Thursday, 10 July 2008

Photography: some economic realities

I've just read a post by Doug Plummer from his trip to the MS Pro Photo Summit regarding stock selling. (On this note, you may also have been reading Howard Grill's Advetures in Microstock.) There is a really interesting point in there

Lise's [Gagne] old boss didn't want to spend money for photography, period.
This led me off on 2 thoughts.

First, there is an economic principle in here about value and pricing that seems to be dominating many business decisions, photogrpahy amoung them. It is this: sellers wish to sell on a value basis - i.e. at a price that reflects the cost to the buyer of doing it themselves or the value they will generate from the product. In the case of photography, it would relate to the cost of a company hiring a photographer themselves to get the work they want (photographers selling based on the costs to them of doing the work is a derivative of this idea). Buyers, on the other hand, want to buy based on the inherent value they see in the product. In the case of photography that would be based effectively on the direct cost of printing or transmittal or whatever. Premium gets added for quality and consistency of product etc (the service element) which is all part of the same thing.

Thus we have the gap between the value sell price and the cost buy price. With digital photography, I believe that the cost being associated with photography is ever decreasing (digitial comes for free). Hence the attitude demonstrated in the quote.

On a related note but different tack (nice mixed metaphors!), there are the huge numbers of photography contests/submissions on-going. Most seem to have rights-grabs attached (I saw one just this week, forget where and I'm not going to publicise wrong-doers). Typically they are requesting: send us your pics, oh, and by the way, we own them once you do. Tough luck on your copyright.

When you can get suckers to send all your photography needs for free, why should you ever want to pay for it?

It seems in today's world the only way to have your time valued is to sell it directly. Maybe all photographers need to move to a consultancy model: we'll sell you hours of effort, for which you get a given product. Tell us the product, and we'll tell you how much effort it takes to produce it. It's the way engineers have been working for years, works for us nicely and we don't have to worry if we're going to get paid at the end of it.

1 comment:

  1. I am giving this a lot of thought about selling directly to the collector. But I also have 12 years of experience selling engineering consultative services (technical & operational expertise that took me another 20 years to first accumulate) and I know that personal relationships are very important to 1:1 selling of high value services, such as what a photographer provides. And the relationships that I have as a photographer are just starting to develop. hmmm. But good food for thought!


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