Author Topic: Photography a "Shrinking path"...  (Read 1082 times)

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Offline Joe Federer

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Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« on: October 09, 2014, 02:15:41 PM »
Not often a place as respected and widly read as the New York Times does a story on our market woes....


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/business/media/30photogs.html?pagewanted=all&_r=3&




The whole thing boils down to the typical amatuer-with-a-camera-looking-for-some-fun-money vs professional photographer argument:
Quote
“Can an amateur take a picture as good as a professional? Sure,” Ms. Eismann said. “Can they do it on demand? Can they do it again? Can they do it over and over? Can they do it when a scene isn’t that interesting?”But amateurs like Ms. Pruitt do not particularly care.
“I never followed any traditional photography rules only because I didn’t know of any — I never went to photography school, never took any classes,” she said. “People don’t know the rules, so they just shoot what they like — and other people like it, too.”

Offline Rick Ruff

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Re: Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2014, 08:57:40 PM »
This is definitely what I see happening to the professional photography business.  While our long term contracts continue to maintain and slightly grow in revenue (dance schools, government, military, private schools), in studio portraiture continues to decline.

That being said I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to have two portrait sessions place their order.  Both sessions were of families of 18.  My manager shot one on location by a waterfall and they ordered $1800.00.  The other was a special family get together that requested special time (on a Sunday) and I shot it in a two hour session in the studio and did every imaginable combination of groupings.  They ordered $4800.00.  But these sessions are few and far between.  Our high school senior business is way down and where we used to get $1200.00 orders we now see more $495.00 orders.

There is a clientele that would never consider having a portrait made by anyone other than an established studio.  That is the clientele we most want but I see that market dwindling. 

A huge problem is declining in house business but a huge advantage for us is most studios have closed down in our area and we are the only one left in our county.  There are hundreds if not thousands of people working out of their houses but they do not provide the service a fully staffed studio can give.  I had a call last week from a man who had booked a photographer for a special occasion and they backed out one day before the event.  Unfortunately we could not cover his event because of other bookings.  He said to me, well, it's my fault for not booking you to begin with and booked us for his event for 2015.

I continue to believe professional photography businesses can survive and prosper but it is more difficult than ever in my 52 years in the business.   
RickRuff

Offline Donna Underwood

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Re: Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2014, 04:53:10 AM »
I had a call last week from a man who had booked a photographer for a special occasion and they backed out one day before the event.

THIS is what happens often with amateurs. They have no clue just how important a booking is and don't think twice about cancelling close to date because little Johnnie decided he wanted to go to the zoo.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2014, 09:27:11 AM by Donna Underwood »

Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2014, 07:34:31 AM »
  Our high school senior business is way down and where we used to get $1200.00 orders we now see more $495.00 orders.

A huge problem is declining in house business but a huge advantage for us is most studios have closed down in our area and we are the only one left in our county.  There are hundreds if not thousands of people working out of their houses but they do not provide the service a fully staffed studio can give.

I'm having my best year ever.

I have a home-based studio with indoor and outdoor areas.

From what my clients tell me, I'm giving them BETTER service than the larger fully staffed high volume factories around here are.  Because I'm low volume, I can afford to spend the time to really work with each customer and tailor the session to their needs.

I don't really advertise.  It's all WOM.


Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2014, 09:17:02 AM »
This will sound like tooting my own horn, for which I apologize, but I offer it as support for Rick's position: Professionals must provide excellent service.  More than ever, it's the "service" that tips the scales in our favor.  I received a call Monday from a medical firm requesting a meeting Tuesday, where I learned that the client had to shoot Thursday (yesterday) or miss a deadline.  I rearranged some stuff that was in-house, hired an assistant and sent out a model call.  It was very short notice for both but our own Sam L came through to assist, and by Wednesday a young lady was found to be the patient.  I sent the contract PDF over via email with everything outlined, including payments to myself and the model and work flow expectations and timing.  They'd have to shut down portions of their operation for periods of time so we could photograph, and wanted to avoid their own clients being inconvenienced. 

When Sam and I arrived, he got everything in, while I took a printed copy of the contract to the owner, confirmed times in certain rooms, got his signature, received payment and went to work.  It was at this point he complimented us, saying in essence "It's so good to work with professionals.  You pulled everything together on short notice and have all your documentation and staff  organized and ready to go." 

Point is, we hadn't taken a photo yet.  What we had done was to perform competently the full service aspect of business to business sales.  As Donna remarked, this is what we have to do, unlike the person who changes their mind about an assignment they've taken when something else comes up that is more enticing.  To be a true professional, our reliability and service matter, every bit as much as the image quality.

In counter point to that, take Sears.  Analysts expect that once hugely successful firm to cease to exist soon, having lost 25% of value or something like that.  Although most of what I bought there in the tools and hardware line was exceptional value and quality (still using some 40 year old Sears hardware) I personally stopped shopping there around 20 years ago.  Why?  Because their service before and after the sale began to suck, miserably.  Before I stopped shopping there, I used to joke that Sears sales people would run and hide, the moment a customer entered their area.

We have to provide a level of courteous, happy to help service that consistently exceeds client expectations if we are to survive in this market.  That, and great images.  The right clients will pay for these things, as Rick's post above so aptly demonstrates.

Offline PR-IMAGES

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Re: Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2014, 02:20:07 PM »
I'm not aware of any knows publications using mom/pop shots in their ongoing event coverage.   Although any  news worthy event/capture that hasn't been shot by an accredited photog will always be appreciated by any news group, and always has been.

When was the last time you saw Uncle Bob in the end zone of a sporting event or at a political news conference?

If I shot dogs and babies I would be thinking of a career change.

Offline Joe Federer

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Re: Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2014, 12:36:22 PM »
PR- that's actually a really good point.  The more "family-friendly", "fun", and "accessible" photography genres are really under attack... but the stuff with a higher bar to entry - commercial, sports etc. probably considerably safer.

Offline Nanette Reid

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Re: Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2014, 10:28:45 PM »
I've been told similar - "It's great to work with such a professional team!"

Jeff, you're correct: " To be a true professional, our reliability and service matter, every bit as much as the image quality." Being professional extends to everything you do for the client, not just the image creation.

When I was assisting, one of the photographers I worked with told me: "We're not only photographers, we're 'problem solvers'!" And shooting for hotels, that was never more true.

The number of times we asked maintenance remove bathroom doors off their hinges, have housekeeping iron duvets, sheets and bed-skirts and get windows cleaned on a 40+ floor was crazy, but in the end, the shot was more than they had ever imagined it could be.

We solved problems they had mentioned (can't see enough of the bathroom), those they didn't think could be corrected (badly creased bed linen) and those that hadn't even crossed their mind (dirty windows making the wonderful skyline view at dusk, look awful).

Being prepared, having an "on the ball team" and being able to work with the client to achieve the very best result possible, makes a "professional" stand out from the "average".

Yes the final images are most definitely what counts, but how you achieve them and work with the client has a huge impact as well.

Offline Sihem

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Re: Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2014, 04:16:05 AM »
This is definitely what I see happening to the professional photography business.  While our long term contracts continue to maintain and slightly grow in revenue (dance schools, government, military, private schools), in studio portraiture continues to decline.

That being said I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to have two portrait sessions place their order.  Both sessions were of families of 18.  My manager shot one on location by a waterfall and they ordered $1800.00.  The other was a special family get together that requested special time (on a Sunday) and I shot it in a two hour session in the studio and did every imaginable combination of groupings.  They ordered $4800.00.  But these sessions are few and far between.  Our high school senior business is way down and where we used to get $1200.00 orders we now see more $495.00 orders.

There is a clientele that would never consider having a portrait made by anyone other than an established studio.  That is the clientele we most want but I see that market dwindling. 

A huge problem is declining in house business but a huge advantage for us is most studios have closed down in our area and we are the only one left in our county.  There are hundreds if not thousands of people working out of their houses but they do not provide the service a fully staffed studio can give.  I had a call last week from a man who had booked a photographer for a special occasion and they backed out one day before the event.  Unfortunately we could not cover his event because of other bookings.  He said to me, well, it's my fault for not booking you to begin with and booked us for his event for 2015.

I continue to believe professional photography businesses can survive and prosper but it is more difficult than ever in my 52 years in the business.   

Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2017, 10:42:50 AM »
WOW! IS THIS ARTICLE EVEN MORE PERTINENT TODAY?

Yes, it is.

“I never followed any traditional photography rules only because I didn’t know of any — I never went to photography school, never took any classes,” she said. “People don’t know the rules, so they just shoot what they like — and other people like it, too.”

Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: Photography a "Shrinking path"...
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2017, 10:35:51 AM »
Sadly, more true than just 3 years ago.