Some thoughts on photography..

Bill Mattocks

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Feb 8, 2009
Messages
14,964
Reaction score
3,267
Location
Michigan
It's common enough these days. An OWS protester says, "I went to college, got a big student loan, and now I can't find work. What am I supposed to do?" I don't know.

An old photographer says, "I have been doing photography all my life. This is my trade, my life, and all that I am good at. Now the kids give away their photos and what am I supposed to do now?" I don't know.

Up here, I see bumper stickers on cars saying "Out of a job yet? Keep buying foreign." They are saying that I have an obligation as an American to buy American products, no matter how uncompetitive, no matter how shoddy, because they have the right to keep making a middle-class wage for putting fenders on Fords.

I've seen people stick to their guns and win; one guy who mows lawns refuses to compete on price. He does a great job and he's always available. He has had the same customers for years and they won't trade him for anything. It works for him. I know another guy who used to roof houses. He refused to compete with others who were undercutting him - "I'll be damned if I'll do that," he said. Well, now he doesn't put roofs on houses. Which is right? I don't know. What works for some won't work for others, I guess.

Everyone seems to understand that there are no promises in life; until it happens to them. Then they feel betrayed, let down, as if someone is 'doing this to them'. No one is doing anything to them personally. It's what happens.

As far as martial arts photography, I don't know if there is a market for it or not. I see some event photographers around here that seem to specialize in photo and video of local tournaments.

http://www.downriverphotography.com/Sports/Martial-Arts

If I were trying to break into that market, I think I might take a different route. I'd get in touch with every single Sensei in every single dojo and find out when their promotions, testing, and demos are. I'd arrange to do the photography of little Joey getting his blue belt or his orange sash, and I'd give the dojo one for their website (with a link to my website) and I'd sell a package to the parents. There are enough dojos around here to keep my shooting every night of every week, I think. Right now, parents take photos with their cell phones and post them to FB. I'd get with Mpix and make stand up statues and coffee cups and whatever. Dojo calendars? (We just had one, I bought one at $15)...

Well, just a few thoughts. Photography is a tough business these days. But it's a business, just like any other, when it comes down to it. Sometimes the model has to be adjusted to reflect reality.
 

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
20,416
Reaction score
5,914
Location
Covington, WA
All due respect, I think you're confusing value and worth.

I value my time at say $200 per hour.

But no one will pay me $200 per hour.

So my time is not worth $200 per hour. It is worth what the market will bear.

I can set my price at whatever value I like. If I can get that amount, then that's what my time is worth.

Yes. Exactly.


Sent using Tapatalk. Please ignore typos.
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
My experience has been that in the niche of "Martial Arts Event" photography, the only 'value' the market puts on it is 'work for free with the promise of more chances to work for free later'.
Some people make money at it, but unless you are covering an MMA fight for a major promotion, it's hard to get.

Originally Posted by Bill Mattocks
All due respect, I think you're confusing value and worth.

I value my time at say $200 per hour.

But no one will pay me $200 per hour.

So my time is not worth $200 per hour. It is worth what the market will bear.

I can set my price at whatever value I like. If I can get that amount, then that's what my time is worth.

I can agree on this.

But, if some pay you what you ask, and others don't, then what's your time worth?
To the guy who paid you, exactly what he paid. The the other, nada.

So, to me, we've gone in a loop here.
 

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
20,416
Reaction score
5,914
Location
Covington, WA
On a micro level, there can be some variation. But n a macro level, the market will le t you know.


Sent using Tapatalk. Please ignore typos.
 

Brian King

Master of Arts
Supporting Member
MT Mentor
Joined
Mar 17, 2003
Messages
1,612
Reaction score
486
Location
Bellevue, Washington USA
Bob,
Have you ever read any of Seth Godin's work? I highly recommend reading his blog at the very least. His writing really gets one thinking bout their own perspectives especially those regarding business, marketing and creating art.
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
Bob,
Have you ever read any of Seth Godin's work? I highly recommend reading his blog at the very least. His writing really gets one thinking bout their own perspectives especially those regarding business, marketing and creating art.

Tried a few times, couldn't get into his style. Suppose I can look again.
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
ok, queued him up, gave a quick read and his blog seems a bit 'better fit' than his books that I've checked out. Will spend a few days reading back. Already found 1 nugget I can adopt.
Danke :)
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
Requoting to refocus a bit. May repeat myself a bit.
A couple of things have brought this up, and I'm putting in General Martial Arts though it could be put a couple of other places, too.

More and more people today are taking better and better pictures IN GENERAL due to the increased availability of better cameras, with reduced processing costs since film has been so largely replaced by digital media. On top of that -- programs like Photoshop, GIMP, and even Paint can do a lot of photo editing and processing that used the be the province of professionals.

Almost everyone today has at least 1 camera, most have a few. The pocket point-n-shoot with a gazilion modes, the camera phone and in some cases an old film camera thats pretty dusty. While most people can't afford a $900 program like Photoshop, GIMP is free and almost as good (if a bit quirky in the interface), MS Paint comes free, and there are those 'extended try out' versions you hear about. ;) There are litterally hundreds of other programs and apps out there ranging from free, to cheap to 2nd mortgage that do everything and more. Drag, drop, click click apply and boom, 3D HDR with sprinkles appears. The cost/challenge to get into shooting today and turning out half way decent stuff is lower than ever.


One thing I've noticed in MA as well as other sports is that some leagues/events hire a photographer who proceeds to take professional pictures during the event. Sometimes, they have a booth around, too, and do portraits. These hired pros for the event frequently post what amounts to contact pics on their websites, or otherwise provide people an opportunity to buy professional quality photos of the event. Often at kind of high prices... but prices that reflect professional quality work, and probably take into account that it's largely done on speculation, hoping that the pics sell.

Pros have overhead, a 'daily cost of business' and have to make a profit. Their pricing reflects that. Pros also can offer better quality work, more options, and better service than hobbyists, amateurs and 'newbies'. The trade off is a higher price for their services and products.

Meanwhile, you get the photography buff team mom/dad who has a decent quality camera and starts taking pics during the events. But they post these pics up on Facebook or Flickr or some other photo sharing site and make them available for free to the teams/participants. Usually they haven't processed them much (maybe red-eye reduction or something like that... but not much beyond that).

Some hobbyists do excellent work. Because they aren't counting on it as income, and it's often a labor of love to them, they will spend more time on things than a pro who has to think profit will. You can get some great stuff from them. Most however lack the 'eye' and the experience to make top notch stuff.

Here's the thing... They're well meaning -- but they're also undercutting the guy who makes his living on it. And they encourage treating the real pros in the field of sports photography badly and unprofessionally because they've got these folks doing a "good enough" job, for free.

Yes, and no.
The flood of 'not bad, not great, but ok' photos has driven demand for 'average' shooters way down. The stock photography industry is a good example. You used to be able to get top dollar for a stock shot. Licensing per use, by need, a single image could generate thousands of dollars in a year for a shooter. Today, more and more people are turning to the penny stock sites and licensing the hundreds of thousands of 'eh' shots in there, for a few bucks. As a result stock sales are way down and not expected to improve much any time soon. By the same token, where 10 years ago if you wanted a school shoot you hired a pro with several thousands of dollars in gear, today many schools are going with the part-timers and hobbyists with a few hundred in gear. The quality isn't what it once was, but it's 'good enough' and it's 'affordable' and that's what matters most.

The problem is that with the market flooded with 'eh' work, it's much harder to shine. With the market flooded with shooters who don't care about making money, there is a lot of competition for the lower end of the scale. It makes it hard to stand out, so to succeed today a shooter has to have solid photography skills, plus solid business skills and be able to combine the 2. The days when you could be 'eh' and make a living are gone.

When I worked at Picture People, I heard complaints about Sears, Walmart and JC Penny's all the time. Crap shots, bad lighting, poor customer service. I heard complaints too about PP's pricing. Too high. But the trade off is, service, price or quality. Pick 2, you don't get all 3. PP had better quality shots and better lighting. Their service was hit or miss though. But today it's the Sears, Walmart and similar studios closing by the hundreds as competition for the budget shopper has gone super critical.

Meanwhile shooters with top quality products and services are raising prices, and doing well. They are abandoning the 'price shoppers' and aiming for people who want their unique styles and are willing to pay for it.

When a market gets too flooded to support the pros, most will move on. In the end, everyone suffers because mediocrity becomes the norm. When all you can find is 'eh', it's harder for an interested person to grow because examples are harder to find.

Not exactly sure where I'm going, because I can see the side that says "We're pros and should be treated as such, and paid appropriately" as well as the "these poor kids/parents can't afford all these fancy pics, and mine are nearly as good anyway" point of view.

Thoughts? Opinions?

At several events I've shot at, a parents commented they have the same camera I do, why don't their pictures come out as good.
It's a good question.
 
OP
J

jks9199

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2006
Messages
22,669
Reaction score
2,922
Location
Northern VA
While Bob's business shift was the trigger for the post, this is something I've been pondering for a while. I know someone who's one of those team moms who's a decent amateur photographer, with reasonably quality gear. She started posting pics from the games on Flickr or a similar site because they guy paid to take pictures at the game was charging too much, in her opinion. OK; she's putting them up for free -- but this guy is paid or supported by the league to take pics. Then there's the sea of video cameras and extra 20 minutes (or more!) of posing for pics done at many seminars and tournaments. I've actually been coaching, judging, or refereeing and had people complain that I was in the way of the video camera!

I said I'm not sure where I was leading -- and I'm still not. There's something to be said for not charging even $10 for a candid shot taken during the event... but then I've seen some of Bob's work, in particular, and some other skilled pros who really capture not just a flicker of movement -- but the sense of the event or moment. And that skill and talent deserves to be paid appropriately. And that the team mom is certainly undercutting or killing the guy's "action shot" market by giving away the pics. Some folks may still buy the pro's work -- but lots will settle for a "good 'nuff" shot that's free. Honestly -- I'd be one of them!

I just don't have a good answer or compromise position here...
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
As far as martial arts photography, I don't know if there is a market for it or not. I see some event photographers around here that seem to specialize in photo and video of local tournaments.

http://www.downriverphotography.com/Sports/Martial-Arts

On most of his martial arts galleries, they state "This event was photographed for FREE as a promotional courtesy by Downriver Photography. Please support local photographers, whoever they may be. They work hard for you." I counted 3 apparently paid events, and the rest comps. That's about par for my experience the past 2 years.

2 events that contacted me wanted me to pay to shoot there, wanted a cut of sales, and wanted promotional rights to the shots. 1 wanted another 15-20 portraits (the Masters series that take hours apiece to do). Funny how the martial arts school owners are split in how great an opportunity those would be for me....and how unified the working photographers are in how not a good idea that is.
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
Sidebar:
Just got a job opening notice for a PictureMe studio (Walmart) store manager. Pay is $9/hr salary. On call 24hr/365days. Can't go out of town on days off as you're required to be available at demand. It's a hell job, based on comments I've read. That's my 'alternate' path as the other chains aren't much better.

I'll stick to my current game plan, bump my rates accordingly and keep going. May be rough, but 1 portrait a week (average) is still more money and so much less stress.

ok, /sidebar. :D
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
Bob,
Have you ever read any of Seth Godin's work? I highly recommend reading his blog at the very least. His writing really gets one thinking bout their own perspectives especially those regarding business, marketing and creating art.

Tried a few times, couldn't get into his style. Suppose I can look again.

ok, queued him up, gave a quick read and his blog seems a bit 'better fit' than his books that I've checked out. Will spend a few days reading back. Already found 1 nugget I can adopt.
Danke :)


On reconsideration, perhaps it's more a matter of 'when the student is ready the master will make sense.'.
Idea bulbs are going off in my head now like old school flash bulbs.
:asian:
 

Bill Mattocks

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Feb 8, 2009
Messages
14,964
Reaction score
3,267
Location
Michigan
On most of his martial arts galleries, they state "This event was photographed for FREE as a promotional courtesy by Downriver Photography. Please support local photographers, whoever they may be. They work hard for you." I counted 3 apparently paid events, and the rest comps. That's about par for my experience the past 2 years.

2 events that contacted me wanted me to pay to shoot there, wanted a cut of sales, and wanted promotional rights to the shots. 1 wanted another 15-20 portraits (the Masters series that take hours apiece to do). Funny how the martial arts school owners are split in how great an opportunity those would be for me....and how unified the working photographers are in how not a good idea that is.

That's interesting; at the last several tournaments I went to, they had a booth set up with the venders and seemed to be doing land-office business taking photos of the kids with their trophies for the parents. I didn't check out the prices, but they didn't look cheap. They had the usual backdrops, strobes, and dslr setup, with someone running a pair of 8x10 dye-sub (I think) printers as well as taking orders for framed prints. Honestly, I never stuck my nose in to see how they were doing, but since I've been going to tournaments for a couple years now, and they seem to be showing up to all of them, if they're losing money, they're not very smart.
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
It's all in the terms Bill.

One of the big KMA tournaments came through Buffalo a few years back. A requirement they had was all winners must get a photo taken before they got their award. The line was huge. The catch was that by funneling all winners through the shooters booth, many of them said 'what the heck' and bought something. The shooter made a nice (not huge, but decent) chunk of change. The product was 'straight out of camera, no processing' shots burned to cd or printed on an inkjet. When I suggested such an idea, 2 other event presenters laughed and gave me the equivalent of a head pat. Maybe what I need to do is upgrade my target client癡le?
 
OP
J

jks9199

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2006
Messages
22,669
Reaction score
2,922
Location
Northern VA
Sidebar:
Just got a job opening notice for a PictureMe studio (Walmart) store manager. Pay is $9/hr salary. On call 24hr/365days. Can't go out of town on days off as you're required to be available at demand. It's a hell job, based on comments I've read. That's my 'alternate' path as the other chains aren't much better.

I'll stick to my current game plan, bump my rates accordingly and keep going. May be rough, but 1 portrait a week (average) is still more money and so much less stress.

ok, /sidebar. :D

If they want you on call like that, no matter who you are, they should pay you for it. Either in general compensation (appropriately high salary, not hourly wage) or on-call pay. Of course, I don't have a problem at all believing that Walmart's in-store studio would try to get nutty hours for no pay.
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
Added to add some contrast:

12/23/2011CPI shares take a big hit
Shares of CPI Corp. lost nearly two-thirds of their value Thursday after the portrait studio operator reported it expected to continue struggling with sales despite narrowing its third-quarter loss.
CPI reported a loss of $7.3 million, or $1.03 a share, compared with a loss of $7.7 million, or $1.05 a share, in the same period a year ago. Net sales dropped 11 percent to $95 million, down from $106 million.
Dale Heins, the St. Louis-based company's chief financial officer, blamed the "disappointing" results in part on marketing efforts that fell flat as well email delivery issues that meant that many of its emails ended up in consumers' spam folders.
"Some of our competitors also came out with more aggressive offers," he added in a conference call with analysts. "We've reacted to them now. But our initial efforts were less effective because they had some sharper deals out there."

The company has since been making adjustments, he said.
Heins also said the company, which runs portrait studios inside Walmart and Sears stores, has submitted a plan to the New York Stock Exchange in response to a notice it got in October that it was out of compliance with its listing standards.
CPI shares finished Thursday at $1.98, down $3.30, or 62.5 percent from the previous close. (Kavita Kumar)
http://www.stltoday.com/business/lo...cle_f42ee904-cc9e-5a60-9b13-1fcd0b1a6073.html

Sears and Walmart saw an 11% drop in sales in 2011. They target the 'budget' shopper niche. Note the 'reason': "Some of our competitors also came out with more aggressive offers," "...our initial efforts were less effective because they had some sharper deals out there."
Target: Penny pinchers.

Same folks who now have 2+ cameras each, who are content to take hundreds of snapshots and print them at the drugstore kiosk.

By comparison though, last November Lifetouch (The dominant school shoot company, also owns The JCPenney Portrait Studio, The Target Portrait Studio& Flash! Digital Portraits) bought Olan Mills (Kmarts, Belks and Macys). So they must be doing better, lol.
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
I think for me, it's a simple answer:
IF I shoot at a tournament, insist that they funnel at least the winners through for a quick portrait. If I can offer a fairly priced product, the 'emotional' buys could make it worth setting up.
Try to work something where part of the registration fee goes towards a 'complimentary memorial cd' or something.
If I shoot at an event, insist on a minimum fee, to make it worth setting up.

My experience has indicated that will mean less jobs, but I'm ok with that. I'm not a snapshot shooter and I would rather focus more on increased quality of service than discount of price.
 

Tez3

Sr. Grandmaster
Supporting Member
Joined
Oct 13, 2006
Messages
27,385
Reaction score
4,697
Location
England
I'd look to the cheer leading comps, the ones here are based on the American pattern. They have three or four award ceremonies during the day, the competitors are well trained. Trophy winner announced, they run on pick up trophy, pose for photographer, run off then next. It's amazing the speed they can do it at. Nearly everyone wants a photgraph with the trophies. Posed photographs are done round at the retail part, sidenote..the kit is expensive! Laptops are set up, you go on and make an 'album' of the photos you want which are various ones done throughout the comp, 'name' it then order. They are printed out and put in card frames then and there. The photos are good quality and sell well, I don't know the technical details though. After the comps you have to go onto the BCA website use a password that the coaches are given and you can buy more photos if you want.
This scenario would work for any type of competition at all.
 

ETinCYQX

Master Black Belt
Joined
Nov 24, 2009
Messages
1,313
Reaction score
19
Location
Gander
Last tournament I hosted a photographer showed up uninvited to try and sell some prints. He had a Canon Rebel and a kit lens. I promptly told him he had to stay where the parents were. I assumed he'd be too much of an amateur to stay the hell out of our (school owners, coaches, organizers) way. The sports guy for the local paper showed up and I told him to go wherever he needed to and use discretion. He listens to me and understands what's going on.

Maybe it's just me but if you arrive at my event unannounced and uninvited to try and make a few bucks I am not going to do anything to help you out. In fact I'll probably go out of my way to make your day hard. Is it common practice for a photographer to do this?
 

Latest Discussions

Top