Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why Does it Cost So Much. A public service for professional photographers.

These days there is a lot of confusion with regard to consumer preferences for digital file vs printed product distribution. The good news, and the reason I’m not going to address that here, is that both markets are actually growing quite dramatically. (with specialty printed photo products growing at a rate of over 40% per year).

So this isn’t a discussion of whether people want digital or print, it’s just a public service for professional photographers whose clients clearly want prints, but who want them cheap.

I’ve written this specifically so that you can use it whether you are a Pictage client or not. If not, simply replace Pictage with the name of your lab or your site if you’re using another proofing and purchasing environment. (and ask yourself why they don’t do this kind of thing for you!)... You can also replace Canvas Prints with Photographic Prints, etc. I’ll write a separate version for Photographic Albums.

Go ahead - use this. Just copy and paste it. It will make your life easier. Ultimately, that’s what I’m here for.

What to do when your client says, “I just want to print it myself.”

Hey, I got your note. I'd love to send you the digital file but I think there is a misunderstanding with regard to pricing that I'd like to clear up. If I send you the file the cost is likely to be pretty close to the difference between a discount canvas printer and the pricing you see on Pictage (my site). Here's why. The price on Pictage includes a series of prep and editing fees that go into preparing the image to be printed on a format as large as a canvas. I do some of these and Pictage actually does a bunch too. If the file is to be printed by another vendor I still have to do my steps, but I can't guarantee that the image is going to look the way it does when you see it on your computer.

Most people have a hard time understanding this so I'll explain. A printer is not a printer. Printers are calibrated to monitors, etc. Consumer grade canvas manufacturers gear their printers to consumer grade images. Consumers make a lot of photographic mistakes (no offense!) so the printers are designed to even things out. They reduce contrast and saturation, etc. in effect, making the images dull.

I've actually worked with Pictage to calibrate my monitor at home to their printing process and this extends to their canvases. I use them because I know that what I see is what I'm going to see when the orders come back. They do a bunch of other stuff too, like ensure the canvases are properly treated to be resistant to light damage, beefed up frame construction, including all of the hanging hardware, making sure the canvas ships ready to hang, etc.

I hope that helps ... Like I said, if you still want me to provide the digital file for your use in printing one canvas I can, I just wanted to make sure you understood that you probably won't end up actually saving any money. (and if you do you might be sorry!)

Your helpful photographer.

Now, there is some discussion around why you would even want to do this. There are two answers. And again, this is for all photographers whether you use Pictage or not. The first is that for any professional photographer the sale of products related to their photography is an extremely important revenue stream. In fact, most estimates suggest that as much as 1/3 of a studio’s revenue must come from the sale of products in order for the studio to be successful. (there are always outliers, but this is based on the industry average fee structure). So learning to sell these products is important.

Second. The fact is that your client is likely to go ahead and print some of the images you provide to them digitally. They do this because one of the biggest challenges consumers face today is the understanding that it is far too easy to lose track of all the content they have on their computers, etc. They certainly don’t want every image printed (as a rule), but they want the best ones. That’s why the specialty photo products market is growing so fast. When they print through their local cheap printer, the same image compression occurs and it is not uncommon at all for the images to look dull. If that’s the way you want them to see your work, no worries. If not, then this is helpful.

It is here that a professional photographer must make a choice and a lot of it is client dependent. Do you want to provide the service of creating those products or do you want to leave your clients to do it for themselves. If you choose the first path you must learn to sell these products. If you choose the second path you need to make sure you have enough shooting opportunities to fill in for the lost revenue.

The choice is obviously ultimately yours. I just know that professionals are frequently asked why professionally fulfilled products cost a lot in comparison to consumer products and that having the answer above in your hip pocket will be helpful when the time comes.

Tomorrow I’ll create a different version of the response specifically for photographic albums. That one will be generic too ... Cut and paste away.


Gwendolyn Tundermann said...

Great post (as usual). I'm trying to do a better job of educating my clients on the quality of printing through Pictage vs. a consumer lab. There is a huge difference in quality.

Linda said...

Great post explaining how Pictage enhances our images for Canvas prints. I'm excited to see what my new canvases from Pictage will look like, the one I have already ordered of a landscape turned out amazing. I think having your description of why professional prints, canvases, etc. costs more in my "back pocket" really will be helpful. Thanks!