Some thoughts on photography..

Bob Hubbard

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Real professionals? No.
Hobbyists, newbs and those we refer to as "GWC's", yes.
(GWC-Guy With Camera. Used for the 'pretty girl' shooters. Not a nice term)
 

Carol

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Its tough to compete with free. As obvious as that sounds, that's what we're up against...in more ways than one.

Some folks think the digis snapped from the gallery are good enough. Plus, its nearly impossible compete with a personal dimension, e.g. "My Aunt Joanne came in from out of state and took these pictures".

Others have more of an entitlement mentality and try to beat businesspeople (not just photogs) down in price for what I swear is sheer sport! Some parents will raise a fuss over good pictures in hopes of getting the photos they committed to for free, or at least less money. They are usually the shrillest, while the ones that may have a legitimate complaint about the quality of your work are more apologetic in their approach. However, just because they are a bit easier to recognize doesn't make them easier to deal with.

Unlike someone on the sidelines snapping a digi, a professional photographer has a reputation to maintain. My own rules...embarassing or unintentional shots of people go on the cutting room floor, period. Also, I take immense care to protect the privacy of my subjects, esp. those that are underage. I generally don't divulge the precise locations of where I shoot. I haven't yet put a photo of anyone under 18 on Facebook -- not even the family members that I love so much. I just won't do it. While I haven't done adult-oriented work yet, I expect I'll do that under a different presence so someone looking for one of my waterfall photos doesn't accidentally stumble across a nude they didn't really want to see. I don't know if these things are appreciated, or if anyone even cares -- but it is important to me, it is a level of responsibility that I must uphold.

I don't know what the answer is. It does seem like possibilities for paid work overall are diminishing, that's why I'm not betting the farm on my own photography business. But I hope the door isn't closed just yet :)
 

Bob Hubbard

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A long time ago, only rich people got portraits done. It might end up that in the future only rich people pay for photography. Hope not. I kinda like it.
 

Bob Hubbard

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If you search Google for martial arts photography, martial arts photographer, you'll see the same folks in the top 20 on both. Most are your traditional school portrait shooters. Some specialize in martial arts, some have it as a side line. Over the last few years there's been little shift in those names. Placement yeah, but I still see most of the same names I did 5 years ago.

Searching on martial arts portraits brings up a different list. Most of them are also regular shooters. I found 1 new name to add to the 'artistic' list.
Most of your shooters are the same. Bring mobile studio. Set up background. Couple of lights. Shoot.
You can pick from straight out of camera shots, shots run through an editing program, shots cut out and pasted on a digital background.

The skill of the person editing determines the results of 2 & 3 above.

Now, switching a little bit....
Most people know who Ed Parker Jr. is. He makes excellent martial arts portraits. The man is a gifted artist, does great work.
I've seen stuff on DeviantArt by hobbyists that blow his away. They give it away, or sell it for pennies.
He is still in demand, still makes top dollar for his work.
Because he's Ed Parker.
Not 'just another guy good at art'.

I look at that as an example of direction.
Yes, there are a lot of talented hobbyists out there. Some of them will produce photos that exceed mine and give them away.
That's ok, because they will -never- produce mine.
My styles becoming unique, and it's that uniqueness that will (hopefully) allow me to make a decent living shooting.
You want a decent picture, go anywhere. You want a "Masters Portrait", "Bob's the Guy" is what I hope people will be saying.
You want someone to take pictures at your event, ask anyone. You want someone who will be respectful of your rules and people, not pop a flash in everyones eyes, not walk through a ring in mid fight, not be a jerk? "Call Bob, Bob's the Guy" is what I hope is said.
You want photos like you get at Sears? Hang an old bedsheet, grab some shop lights and who's got a good camera? You want solid memories you'll cherish for years to come? Call Bob. He does great work, stands behind it and he's friendly and easy going. "Bob's the Guy".

If I can't be "The Guy", I'll fade into hobbyist status probably.
 

Mark Lynn

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Along with being a good photographer, having good equipment, a good product etc.etc. I believe in order to compete out there you need good people skills, good business sense, great follow through.

Noticing the list that Bob posted I noticed the first photography company's name listed, while their product was different (the photoshoped backgrounds) the photos of the students were on par with K Mart, Target, etc. etc.

Likewise someone mentioned Ed. Parker Jr., great guy, enjoyed talking with him, he really had a good presentation on his certificate program which I thought was a great idea. To me it was a good "niche" product that set him apart from others, and if incorporated into a school would help set my students apart from the other schools around. ( i.e. A really nice certificate program designed around the arts taught at the school, the school logo, etc. etc.)

However without the follow through, or a good product, or people skills, sales don't materialize, products don't get sold.

As the head instructor or owner of a school (although I still teach at the Rec. Center) one of my goals is to help the parent connect with my product (martial art lessons), in as many different ways as possible. If they would like a picture of little Suzy doing a side kick or posing with her belt around her waist, than it helps promote my classes while making an emotional connection with the pride and joy of their life (little Suzy). Likewise if I have a picture day, it is used as a way to help build (for lack of a better term) community spirit in my school. I want the photographer to make money, to help the day be a success because I want it to be a good experience overall for the school. So I want to promote the photo shoot several weeks out, I want the kids to take good pictures so it reflects well on the school and their families want to purchase the pictures etc. etc. One of the purposes of the composite photo poster is to help promote the school and to help build the community spirit, but it can also be used to help sell the next "photo day" for the photographer.

But if the photographer is trying to push their product on my students (parents) using high pressure, or if they don't deliver the product, or if it is a bad experience etc. etc. then the school loses as well as the photographer. So there is a balance to be struck, what the photographer needs as well as the school's expectations.
 

Carol

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On posing:
Despite running MT for 11 years, hanging out with hundreds of great folks, and training in a dozen different arts over the years, I suck at posing -your kids- the way -you like-.
3 different EPAK schools will have enough variation in their 'perfect pose' to cause complaints. You'd be surprised how many schools don't know terms like 'horse stance' or 'roof block'.
It's why I insisted that during any school shoot I did, especially with young kids, that an instructor was available to help pose people. -You- know your art better than I ever will, and while I can get people in rough position, you are the better qualified to tweak and adjust.

Actually Bob I think you are quite good at posing.

I don't know who these photogs are, but I disagree with their approach.

A photog who thinks crotch shots are appropriate poses for pre-teens. Uh sorry, if I ever photograph a young female's head eclipsing a young male's groin, and the young male's belt encircling the young female's head....they better both be over 18 with IDs and the shot would probably be something Jenna Jamison would approve of.

$Picture1.jpg

Kids as praying angels in MA class. No.
Kids arranged by race so the fairest of them all is in front and the darkest in back, the furthest out of focus. HELL NO!!

View attachment $kids_karate.jpg

$kids-kicking.jpg
 
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Mark Lynn

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Carol

I agree with you, what does the first picture have to do with name of the school? That is the point of the picture was to promote the school, kids doing the splits one on chairs and one below have nothing to do with the subject promoting the school. The name of the school is "Elite Defensive Tactics Martial Arts Academy" and the photo doesn't relate to the school.

But if the photo was in a brochure and it in context of a description related to what they teach at their school can help or improve a students flexibility, then I would think it would be ok. I didn't look at it in the same context that you did. I still don't. I don't see this as crotch shots of preteens, instead I see this as two students in uniforms demonstrating their flexibility.

Your 2nd photo (that you referenced) I again don't see the point of the white belts looking as if they are praying, I don't have a problem with the way it was photographed, just what was the point. I mean little kids lined up and bowing, or listening to the instructor I think conveys the same message, if it was to show that at our school YXZ students learn respect etc. etc.

The 3rd photo I don't get the point of your comment ending in "Hell No", unless your implying racism or something on the part of the instructor, the photographer or the school. I mean I didn't even notice what you were referring to until you pointed it out. I'm sorry I liked the shot, I guess I could also look at it that it is sexist because the little blonde girl is in front and the 3 boys are going out of focus. I personally don't believe the photographer has a thing for little blonde girls, or the school favors girls above boys, or that they prefer the white race over any other race; rather they wanted cute little kids showing that they are learning martial arts.
 

Bob Hubbard

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More on the decline of big-box chain studios
Sales have declined to the point where, given its cost structure, cash flow is now negative. These dynamics, on a levered balance sheet, make this stock a likely zero over the next year. Despite its fall over the last two weeks, CPY still trades at 14x optimistic 2011E EBITDA. You can short the stock here with limited risk and still get a 100% return.
Industry
Going to Sears or Wal-Mart to have your family picture taken is something you would see in a black-and-white film. The advent of high-quality digital cameras at inexpensive prices has made professional quality picture taking accessible to anyone. New technology captures multiple images in a single shot and automatically combines the most appealing of those images into one picture. Unique technical knowledge and professional training is no longer a differentiator for CPY. The fact that little training is needed to be a CPY photo tech only reinforces this reality.
http://seekingalpha.com/article/316626-cpi-s-bleak-q3-points-to-dark-days-ahead

National Chain Kiddie Kandids went under in 2010, eventually selling to CPI (owner of Sears Studios)

National Chain Picture People under went a major restructuring and downsizing around 2006-8, dropping about 2/3 of it's stores and retooling, before beginning a cautious growth plan.

CPI and Lifetouch have both been absorbing regional chains and successful indy studios across the country, with Lifetouch being a dominant player in the Senior Portrait market. This means that if you take the family to Target or JC Penny's, and get the school packs you're a Lifetouch family.

For insight on the mind of the mom, read here
http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1218931/favorite-national-chain-portrait-studio

Some comments:
Picture People

They produce a richer looking picture. The plain white background is very chic right now. They also strive to capture the child's personality. So, they encourage just throwing the kid down and letting them do their thing. There is very little posing. And, the photographers have more freedom because their camera is not attached to the ceiling.

But, I think their prints are cheaply made. They are made right there within 45 minutes. When we go to a real photographer he sends them out to get developed. It takes a week or two. They are so much nicer. But, that runs me like $30 for each 4x6, $8 a wallet.
When I worked at Picture People, they used a $125k photo printer. Real silver and developer, but the studio I worked at shot film. The printer was old, ill maintained and cranky, and the print quality varied on if the 1 person who knew how to get it in sync was working that day. I've heard they switched to $75k units when they went digital, but the nearest PP is 2 hrs from me so can't check.

I think Portrait Innovations rocks.

You can't beat their $9.99 special (1 10x13, 2 8x10, 4 5x7, 4 3.5x5, 32 wallets, and 6 photo cards). Amazing deal.
Lots of comments about pricing.

People are trained to use coupons, look for packages, etc.
Sears, Kmart, Walmart, JC Penny's, Target, etc all have 1 thing in common : loss leader.
Come for the cheep photos, while you wait for us to print them on our in-house $5k dye-sub printer, shop.

It's hard to compete in a price conscious market against items sold at a loss anyway.
It's like having a fully equipped dojo, with those sweet mats, the spotless restroom, the lobby with big screen tv, staff on duty noon-9pm, with the stocked pro shop, trying to compete against the guy working out of his basement. ($10 a week vs $150 a month, hmm....)
 
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