Saturday morning at a community event, I was chatting with a friend. We were talking about my ongoing wine cellar project, when he looked up and said, hang on a sec, and ran to catch a guy who was walking by. I caught up with him a little while later and he apologized for running off. “That was my daughter’s wedding photographer and I’ve been trying to get in touch with him about the album.” We went on to chat chillers, etc. but I ended up asking him what was going on with the album (Ang and I were at the wedding last July). He laughed and said, “near as I can tell, nothing.” I asked him a little more about it ...
The album was a part of the package they chose when they asked him to shoot the wedding. He arrived with another photographer in tow, shooting the exact same Mark II, 24-70, 70-200, 16-35 two body, two 580EXII kits. They shot the ceremony and a pretty traditional reception, table shots, cake cutting, obligatory bouquet, garter ceremony and all. We were in the middle of a great conversation when one of the photogs interrupted us to tell us it was time for our table pictures. Stand around the table, bang bang bang with the flash, off we go.
I asked them right after the wedding if they’d been pleased with their photographer. “Yes, wasn’t he great?” (They hadn’t even seen any pictures!) About four months ago her mom asked me about how long it usually takes to see pictures, etc... I’m always sensitive about questions like this so I told her it varies, but at that point all they’d seen was the blog. She made a comment that there have been lots of events posted since on the blog, but that they still don’t have anything, “and it’s so frustrating when we want to talk about the wedding with someone!”
My friend’s frustration was pretty clear. Is he going to get referrals from them? No. Is he going to get referrals from anyone who knows them well? No. Why? Because he failed to deliver the pictures back to them during a timeframe that they felt was reasonable. But not only that! He also failed to deliver the images back to them during a time when they spent lots and lots of time and energy talking with their friends about the wedding. When they were struck with the costs and in post-traumatic stress and wondering if it had all been worth it, they had nothing to convince them that it was. Now, this many months later, they want their album because “they want to check it off of their list.” “And we paid for it and we’re not going to let him just keep the money.” Oof!
On the way out I bumped into the photographer. I introduced myself. He knew Pictage. ‘Used to be a member.’ Left because it wasn’t worth it. I’m actually sure he was right and that’s ironic. He’d gone on a long diatribe about how he does everything himself and didn’t need any of the services and didn’t understand why he was supposed to pay for them. He finally said that his business was really suffering, that his referrals were way down and that “no one wants to pay for a real photographer anymore anyway.”
I couldn’t help but shake my head. If he’d outsourced any or all of his fulfillment, these clients would likely have remained happy. Moreover, they would have shared their memories with their friends using HIS pictures. What better advertising could he have? Is his studio really failing because there is competition? Or is his studio failing because he isn’t meeting his clients’ expectations and therefore he’s not getting any referrals? To be sure, it’s a tough, competitive environment but in these times you have to pick up your game. If you’re going to sit on the sidelines and mope then you might as well go ahead and sell your gear now. New cameras are coming out and your equipment’s value is going to drop and you won’t even be able to sell the gear for your failed photography business for enough to cover your credit card bills...
Does that sound harsh? I hope so. Whether you like it or not, success or failure is in your hands. You don’t praise the market when you succeed. Why do you blame the market when you fail? If you persist in doing it all yourself, fine. But be disciplined enough to really get it all done. If you outsource, fine. I’m not even saying that Pictage is necessarily the best answer! Do your research, outsource to the place that’s the best fit for your business and then make sure you’re taking the best advantage of what they have to offer. Most importantly, make sure you’re being honest with yourself about why you’re struggling and once you have it figured out, move. In business, stagnancy is death.