The Evils of Digital Images
by William Lulow
Just read an article about a sports photography company that prints out pictures of kids on baseball, softball and soccer teams on the spot for the parents. They have portable printers hooked up directly to their cameras and can do this in a matter of minutes. And, they sell them for whatever the price (didn’t ask). The problem is that they reported that parents have been actually going up to their monitors and trying to do screen grabs with their iPhones in order to avoid paying for prints! (Never mind how they would make decent prints from those images). Then, I’ve been hearing that there are people who actually advertise for a photographer and then ask him/her to shoot the job for free!
Unfortunately, this is part of what the digital revolution has brought. Because it is so easy to take a picture, people think that there’s just nothing to it. It’s the same mentality that permeated the internet in the music business with Napster. I think that somehow, photographers are going to have to try to do something about this notion that photographs are just “throw-aways” and not worth anything! There seem to be any number of people working with computers these days, who will try to come up with a program that will make a lo-res image into a hi-res one. I bet there are probably people working on programs that can erase watermarks or logos.
Bottom line: photographers need to talk more to each other and make concerted efforts to educate clients and the public about certain business practices in the field. A person who is trying to be a photographer should study photography not offer his or her services for free just to get experience. This breeds a whole host of people who think that “student” photographers will work for free just to build their portfolios. The TFCD thing needs to work both ways. Back in the day, we practiced our lighting and shooting skills with beginning models who gave their time in exchange for pictures for their portfolios as well. This was a mutually beneficial arrangement and not “work for free.” Usually, it cost the photographer real money in film and processing expenses, not to mention paper and chemicals to produce prints. This arrangement is quite different than blatantly asking someone to shoot something for free.
Then there are those who think that because it may only take a few minutes to press the shutter button that’s all that’s required to make a decent picture. They are not aware of the equipment, travel, parking and setup time it takes to be able to press that button. In these blogs, I have been trying to teach anyone who will read them, what goes into making a professional image.
Let’s try to educate beginners not to give away their talents and services unless they get some payment in return. If you are a beginner and you need to practice your skills, practice on family members or close friends, not people who would otherwise be customers. Stop offering your services for free because you’re “building your portfolio.”
This just promotes the notion that people can get photography for free if they offer a chance for the photographer to build her portfolio.
We need to change the public’s perceptions about photography. Let’s do it one customer at a time! If you get work requests, let people know what goes into making professional photographs. I used to list all things like location scouting, location van, talent, set up, set strike, retouching, assistants, props and rental equipment right on my invoices. So, even if the client only used a few items, they were all there for them to see. That might be one thing we could do. Then, make some of these ideas known to APA and ASMP for inclusion in their business practices publications.
I’m open to any and all suggestions.