Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dollar for Dollar III

There once was a ship that cost a company millions of dollars. Much to the dismay of the company, something had gone wrong, and the ship was stuck in the dock. They decided to call various “experts” who, in turn, spent weeks trying to fix the issue in the engine room, and spent thousands of dollars. All to no avail.
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Finally, they called an older gentleman who came in with a small tool bag and a hammer. He immediately began pinging on various parts of the enormous engine with his hammer, and finally settled on one area. He spent just a few minutes more, pinging in what seemed like random places, and then took out a few more tools to fix whatever was wrong.

After a few moments the man stood up, looked at the captain, and told him, “Start her up.”

image courtesy of
The skeptical captain grumbled as he marched to the engine room, and then marveled in disbelief as the engine roared to life. The old man tipped his hat, grabbed his bag of tools and gave a polite wave to the staff as they stared, dumbfounded by the man. All those experts had come on board for weeks, spent ridiculous sums of money, and the ship remained lifeless. Just a couple pings from a hammer in an old man’s hand, and the thing was back in business!

A few days passed and the office received a hand-written invoice from the old man for $10,000.
The accounting department called him immediately, for all the rumors from the staff told that this man had only spent ‘a few minutes’ fixing the ship ‘with his hammer and a couple of other random tools.’ They asked him why the bill was so high, wondering if, perhaps, he accidentally added a couple of extra zeros to the number.

The man confidently respond:

“In fact, the time was worth $1,000. The other $9,000 was for the years of experience and the ability to discern the issue as quickly as possible for the company.”

Many are the people who think that starting a photography business only requires the use of a camera and a computer. Many consider themselves experts in the art of photography. The truth is, a camera doesn’t make someone a photographer any more than a plane makes someone a pilot. Mark Cuban may own the Dallas Mavericks, but a professional athlete he is not.

The value in hiring a professional photographer is intrinsically related to the value of your images. Do you trust your only newborn pictures of your first child to a young person with no photographic training? Those are moments you will never have again, and there’s no margin for disappointment.

The only things that link you to your memories are your pictures. How valuable are your memories to you? Will you cherish them forever? Will the beautiful faces of your children decorate your walls and bring your home to life? Will you share them with your family? Will you pour over their baby pictures as they grow up? And what if something were to happen? What if your son were to join the military and be stationed overseas… would you gush over every image of him that you could find while he was gone? Of course. We all would.

What makes an image so valuable is the relationship and connection you share with the person in it, and the moment it captured. So, why would you want your professional portraits to be of mediocre quality with less than genuine expressions?

It all boils down to this – custom portrait photography is more expensive because it is more valuable. The dollars and cents you spend pay for the experience, quality of work, quality of professional relationship, authentic expression, completely customized products, carefully hand processed final images, archived files for later ordering if necessary, consultation services, AND a session that is completely designed to be uniquely yours.

Even more than that, in terms of the photographer, there is a huge difference between someone who has simply picked up a camera and started pressing the shutter button, and someone who has devoted their time and money into becoming educated, skilled, and consistent in the quality of images they produce.  In thinking about a photographer's value, consider whether they are building a sustainable business, or if they are simply shooting for cash.  Have they honed their skills?  Is there diversity in their portfolio (meaning, does every newborn picture look the same, or are they unique to the family)?  How long have they been investing their time and money in the building of their business?  Would you be a new relationship, or a temporary client with $ signs attached?  All of these things are contributing factors.

That’s it. Money=Value. You cannot compare a chain store photo shop to a custom portrait studio any more than you can compare a gourd to a green bean. The only similarity is that there’s a camera involved. What you have to decide is the value of the experience… knowing the experience extends for generations to come each time someone sees the picture you purchase.

I’ve given you three full posts laying out the reasons custom portrait photography doesn’t cost the same as a chain store, and the difference in value between the two. Only you can determine what is valuable to you and your family.

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