The 16-headed jeans shopper

The other day I went shopping for a new pair of jeans. The retail shelves were filled with rows upon rows of jeans, in all different styles and prices. It was so hard to choose which pair of jeans would suit me best. So I said to the clerk, “I will just take all of the jeans home, try them all on for size, walk around a bit with them, work in them, and then I will pay you for the pair I like best. I might even pay for more than one pair.”

Well, you can only imagine that the clerk looked at me like I had 16 heads! (And probably would have called the police had I actually walked out with all of the products.)

The 16-headed image buyer

The other day I did a business photo shoot. I came back to my studio with about 1000 images on my camera card, all in different orientations and featuring different subjects. After hours of carefully selecting, I gave my client a proofing gallery of about 300 professional photos to choose from for the website they were building. They found it hard to choose which images suited their marketing needs best. So they said to me, “Just send all of the images from your camera, don’t worry if they aren’t edited. We will try them all out, post them online to see what reaction we get, and then we will pay you for the images that work best. We might even pay for a few more.”

Well, you can only imagine that I looked at my client like they had 16 heads! (Is there such a thing as the photography police?)

Jeans are a tangible product, and they are not free

Blue jeans area tangible thing. You can touch them, try them on for size, cut holes in them to be cool if you want to. And they went through a standard product production process to get to the retail shelves.

That standard product production process looks like this:

Creating professional photos follows a typical product lifecycle

source: By Freeformer at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Those who create blue jeans follow a product lifecycle management process that includes specific stages:

  1. Conceive: imagine, specify, plan
  2. Design: describe, define, develop, test, tool design
  3. Realize: manufacture, make, build, produce, deliver, market & sell
  4. Service: use, operate

Creating one pair or 100 pairs of blue jeans takes a huge amount of time, expertise, tools, equipment, technology, and resources. It’s no wonder they cost so much!

Professional photos are an intangible product, and they are not free

Digital images are not tangible, unless you print them (but who does that these days?). And they are everywhere! Millions and millions of images are posted on social media every day, it’s quite mind-boggling. And they are easily downloaded. So there is a collective consciousness now that images are free. And some are.

But those who create professional-quality images follow a very distinct process that mirrors that of a tangible product:

Creating professional photos follows a typical product lifecycle

  1. Conceive: along with a client, we imagine, specify, and plan the photography project requirements
  2. Design: the photographer organizes the tools needed to meet the requirements, and may have to rent or buy specific gear and accessories
  3. Realize: raw images are captured, culled, presented to the client for selection, then selections are produced/edited and delivered and sold
  4. Service: the client uses the images for their intended purpose, usually to market and sell their services

Creating one or 100 professional-quality digital images takes a huge amount of time, expertise, tools, equipment, technology and resources. It’s no wonder they are not free!

Image buyers and photographers unite!

Okay, so the jeans story isn’t true, but it’s a good way to start a rant, don’t you think? And my rant may seem only directed to image buyers, or clients. But alas, there are so many “hungry” photographers who are willing to give their work away for free, or almost free. Please stop. You not only hurt and de-value yourself, you damage the entire profession. By giving away your value, you promote the collective belief that digital images are somehow free.

You get what you pay for

In life, and in professional photography, you absolutely get what you pay for.

Free images? They may work in a pinch, but they likely won’t accurately reflect your business brand, your quality, your own carefully-crafted business culture or products and services.

On the other hand, when you pay a professional photographer for the value of the work they deliver, for the value of the time, expertise and tools they bring to the project, you will get quality imagery to accurately tell your business brand story. It’s not someone else’s story, or someone else’s blue jeans. It’s your story. Make sure it reflects the time, expertise and tools you have put into your business.

What tools will I use for your photography project?

Schedule a free consultation so we can discuss your business branding photography needs.

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