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May 22, 2009


Michael McKay

My answer to this one is that I am a PHOTOGRAPHER!!
I take and supply PHOTOGRAPHS!!

Although I shoot on digital format, that, as far as the customer is concerned, has nothing to do with the end result.

I reckon that if I, or any photographer, does not stand up for our PROFESSION - WE SURE AS HELL AIN'T GONNA HAVE ONE !!

In my humble opinion, now is the time to set ourselves apart from those who will certainly fail in business by the means you have described and good riddance to them!!


Hugh O'Brien

I disagree. While I certainly appreciate my need to make a living, I feel strongly that the best possible thing that can happen to the photographs I take is that they be seen. For that reason I freely distribute all of the images I take for personal reasons, I ask for accreditation of course but other than that, if someone wants to view it, to mirror it or to print it, I'm happy that I've been able to make something they wanted and I'm happy that my image was good enough to qualify.

Charge for your (skilled) time, your equipment, premises and overheads. Give the rest away because its better off out in the world than in a filing cabinet.

Hugh O'Brien

And if you're concerned about bad prints affecting your reputation, put a demo of difference between a pro print and a home deskjet print on your studio wall. Let the customer decide what they want, and in the interest of your work, why not offer the pro print at close to cost price? Happy customers are good customers, its not all about sucking them dry.


An amazing concept Hugh, do you think musicians and writers and artists etc should do the same thing? Charge for their time, and then give away the copyright to anyone who appreciates their work so much that they would want to reproduce it!
In my early days as a photographer, people often asked me what my other job was because photography was simply not a well recognised Irish profession in the early 80’s. Now I must ask you that question Hugh: What is your other job?

Hugh O'Brien

You're absolutely correct, photography is not my main source of income, and that's probably what gives me such a different opinion. However think of the financial benefits of the approach I suggested; through greater distribution your recognition will go up, leading to greater demand which allows you to charge more. Your work may improve as it is more publicly critique-able (you're never too good to not need feedback) which allows you to charge more for prints. People who are captivated enough by a photograph you have taken want to tell you how they feel and often will pay extra for signed copies - despite your experiences I believe most people know that the best print is produced by the photographer, not from the kodak kiosk - and because the work is more pervasive there will be a lot more of such people.

Commercial use is of course another matter together, if someone is going to profit financially from your work you're very much entitled to a share but for the average customer I'd rather have my photo on their wall without remuneration than have it archived on my PC.

Writers and musicians _are_ starting to embrace this, several authors release their work for free reading in the hopes that if someone likes it enough they'll buy the book as an alternative to reading onscreen. Radiohead (and many others) recently distributed their album for free, ensuring that the barrier for creating new fans was at a minimum -- all it cost was bandwidth but the increased interest in their work and ease of access to potential fans sparked much more lucrative secondary products, merchandise/concerts etc.

I realise its a big change and obviously not going to suit everyone's business practices, but run some 'back-of-the-envelope' calculations on what advantages of having a huge audience would be, you may find yourself surprised.
Thanks, Hugh


Hugh, we get a customer like you on average once a year, who thinks they know how we SHOULD be running our business. And guess what? that usually includes giving them the portraits for next to nothing and telling us about all their friends who will book us as a result!
Dont give up the day job!

Margaret M

This bit is worth repeating...."You're absolutely correct, photography is not my main source of income, and that's probably what gives me such a different opinion." Ya think?
Try using your method and then paying the mortgage as well as the salaires of six people.
The fact is that this is a real livlihood for many of us and in honesty, I think your opinion is of little or no value as you have clearly said you do not have to rely on photography to live. I mean do you really think that this comment "...but for the average customer I'd rather have my photo on their wall without remuneration than have it archived on my PC...." is anything other than commercial tosh?
Sure, we'd all have loads of customers if we worked for free...but we wouldn't have jobs or businesses.
I personally am not a 'hired gun' albeit with a camera. I have a talent. I bring my talent, 18 years of experience plus 7 years of training/apprenticeship and education in photography with me to every shoot and it informs every aspect of my job - including my printed portraits. I cannot be hired by someone who wants my talent as a portrait photographer but not my skills in creating the finished piece. The same goes for all of my colleagues working here in our place. All very skilled people with experience and talent that is worth valuing. And the same goes for many of my colleagues in the industry. But I see more and more of them caving in and copying the 'drones' with cameras who maybe did a 'course' to show them how to use a camera and little else except the knowledge of a pc or mac. Semi-pro only applies to photography and the public, in their wisdom, accept it. Would you let a semi-pro cut your hair? Mind your kids? Thought not...
Shocking and sad...


Taking some of the comments above and giving them an about twist - how many 'established' professionals out there are willing to assist/mentor genuine new entrants in the professional/business procedures of running a photography business/studio? I'm coming to the business after another (long) career but with a real desire to achieve results and satisfy clients - not a 'have camera therefore I must be a photographer' attitude. It is my only income source, I'm building my knowledge & experience with the camera etc. but right now finding out, understanding and implementing the right business aspects (copyright, usage, licencing, contracts, pricing, marketing etc.) would make a big difference. I am going to do it but would prefer to do it right. Any takers? (willing to travel beyond my geographical area.)

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