Saturday, December 20, 2014

Who Cares? Turns Out..... Not Many

A money shot.... but does anyone really care?
INTRODUCTION

What’s the difference between a 15” pizza and a professional photographer? - Answer is that a 15” pizza can feed a family of four!

That’s a joke I heard from a professional photographer who was giving advice to wannabes. It was an interesting article which explained many of the myths and realities - he gave some light to many of the surrounding pitfalls that occur when amateurs decide, for whatever reason, to take the plunge into the world where you actually get paid to take photographs.

I have taken that plunge. And, for me, it’s relatively easy to do. First of all I already run a business - and I can bolt photography on to it. And of course, since I have a main income-stream elsewhere, I don’t have to rely on photography to be profitable any time soon. This has it’s disadvantages, but basically, I can warm up to it with little initial risk.

Having said that, something happened to me last week, and I thought I should blog about it since I had what some might term a minor epiphany regarding my photography and what it means to people.

THE BACKGROUND

I have a preference for photographing people. You may already know that I especially spend a lot of time shooting my church youth teenagers - and I have thousands of shots of them as they grow up through the years. I probably have exposure to around 200 teenagers throughout any year - and I probably know 20% - 30% of their parents through the church.

I don’t shoot them professionally - I just add it as an additional service to my youth leader volunteer work that I already do through the church. I love the kids, I love photography and I love to provide, to both them and their parents, the service of capturing the moments these teens have with us as they journey into young adults. I seem to blog about them quite often, especially regarding photography, so it might appear to you that this is all I do and talk about! But I love photography, especially portrait work, and I love the kids - so you see it’s not just for them…. 

BUGSY MALONE

So anyway, all this was working fine until I was asked in a professional capacity, to be the official photographer in a semi-professional production of Bugsy Malone here in Edinburgh.

All the cast, just as in the movie, are children and teenagers and it just so happens that I know nearly all of them through my previously mentioned work.

This time however I was to be in professional capacity. I was to get paid for the privilege of shooting the kids I love. Some people used to call this a “busman’s holiday”.

So off I went and duly shot about 3000 frames - the successful results can be found here.

I loved it - though I wasn’t in love with the (only 30% built and focused) lighting rig that impeded my shots…. anyway mustn’t grumble, I published the shots with the ubiquitous photographer’s watermark to protect against free downloads and waited like a hungry spider for a proud parent of our cast to pay for one or more of my wares posted on the commercial website….. get it? Web…. spider…? oh dear…..

A week later, and to date, I have now profiteered and accumulated £31.06p

Just to put this in perspective, the work took me about 5 hours to shoot and 8 hours to pick through and edit / post the best shots. So 13 hours work. I used about £8000.00s worth of equipment to shoot it and about three years of accumulated photographic knowledge to bring all this together. So remember the pizza reference above? If I didn’t have any other income stream, my kids would be going to school without lunch, shoes…..and so on.

BUT IT WASN’T FOR THE MONEY

So yeah, I love the kids, and this was my first foray into the commercial element of the art form - so I actually wasn’t expecting to rake in a fortune - I did of course do it for the joy…. but then something else struck me;

Who actually cares about my photography? - Back at the church, I post hundreds of shots of my teenagers up on to a secure site throughout the year. The parents all know I am photographing their little darlings and have all even signed a document to allow me to do so. They have access to the site, and one or two do occasionally comment to me about how much they enjoy the results I proudly display. The site in question is locked, but you can view a guest gallery on the homepage here.

But yeah, who really cares? - The answer seems to be; far less than I imaged. I take a beautiful shot of a lovely teen. I rejoice in it…. I post it on the church site at high resolution and for free……. people sometimes mention it to me…. and then that’s that! - The average parent  doesn’t seem to really log into the same joy I have - even when it’s their own offspring. Looking at the Google analytics of the site, it turns out that a large percentage of the parents don’t visit the site at all, and those that do may well only see a shot or two of their own son or daughter and then don’t bother to download it.

SO….

It turns out, I’m not changing the world after all!

The proof of this came when it came to the watermarked and protected images of the Bugsy Malone shoot: Only five parents of a cast of about 60 kids, actually parted with money for a shot or two and then it was only a few quid. Parents came to see the show.... loved to see their children on stage.... celebrated the whole experience.... passed by some example pictures on the wall showing them where to go to buy the best (and only available) production shots in the world... of their own kids..... and then went home without a second thought on the matter.

So yeah I’m not rich… but it turns out this is for a reason….. great photos of people matter to me a great deal…. I look at them and love them all the time…… Meanwhile everyone else seem to have more focused and realistic lives to live. They might occasionally see one of my shots and say “yay! Good shot”….. and then that’s it. The same, if not perhaps even a tad less pleasurable an experience than eating a bag of chips!

I’m not really hurt by this realisation…… but affected, yes! - I have now re considered the true value of my product…. and this makes me think that I should perhaps go on about photography a little less in the future. People are obviously humouring me when I spout on for hours. They don’t really care. And whether I get my camera out at the next event and shoot a real corker of a fabby "money" shot or not….. people, it seems, don’t really mind either way.

15” Pizza? Bag of chips? - Yeah…. getting hungry….. so are you….. let’s go and do something else!

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