A few years ago, I was leaving my neighbourhood grocery store when I ran into a husband and wife client of mine. I had sent her an invoice earlier that day for the print collection we had put together. I said hello and asked how they were doing. What I wasn’t prepared for, was the fact that he was not doing so well. In fact, he was pissed.
He started yelling at me about how much I was charging them for prints. He went on and on telling me how ridiculous my pricing was and he stated that he just wanted a disc of digital files. My heart was racing and I was fighting tears. I politely let him know that I didn’t sell digital files, I sold prints – just like I always had. Well, that pissed him off even more. Then he told me that all the photographers in town were selling digital files on a disc for around $150 and that it was an industry standard. Well, now I was feeling angry! I let him know that as the BC President of Professional Photographers of Canada, that was simply not true…selling digital files on a disc was not a standard – we sell real products, the kind that hang on walls for generations. I can’t remember exactly how it ended, but I apologized for any confusion on my part and offered to refund their session fee. We parted ways and I never heard from them again.
That night, while having a good cry – I thought about the state of the industry. The public’s perception of what I did for a living was disheartening. I had worked so long and hard to build a sustainable business – but with the changes in the industry, I wondered whether photography would continue to be a viable way to make a living. I did some reading, checked out all the other associations to see if anyone had come up with a solution to the problem (business models, digital file pricing, public perception..etc.) – but I found nothing. Just the same old conversations. It was either “don’t sell your files” or “what do you sell your files for?”.
So, what did I do? I changed the conversation.
What if there was a way we could preserve the prestige of the photographic industry AND keep our clients happy? What if we could sell digital files AND have a sustainable business? What if we could continue to do what we love AND put our kids through school?
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