into the same studio, stood in the same reception room (no, not on the same day) and criticised the retouching on one of my portrait samples...IN FRONT OF CUSTOMERS! This work was done by an artist who was in high demand and had won many awards for her competition entries. To make matters worse, this retoucher was distantly related to me! At least she did apologize and I gave her some work for a few years.

A word to all of you clueless wannabees out there: if you are not a professional photographer, you really have no place critiquing one ESPECIALLY IN PUBLIC! If you DO feel the urge, have the person standing next to you reach over and squeeze your ballsack as hard as they can as a reminder to keep your comments to yourself.

In most cases it is like a Kindergarten teacher critiquing a university professor.

I know it's hot but keep your cool, dear shooters. Remember, it's Photography for Income! See ya real soon! Why? BECAUSE WE LIKE YA! Check back in a week or so for #4.