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Thread: State of the industry and how to survive.

  1. #1
    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    State of the industry and how to survive.

    Well I think this is a topic that has many merits. I don't want to get into the politics but let's face facts . The industry of photography is taking a hit and it is becoming more far reaching everyday. How do we stay alive and how does the industry survive it. Sure time will heal all wounds or will it. Big question marks out there and what can we do to survive. I have been doing this for 35 years and it is just getting worse and worse and some days you wonder what the hell you are doing in it. How do we get new clients, how does manufacturers stay alive and bring product in at better costs. How does the labs stay in business. What can we do to keep putting food on our tables. Let's explore the answers or try to.
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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    There are two sides to surviving in a profession - keeping revenues up and keeping costs down. Photography never was a high-income job (perhaps with a few rare exceptions), anyone who has invested in MFDB equipment costing more than a year's salary in most Western countries is vulnerable on the revenue side. With the coming recession, price levels on photography work are bound to drop like a rock. A Hassy used to cost $2500, not anymore if you want to shoot MF digital. It's just too large of an investment, sure you can make a budget that allows for a $25K annual writeoff of a MF setup, but it will be a high-risk venture for a freelance photographer running his/her own business.

    On the equipment side, my opinion is that MFDB-class manufacturers have shot themselves in the foot so badly most of them will not be around for long. Last Friday I met an old friend who used to be on Hasselblad's board, he didn't have much positive to say about that company from the mid-90's and on. And it can probably be extrapolated to the rest of the industry. The key to long-term success in manufacturing is volume with tight quality control - Hasselblad has had neither since it entered the digital market. We'll watch the larger DSLR manufacturers eat MFDB players for lunch over the next decade.

    On the revenue side, well, I think if you can't invoice per hour don't expect to be able to feed yourself or your family on photography. With the internet and the abundance of digital cameras, demand for skilled photographers for assignments will keep dropping. My friend Bjorn made his transition into video over the last ten years and is now shooting nature documentaries.

    The saying "Marry rich or don't quit your day job" is as valid as ever. Make sure you have an alternative source of income if need arises, and look after your cost of living.

    As for myself, I make a part-time living doing contracting in software engineering, occasional assigments and sell some prints, while I keep working on developing my own photo software. I guess you could say my profession is still software, and I expect it to stay that way.

    Lars
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    I'm lucky that I'm going into this (recession) with all my equipment long paid for and broken in, relatively low upkeep costs (wedding photographer) and little advertising needed in a world where I'm usually booked up long before I'd even opened my mouth nevermind put an advert in.

    However, after my craziest year yet, things have gone dead. Completely dead. I still need to book another 3 weddings for the first 1/3 of 2009 otherwise I literally won't have enough money to put food on the table. When I am getting booked people are taking the lowest packages and more and more people are just taking the cheaper option in wedding photography. The community I work in was very badly hit, most of them were 'into' property, even those who weren't had their investments in property.The days of having loads of spare money are long over. For myself as well as for others.

    I'm in the unfortunate position of not being able to cut my prices, at all. It's either make a living with those prices or leave the industry. I'm in a strange situation that I live in Jerusalem but commute to work in the UK. It worked very well for a while when the flights were incredibly cheap, the work plenty and the exchange rate good. At present the Sterling is stupidly low against foreign currencies, flights are more expensive and the big paying jobs just aren't there any more. The market here is saturated with lowest common denominator wedding photography which is viewed as standard and I couldn't begin to break in.

    I'm going to push through the next couple of years till the recession hits here (it's only just started to begin) and the shekel loses value by which time hopefully the Sterling will be strong again and the recession over. I'm not in a position where I will chuck away a good business, I think it would be stupid to allow a 2 year hiccup to destroy me.

    What I would like to do is at some point in the next ten years make enough to live from print sales and mostly teaching with the occasional wedding. I've always been very happy to have a simple life so as long as I have enough to put food on the table I'm happy. I'm thinking of moving back to the UK for 3 years or so to 'end' off the marathon wedding work and incidentally pay off my mortgage fully. That wouldn't be bad at all given that I will still be in my early thirties.
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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    None of this effected me ... until my day job suddenly disappeared literally overnight. Plus, my wife works for a GM supplier ... gulp.

    This past year was the absolute worst for weddings. I was part time booking 15 to 20 a year for a decade with no effort at all. 8 weddings total for 2008

    But, I did okay during 2008 with a number of commercial gigs, however many of those were captive through my ad agency... which is now gone.

    What a Mother to do?

    I've signed 4 weddings for 2009 so far (all pretty good ones), plus one free family gig ... ramped up some advertising, and will work vendor connections. Then see what happens.

    Also started a pet photography company, and will work for dog food

    Well, I'm 20 months out from being able to fully retire and earn income without Social Security penalties. I own everything in my studio outright ... or will own everything once I sell off a few choice pieces I don't need to make money.

    Innovation, proper pricing to get the job, maintain quality to keep competitive value up, and no spending in 2009 except for billable items or expendables.

    When bidding for some jobs I plan on bringing a gun to a knife fight. It already worked doing that. I bid shooting 39 meg MF files for industrial shots against a guy using a 35mm DSLR ... told the client they could print mural sized prints for their lobby, or crop the files to show a component in their machines. Clients usually don't care or ask, but IF you tell them the benefits of superior capture technology it can work in your favor.

    I'm also working some Advertising Agency new business angles that may pay off by 2nd quarter 2009 ... there is a ton of photography connected to that venture.

    It's tough out there ... and only the rich bankers that raped everyone's IRAs may survive.

    Leica S2 system ... No way, no how, no money.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    When bidding for some jobs I plan on bringing a gun to a knife fight. It already worked doing that. I bid shooting 39 meg MF files for industrial shots against a guy using a 35mm DSLR ... told the client they could print mural sized prints for their lobby, or crop the files to show a component in their machines. Clients usually don't care or ask, but IF you tell them the benefits of superior capture technology it can work in your favor.



    That has been working for me and i make it a point to tell them.
    Frankly make a big F...... deal about it. Most clients view you as something they may do themselves but they don't have this gear to do it but they do have 5d's. The bad part is this no matter how freaking good we are and let's be honest we are, they still view the money as the bottom line and if Fred can get it done for cheaper they will. No offense to any Fred's but sometimes we are just viewed as scum and I know that is harsh but after this many years that is life and don't believe anything until the check actually clears your account. I am a born optimist but I do know reality. And don't show up to the knife fight with a 22 pistol in your hand give them the M-16 version. ROTFLMAO
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    I'd like to interject one observation/theory that might or might not be good news. My theory is based on what seems to be a phenomenal growth in recent years in photography. Some of it is clearly being driven by consumer interest in digicams, but it seems to have expanded well beyond that with a subset of those people that evolve into "pro" level cameras.

    When times were flush and money was flowing, lots of folks "picked up" photography as a hobby. They bought expensive cameras and attended exotic workshops. I'm going to guess that a lot of that will dry up now that everyone is nervous. There's likely to be a lot less trigger pulling and a lot more putting the safety on.

    Which will likely have an impact on the camera manufacturers as well as those who make some of their living from teaching or in the amazing surge of photography-centric publications and web sites (i.e. Kelby training, NAPP, etc.)

    So on the one hand, there may be a slow down in camera tech development. But on the other, the growth in number of "uncle Freds" with a 5D may slow down as well. So if you already have it and know how to use it, there'll be some small advantage. Maybe.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Well we hope so Tim but as people lose there jobs in the normal industries than they may look at there hobby to more professional ventures. The bottom feeders as i hate to call them but for lack of a better word could actually increase too. That is the part that actually hurts this industry really bad and in the wedding area the worst place. You don't need more inexperience in this flooded market. For folks like Ben and Marc and others that shoot at those levels these poor guy's are feeling it and it is very dangerous to the end client. I can't even visit a wedding forum without screaming at some things I read. Maybe I care too much about the industry as a whole but some of the thing people are doing makes me want to pull my hair out in the wedding industry , way too much risk for lack of experience.

    BTW good conversation . I love everyones view points on this.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Thought to add a few comments to this interesting, and very important (to some of us) discussion. I too have seen business fall off the cliff. Oddly, it was the "Uncle Fred" type that did in a major line of my work. My polo photography got a double whammy this fall season. First, we got clobbered by Hurricane Ike. That storm destroyed many of the stalls, stands and clubhouse for the polo club. It also did a lot of tree damage and turf damage from flooding and debris tearing up the fields. So, right out of the gate, the season took a hit....fewer matches, fewer players, fewer sponsors, etc. Couple that with an amateur, who is also a club member that decided not to play, picked up her camera and started taking snapshots of the same events I was getting paid to cover. She then proceeded to offer those shots for free, since she did not care about the business end of things, nor my contracts and income evidently. The club members were happy to buy crappy 4x6 snaps for scrapbooks, but then the club decided to start using some of her shots for marketing, as they were looking so save some money over my rates to help them rebuild. They have been very short-sighted in this, as their ads we blurry, no color balance, could not take enlargement (but they did it anyway, artifacts and all), etc. Their "professional club" look quickly descended to very amateur looking, but hey, they were saving some bucks this season.

    Then came the rest of the economic story that we are now experiencing. That was added injury to injury, not just insult to injury. It is not stopping me, as I am working toward other lines of business, but the "Uncle Fred", or in this case "Auntie Frieda" or something, put the skids under things at a tough time, and then folks got too scared to spend anything. All of the marketing I had in place through the operation has done nothing to help push my other lines at all. No sales coming from an entire fan and client base now. THAT really is where the hurt is, enough so that I am trying out completely different directions like portraiture and things.....very different from shooting fancy expensive leather, Jags, sterling silver stuff, etc. The corporate spending and marketing has dried up....for now, as I am an optimist. I think that it now becomes important to find those clients that understand that during times of economic downturn, it is MORE important to have good, professional looking marketing efforts and photography for their competitive/successful looking edge. They do not want to pay as much as before, but are still going forward with quality work. The sales are tougher. There are more things cut out than put into sales, but offering excellent service, top quality, and a willingness to work hard with the client helps.

    This is not going to get better for some time. As with anything, it really does help to find the differentiator, be that stunning files that can be multi-purposed, or just unique portrait shoots with interesting package options (like clusters of gallery wraps instead of just one big canvas and other tweaks). None of this is competitor proof nor immune to economic shifts, but there is something to be said for trying to stay in business through these really tough times. It may mean waiting a bit more to replace some gear, or holding off on that kind of stuff, but it will work out.

    I think Tim's comments about potential impact on the entire industry are important, but it is too early to tell how much that may impact innovation and such. My gut tells me that there are probably a lot of tweaks waiting in the wings, and we may see them get rolled out.....they do have a "shelf life" of sorts, so might as well use them in new offerings to help sales even in a down market. At least that is my thinking.

    Marc's comment about the S2 having to wait is the one that personally does hurt and bother me the most right now. I have been holding off on Hassy or other choices for this new offering. Going to be really hard finding the capital to finance that now, BUT, if one keeps at business, and does not fret so much, but finds ways to keep moving and shooting, it will work out. As I said, I am an optimist. I may have to alter my timeline for some things, but I will not change my dreams and drive ;-)

    LJ

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    I'm not sure about that LJ. I suspect expensive, non-collector gear will take a nose-dive in sales. IMO, that may have a lot to do with diminishing returns coupled with the economic downturn. This isn't back when MF backs were 6 meg and there was a huge potential for improvement.

    What I mean is that I think reality is rearing it's ugly head, and dropping an incremental 20K to jump from 39 meg to 60 meg will force a true evaluation as to need verse want. Dropping 35 to 40K to starting out @ 60 meg will thin the already thin herd pretty quickly. If the manufacturers drop prices, the ratio will remain the same because existing MF camera prices will plummet. So many of us better love what we have. They can tweak all they want but spending that kind of cash for minute upgrades may be coming to a close for a lot of working stiffs.

    Based on the specs, who wouldn't want a S2? But in reality I need it like another hole in my wallet. It wouldn't make one bit of difference in my work, or for my business.
    And it would have to be an incremental purchase, because it couldn't replace my H3D-II/39 which I use on a view camera.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Frankly I am so happy I bought when i did because it is a nice system that will certainly sustain me for some time. Sure love to have the p65 and i will test it next week but I have to find a real need. Okay i am a gear slut and know i will want one but again reality and if I went anywhere I would get a P45 and be done with it but even that would be a more want than a need . I am doing just fine my files have improved considerable and i can fire with at least with both barrels to clients about what it will do for them and myself . So that part is all good and i will hold pat until i see how business goes. Right now my budget says your done buddy and I have to listen to that because we certainly need to keep the roof over our heads. I have plenty of gear to get it done without any real struggle. i may slip a lens in the door but even that can wait. Honestly i would want a S2 if i was waiting but to be honest not sure i would wait it out and get something today as the prices today are pretty damn good. Just saw a Hassy demo H3/39 for 18 k and 31 for 15k. I know Phase has some rockers out there too. Actually if you look the devil in the eye it is actually a good time to buy and get it over with. Okay that is the optimist view but like buying a house when better is it time to buy one. NOW

    There are some real deals out there right now and questions come up do you throw caution in the wind and jump or sit it out and never jump and wait for when business gets better but than so do the prices start to go up. I saw a leasing package for a Hassy setup for like 429 a month which is another option. 429 a month is not bad folks. I'm picking on Hassy but others as well you can get similar financing and stuff.

    I think about this and what do most companies do when they are money short is cut the advertising budget to nothing, believe me i live this everyday but it is the wrong approach. If you can't get sales why would you cut the budget and hurt sales more. You would think it is actually the time to advertise more and for us get more diverse to get more business. I think hiding in the hole is the wrong approach and I see big companies just sit back and bide there time. There is something fundamentally wrong with that picture. I like take the bull by the horns and kick in it's front teeth approach. Maybe I'm nut's who knows
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Marc,
    I think we agree on more than not. You comments about a drop in sales of expensive gear I think are true. However, there will still be a need for replacement and some additions to many kits. Maybe a lot less "extras" in the kit, or buying stuff beyond any real need for some. For sure, that will result in lowered cash flow to the manufacturers. What I was thinking about with respect to Tim's comment is around the makers maybe not rolling out new/bigger/better at the blistering pace were were starting to see. Does not mean they do not have some stuff in the pipe, and it will not be cheap. If they stop R&D, it will hurt lots of things longer than if they just shot for some other sorts of gains for a bit. How many more pixels do we really need above 60MP next year? What if there was a way to upgrade processing capabilities and stuff on the existing sensors instead of the costs to fab new sensors also? Just thinking aloud, and I realize some tech things are intimately tied. (I was thinking about how Canon essentially repackaged the 1DsMkIII sensor into the 5D, but with a new processing system and other things. That does not require a new, expensive model, but does offer some continued sales volumes. Imagine Hassy sticking a new processing engine into the backs for their 39MP sensors to yield ISO 3200, and other stuff some folks are wanting without sacrificing too much IQ? Upgrade the back for maybe 4-5K rather than buying a new 30-40K unit. Just a thought.)

    There is no way around it that things will be tough in many areas. I tend to look at times like this as good opportunities in different ways. For shooters, it may be a good time to brush up on classes, skills and techniques, plus improve marketing efforts and other stuff, rather than spending lots of time swapping out gear as much. For manufacturers, it may be a good time to improve build quality, address QA issues, provide improved service, and stuff like that that usually gets left behind while new stuff is cranked out every 6-9 months and folks just scramble to keep up with that part.

    You are correct, and I agree that the heady thoughts about dropping 20-40K to upgrade or add to system is not going to happen as much or without some very serious budget and business planning, as the idea of "there will be some way to get this or the market is strong enough to turn it over for cash quickly" is going to be something of the past. Yes, most of us will be getting a lot more mileage from our existing gear for a longer period of time. But that is not always a bad thing either.

    I fully understand your not "needing" something like the S2, and I agree with your comments. In my case, I do not have a couple H3D-IIs to fall back to, so the S2 for me remains that possible plunge. I still need my DSLRs, IF I plan to keep doing the same sort of stuff. IF I start to shift my business in other directions, I might be able to shed them and a lot of that kit to only shoot MF and less 35mm DSLR stuff. I just do not know how that will work out yet, but am starting down that path. This is pretty unknown territory for most of us, and as you and Guy comment on, going to battle with better guns can be a very good thing if one can get the clients to keep buying into that. If not, then sharpening the knives and moving a lot more may be the other ticket to keep fighting until you capture a few guns ;-)

    LJ

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Guy,
    Your comments about which budgets get cut first (advertising) is a common knee-jerk reaction that does hurt their businesses. This is where I think our pitches to clients can become more effective. Sell them more on the multi-purpose capabilities. Sell them more on the overall stunning quality and look of success, not something done by Uncle Fred or whomever. Sell them on the value of a plan and your flexibility to help them achieve those plans....knowing when to ramp up or make shifts in direction. These are the good opportunities. Even for wedding and portrait work, where clients may look to spend less....it is really important to bring home the idea that spending a bit more on great once in a lifetime photos is more prudent that dropping $10-20K on flowers that will be dead the next day. Lots of creativity in approach and selling ;-)

    With respect to buying in now versus waiting.....I also agree that this does look like a good time to get into some gear, as prices are good. If one is going to take the plunge, add more gear, etc., this is not a bad time to evaluate what can be afforded and go for it. Trust me, had I not seen the specs on something like the S2, I would have jumped into Hassy already....still may, but have to get through another quarter or so first. If the last quarter and this one had not cratered so much, I would not be hesitating as much as I am right now. Just do not want to bite off more than I could really hope to start recovering on just yet. That could all change again, and I am prepared to head in that direction. For now, I just have to make my best 35mm DSLR files sing a little louder and longer, and be mindful not to take them to the wrong places to sing.

    LJ

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    Member John Grow's Avatar
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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    We've been bouncing this same subject around the studio for a couple months not. This last half year has been terrible, with just a few bookings through the beginning of the year. The holiday party schedule is half of last year. I'm sure that is a direct reflection of the state of the economy in the tech industry. Simple belt tightening. Strangely the one segment of my business that has held strong has been the winery photography. They still seem to be doing OK. We will be trying to support them better in 2009.

    I can't conceive at looking for new equipment. Everything we have now is paid. But like everything else all our other expenses keep going up, insurance, power, etc. The one little light that has helped and I'm sure this is not a long term light, is gas has relented a bunch and makes it a little more feasible to go to farter away venues.

    This time of year we normally have 25-35 sessions for Christmas cards, family portraits for gifts, and glamour/boudoir gifts. That is down less than half.

    We have been using a lead generating service, but they just changed the way they charge for their service and I don’t like it one single bit. They used to just charge for jobs I pursued, not they send me everything weather I wanted it or not and charge me for it. Problem is most of the leads, more than half, are bogus or just shoppers working off price alone.

    I don’t have any answers. Wish I did. But I can tell you if I don’t come up with some ideas soon, I won’t be in this business this time next year.

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2625

    FWIW -

    I think we will bottom in a couple of quarters from a Top Down perpective. We wont see a steep V shaped recovery though - asset price deflation will feature prominently for at least another 12 months and possibly longer.

    Competition will increase as a natural consequence of this cycle - if your business model can survive the next few quarters - you will end up winning big time.

    Good Luck -


    PS - dont be angry at all financial types, many have been 'conned' by the same liars and cheats who have taken the world to the brink - I have managed to not lose much money for my clients this year - which means they are happy - but I am not - since my returns are all performance based after hurdles.

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    LJ, yes we probably are on the same page in most instances.

    I'm in a strange situation. While I face bleak prospects for 2009, I will be flush with cash as I end my 15 year run as Creative Director for an ad agency due to severance paid in 2008 ... with some excess even after sheltering some. So, to avoid being taxed to death, I've invested in advertising my photo services in diversified categories, and a new Sony DSLR system with all Zeiss AF optics

    It feels very counter intuitive to do this given I'll be unemployed in the traditional sense of the word ... but quite frankly the best investment regarding ROI over the years has been in myself. How's that for justifying Gear Lust?

    What I hear in threads like this, and the "GAS" one, are symptoms of "Withdrawal" ... like a junkie coming off of Crack. Many have become addicted to seeking a constant high from getting the next "better equipment" fix. We intellectually know most of these costly purchases won't make us a better photographer, but emotionally we love this stuff ... and over-rule our better judgement. Which is okay when we can afford it ... tough sledding when we can't. Unfortunately, selling blood to the Red Cross won't cover the price of a Leica S2 system.

    While I'm not a happy camper, I feel for those in mid-career with the economic crush threatening their very existence. I'm older (in years : -), so have reserves to fall back on. What I do not like is having to dip into what I call my "80 year old money" ... money I'll need for old age. I'm not alone in mortgaging my future. IMO, the real fall-out of this financial cluster f#@K will land in years to come as the pig in the python baby boomers go to retire without enough funds.

    That's the reason I'm approaching this whole mess with aggressive innovation, and will do what it takes to make money NOW. I made it in one of the most cut-throat busineses there is, I'll make it here also ... one way or another.

    (BTW, if I were looking at entering MFD from scratch right now I'd seriously consider the Mamiya/Leaf package just announced for 15K ... 28 meg back, MKIII camera and 80/2.8D lens. Many other excellent lenses can be had for less than DSLR optics. Leaf backs are second to none, trust me on this).

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    You can tell your on this site when a conversation about how to survive financially immediately becomes a conversation about how to buy the newest gear!
    Last edited by Ben Rubinstein; 27th November 2008 at 03:49.
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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Ha,ha,ha ... yep Ben that's DPI for you.

    However, that may well be the path to survival if you can jump your game up compared to all the duffers out there going "pro" and shooting for money.

    You're in a different business, and this isn't as applicable to weddings IMO. But for commercial sectors it's becoming a "must have" for certain types of work.

    In fact, for many it isn't cameras they should be lusting after ... it's lighting and light modifiers. That'll separate you from the duffer faster than anything ... as long as you know how to use it. A Prosumer camera in the hands of an expert at lighting will beat a MFD camera in the hands of someone who knows nothing about lighting.

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Ha,ha,ha ... yep Ben that's DPI for you.
    Hey guys, I resemble that remark!

    In fact, for many it isn't cameras they should be lusting after ... it's lighting and light modifiers. That'll separate you from the duffer faster than anything
    Marc, this comment is so important it needs to be repeated. It's why Guy and I did the Lighting workshop.

    And lighting maybe especially important for the wedding photographer if they want to stand out from the grab-n-go crowd. I don't do weddings, but I would think a mastery of on-camera fill, room fill and using an actual "set" for the formals would set one apart from the norm in a hurry...
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Jack,
    I heartily agree with Marc, and your comments on lighting. While you mention the importance of using lighting for standout wedding work, I would add that it also applies to what is termed casual portraiture....things like family portraits in a park, seniors and other school stuff, and even simple event work. While the "grab-n-go" crowd that you mention may use an obvious flash for some shots, being able to quickly and somewhat easily do a much more creative lighting for even more casual settings can make the difference from a nice shot to a stunning photograph for the client.

    The workshop you guys did in Florida looked like a great start, and I wished I could have made that venue. All of the various studio lighting set-ups and uses is important, as are the others you mention....being able to light a room and subject for dimension and creativity, rather than just a blinding flash that looks like a digicam shot. There is a lot of updated and very interesting gear out there fairly recently, and folks really should spend some time learning to use some of it more effectively, if they can.

    LJ

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Jack and Guy,
    Based on the lighting part of this thread above, it may be worth thinking about a variation to the lighting seminar. The last one covered a lot more higher end, heavy duty gear that was more studio oriented or required a crew to handle the outdoor/beach work. Maybe a more "lightweight" workshop could be a good offering also. How to manage and handle smaller flash set-ups (Metz, Nikon, Canon, etc.) for creative lighting on the move. Use of things like the new Hensel Porty and other more compact, battery operated units. Use of reflectors and modifiers for simple sets on the run, rather than detailed studio configurations. I know there are some training DVDs that purport to cover this, but nothing really beats a good hands on workshop among enthusiastic friends.....and getting to see and play with prospective gear also, both lighting and camera/lens stuff. Worth thinking about a bit before the tryptophan kicks in later ;-) (American joke for those not as familiar with the US Thanksgiving holiday weekend and all that turkey.)

    LJ

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Have to admit I can't wait for Radio Poppers to bring out a European version of their radio ETTL transmitters so I can get more controllable fill results outdoors when working fast, getting that main light way off camera and fill for effect rather than just as a necessity. Never had reliable results outdoors with line of sight near IR systems, especially as I use backlighting a lot!

    The lighting is of course what sets us apart, as is the ability to not only capture the moment, but capture it well! Any hack can point a camera in the right direction and zoom for a decent composition, it's getting the perfect moment with lighting to add the mood and of course getting it perfectly exposed and sharp that counts.

    Problem is I don't know just how much I have to give, I've done pretty much everything just to pull this far ahead, Today I'm the top wedding photographer for the Orthodox Jewish community for all the UK north of London, (eventhough I now live 2000 miles away from the UK!) and I shot my first wedding in Dec 2004. That took a heck of a lot of giving a better product and more of, if there was any more to give I would probably have done it already.

    I'm now looking into sources for cheap design work for Storybook albums so I can encorporate them into cheaper packages as standard (good design work is cheap here in Jerusalem), I've had an incredible backdrop/curtain made for family shots (huge part of the Jewish wedding), I use more sophisticated lighting for the weddings than anyone even close to my price range, etc and these are all things which are recent.

    What I can't do is change my prices. I don't have the experience to charge the prices of the bracket above me (I'm hoping to get some of their market as budgets drop), I can't lower the prices because frankly I give an incredible amount for the price (without being cheap) relative to the competition. I just don't have any margin to lose, all I did have died with the petrol price hikes, increasing costs, etc.

    I would like to team together with a good videographer so as to shoot together for a combined output (using stills in the video, streamlined output approach) but talent within this specific niche is hard to come by, especially when you have a well established reputation to keep. I wouldn't mind working with a 2nd photographer, I have a good guy in mind, however I run into the price ceiling again.

    Not giving up yet but when you have a price ceiling you have to play very careful to add more value to an already incredible package, without devaluing yourself or your time!

    What I would love is the time and money to take 6 months out to learn from the top portrait photographers, learn how the masters pose a 50 person family group, etc, do a bit more apprenticing, sit at the masters feet and just learn and learn. I'm good but if I was great then I could compete in an entirely new price bracket. That and a 2nd shooter for the pure PJ arty farty stuff, a graphic designer on staff and I think I could do well. I have all that in mind for the future but getting the capital has been an excersise in time as I build myself up. Did I mention that due to a disability in my legs I only have about 5-8 years more of full time wedding photography left in me?


    My new 20ft curtain backdrop for family groups. Cost me an absolute fortune to have made but has already netted me a booking just based on it. Do professional but often looking professional is just as big a seller...
    Last edited by Ben Rubinstein; 27th November 2008 at 08:20.
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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    Well, just created a new package, my Basic package but with the negs included at half the cost of buying them seperately. Also including 3 8X10 prints, heck they cost me pennies at the lab anyway. Made an advert in the local Jewish community advertiser to run for a month showcasing the new package and the backdrop. We'll see what happens! Here's hoping to better luck with the bookings over the next few months.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

    Website: http://www.timelessjewishart.com

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    Re: State of the industry and how to survive.

    While this is not a photography industry example, I think that this is probably the best approach for times like these: New Pricing Policy

    I can see applying it to many industries, including my primary business.

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