If You Build It, They Won't Come (Part II)

June 22, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

 

This is part II of the "If You Build It, They Won't Come" post. http://www.highimpactcreations.com/blog/2014/6/if-you-build-it-they-wont-come

But these bands likely lost money by hiring a crew to set up the equipment, hauling all the equipment to Waukesha, flying band members to the show, covering hotel costs for the band and crew, etc.  There is a lot of cost that occurs just for the band to get to the show--just as there are for each fan to get there. How on Earth could a band go on the road to perform for fans without receiving the compensation they need to put on that show? Someone has to pick up the costs and, in this case, it was up to the promoter to pay those costs. Without someone there to pay for the equipment, for the crew, for the travel expenses, etc., each band member would have to pony up enough money out of their own pockets to cover those expenses--which means each of them better have a good-paying job that doesn't mind if they ever show up!

That seems to be a common problem with people that work in photography, they are often expected to take a photo and deliver it to someone electronically, for free. The reasoning is usually similar to what happened in Waukesha: the photographer was there, the equipment was there, why not just take the picture? Oh! And if it isn't printed out, it doesn't cost the photographer anything to send the image over. The problem with that is similar to the problem these rock bands ran into: if everything is already there and set up on the stage, why not just go ahead and play "for the fans." Would it actually cost anything more for that 1 hour that they are on the stage? After all, they're not paying the electrical bill to run the amplifiers and they probably aren't using any pyrotechnics for this show. Of course, that seems unreasonable because the bands did incur those costs whether they picked up their instruments and played or not. There is absolutely no way they could be there if all of those costs were not covered in some way. Additionally, some of these entertainers took time away from a family vacation to be there! And, if they were not there, they all could have been someplace else making a living.

Photographers routinely go through this same scenario but the decisions that they made along the way are the opposite. I don't feel compelled to itemize all of the money that photographers have tied up in equipment just as the bands have money tied up in equipment. The cost is rather substantial. Then there's the traveling costs and all the costs associated with providing service, such as private galleries on the web (that won't get hacked.) And there's the opportunity costs associated with providing free services. Opportunity costs refer to the money that could have been made pursuing a different task.

I mentioned that photographers took an opposite approach than the bands did last night. This is true, I see so many very good photographers giving their work away as content to self-published magazines, for example. I know these magazines do not have a sufficient audience to generate any business for the photographer so I hesitate to equate this form of publishing to traditional forms of publishing like an editorial in the Knot magazine.

The same mechanics are at play with retail photography where clients ask for digital files of photographs. That is an element that I've always struggled with because many photographers are happy to hand those files right over. From a business stand point it is quite difficult to turn over all the raw production ingredients to a client without an enormous bill to cover all of the equipment, training, staff pay checks, marketing, etc., that goes goes into producing those images. They cannot be separated yet so many photographers are willing to do that and, as a result, the photography industry is dramatically different than it was 20 years ago. Some of the changes are good and some are bad.

On the bad side, there is an expectation that digital files will be given to customers. Sometimes that expectation can cloud every other aspect of the transaction. Generally speaking, customers that come to High Impact Creations LLC do not expect RAW files but I am often asked for digital files and I provide watermarked, web sized images that can be used on social media sites--but only after an image has been purchased in a print product or, if a client really wants to have that high resolution file, I can make it available at a fee that covers all of the expenses that went into making that image in the first place. That generally means I cannot shoot a wedding and hand over a CD with the images for $500. 

So what is the good side to all of this? Well, it reveals whether or not there is actual value in the work produced by photographers. If someone wants to make a living as a photographer, the perceived value of their product has to be sufficient enough to entice customers to purchase their work. That seems pretty simple but let's go back to these bands in Waukesha. Anyone could get up on the stage and play. Oh, I know what you're thinking, not everyone can play guitar, not everyone can sing. I'll raise my hand there, I have absolutely zero talent in the voice category. I think I could probably get someone to pay me NOT to sing! But, given a crowd of sufficient size, you'll likely find a good amount of people that could sing the words of a song. Of course, if you wanted to find someone in that same crowd that sounds like the band's singer, and sang the song just like that band's vocalist, chances are you'd be out of luck. And that is why everyone showed up and paid $30-$100 for their tickets--it is because they wanted to see THAT band. They wanted to see Firehouse or Lita Ford, not Amy Smith from Brookfield. By the way, if there is someone named Amy Smith in Brookfield, I apologize, I tried to make up a fictitious character here. I'm sure you're a great person Amy!

Each photographer is different just as every band is different. Every photographer brings all of their life experiences to the shoot. Those life experiences shape everything: the composition, the subject matter, the tones, the mood, you name it! If five photographers approach the same subject for a photo shoot, you'll likely find five completely different photographs in the end. Therein lies the variable in the photography equation: not all photographers are created equal and it is up to the prospective client to determine the value of each photographer's work and whether or not it is of sufficient value to warrant a purchase. I think an informal survey of photographers in the market would reveal that those photographers that are successful, that is, they are making a decent living at their craft, aren't just good, they're great. That is because the bar to go from an okay photographer to a great one has been raised quite high and anyone that appreciates (sees the value) in photography sees the difference between these two ends of the spectrum. 

Somehow we've gotten through quite a few topics here from 80s hair bands to the evolution of the photo industry over the past 20 years. I'm pretty sure a professional editor would hack this two part series down to something that makes a bit more sense--but I am not one soooo. Rock on everyone!

--jay

 
 

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Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog! High Impact Creations LLC  provides photographic services for Janesville, Wisconsin, and its surrounding areas. 

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