With the sale of any product or service there is always the question in peoples mind as to what they get.
Some will look at the value of the product/ service, some will just have to own it. Some will argue the cost. Thats business in a nutshell, some do better than others.
Photography isnt much different.
Prior to opening Golden Orb Designs the wife and I owned another photography business (a franchise) we sold it a few years later after we made it quite successful with contracts across the globe with Kodak. We sold a year or 2 before the GFC and walked away unscathed, probably one of my more intelligent moments, but it also gave me some insight into running a business, the risks and photography.
So.. getting back on track…
Ill start off with the printing aspect as its usually the final product that a customer will see.
There are many many printers on the market, different brands, types and uses. I personally own a Epson and am happy.
So there are really 4 different types of sellers of prints.
1) Multi national… your Big W/ Kmart, Harvey Normans etc, ones that will print a 6 x 4 for about a buck. Photo is usually supplied by the person taking the shot. Most people flock to these and there is nothing wrong with that. They get a family momento at a great price.
2) Small printing companies that will also print family shots, Landscapes, etc etc… will cost a fair bit more as they generally dont have the buying power for inks etc that the multi nationals have or the ability to take a big loss. Photo is usually taken by someone with a P@S or DSLR and what a more personal touch to it, ie colour correction (not clicking the auto button)
3) Sole trader/ Photographer/ Art Gallery. These are your wedding, portrait and landscape photographers, ones that have a small business, own their equipment and or specialise as I do. These are the ones that will meticulously go through every photo, manually correct and clean the shot up.
4) Home printing, basic inkjet/ laser printers that are occasionally used to print various shots. Self explanatory.
So what is the difference between 1 and 3… For No 3 ….well obviously there is the time taking to take the shot, getting to the location, cost of equipment, insurance, internet, phones, computers, vehicles… honestly the list goes on and this isnt my full time occupation luckily so I do not have to depend on it.
No 1 you may have a employee (one of 20 or 30) who is processing the shot, only, probably takes no more than 10 minutes. This isnt to say that they dont care about what they do, or dont have the experience and isnt meant to bag them. You would not include the costs associated with the time taken to take the shot, costs getting there, equipment etc etc etc. So there is a obvious saving there.
In all the above is the equipment calibrated… dunno, mine is thats all I care about…. this gets done every few days religiously. Dont do this and you run the risk of blown colours and having to reprint something that will cost the business money.
What type of inks do they use, are they genuine? Are they archival? Substandard inks or non approved ones are a recipe for disaster.
What medium is used, is it approved by that company and what is its longevity. I once saw a canvas printed by a printing company and can honestly say it looked appalling it was faded, cracked and thats just under fluro lights. Epson warrant their inks on their medium for +70 years.
There are only a few types of medium I use and have been using them for a few years (9-10 years) now without any complaints from myself or customers.
So what do people expect and is it right to relate that cost to the product?
Well, some people just have to have the product, they fall in love with it.. nothing wrong with that and will pay for that product.
Some people will argue the value. One person I came across just this year saying., “Id never pay that much for a image, you can do it for mates rates!” Well guess what.. you dont have to.. go out and take the shot yourself and get it printed, but if you dont want to hike or fly to the middle of no where, purchase the equipment and all the other stuff.. well your going to be in a bind.
Im certainly no Peter Eastway or Ansel Adams and I dont think its right that I would consider charging the price that they do. So I dont, but on the flip side is it doing the industry any good by charging a lot less? Im all for competition, but when does it hurt the industry? I see it as a double edged sword. Do we under value what we do, our services and final product?
For me I have formulated the costs of all the equipment including servicing and time spent. As I am a business which doesnt run on favours and faith alone I can not afford to sell a product that costs me more than I recoup.
Some people see the price of a print for X-Y and then expect that, thats the value of the product rather than a “sale value or discounted rate”, so does that put the “Ken Duncan’s” out of reach…. personally I dont think so as you are buying a “Ken Duncan”… just like buying Nike shoes vs Dunlop Volley. But a portion do believe this, again thats a customers opinion. Its not necessary to take great shots with a expensive camera, most P@S are quite good Ill admit! They are not as heavily, some are waterproof and travel better for a heap less than a DSLR
This is the same with photography services The Ansel Adams of the world will charge X for his services, “Suzie Photographer” will charge less because she isnt a very famous photographer but promotes that she is a professional photographer and thus is expected that she will produce the same work but the final result is chalk and cheese. This could be because of lack of experience, different equipment or a combination of things. Caution should be considered with the costs as photography is a art and effectively we dont want to cut ourselves short in the future. Some camera equipment costs a bomb.
So what is the difference between a $69 printer from Kmart and one that is worth a few grand … well.. shit loads and give it 6 months when that print starts to deteriorate you will see the difference. Its even noticeable as soon as it is printed, you just have to look or have the knowledge of what you are looking at.
The other issue is warranty… with most things there is a warranty or consumer guarantee. This is the link for Western Australia. What are our obligations as photographers to provide a print and how long is that print valid before it is acceptable that it starts to fall apart?. I warrant all my prints for the maximum of 70 years as does Epson with their inks.
Is it worth the risk of purchasing a inferior product ie a printer or basic video camera to save a few bucks when your customer may complain that what they have received is not what was paid for or is subject to defects? Or is it worth taking the risk?
Is it worth paying the extra $$ to start with knowing that you will not have any problems? Is it worth the insurance if it is open to the public? Is it worth the bad criticism on public forums like face book. To me, its worth it. I see my business name as a brand and present that brand as “up market” and promote my work as higher than Art Gallery quality, I dont cut corners and dont do things on the cheap. No one has ever complained about the product or service itself as I triple check everything as it costs a small fortune to print. Is it worth the servicing costs, how much will it get used and its value per print. My conscious doesn’t let me sell a print that has a problem with it, even the calendars. Ive sent a few back which Im not happy with.
Photography is one of those businesses where “What you pay for, is what you get.” Cameras are the same as printers… again.. you get what you pay for. A $60 P@S camera will not give you the same image as a Nikon D4s valued at $6000.00 + lenses or a $30,000.00 Phase One, but again, it all depends on what you want to do with that shot and whether the customer a) notices/ understands it or b) or is within their budget. Dont get me wrong, you will still get a good photo!
I prefer to give my best in what I do, I dont cut corners. Ive even seen someone buy a roll of photo paper just to try and cut it in half so they get a discount.. It didnt work and stuffed their printer up lol
So as a consumer I look at value vs product on most things. Other things its a must have.
I look what is out there and review it. Google is your friend, it may not be 100% accurate all the time but there are hundreds of people who will give a review of services and products. Remember you are the “customer” and as the old fashion saying goes, “the customer is always right” and a business has to at least break even on costs to stay afloat.