Caveat Emptor

I posted a rant a while back regarding an opinion article written in a particular section of a publication. While this may seem to detract or could be construed as changing the opinion I had at that point, it does not — my opinion remains the same. Which is, this is a free market place; therefore, Caveat Emptor — let the buyer beware.

For consumers looking to have a “professional” photographer capture a family photo, or to record once-in-a-lifetime events, such as, a wedding, christening, or engagement, there are more options and individuals willing to take your money than ever before. And that’s okay. For many photographers it requires that they stay focused and not lay back on their laurels — continuation of market placement and services must stand out more than ever. For those in the “portrait” segment this has always been a rather constricted area for tangible success. That said, photography in general, is much the same as other purchases involving disposable cash. Your offerings should differentiate you from others with whom you are competing.

Of late, I have noticed that more and more there are individuals who cut costs, offer prints for next to nothing or free, advertise that individuals are paying for the photographer’s time with the inflection that prowess in post-processing to produce a photographic and personal treasure is of little consequence. In the end, the proof rests with the ability of the photographer to illicit an emotional response from various photographed subjects: individual portraits, casual portraits, family photographs, landscapes, etc. Hopefully, that emotional response will drive a sale. If the end product is not that which the photographer is really pushing toward, what matter is it how much time the photographer spends at any price? Time spent does not necessarily equal excellent products. If the end product has no intrinsic or emotional value to the consumer, then time spent by the photographer is next to worthless, or an irretrievable waste of time that could have been more valuably spent.

To the point: I have read the postings of some individuals who market and sell their products. One caveat to this: if both the buyer and seller are satisfied and content, then both parties realized that which they were seeking and should be happy campers. But what are the expectations of the buyer when contracting a photographer for services. What are the duties of the photographer to meet, and hopefully exceed, those expectations? What really bothered me was when I read, “I have a photo shoot tomorrow or the next day for this “really fun” couple’s wedding followed by the query, “Where should I go to take their photos?” Huh? Does no responsibility rest with the photographer?

Doesn’t the couple have an expectation that the photographer has done some scouting for appropriate locations based on conversations with the couple and in line with their personality and environmental attachments? What is the photographer doing querying other photographers on the eve of the shoot about locations for once-in-a-lifetime photos — other photographers are not the client. To further confound what I believe is fair and honest practice, one such photographer asked the question; “I’m going to rent a lens for a wedding I’m shooting tomorrow, what lens should I rent?” This one blew me over, different photographers promoting their favorite lens without knowing what the focus (no pun intended) and what was to be the structure of the photographs. There are some particular initials used in texting and tweeting that would be appropriate here, so fill in whatever exasperated expletive initials fit.

If I were to hire a photographer, I would be making an assumption they are very familiar with their equipment — equipment should not be the focal point of the shoot; the focal point should be the subject. When retaining a photographer I would be paying for their attention toward their craft as an artist and toward me as the subject to properly create an image that would move me toward a connection with the produced result. Not, as it seemingly was in this instant, “Hey I just rented this lens to photograph your special event or portrait and I have no idea how this will turn out, but hey, let’s have fun while I learn what this lens will do.” I am not paying for the photographer to be “learning” new equipment on my dime. Imagine what the subject would think if they had seen such a query? Would there we doubt as to the outcome and suitability of the final product. Consider the photographer renting an inappropriate lens for the shoot: a wide-angle for close portraits perhaps. “Oh, I’m really sorry I made your nose look soooo large, but I had this new lens and I just wasn’t familiar with it, so, whoops, I’m sorry. “Unfortunately, in this instance, there would be no repeat; the event is over.

I have no problem with individuals renting lenses to produce the look they are after. But, shouldn’t some responsibility rest with the photographer? Is there no integrity and ethical treatment of the client? Is it all about the photographer now? Is there a segment that takes not responsibility?

The market place is the market place and there will always be new entrances — the good remain and the poor wither and are eliminated, generally. Photography is an interesting market, relatively easy and inexpensive to enter. I think it good and healthy for the market and the craft, it keeps people on their toes and requires ethical photographers to keep their game solid and pushes improvements, innovations, and consistently high quality. Mediocrity is more affordable than quality and is more abundant. Quality is always available, although in much less quantity and will cost appropriately. For those who want to get on the field-of-play, for the sake of (insert your favorite paragon of photography here), learn your damned equipment and scout appropriate locations for the genre before you begin selling services. Caveat Emptor…

To be cliché, “That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.”

Fluer_de_Lis (Drop Shadow)