PASS, and what I really think about the past, the future, and everything else
I got the opportunity to try PASS while it’s still in beta testing, and it has cemented my direction.
I’ve spent years thinking about how I want to run my photography business. I haven’t actually made myself into an LLC yet, but when I do (hopefully next month), this is what’s going to happen:
I’m going to shoot excellent images for clients and then I’m going to give those images to the client.
Like, pretty much all of them. With the exception of shots that are out of focus (it happens) or shots where someone sneezes, or a dog runs into the photo or something, other than that, clients are going to get pretty much everything. I’m not going to give them anything that’s terrible and should never see the light of day, but I don’t have a lot of terrible images coming out of my camera these days, and I haven’t for a while. Besides, who am I to decide what is important to a client and what isn’t? They aren’t photos of my children or family, they aren’t photos of my wedding, they belong to the client!
I think charging hundreds of dollars for prints has the potential to be really, really manipulative.
My sister-in-law Carol won a sitting fee at a school auction once. A photographer (I don’t know who it was, and it was years ago) came to her house in a Mercedes and took some really lovely photos. She then proceeded to charge Carol $1000 for a 20×30 canvas print which has hung in the living room ever since. It’s a lovely photo. You know what Carol talks about every time someone asks about the photo? How much it cost. How she doesn’t have any of the other photos from the session because they were so expensive. She has never called that photographer back for another session. She has never said a kind word about the photographer because she felt so cheated that she couldn’t have more of the photos. Carol felt like crap to have to let her wallet dictate how many photos she could have of her family. What a terrible experience. How can you show a family proofs of their session and let your pricing force them to walk away without buying anything? Or worse yet, how can you tell them the proofs/files will be destroyed unless they buy? That is manipulation, and I’m not sorry to say that PASS is going to kill it. For me, it’s already dead. Long live sharing!
If iTunes/Netflix/Hulu has shown me anything, it is that if you give people a legal, fast, convenient, and affordable way to buy something, they will buy it rather than steal it, more often than not.
The up-front price is the only price. What you do after that is up to you. Choice, convenience, and speedy delivery that’s completely legal within the personal license agreement is what I’m about. If you can budget for the session then you’re good to go, and you’re never going to feel guilty that you couldn’t afford more photos.
I promise I’m not trying to crumble the photographic establishment. I’m saying it’s already been crumbling, and we’ve been shoring it up with prohibitive pricing structures.
If I’m worth my salt, which I think I am, my session fee will keep me going, and I know it’s going to be slow to start with, and I’m okay with the slowness. It’s why I still have another job. I’m perfectly content to rely on word of mouth and happy clients, because eventually that will lead to more work than I can manage, if my idea is as inclusive and friendly as I think it is. Eventually I may raise my prices for my sessions, and that is called supply and demand awareness. Also if self-employment taxes change, my prices could fluctuate. Things can always change, and being able to change is good! Other than the shift to digital photography (which happened in earnest years ago, we’re basically entirely post-film now, for all commercial applications) the way clients receive images has barely changed since forever. You see proofs, you pick a photo package, you write a check, you cringe, and then you wait. It took my sister almost a year to get her wedding album. This isn’t acceptable anymore.
Other photographers are perfectly valid and good. If you like their work, they are a good choice for you.
I’m not bashing anyone. Plenty of photographers who don’t use PASS have faithful clients and great word of mouth, and most of them aren’t evil manipulators. They are trying to make a living at being artists, and that is one of the hardest professions to be in. Patronize them. If you care about quick turnaround, ease of delivery, ease of sharing, and competitive pricing, that’s where I come in. I’m not for everyone.
It’s perfectly alright if you disagree.
This is still America. That’s the end of my rant/manifesto.
Until next blog,