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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Not Your Box Store Conglomerate Portrait Studio

I find it funny every time I go shopping for groceries at my local conglomerate super store. Yes, I am admitting that I shop at the damn place although I do my best to support local small business as much as I can.  Anyways, whenever I walk past the portrait studio, I see multiple families waiting in line with their screaming and "I'm hungry" kids for some teenager that is getting paid minimum wage to press a button on a camera which was set by some district manager over the department who pays a visit once a month to make sure that the permanent lighting setup and camera settings are congruent for the boring seamless or muslin background that everyone of it's customers are shot on.  And let's not forget to tighten the screws on the tin wash pan to stick the baby in...

Why hire a Professional Photographer?  More after the jump...

I am not knocking the teenager that hits the green light on the printer or the person that works in the portrait studio and primarily keeps the kids wrangled rather than focusing on composition or lighting.  They are working their way through their lives ad attempting to earn an honest buck.

I think most middle class families simply don't realize the benefits of investing in a professional photographer that caters to individual styles and themes while offering the latitude of shooting in unique locations, allowing multiple looks, and giving the one on one attention the client deserves.  Furthermore, I rarely believe that people realize the cost isn't much more than a box store charges. Pricing and deals can be found in nearly any demographic with the downfall of the economy.  I know that many photographers including myself have changed our pricing structure due to downfall.

So why are families going the super big and wonderful box store?  Is it out of mere convenience?  Is it because they put their trust in them regarding purchasing every other need and necessity in their lives?  I think it is a mixture of the two.  I also believe that we as photographers are endangering our own species.

Photographers are killing their own industry.  With the advent of the digital SLR camera and its every improving technology with each new release, capturing decent photographs is becoming easier and easier for the novice or any person that can hold the thing steady and click the shutter.  Each year, more and more people are purchasing prosumer DSLR cameras and claiming to be photographers.  Very few put in the years of studying light, composition, or the other technicalities involved in the medium.  Many view it as a side job (no business license, no taxes) and make claims that they are professionals although they simply shoot in Auto Mode with a Pop up Flash.  Programs such as Photoshop are used as a crutch to butcher a mediocre photo in feeble attempts to make it look acceptable.  In the days of film, there wasn't LCD screens, Photoshop, or smart cameras with Auto Modes to capture a quality image at a professional standard.  Photography was a medium connected to a very specific and technical set of skills that had to be acquired over time, excluding the artistic aspects.

Those who follow my work know I love to shoot on location rather than in a studio environment.  In my daily travels to some prominent and popular locations where other photographers gather, I am consistently amazed at how many of them have entire families, wedding parties, models, or others following them around with their little pop up flash and "spray and pray" approach as the photographer fires off 50 clicks of the shutter for each pose.
The industry is dying,  house wives and soccer moms are saturating the roster.  And since it is a side job, they are severely undercharging and offering services at low to little cost.  Hell, they are not paying taxes.   My favorite is "Wedding Photography $80.00... You'll get a disk with all the images."

Don't misread me, every photographer has to start somewhere.  I remember when I was starting out and was shooting merely as a enthusiast.  I had never taken a photography class in my life (still haven't) and I was struggling in learning the technical side of the medium.  However, I never called myself a professional or considered myself as entitled.  I shot for two years and nearly a dozen weddings before I felt my images were of a professional standard and good enough to commence in charging for the service.  All those weddings were for friends who were looking for a second shooter, older couples renewing their vows, or couples who had been married before and were simply looking for some candid photos.  On the rare occasion where a successful photographer would offer advice, information, or tips, I took it eagerly and humbly with sincere appreciation.

Professional Photographers are getting to the point where they are realizing "if I can't beat them, I'll join them."  They are doing this by creating and selling Actions, Presets, and plugins for Photoshop, Lightroom, and other programs the horde can use and further the Photoshop Crutch.
Again- Photographers are killing their own Industry.

And while the death of professional photography may be our fate, I continue to offer free information and educate the masses in the technicalities many novices struggle with as I remember how secretive and mean the pros were when I started out.  Call me a hypocrite.  I'll give anything away for free to those who show the passion and drive to learn it.

If you were wonder about the set of images in this post, they are some fun and different images of a mother and her three daughters.  They realized the difference in utilizing a photographer versus a box store.   They wanted something fun and fresh.  After a one on one consultation, we headed out on a cold January day the streets of Salt Lake and captured these images.  Many of the best frames were not posed and were candid.

See the video of how I edited these on my YouTube channel:



Unknown said...

Thanks for all your great advice Ben. I appreciate your straight forward approach and willingness to share.

Adhitya said...

Hi Ben... Im from indonesia, sorry for the bad english. first of all thanks for sharing your knowladge and your thought, its really broaden my perspective in fotography. Im just learning DSLR so I shouldn`t say much, but in this internet age, everybody relying google and U tube to search and learn stuff, so I think someone that exist in there will not wither and die. Photographers are killing their own Industry, if they just relying on business card. But, if the Photographers like yourself willingly to share, i think it will bring more positive effect, other than more reputation and more well known picture. My point is, keep sharing is a best way to climb up in the industry, rather than isolated, worrying others may copying your style and steal your client. So, keep up the good work and Thanks again for sharing...

AmyM said...

Fabulous post and images. Nothing left to add, it's right on the money. Makes you wonder how much longer any of us will be able to stay in business with the session fee and disc all for $150...even from those who claim to be professional and have full blown studios. These people are undercutting the industry as a whole and about to cheapskate themselves right out of business. I may not have a ton of customers but I won't work myself to death for $2 an hour.