I’ve had some time to sit and think about this one for awhile, but decided to not be silenced by someone that is supposedly an “industry leader.” A couple of years ago, there was an article, well written, by Carlos Baez called “Truth in Our Industry.” The article was based on calling out one of the supposed “industry leaders” on a hypocritical comment they made. This comment struck a chord with a lot of people in our industry who were too afraid to stand up against these “industry leaders.” Here’s a quote from the article.
By the way, I am not a “Grumpy”, a label these supposed leaders came up with to downplay those photographers, myself included, who have been practicing this craft and art of photography for over 20 years with a driven passion. They don’t want us “grumpies’ / experienced photographers having a voice or more importantly an opinion on the state of our industry.
The Grumpies… It’s true. Isn’t it sad that it’s come down to people who disagree being called Grumpies? Check out Fast Track Photographer (a great motivational book, but not realistic) where this term was created. I, myself, have been doing photography for 10 years and in March, I will have been doing it professionally for 5. The article’s comments blew up with people taking a stand against these leaders.
All of this is to get to my story. A couple of weeks ago, a fellow photographer posted on the Jacksonville Photography Group page saying they had someone contact them to do a portrait session, however they were on a budget and could only afford $250 and needed the disc included. Let me first stop to say that I do charge more than that ($449 plus tax) BUT there is certainly a place for that in the photography industry AND we need to be able to have all sorts of different price ranges so photography isn’t priced out of reach for everyone but the wealthy. Anyway, this “industry leader” (I use this term loosely) made a comment that it should be illegal for anyone to charge that little for a session and a disk, which offended many of us in the group. They went on to say that these people would spend all sorts of money on a tv that they would upgrade in 3 years but not on photos that last a lifetime. The worst part, was they stated, in a nutshell, that the client must not value photography or else they would pony up the extra money.
Needless to say, many, many people were very offended but were to afraid to speak up. Of course, me being me, couldn’t just not sit there and let that be said, so I spoke up… story of my life. I, in a professional and ethical way, stated that it wasn’t fair to categorize everyone who can’t pay $500+ for portraits that way and that situations change and maybe they can no longer afford the things they used to and they’ve realized their kids are growing faster than they thought. It then became an argument of doing a “disservice” to the photography industry because we “train” clients to expect lower pricing. I understand, mathematically, that we have to make enough to cover our overhead and make a profit and that if all we every did was portrait sessions at $250, we could never support our families, but sometimes a business owner’s goals are different than others who are in the same industry. I then told my story about how I virtually had to start over with my business when I moved back to Jacksonville after living in Chicago for 4 years and it was hard to book clients. I could either “stick to my guns” and be in the price range I knew I was worth and not book jobs or I could do what was best for MY business and lower my prices to a range that I could begin booking at and slowly raise my prices to a level that I wasn’t overbooking at. This “industry leader” took it upon himself to do a full unsolicited critique of my website in front of the whole group, 100+ people. In all honesty, I’ve been in art school for years and am totally ok and used to critiques because that’s the only way you get better, however this was completely unsolicited and written in a very condescending way. This “industry leader” told me that my website was confusing because I like babies, dogs, rocking the dress, weddings, families, etc. He went on to say that he and his wife are a high end luxury brand and that everything they do caters to their luxury brand. Ok, I’m being a little harsh here, but since when does a scratched up pink and blank grungy background with a silhouette of a chandelier constitute high end luxury? He also stated I should stick to one type of photography and only blog that. In my opinion, you better walk the walk before you can talk the talk and this particular day, they blogged a family session. If he practiced what he preached, why was that on their blog? He claimed to be an expert on branding and websites because of his degree. I stated all of my degrees as well and followed up by saying that just because I had a degree in them didn’t mean I was an expert. He then replied with, “Good for you.” I said, “Yes, that is good for me. Now why can’t you answer any of my questions.”
After calling this “industry leader” out on everything that he said:
“On November 27th a heated conversation began from simply a photographer wanting to refer a client to a photographer. The conversation quickly had fuel added which now lead to a debate over pricing, branding, business expectations and so on. This is a Pictage PUG group and in the community guidelines set by Pictage, this group is meant to be a place of friendship & calm community where we “Learn, Share and Help each other grow” versus heated debates and name calling towards bystanders. As the PUG leader and community moderator to protect the integrity of this group and represent what this incredible group was started as, a conversation as such is not the goal of this group. We host monthly events to inspire & grow local community that will shape the future of your business. At these meetings we encourage conversation led by community. Here is to new beginnings.”
Again, me being me, couldn’t stand that he not only deleted the thread, but here he was shutting down my point of view. And everyone who was on the thread, where was the name calling? I’d love to know. I responded with this:
“Sxxxxxn, it became heated because many of us felt insulted by the comments that you and xxxxxx started. I’ve had countless messages from photographers in this group saying they felt insulted and were happy I had took a stand. I don’t like creating conflict, but the conflict started with both of you insulting many photographers that are part of this community. I felt you were very condescending towards me and it isn’t right that you can just delete my comments so I can’t stand up for myself. Honesty goes a long way. Again, walk the walk and then you can talk the talk.”
A couple of other photographers chimed in talking about how the group is a clique and because the atmosphere was awkward and this “industry leader” had been very condescending to them, they never returned. It seems like many people are unhappy with this group. Needless to say, he, again, didn’t like what I had to say, so he deleted that thread too. This is clearly someone with something to hide or else he would back everything he said and instead of backing it, he deletes the threads. Honestly, we need new PUG leaders in Jacksonville. It’s not right to portray to our industry, especially the newer photographers, that you make all sorts of money off of being wedding photographers, when it can’t be backed up. You claim you make $8,000 in print sales. How many people will truly pay $8,000 in prints in Jacksonville? I’m betting that that happened once. I’m also betting that that number was probably inflated.
Many “industry leaders” who aren’t booking weddings because of their price point end up coming up with products or workshops, using their “industry leader” status to sell to newby photographers.These workshop seats aren’t cheap. They’re usually $1,500 a pop. That’s right. A one day workshop. That’s fine if you actually have something worth teaching. They’ll tell you all of their “secrets” for success and make you feel inspired, but at the end of the day, what are they hiding behind? Can they really afford that $300,000 home or Mercedes on their salary as wedding photographers? Or are they doing these other things to makeup for what they lack in bookings? Let me say, there is nothing wrong with doing this, however, what I have a problem with is when they make it appear as though they book all of these weddings for tens of thousands of dollars so they can live the high life, when really, they shoot a handful a year and hide the fact that they aren’t as successful as they portray. They’ll also create “studios” under another name to sell cheaper wedding packages to people so that their “high end” brand doesn’t suffer because of it. Then, instead of shooting the wedding themselves, will hire it out to some photographer who hasn’t got the slightest clue what their doing. It’s sad.
This industry has gotten so petty. I know it’s not just my industry, but others too. It’s almost like you’re frowned upon if you don’t like these “industry leaders.”
I don’t typically bring this type of thing to my blog, especially when clients can see it, but I want clients to know that there are photographers out there that DO respect and fit your budget. I’m also very happy to get referrals and many times with work with my clients and their budget. Sometimes that means less time during their session, less photos, etc.
I’ll end on this note. On one of my responses, I said that business goals are different from person to person. My goal isn’t to support my family off of my income. My goal is to build our savings and be able to afford things that we couldn’t otherwise, like vacations. We live off of just my husband’s income (which if you’ve followed my blog, you know the story of me being laid off, yada yada yada). We don’t live in a big fancy house and we share a car, but I am happier than I was when I drove an Infiniti and lived in a nice big house working a corporate job. We make these type of sacrifices so that WE can build a family. What’s the point in a big house that both parents have to work to support? You’re not there to enjoy it. Your kids will be in daycare so they can’t enjoy it. The payments become a thorn in your side and heaven forbid something happen and one of them get laid off. I love where I am in life and I’m happy. Happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I love what I do. I love photography, as well as all of the other arts that I am a part of. I don’t care what other photographers have to say about it because I’m in it for my family, not them. My family is my life and they are the ones I love most in this world. End of story.