Devaluing Photography

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by mlrproducts, Jul 14, 2006.

  1. mlrproducts macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    #1
    Recent threads have brought this up, and it seems to be a growing trend.

    With the introduction of "prosumer" digital cameras and the DSLR, more and more folks are taking photos. Of course, by their nature the higher end cameras generally help to produce better photos without assistance from the photographer. In my opinion, this has led to the advent of "Uncle Photographer." You know - the guy at all the family reunions snapping away so much that you never even see the face behind the camera.

    Been to a wedding lately? How many people did you see snapping away with the Digital Rebels and D50s? I feel like I'm in the middle of a war. While I am not a wedding photographer, I know many that keep having Uncle Photographer get in their way when shooting a wedding. Often Uncle Photographer is pushing people out of the way to fire the shutter as much as possible. After all, if he takes 2000+ photos, some will be good, right?

    It is a touchy subject for everyone. Professionals feel the bottom dropping out of the market, and newcomers delight at the joy of being able to make a quick buck with their fancy new camera. Granted, there is always going to be a portion out there that are the new pro photogs, who have the talent, and they've got to start somewhere.

    I've found personally something interesting in my photographic journey. When I first began getting paid for shoots, I loved it, and got a big head about it. But after a while, I just got frustrated. At one point, I realized that while my pictures were "good," they weren't technically superior and they weren't the best that they should be. I found myself going from cocky to frustrated. Since that time I've cooled down on anything paid, and have focused on developing my skill. The way I see it - if I want to charge a premium price, I have to have a vastly superior premium product.

    From my point of view, I've been the noob and yet I now understand the POV of the pros - after all, equipment (and by that I mean more than just the camera and CF card), cost money. I'm not even sure where I stand when it all comes down to it.

    What are your opinions?

    Below is an article by Patrick Rice on this very subject. A good read:
    http://www.imaginginfo.com/publication/article.jsp?pubId=3&id=1757
     
  2. Mike Teezie macrumors 68020

    Mike Teezie

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2002
    #2
    I am just starting out myself, having only been in the biz for about nine months. My goal is to open a studio, have full time assistants - the whole nine yards. I've invested pretty heavily into the plan with equipment, training, a professionally designed website, and most of all, time and energy. Since I am just starting out, I'm not comfortable with calling myself a pro even though my job is technically photography. I feel that it would do a disservice to the big pros who've been at it for years. I admire them, for being able to make money in the business that I plan to be in. I'm sort of looking for a mentor to guide me teach me things of a non technical or art nature.

    It's interesting/concerning to me, wondering where I'll be in two years. People are definitely much more hip to photography now. The idea of, as you said, making a quick buck - is definitely appealing, and I wonder if people today really care to try and notice a difference in the amateur's work versus the professional's. For my sake, I hope they do. For me, the hardest part of getting my biz off the ground has been setting my pricing structures. Don't want to undercut the pros around here, and I don't want to charge a premium that the market won't bear for someone who is so new.

    So I guess my answer is: I don't know. I hope not.

    I wouldn't know, but was it sufficient a few years ago to just have a big, expensive looking camera setup? I wish it was still that way! :D
     
  3. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

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    #3
    Good point. I think is part of the "Wal-Martization" of most "simple" needs of society. The more cameras out there, the greater the chance of some great images.

    Ran in to a buddy of mine that is a fine photographer that now works as PJ for a local paper. We compared images shot during Rolling Thunder. He felt that I came away with better captures of the moment. But he and I agreed that he had to cover much more than just Rolling Thunder, but also the Memorial Day events that Sunday. As well as I was working on my own time, and he was looking at the hours on the "pay meter" click by.
     
  4. TheAnswer macrumors 68030

    TheAnswer

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    #4
    The wedding scenario is the one that really irks me. You'd really hope that as the photographer that these people are paying for, you'd have the ability to ask a client to ask that any amateur photography not take place during the ceremony. Or at least a request that all the amateurs disable their flash. I think if most "Uncle Photographers" knew that they might be ruining a $3000-$10000 wedding photography set with their hobby, they would chill out.

    The best thing for a pro to do may be to give a non-talented friend a camera and take pictures of comprable subjects, then you can show clients the superiority of your product.
     
  5. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

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    #5
    I hate doing weddings. So I tend to do the ones that never would be photographed.
     
  6. law guy macrumors 6502a

    law guy

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    Location:
    Western Massachusetts
    #6
    I'm not sure I've seen a great increase in photographers with good cameras - a few years ago, you could get a good Nikon or Canon film body for a few hundred dollars and the same lenses (more or less) as today. Of course, there was the cost of film and processing were additional, but with digital I find that you just pay a lot more of the costs up front. With DSLRs you're over $600 most of the time and for something like a 30D you're at $1300 and a D70s you're at around $1000. For that kind of money in the film world you could have had a frickin F100! The equivilent film feature camera to today's D70s / 30D- say a n80 was what $400? I'm not sure that photography was that much more expensive though - you could keep that K1000 or N90s for years and years - never really became obsolete. Talk about "uncle photographers" - I do have an uncle that loves to take the family pictures - he has the same 35 mm he bought in the early 80s (metal tank of a thing) and the same zoom lens and it's still going strong in 2006 - 20 plus years on it. And you weren't buying $3000 power macs and $600 software (sure, if you did by a macIIfx in the early 90s you were paying $10 grand for it - adjusted for 3% inflation that's a $14,800 computer in 2006 dollars, but folks weren't buying those for photography at the popular level). The continuing costs depended on how much film you went though for the most part. "Pros" were shooting on assignment and had places to ship film back to. There are stories of the how you'd ship 1000 rolls back to National Geographic and have their labs develop it and the photo editors cull through with the photographers on the light table. Certainly the average Joe didn't have a place to ship 1000 rolls to for free processing.

    What I think has changed is how shots are taken - with all of those costs up front instead of on the back side of processing and printing - is the massive number of shots you can now take and what you can easily do after the fact. I don't know if its good or bad - I love to be able to shoot hundreds of shots rather than knowing that my 10 rolls of film were going to cost me over $100 to process. I like being able to change exposure after the fact.

    So to recap - five years ago, cheaper cost of entry for a good camera. I think there were pleanty of rebel film cameras, Pentax K1000s, Canons and then of course the sure shots in the 90s (makes me think of 110 film and the Kodak disc in the 80s... what was that about?) and folks excited about the APS cameras too (yes, I had an APS ELPH) at weddings (I was there with my Nikon and a few). But you probably had folks buy a three pack of 36 roll 400 speed for a wedding and many would probably just shoot a roll. Others of us who did shoot more were buying in bulk from B&H and negotiating per-print prices for 20 rolls, but that type of shooting was expensive. Now the camera is glued to some folks' face and people shoot the things like they're semi-automatic weapons at the firing range.
     
  7. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

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    #7
    I will say that I have had more of my fair share of photographers wanting to do weddings and the such - only wanting the likes of the D2X(s) or perhaps the D200. Just so they might "look" professional.

    Never mind that a photographer using a Kodak 104 might beat a photographer using an Aptus 75!
     
  8. seenew macrumors 68000

    seenew

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    #8
    In my opinion, the advent of quality digital cameras becoming more readily available to "average" consumers is a good thing. I can understand your concerns stated above, but I feel that there's much more pros to the situation than cons. First off, when has competition been bad? Competition forces increase in quality.
    Yes, photos taken by even the most talentless moron with a low-end SLR will look pretty good to the common eye, thanks to auto focus and auto exposure settings, that's where the quality ends.
    Composition is still the largest aspect of successful photography, and it takes either a trained or talented eye to spot those perfect setups. Average Joe will just point and shoot. The pro/enthusiast will frame the shot, and probably take several slightly varied versions as well. He/she will come out better than Joe.
    Post-work is also a big deal. I know it's controversial how much or how little it's acceptable to edit your photos in Photoshop, but color correction, toning, contrast increases, specialized coloring, those are all proccesses the average guy is not going to be able to do, much less care about it. It's like making sure your product is the cleanest, shiniest it can be before you put it up for sale/show. Joe is just going to show his to some friends and be done with it.

    Another positive aspect of the "prosumer" photography era is that it gives many talented individuals a chance to experiment and try something they'd never otherwise be able to afford.
    I know I fit into this category. I've always been into art, it's always been my passion. I'd always admired photography as well, but never thought I had the time or money to invest in such a complicated process (the camera, lenses, and developing film). Then I got a 3.2MP Kodak Easyshare for my birthday one year. Not at all anywhere near the "prosumer" level. It had autofocus, and that was about it. BUT, it opened the door to one of my current biggest passions. I learned all about framing a shot, composing a mood in a photo, and just what does and does not work in photography. It was probably an easier transistion for me than most, since I was already familiar with composing drawings and paintings, but it still took a whole lot of work to become decent at all. When I look back at the photos I took in 2002-2003, I shudder. TERRIBLE. And I used to think they were good! As my skill and knowledge increased, I invested in better cameras, a new brand each time, too, just to explore. I got an 4MP Olympus C-750 Ultrazoom next, to take to my trip to NYC. That lasted me more than 2 years until it got stolen last October. I used the insurance from that robbery to buy my 8MP Nikon Coolpix 8800. I was AMAZED at what I could accomplish with this "beast." I loved all the features of that camera, and it served me very well, until I wrecked my car 3 weeks ago, and it died in the crash. I used THAT insurance to help buy my current Rebel XT. Finally, I've got a DSLR, and I have opened a new door into learning about focal lengths, and all the other stuff important to buying glass. Already learned hard lessons, too (haha :().

    Bottom line, had I not been able to afford that first digital camera, I would not be where I am today as an artist. In fact, I'm considering a major in photography this fall at SCAD.
     
  9. mlrproducts thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    #9
    Now you see, that is the part that I find extremely cool!

    In fact, I got a few friends interested in photography in college and one of them went off to another school to pursue the major.

    I guess my biggest concern is the whole pricing aspect. If you're new, and not that great, I'd rather have you not charge (my competition or not). Because, I'd rather see someone get better, and then charge more. Hey, doesn't everyone want to spend less time earning more money?

    (of course, that last statement isn't true. While the more experienced photog can take fewer shoots for a higher price, they have def spent their time taking photos - in the past, learning. Of course, if I'm learning I don't consider it work!)

    To the newbies charging nothing - what do you do when you shoot the first sibling's senior photos and the next sibling wants theres done 2-3 years later, at the same price? Been there, and it isn't a good situation to be in (and I was charging very competitively -not cheap- the first go round). If you become good enough - you'll be in high demand, and people will pay what you demand.

    Its almost as if this is the introduction of McD's all over again. At first, they're are going to be a lot of people going to feast at the cheaper place. Then (as photo "chains" grow) as quality declines, some people go back to the mom and pop restaurants, where quality and service count. In the end, there will be some lost to the FF chains, but everyone has room.

    Perhaps this is the situation becoming of the photography industry? If it ends well in the end, then that's all good and well. However, it sucks to go through the "growing pains!"
     
  10. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2005
    #10
    Had I not bought a digital point and shoot a few years back... I know I'd be heading in a different direction now. I used to always run around with a 35mm pocket camera or use my polaroid camera for fun. But the price of constant developing got to me and I had to cut back. With the digital camera, I was able to snap waaaayyyy more pictures and take chances that I maybe wouldn't have with my film cameras because I wasn't having to count pictures in monetary ways. I guess it worked out in the end and buying the cheap digital camera was a good thing... I'm starting work on my MFA in photography this fall. My "undergraduate education" in photo was just learning with that camera, while I received a BA in psychology.

    Thank you, consumer products.

    Though I do agree with the original poster. But I did shoot a wedding a few weeks back. And I had no problem at all with people shooting pictures from the pews. A wedding isn't just the photographer's assignment. It's an event for everyone there, and people like to remember the event with photos, from the vantage point they had to watch it.
     
  11. Applespider macrumors G4

    Applespider

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    #11
    Interesting article that the OP linked to.

    I'm not a pro although I have a good family friend who has made his living that way for many years. He's mostly gone away from the 'traditional' family shots now and moved to the corporate market with his studio now set up for shooting product rather than people.

    His take on the recent switch away from formal studio photos is different. He feels that it's part of society becoming less formal and wanting more 'relaxed' shots. While the heavily posed studio shot of the new mother with baby can look good, would the family prefer a more natural approach in their home?

    Does the graduating senior want a plain background behind them while they pose, or a shot with a background that means something.
     
  12. AvSRoCkCO1067 macrumors 65816

    AvSRoCkCO1067

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    #12
    To be honest, I really wanted to avoid posting in this thread (you can tell the thread is slightly aimed at responding to a few of my threads...:eek: )

    What's your opinion on charging just enough to pay off the photos themselves. I ask, because I would've had to take a 300-400 dollar hit in paying for other people's photos to be processed at the first few shows I did (my margins, as you hopefully see, were bear-to-none :p )

    I've never had a problem raising prices...as long as it goes hand-in-hand with a rise in quality. Don't tell me you're trying to raise prices while selling the same exact product...:rolleyes: . If you explain why you're charging an increase (i.e. why it's a better value) and why you remain competitive (i.e. mention competitor's pricing/quality), then the customer usually goes for it...
     
  13. AvSRoCkCO1067 macrumors 65816

    AvSRoCkCO1067

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    #13
    Now, this is a very interesting (and very valid, in my opinion) point. Although many people on this site discredit my experience, I have worked with a professional photography studio. I have worked with photographers that charged thousands of dollars for their services. So, I'm familiar with both their personalities and their quality.

    Put bluntly, professional photographers can be extremely cruel, arrogant people at times. Personally, I like to think that it's just them trying to get the perfect shot - but oftentimes, I think they go overboard. You can't imagine how cruel they were behind-the-scenes; how many times they called a client 'hideous' or unfairly insulted the competition.
     
  14. Applespider macrumors G4

    Applespider

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    #14
    Probably because you have to allow an additional premium for the skill level and to cover your living costs. At 17, while I commend you for your entrepreneurial ideas, you are, most likely, subsidised by your parents in terms of your living space, your food and your clothing. Perhaps in 10 years time, when you also need to cover monthly rent, food and drink for your family then you might appreciate that prices can't just cover the cost of taking and printing a picture. Everything has some form of markup.

    And when you have transport/power/rent costs, there are times when prices are going to have to go up slightly with no increase in quality. It's called inflation.
     
  15. iGary Guest

    iGary

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    #15


    In my opinion, no offense, you charge way too little for your prints, and when you do that, someone who is trying to make a living has to defend the going rate. But you have your comfort level. No overhead, no taxes, no insurance, relatively inexpensive equipment...it's just pocket money for you - I used to be there, so I understand.

    It's like part-time photographers in my area who charge $50.00 an hour, because they think it's "fun" to go out and do shoots. I don't leave the house for less than $200.00 an hour, unless it's a QTVR, and that is a fixed price (and no, I'm not trying to be an arrogant ass quoting my price - by the time I get all the images processed, labeled, burned etc - I'm luck to clear 50 an hour). I don't even go near advertising shoots any more for this very reason. I get calls a year later saying "hey there is this guy in town who shoots for $50.00 an hour." I usually tell them that they should go ahead and use him, and then I get a call a couple of months later....complaining....wanting a re-shoot.

    End of the day, it's your perogative, but consumers and clients normally just look at the bottom line, and it's hard for me to justify charging $20.00 for a 4X6 (like most of my colleagues do) at a sailing event when people see other types of "home brew" photographers trying to make an extra buck charging much less.

    It's fine - it's competition and it's a free country, but don't expect me to sit back and like you giving away your work because you can. The "art" prints I do are for pure enjoyment on my part, but I still charge the going rate for what I think they are worth. If someone doesn't want it, they don't have to buy it.

    I think the main point is you cheapen the "art" and the profession when you give away your work at lowball prices, and then boast (and you pat yourself on the back a lot) what a succesful freelance photographer you are when you don't have the same overhead a "professional" has.

    Sorry if I sounded like a jerk. :eek:
     
  16. njmac macrumors 68000

    njmac

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    Jan 6, 2004
    #16
    haha, well I feel like I hit a hot button when I started this debate in the first thread but it is something I'm glad is being discussed.



    For me the bottom line is that you don't undercut everyone in the area because it not the right thing to do. Charge accordingly to your quality level and everyone will win. If you charge next to nothing then everyone will lose including you (because you can charge more and people WILL buy) the pro's (who can't make a living giving pics away) and the consumers (who have no choice other than mediocre pictures (because the pro's have all been scared away because they can not and will not compete with free.

    Feel guilty about charging so much for a picture? Don't. The market will decide for you what your pictures are worth. Don't devalue your work because you want the neighborhood to keep their cash in their pockets. You don't need to make a living? Then practice the craft by shooting and getting betteruntil you may want to make a living - by then you won't be known as the guy that does ok work for dirt cheap. Keep the pictures, share them for critique but don't give them away. You'll some day be the guy who takes amazing photos and is worth every penny charged.


    Amateur photogs who shoot for fun at a sporting event for free and give away prints often do not understand that they are taking a job from someone. Lets say that photog wanna-be is a cook in a restaurant to make a living and takes pics as a hobby. I wonder how he would feel if some guy in the neighborhood was always praised for his home cooking and and thought it would be "fun" to work in a restaurant. He tells the owner he can cook and because he doesn't need the money because he has a day job, he'll work for $2.00/hr or free. Line cook fired. How would he feel then?
     
  17. iGary Guest

    iGary

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    #17
    This is my point - all of the professional organizations (ASP, ASAP, etc.) publish "going" rates for a reason. If you take good enough pics that people want to buy them, charge what they are worth, not just the priniting.

    There are several types of photography that I won't even touch anymore for this very reason. Probably why I do more freelance writing than photography these days.

    There are new professionals in the area here that will GIVE AWAY an entire shoot just to build their portfolio or get published.

    I'm all for a free market, and I make a decent living, but yeah, what you said. I don't want to sound like some whiny old crotch who is pissed about being undercut. More than anything, I'm for more competition based on QUALITY, not low ball pricing.
     
  18. AvSRoCkCO1067 macrumors 65816

    AvSRoCkCO1067

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    #18
    See, now we have two seperate stances (or three, if you include what I'm doing at the moment.) Clearly, my business model is going to have to change drastically if I keep taking pictures professionally relatively soon. At the moment, I offer pretty high quality shots (keep checking my other thread on "17-year old freelancing photography" for side-by-side comparisons with other photographers...coming soon! :p ) for a very, very low cost. Some people in this thread believe I'm charging too much (mlrproducts and Clix Pix), whereas others don't believe I'm charging enough.

    Can anyone say...mixed signals? :D :eek:
     
  19. iGary Guest

    iGary

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    #19
    $2 a print is outrageously low, and you are marketing that versus your own talent. Your Web site is loaded with how much better you are because of how cheap your are, not on talent.

    Just my .02.
     
  20. njmac macrumors 68000

    njmac

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    #20
    I agree 100%. Does it make sense to you why we are saying this?

    BTW, did you check out Sportsshooter.com?
     
  21. Applespider macrumors G4

    Applespider

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    #21
    No, they're the same signal.

    The two who thought you were charging too much thought that your work was so poor that you were ripping people off by charging anything for it. I think they were looking at your early work at this point.

    The others who thought you weren't charging enough were suggesting that you got better equipment, took pictures and sold closer to the market rate rather than undercutting so steeply.

    Not commenting on either view... merely interpreting.
     
  22. AvSRoCkCO1067 macrumors 65816

    AvSRoCkCO1067

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    #22
    These threads are becomming a bit overwhelming for me :eek: .

    They're not the same signal - they're different (opposites, really).

    To be sure, I've been a member of this site for almost a year now (and I've enjoyed it for the most part). I only posted in the 'digital photography' forum because I was interested in a new camera, and I figured that people here would be more than willing to throw in their advice. Of course, I got completely ripped apart in that thread - I mentioned my website as a means for people to see what I was taking now - I never intended for people to comment on what I was charging...

    Then, a few people requested that I start a thread on how I developed my business - so I did. Again, I got ripped apart, with half the thread arguing that I needed to stop charging and the other half arguing that I needed to increase my prices pronto!

    Then, this thread started (which is, at least partially, a response to my past threads). Honestly, I'm not looking for blessings or to be flattered - but I'm definitely not looking for all this intense heat/drama either. Honestly, quite a few of you are really sucking the fun outta this place...:(
     
  23. iGary Guest

    iGary

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    #23
    I agree completely.

    Do you have any idea how self-focused you come across? (Count the "I's" and "my's" in your above post for starters.)

    Evidently not. You even think this whole thread is about you, or at least you are attempting to make it seem that way - which, by the way, you do a lot. I've kind of had it with the self-obsessed folks around here lately - but that's just me. I've got a healthy and sometimes overbearing ego myself, but I at least make it about other people....sometimes.

    I'm going to tatter along back over to Fred Miranda where people like to "share" before I completely loose hope for this place.
     
  24. AvSRoCkCO1067 macrumors 65816

    AvSRoCkCO1067

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    CO
    #24
    I kind of understand where you're coming from - I do emphasize my affordability. But I also emphasize the quality of the photos - and, since purchasing a new camera and completely redesigning my website, I've rid of all the comments comparing myself to professional photographers.

    The basic 'ideal' of Peters Photography is simple:
    (from the website) : "Great Photos. Reasonable Pricing. That Simple"

    I focus on three things:
    Great Photos.
    Reasonable Pricing.
    Convenience and Flexibility (That Simple).
     
  25. njmac macrumors 68000

    njmac

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2004
    #25
    this thread was a great idea. I'm glad it got moved here instead of rehashing in your threads. Your right you never asked for criticism or comments on your work and what you got, you took incredibly well!


    This thread, however, is the right time and place to look at this incredible issue. This drama is NOT DUE TO YOU though. Go to any photography site/forum and search this issue and you will find hundreds, if not thousands of hot/dramatic posts on this topic. DON'T take it personally - this is a huge topic for pro photographers and it means alot to the future of photography. Please think about it. There will be expensive pro photographers for Magazines like Sports Illustrated or Cosmo, and there will be people learning, and charging little for little better than snapshots.. but the middle, where you have people making a living photographing youth sports and the like at a price level that means it HAS to be a second job for someone.

    I apologize if I'm one of the people not making it fun for you. I want you to succeed and I give you mucho credit for actually getting out there and getting paid! :) I think all comments regarding price undercutting should be moved HERE and leave your threads alone.

    I am enjoying your thread on how you are making it work for you and I think it will be invaluable for others just starting out.
     

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