We’ve all seen a lot lately about the demise of the horse show photographer. I understand their plight and I sympathize… I really do. Even in the days where everyone has a friend with a nice camera, there’s nothing quite like a really nice, gorgeous professional photo. I have lots of them floating around, two of which are in my office at work
Another of which hangs in the hallway in my house
one of which would hang somewhere if I would ever frame it
and a bunch more scattered around random places, plus obviously all over my facebook. Mostly I buy digital images for social media use, but occasionally I’ll get a print. I’ve had a lot of pro photographer interactions by now.
However, a recent one with a shall-remain-nameless photographer really left me a little dumbstruck.
First, a week or so before the event an email was sent out letting us know that this certain photographer would be there and provided a link to their website. The site was very hard to read – gray background with white font, obviously homemade from a very rudimentary template, difficult to navigate, etc. However, I can live with that part. What really struck me was this paragraph:
“For now, we shall not be charging for proofs from the other Horse Trials we photograph. But shall take that step if sales drop. The all images package sales for those shows still cover our expenses – but not by much.
Our early bird and on-site all images packages are less than the $155 charged by another Area V photographer and our non-discounted full price is far less than the Premium Package ($325 or onsite price of $275) of yet another eventing photographer. Consider yourselves lucky you do not compete at quarterhorse shows. At a recent one in Waco, the show photographer was charging $179 for ONE IMAGE with a commercial release. And people were buying!”
Uhhh. Wha? Consider myself lucky??? I’ve never seen any professional website that so willingly tossed out the prices of competitors (especially in a not-directly-comparable circumstance) or essentially threatened to charge for proofs if sales dropped. This is why I did not opt for the early bird package. The lack of professionalism displayed there was a real turn-off for me. That and I couldn’t find enough pictures to tell how good their work actually was anyway.
Fast forward to after the event, and they post that proofs are available on a first come first serve basis if you email them. Well that’s kinda weird, but ok, curiousity killed the cat. I had to see what they got. A few days later I got an email back that was just a zip file attachment. The only text was “please open the attached zip folder”. No information on ordering, no hello, no nothing. Okie dokie then, no time wasted on pleasantries…
So I open the zip file to find lots of proofs. Yay, right? Wrong. They are all thumbnail size with the word PROOF written across them in bright opaque yellow. In most of the pictures I can’t really even tell if it’s me and my horse, much less if I want to actually buy the picture. I can’t see his face, I can’t see my face, I can’t see my position, I can’t see how his legs/body look. That’s frustrating, and kind of a waste of time for everyone involved, especially the person who put together all those proofs. How am I supposed to buy a picture when I can’t actually see it? I understand the need to prevent people from stealing proofs, but there are ways to do that while still allowing people to see the actual picture underneath.
I could see enough of one picture to think I wanted it, so I emailed back asking how to order, since remember there was no information sent with the pictures nor was their any information on the website. I was told I’d get an email invoice the next morning. Two days pass and nada, then I get an email asking if I’d gotten the Paypal notice. I said no, and that if it’s going to be via Paypal it needed to go to X address. Later that day I got an invoice, I paid it, and the next day I had the picture in my inbox. That part went fairly smoothly. Ready to be puzzled?
After all of that… all the effort going into protecting their images and making the proofs impossible to steal (or even view), the photo didn’t even have a mark on it. No signature, no watermark, nothing. There’s no way for anyone looking at it to know whose work that is. Social media is free advertising, people! When you go to such great lengths to complain about the industry in general on your website and prevent image stealing, then not even mark your work… it’s baffling.
Here’s the deal, photographers: I am more than willing to buy your work, and pay you fairly for it. But a) it has to be good b) make it easy for me to view the proofs c) make it easy for me to pay you d) try to be at least somewhat professional and not make yourself sound borderline crazy. By helping me, you help yourself. I would have probably bought 4 or 5 more pictures if it hadn’t been so difficult and the proofs had been reasonably viewable.
I’d like to say this was the first negative photographer experience I’ve had but it’s definitely not. Between badly timed/poorly exposed pictures, or pictures that took SIX MONTHS to show up after payment, I can understand why this business can be so tough for some people. All the talent in the world does not help you if you’re a poor businessman, and conversely being a good businessman does not help you if you lack talent. To the ones who do it well: thank you! Please come to my events and take my money.