When I attended the Hope Taylor Photography Senior Workshop this past month, I was delighted to learn that Hope utilizes the same business model that I do – Shoot & Share. For those of you who don’t know, being a Shoot & Share photographer means that I share all the edited digital files to my clients instead of prints. As soon as the session is done and edited you receive a link to an online gallery with all the images. And that’s it – you’re done. There are no additional meetings where you pick your favorite pictures or have to order $xx.xx in prints.
This is not the case with all photographers out there – traditionally the client pays for a session fee and then has a minimum print order to fulfill afterwards during a sales meeting (which can yield the photographer over $500+ in additional revenue).
I chose the Shoot & Share approach for three very important reasons: 1) I am not a salesman. I cringe away from any situations that involve high-pressure – it’s just not my style. I offered that experience in the very beginning of my business and let’s just say it was an epic failure. Since then, I’ve found that I would rather let the client view their photos in an online gallery in the convenience/comfort of their own home (I use the online photo-sharing site Shootproof to share the sessions). 2) I don’t have a lot of time to schedule sales meetings or make print product orders. I work full-time at my day job, work full-time for my husband’s business and I have an energetic 1-year old. I have to maximize my time and truth be told, I would rather be out shooting a session or editing photos than messing with all that mumbo-jumbo. Enough said. And 3) I want the best possible experience for my clients and if that means delivering digital copies – then that’s what I’ll do. The clients are then free to share them socially (with my watermark, of course) and/or print at a professional lab of their choice.
This business model isn’t without controversy. So many photographers out there are upset because they feel it cheapens the industry and undercuts established, traditional photographers. I disagree. I truly believe that this emerging trend is where the industry is heading. That’s not to say I think prints will ever go away – I just believe that in this social media hungry world people want access to their digital pictures.
However, their are a few pitfalls to sharing digital files. Let me explain: A lot of my clients ask for a print release to Walmart, Target or Walgreens because the cost of printing is so cheap. Well, they are cheap for a reason. Big box stores are NOT professional printing labs. Your photos will come out discolored and will fade after time because of the inferior materials used. And you will be disappointed with your prints– I promise. Here is a really good article that explains why your print lab is so important: http://paintthemoon.net/2011/10/photoshop-actions-why-your-print-lab-is-so-important/. And I don’t want someone to see those prints and think it’s a poor reflection of me as a photographer instead of the poor quality of the prints.
So, that’s why I recommend sending your images to a professional printing company, such as mpix.com. You will not receive a print release from me to use at CVS, Walgreens, Sam’s Club, Target, Walmart, Costco, or any other big box chain stores because I care how my work is presented and want it accurately displayed.
In the end, I don’t believe there is only one correct way to run your photographer business. If you only want to offer prints – Great. If you don’t – Great. Do what makes you and your clientele happy. I’m a huge believer in choosing the best business model that works for you and advocating for #communityovercompetition within the industry.