22 December 2012

Getting into Photo, Part 4... The Print


© 2012 Terrell Neasley
"The negative is the equivalent of the composer's score, and the print the performance."
 - Ansel Adams



In the majority of cases, this is what it boils down to. The Print. Nothing else really matters. I'm not talking about the shots that wind up on Facebook that you took with your cell phone from the Christmas party last night. And this isn't intended for people who will only use their cameras to take pics of family and family events to share with other members of the family and friends. This goes to those desiring to "Get Started in Photography", whether you turn pro or do it as an amateur/enthusiast. Its the print that matters most. If you have a moment, check out my April 2012 post regarding, "Focus on The Print".

Why do I say this? What point am I trying to emphasis? Well, its mainly regarding photogs who give away hi-res images on a CD to their client and never do anything beyond shooting and editing. This job is then incomplete. The photographic process is three parts, not 2. Its Shoot, Edit, and then Print. Cutting corners by not completing this last stage kills your own money and that of mine because I am part of the industry. Rangefinder Magazine did an excellent article in their annual "State of the Industry" year-end report on photography trends in the US. One of the last parts in this report covers the "Album-less Bride".

© 2012 Terrell Neasley
The Album-less Bride,
"But that doesn't mean commercial photographers aren't concerned about the negative effects of digital and of file sharing. Last year, WPPI described a growing phenomenon: the album-less bride. “What is an album-less bride?” writes Kathleen Hawkins, a Florida-based photographer and author, in the WPPI newsletter late last year. “Amazingly, many of the photographers who took pride in the fact that they were artists and not business people are now seeking the quick and easy sale with the evolution of digital photography.” Or in other words, an album-less bride is a shoot-and-burn job in which the client (often a bride) gets the master images on a disc to do what she wants with them; she, in fact, doesn't order any prints from the photographer at all. 
As a business practice, shoot-and-burn has a collateral effect, says Graphistudio director Maureen Neises. “The photographers that cave in and give their clients a disc are creating a pent-up pressure in the market place,” she says. “The trend now is that consumers are calling us directly.” Or, she says, they are searching online book printing services. “Shoot-and-burn photographers that provide a disc are not finishing the job." - Excerpt from Rangefinder Magazine's State of the Industry: Business Trends 2012
© 2012 Terrell Neasley
“The photographers that cave in and give their clients a disc are creating a pent-up pressure in the market place.” 
- Maureen Neises

The thing is, the article goes on to say that a representative from one of the largest album makers said their sales have not fallen off, despite this trend. This is because they have been getting more contacts directly from the consumer to make their own albums, which means they take your hard-earned work, your copyrighted images, and make their own products from them, doing so with your permission!. I won't even get into the plethora of stories I hear from other photogs who's clients also RE-EDIT those Hi-Res shots to their own liking or at the very least RE-CROP the images. Sometimes this is a crop to get a close-up portrait shot (creating two images from the one) OR, they do it to take off your watermark. I talked to another shooter just last week who represented the business side of a husband-wife photography studio. From everything I understand, they are very successful at what they do. They have a great studio and I can't help but respect their business. However, I have to entirely disagree with their business model. They feel like their market demands the CD and therefore that's what they cater to. Specializing in weddings, the Hi-Res CD is given to the client with little to no concentration on prints. "The market doesn't support prints. They all want CDs." Well, of course they do! The market would also support free photography services. If you want to stifle the business of photography, keep doing this. Its analogous to cutting small slits in your own necks and bleeding out slowly.

© 2012 Terrell Neasley
Here's why this is so important. Lets forget for a second that the print is the final end-product and that the photo [GRAPH] is the reason we we do photo [GRAPHY]. Consumers don't look at your overall expenses in the photo game. You can't blame them. They don't see the other side. They see you snap a picture with an expensive camera and that's it. As if all your money is tied up in your camera and lens investment and once the money for that is earned back, everything else is gravy. But you know what, I have a business licence to maintain with the state of Nevada every year. I have business insurance that covers my equipment anywhere in the world, as well as if I get sued. I go to some sort of continuing training program every year, trade shows, and have monthly subscriptions to services that aid me at being better at what I do. My website is not free. My software is not free, nor the computer hardware or network. 

“For me the printing process is part of the magic of photography. It’s that magic that can be exciting, disappointing, rewarding and frustrating all in the same few moments in the darkroom.” 
– John Sexton

All my redundant back-ups cost me in equipment and storage. I deserve to be well-compensated for my years of expertise, knowledge, and education. I spend money to go network with other photographers and scout locations so when my client has a vision for a special place, I can suggest several options that match or exceed what they have in mind. I could go on and on regarding copyright registration fees, accounting and tax fees. This is still a business. How do you fund your retirement and medical when you are giving away profits? We do more than just "push a button", as I was once told by a guy at a wedding who didn't feel like I offered any more than he could with his $300 point and shoot. He asked me how much my setup costs me. I told him. Then asked what I was charging for the wedding. Of course I told him that info was only between my client and myself. I took his picture and sent him a portrait of himself shot at f/1.2 and told him that he could have his pic at any one of my cameras and a lens if he could duplicate that shot with his own camera. I never heard back from him.

© 2012 Terrell Neasley
Thankfully, not all consumers are like this. I have had the benefit of working with clients who understand my trade, appreciate my art, and respect my business. If you want to be a good businessperson who is also credit to their trade, operate your business the right way. I fully recommend doing business with your local print labs. I work with both the local businesses here in Las Vegas as well as some of my online vendors. I work between about 6 different lab choices on a regular basis with business accounts with each. My choices may depend on promotional specials or the quality of work my client is willing to pay for. High-end work will go to one of 3 labs choices whereas the others are more economical. And then sometimes it has to do with the services offered. Not many labs offer framing services as an additional option, for instance. Either way, do your work and offer print options and sales that end up with your artistic efforts on residential and business walls...not just social media walls.

Next up, and final of this series... The Business

2 comments:

Joanie said...

I'm posting this to a boudoir group I belogn to because many of them do not understand the importance of elevating the profession and the consumer's expectations rather than playing down to them.

When people print (and often edit) a professional's work without understanding the creative process behind it, others don't value your work and this reflects poorly on you/your studio/your brand. Friends who look at cheap prints with bad color think two things: 1) wow, you actually paid someone to make you look that way? and 2) Ugh, I'd NEVER hire that studio!

And believe me, friends will overlook friends' poor spending decisions but they sure as hell won't overlook bad photography (or good photography printed poorly).

You wouldn't give away your negatives if you were shooting film, so don't give away your "negatives" (including negative impressions!) when shooting digital.

Protect yourself and only offer digital files in low res, web-ready sizes with your watermark faintly embedded in the center. PRINT PRINT PRINT PRINT PRINT professionally!

By the way, I have a pair of scissors, but I don't think I'll be cutting my own hair anytime soon. I'll wait until I have the money to pay someone else who is trained to cut and style hair to do it for me.

Photo Anthems.com said...

I could have used your commentary for this post and saved myself the time. Excellent points.