Pets in your home, photos and fee

William Robb warobb at
Tue Apr 1 10:15:40 EDT 2008

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jerome"
Subject: Re: Pets in your home, photos and fee

>> I wouldn't want to undercut pros that are charging reasonable
>> (and I'm not saying they are) )prices.  They are trying to make a
>> living in a very competitive and difficult business.
> I disagree with that line of thinking. The open market is based on
> competition. IMHO, it's within an individual's right to charge whatever
> they want... or to charge nothing at all if they choose. It's not his
> responsibility to ensure that industry standards are upheld and that
> others in the same field of work can clear their desired profit margin.
> Quite the contrary, it's up to them (those who charge more) to justify
> their prices in a market when every tom, dick, and hank have a digital
> camera and are willing to give it a go for substantially less. I guess I
> believe that the photographers prerogative, quality of the product and
> demand  should drive the price... not industry price fixing.
> An example of this is wedding photography here my area. If I can't find
> someone who wants to pay $1000 for my wedding photography services, then
> chances are that I don't have $1000 material. LIkewise, I know (of)
> several photogs that charge $3500+ just to shoot the wedding (i.e., no
> product included)... yet they don't seem to be the least bit concerned
> with the seemingly countless number of wannabe's on craigslist (for
> example) that are giving away their services for next to nothing. At the
> end of the day, their product speaks for itself: "Pay my fee and get
> lesser quality". Whether by demand, supply, ambition, or plain old weeding
> out, the market will correct everything in the end.
> It's an interesting debate, nonetheless. I wouldn't be surprised if most
> photogs agree with the price-fixing mentality, but personally I just don't
> buy it.

I'm a little late chiming in, but I wanted to cogitate on this a bit. Certainly in a free 
market, one can charge whatever they like, but there are downsides to undercutting the market as 
well. Obviously, you would be hurting the local industry as a whole by cheapening the percieved 
value of everyone's work. Even the really expensive people will suffer if there is a huge price 
spread in the marketplace, and by the time the cheap jerk decides he wants to make an income, 
he'll find he has hurt the market by leaching off of it, and has hurt himself by earning a 
reputation as the goto guy for the indigent.
As an example, we had a guy here a number of years ago who was a very busy weekend warrior. He 
worked as a graphic artist at the local school board and had a crew of as many as 20 
photographers who worked for him on weekends shooting weddings. Of course eventually, some of 
the photographers decided that they could make more money on their own by booking their own work 
and keeping all the money rather than working for the guy who taught them.
Again, nothing wrong with that, it's what apprenticing is all about.
I happened to be one of those guys, I shot my first wedding when I was 14.
Unfortunately, the market was already in a bit of a price slump, since the major player in it 
was this fellow with a bunch of school kids and short order cooks earning beer money, working 
for a guy who was making good coin on volume, though not on individual jobs.
These guys got into a price war of sorts, and for a while, it wasn't worth my time to get out of 
bed on Saturday, since the potential earnings for a wedding had fallen to minimum wage.
Meanwhile, the photographers who had studios to maintain were hurting because the market was 
diluted so much by weekend boneheads out to scavenge whatever money they could find.
You are right, eventually, the market settled down as everyone realized that they weren't making 
money anymore, a lot of them retired or moved on to something else, and it became somewhat sane 
However, there still are people in this market who are happy to augment their hobby charging a 
pittance compared to what we ( an established studio) are charging, and they still sting all the 
studios from time to time, but they especially sting the good photographers who have paid for an 
education in this game and have established credentials to back them up.

When we show a prospective customer what we do, we show them entire weddings that we have done, 
on the theory that the customer has a right to see what we can do for them, start to finish. Of 
course we have cherry picks framed on the walls as well to wow them.
The weekend hosers tend to have cherry pick books, which are a great way to wow potential 
customers, but the reality is, they are only proving that they get lucky once in a while.
Their product doesn't speak for itself, they are just lying to their customers to make it look 
like it is.
We have found that someone showing some smooth salesmanship, an eye popping cherry pick photo 
album and an offer to undercut us by 60-70% will steal the show often enough that we no longer 
pursue the wedding trade especially actively. If people come to us, we don't show them the door, 
but very little of our advertising budget is earmarked for atracting prospective brides and 
grooms. I think we have four weddings booked for this year so far, which is WAY down from a few 
years ago, and this coincides with an increase in the number of weekend warriors pretending to 
be photographers.
We've had a number of people come to us after the fact, lamenting that their photographer 
screwed them by not knowing what they were doing. They've learned their lesson, but it's too 
late, the weddings over, and all we can do is shake our heads and feel sorry for them.
We (as a guild) can be pissed at these assholes, since they are screwing the marketplace, 
cheapening the value of everyones work, screwing their customers and making everyone suspicious 
of whether the legitimate guys will do the same thing, but we can't do anything about the fact 
that they are fouling our nests, and the nests of every legitimate photographer in the area.
The problem with professional photography is that there are no required credentials. Even 
someone who is going to run a pipe through your house to take your shit to the sewer requires 
papers proving he can do it.
When people call a plumber, they just presume he is qualified, and people tend to presume the 
same thing about anyone they want to do work for them, whether it is a chiropracter, a brain 
surgeon or a photographer. The difference is, a brain surgeon has to go to school before he can 
hang up a shingle, the photographer only has to buy a camera.

William Robb

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