Difficulty with production due to the expectations of the digital world

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by ted_smith, May 20, 2013.

  1. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Help!

    I'm yet again fighting the "digital culture of expectation".

    I shot some photos of my friends kids using my Hasselblad, Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji Acros 100 - though they are my friends, they are a paying client (though largely just paying for my costs with a little extra). The results are quite outstanding, even by my standards! Arguably some of the best portraiture I have done.

    After the shoot, I sent the films to my lab, who have done a great job of developing the film and, to keep costs down, I asked the lab to conduct initially just their "standard scan" from negative to CD so that the client could see the proofs and choose their favourites for final proper production. This, the lab has done, and pleased with the results the client is. I have then reduced the pictures in size (to about 70Kb) and watermarked each picture too, to prevent anybody just trying to do a bodge job print effort themsevles. I have reitterated many times "these are low res scans....proper prints from negatives are essential and key to optimum final prints" etc etc

    However, the client has now asked if she can have the electronic pictures without the watermark so she can create her own little album and produce two more for her extended family. Note she still intends to place an order of 3 or 4 enlargements for her wall which will be done by my lab, but still.

    I am now in a tricky spot and need advice on resolving. If I give her the unwatermarked but still low res scans (each original file is about 300Kb) and she just takes them along to Wallmart or wherever, we all know how they'll look. Though they may satisfied with them, I know they'll look a fraction of how good they'd look if I had the prints done properly from the negatives using my lab. And my name, as a photographer, will be affected. because everybody who is shown these little albums witll think that is the work of Ted Smith. I don't want people thinking, when they see these sub-standard prints, that it is a reflection of my work and will reduce my capability in future of generating clients. But likewise, she doesn't want to have to pay an extra £70 or so to have some sets of 5"x5" prints produced, considering it has already cost £35 for the film and 85£ for the development and scanning costs.

    What the hell do I do?
     

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  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Just explain to the client that once watermarked, you cannot delete it and only proper printing from the negatives is all you can do for her.
     
  3. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi ted

    what has happened is typical of what happens when one does work for friends.
    why don't you SELL her the usage for the files much like a stock agency does.
    if it is actually for a brag-book, have her tell you how many there will be,
    and charge her a fee.
     
  4. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    A customer that doesn't want to spend any money. I live in a town where everybody in it thinks if they've spent 20 bucks, they've spent a lot of money. People like that will be glad to let you bust your tail all day to make 5 dollars. Get rid of 'em. You've got better things to do. These people burn me up. That's my attitude about them.
    Learn to spot the pattern. People like that will never be satisfied no matter what you do.
     
  5. whlogan

    whlogan Subscriber

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    What Rick A said. Or just tell her "No".... any way you say it, it comes to no.... she's trying to scam you, Pal... I would not do it.... why are people we like, even, sometime so cheap?.... sorry...
    Logan
     
  6. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Your lab can probably prepare three small albums, with good quality small prints for you from the low resolution scans at a reasonable cost. Sell them to your friend/client with a reasonable markup, on the condition that you will deliver them upon receipt of payment for them plus deposit monies for the enlargements.

    That will give you the opportunity to ensure the album prints are properly done.
     
  7. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Tell her you have to recoup your costs.
     
  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    A second solution. It is pretty much guaranteed that she cannot do better. If she does not think so, then you are out the money and you had a learning experience. Next time have have a contract before you pull out your camera.
     
  9. whowantstoast

    whowantstoast Member

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    Tell her the truth. Say that you work really hard to maintain your image as a photographer and that the quality of the photos is very, very important to you. It's your personal brand. You want her to have the 'brag books' she wants, but still be able to present the best quality alongside your name, as you're sure she understands. Then work out a deal with your lab for the books, and make it clear that the choice is really hers, how much she values what she wants.

    (But be prepared for someone she knows to use a clone tool to get rid of the watermarks.)
     
  10. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I would go this route. Give all the reasons outlined by others about the quality being important. And license her the use of good scans of the selects - for a modest fee, you can explain covers the cost of the scans. Don't pay for and send her 100MB scans, but send the appropriate scan detail for the intended purpose. That way the brag books will look professional, but the quality still won't tempt them to make a mural to hang behind the couch. Tell them for a mural you would recommend a 100MB scan, and then go order that when the time comes.

    I hope it all comes out to be a positive experience for you all around.
     
  11. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    What is the alternative? She says no and takes only what you offered in the first place. She then scans the prints in oh her crappy scanner that is part of her home MFC and still does what she wants with them! (Don't think that will happen? I know from experience, my mother in law used to do it ALL the time!)

    Be grateful if indeed she does print them @ Walmart (or some other chain), as they will be a lot closer to say printing at home on a crappy inkjet...
     
  12. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    One good story that reinforces one should never do "paid" work for friends. It tilts things on its ear and can even result in the loss of friends.

    Give her the low-res files to do as she pleases, but specify, in the nicest possible terms, that the original files are yours and if the client wants them, a fee is expected out of courtesy, if not need.

    I have come to the impression that your costs are oustripping what you could reasonably have expected to have earned or been given for this task. I don't know if there was a written agreement (essential for this type of work) dictating what costs are involved, why and the alternatives, and whether she did or did not agree to them. There is the danger, as you pointed out, that the "substandard prints" may be interpreted by others as an example of your work and thus cause more problems. The way forward here is to speak with her, as a friend but also as a client who has engaged a professional, about your excessive costs vs the poor return for same. In a nutshell, she is expected to reimburse you for the costs and a bit more for your time and effort. That's it in black and white.

    I did get a chuckle though that anybody could expect a decent print from a 300kb file. That's funny!
     
  13. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    if she's really a friend just explain your concerns, tell her that the prints will look like shit and you have a professional reputation to think of and she will understand.

    If she doesnt understand, or acts pissed, the friendship may not be that strong. Seriously, friends to put friends into difficult situations.
     
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  15. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    In my first response I said to just get rid of 'em. I had failed to take note you're dealing with friends. Knowing that I'd say now to dispense with the situation in the quickest way that will make them happy enough, and call it a loss, so far as portfolio or reputation is concerned. Just end it and move on. Let them print their stuff on an etch-a-sketch for all you care.
     
  16. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    Of course you could always go down the hard route and point out that although she commissioned you to take the pictures the copyright stays with you. (UK Law) Printing extra without your permission would be an infringement and you would sue. I think a little intense negotiating is required here. Or if the friendship is more important than your work, just give in.
     
  17. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    Seconded, except I might add "these small scans are not suitable for reproduction, only for choosing which images you want good copies of. I can pay my lab to produce high quality scans from the negs which you can use and/or I can get more prints to any size".
     
  18. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    It's wonderful how friends who know you have photographic skills can invite you to take "just a few snaps" of their kids, pets, weddings or valuables for insurance purpose, when they know the alternative is employing a stranger who does it for a living and having to pay them a the going rate.
     
  19. lloydapug

    lloydapug Subscriber

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    may 21, 2013 from Lloyd Erlick,

    One of the things that caused me to take up photography was looking at
    my folks' family photos, which in those days were all black and white prints. As a kid I noticed many of them had the word 'proof' rubber stamped on them. None of them was larger than 3x5. One or two had perforations arranged to spell 'proof'.

    Of course, now I know that photographers of the day were used to clients keeping the proofs and ordering little or nothing. My parents were classic; they were content with the free pictures, even if they had a rubber stamp.

    Now that I've spent the best years of my life trying to sell people that which they least desire - pictures of themselves - I can see that my parents were legion. People will content themselves with whatever comes for free or is cheap, or at least cheapest. No surprise, of course. Television instead of movies, 35mm instead of 4x5, you name it. So nothing in this story is unheard of; on the contrary, the surprise would be if these 'clients' behaved differently.

    I'm afraid the only solution I ever found for the 'working for friends syndrome' was to work for friends for free.

    One of the most powerful rules I ever learned was - if you don't take money, no one can tell you what to do.

    Then do the job the best way you possibly can. When others look at the work they will see what you'd like potential clients to see. Plus - and this is the big advantage - you can take the position that you are a professional, like a doctor or dentist, and you know better than the client what the client wants and needs. The work you give them is by definition right, and legitimately bears your name. This is why it should be the best you can do.

    If you work for free, it's a chance to do the work as you know it should be done.

    I think it was William Mortensen who commented that doing work for 'cost' or for very cheap is a mug's game. That approach merely guarantees you are poorly paid at best, and at worst that you get into a situation such as we are discussing - and are poorly paid.

    Much better to choose carefully who you will provide free work - in other words, give a gift. A gift is something you specify; there is no 'client'.

    If you are not giving a gift, the price should be a legitimate reflection of your skills and costs. We all know photography is not cheap, and we shouldn't sell our work as if it is.

    --le
    lloyd@the-wire.com
    www.heylloyd.com
     
  20. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Totally agree with making a contract first that covers ALL of the rights, including the proof scans. Then the ball is back in your friend's court, and they have to decide whether they wish to pay you well or not.

    I also agree with telling her the truth. Don't lie. Don't make anything up. Just the truth. Tell her straight that you would love for her to have an album of pictures, but that the proof scans are not meant for this; they are meant for viewing on a screen.
    Tell her that to meet and preserve your quality standards, you have to make higher resolution scans that are color corrected and worked over which costs money and more of your time. Good luck!
     
  21. ME Super

    ME Super Member

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    I went the gift route with my sister-in-law's wedding. They had hired a professional photographer, plus lots of family was there with their digital P&S (there was even one family member with a DSLR!) so I knew there would be plenty of pictures. Everyone with a camera was shooting digital in color, so I went for a completely different tack. I shot film, of course, but instead of shooting color I went with B&W - a slightly expired (but refrigerated the entire time I had it which was a bit over a year) roll of 400TX. She got negatives, a CD (6 megapixel scans from the lab), and prints. She said she liked the way they turned out, especially because they were B&W which was so different from what everyone else did.
     
  22. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    Tell her no. She is only entitled to your selects, not the entire shoot, and if she wants albums she can buy albums prepared by you from your selects.
     
  23. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Folks

    Lots of responses, thankyou.

    To put a bit more meat on the bones, the situation is, as some have pointed out, awkward.

    I am battling my need and desire to generate both portfolio examples and exposure to wider clients vs profit. At the moment, as my photography is a hobby really and I only make a little money here and there, I don't need the money as such but I am also concious that I do not want to cheapen my own work or that of the industry - digi shooters are doing that for us!

    This situation arose by their desire to have some nice pictures and they asked if I'd do it. If I hadn't had agreed, they'd have used some other commercial bozzo who'd do it for £50, and then he would not doubt get all the resulting word-of-mouth recommendations instead of me. And they are my best friends, but I have now learnt this was not such a good idea.

    Suffice to say that I explained everything we have said and likened it to buying an Aston Martin but then servicing it yourself using oil and spark plugs from Costco. She is 100% certain she wishes to buy 4 enlargements for her wall, which she understands need to be done from the negs. In fact, she's sent me the numbers already. So that's good. The onyl reason she wanted the proofs was for her to make her own little album to look throwugh now and again - no doubt it will seldom see the light of day, unlike the wall prints.

    So, all in all, not a bad resolve. Yes, she has the proofs and yes she will be printing them herself - hopefully if kept 6"x4" they won't look too horrid. But, if our friendship has stayed in tact and she has ordered some top notch versions for her walls, that will be seen by every visitor to her home, then on balance, I think its worked out OK.

    A lesson learned. I won't be doing it again I don't think and if I do, I'll treat it more formally, with a contract etc.

    Thanks for the advice guys.
     
  24. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    It is a difficult situation at best. You want to do something nice for friends, but they dont think they should have to pay the going rate to a friend. If this is how you make a living, you need to explain to them that it would take food out of your familys mouth if you gave it away. I used to have this problem all the time as a contractor, everyone wanted me to work on their home or build cabinets for free. I learned to politely turn them down. The only way to survive people like this is to just give them a taste for free. Never do more for friends than you can afford to throw away. This is a rough statement, but true. As for the "word of mouth" advertising, you would never see any good outcome from it. Truth is, they would brag about the price, and then every body else would demand the same from you (hey--you only charged ___ this much, how come i have to pay more?).
     
  25. foc

    foc Member

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    The fact the "client" wanted a small album shows there is a desire for your images. The fact that they are your selection only or all those shot makes no differance. The customer had expressed a desire for a product. Now it's up to you to fulfill that desire.

    One important point to remember when dealing with the public, paying or otherwise, is to look at what your are offering from their point of view.

    Your customer has given you a very good lesson in dealing with the public and their perceptions and expectations of portraiture (or wedding etc) photographery. Remember they don't see the different quality between 35mm and 120 (for example) or professional quality or not (no disrespect but they did ask you and not a professional) In their eyes you have a big/professional looking camera and your photos come out so you are ok!

    All they are interest in is: do I look alright.....I'm not too dark/light......I'm not too far away/too close......My big nose/ears/head/belly/backside looks ok really......My partner and children look ok...... etc.

    The lesson I would take from this is never show or give any prints that you wouldn't release yourself. Since they will try to copy your small/proof prints I would do as suggested already and include a proof of all images for a set fee.
    Included in this fee I would provide three minialbums, one for parents, one each for grandparents. ( "don't need that many well sorry that's how they come ." " I can give you two but it will only save you X, a very small amount, three is the best value.") (you get my drift)
    Also include the wall photos in the fee and get paid up front and if not, 75% of final cost as deposit. If they wont pay then they are not really interested. The customer must put their money where their mouth is.

    BTW the mini album is the best marketing tool you can have. Make sure if will fit into a handbag and keep it simple but expensive looking (not an album from the Euro discount shop0. Every mother and granny will product this album, at the drop of a hat, to show to friend etc. What better advert for your services can you get than this sort of endorsement. Oh and BTW be sure your name and phone number/website is shown at the start of the album.

    Sorry for being so long winded but I have been a professional photographer for the last 29 years and I hope I have learned a thing or two about photography but more inportantly how to deal with customers. The easy ones are sublime, the awkward ones a challange but if you can turn them from complainer/moaner/not happy camper to a satisfied customer (they are happy/you are happy) then they can become your best ambassadors.
     
  26. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

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    When I was in high school I wanted to be a magician. I was into it fairly deep, though had few paying shows; but I read a lot about how to try to make money.
    One theme kept resurfacing - don't cut your price. If you feel that a client truly can't afford your price, it is better to do it for free (charity) than have others learn you went for a lower rate than you normally ask.

    I know this isn't quite the same, as you have more consumables that cost money. From an advertising or reputation point of view, however, it may do more harm to have low-quality scans circulating or bad blood between you and your friend.

    Better to be (known for) doing a favor for a friend than get an undeserved reputation or having poor quality examples of your work in circulation.

    Since you are already in the situation, you may feel you are in "damage control" mode. There is no "good" answer as this is a difficult situation. If your friend does not "understand" your position, it may be better to produce a couple pocket-books for little or no cost - and find an excuse/occasion to make it a "gift." Charge for the large prints.
    You are trying to smooth the friendship as well as gain some potentially valuable portfolio material and advertising.