The Truth About Photography Companies
So what do you know about High Street photography studios?
Probably a lot less than you should. So I wanted to highlight a few points that may make you consider using a small independent photographer rather than the corporate High Street alternative.
As an experienced photographer and a person that has many contacts in the trade I know precisely how the big High Street boys work, their sales techniques and how they make their money. So read on if you want to have a better insight into how the photography industry works and how they make you part with your money.
I should point out that not all of these scenarios will apply to all photographers and they purely examples of things I have been told, heard of or know that happen.
The Walk Past: You know the scenario, you are walking through your local shopping center and there is a photography sales desk offering a portrait session and an 8×10 photograph for only £10.00, so you stop, sign some paperwork and walk off with a £10.00 voucher in your pocket.That was your first mistake – Because that is the beginning of your journey into parting with hundreds or possibly even thousands of pounds.
The Phone Calls: Large photography companies employ call centers to then call you at least once a week to find out when you will be making use of your £10.00 voucher. These calls can become rather tedious, especially if the voucher has a long expiration date and should be your first clue as to how these guys work.
The Appointment: So when you finally get around to making your booking and attending the studio what can you expect. Well the first thing you think you are going to get is a highly skilled and experienced photographer, which isn’t always the case and sometimes the equivalent to a photographers assistant will actually be taking your photgraphs.
Lighting and Composition: So how can the big guys get away with employing unskilled photographers you may ask yourself. Well the answer is simple, very simple. All of the lighting is pre-set and never changes so the photographer only has to power it up and he is ready go. Poses are also virtually text book and if you look carefully at previous shoots you will pretty much see the same composition, poses and ideas for other clients. So why are these practices bad? Well all you end up with is the same old photographs all done in the same way. Yes, it does sound rather obvious once someone takes the time to explain it more.
The Sales Pitch: After the shoot you will be issued you with a contact sheet or access to a webpage that will have a set of watermarked images on. This will allow you to browse through your photographic session. And remember that call center? Well they will call you probably three times a week to get you back into the studio so you can look through all of your images with the photographer.
The Return: When you go back to the studio and select your free 8×10 image (because lets not forget that is why you are there) The studio may offer you wine, champagne or even cakes, cookies and hot drinks, this is to make you drop your guard and think that the photographer isn’t so bad after all.
The Hard Sale: Now lets not give you any bull here, your photographs will look amazing and I’m not going to tell you anything different, becuase the lighting has been set to a standard formula and the poses are sales winners. The photographer will then give you a full one hour presentation on them, as well as the types of frames and albums that they can be presented in. He may even make you choose a set of images that you really like, (for the purpose of this lets say eight.) He will then show you various ways in which they can be presented and get you drooling at the thought of how cool they will look hanging on your living room wall.
Price: It is at this point that he will drop the bombshell on you. “Oh eight photographs framed will only cost you £1400 Mr & Mrs client.” It is at this point that you look at each other and a cold sweat breaks out.
Selling Tricks: You have to remember that the photographer is also a highly trained and very shrewd salesman who has sold photographs to hundreds of clients. He would have been to more sales seminars and training courses than you have had hot dinners and he will use any method possible to try and sell you his most expensive photographic package.
There are a number of ways the photographer will then try and get you hooked into a purchase.
1.He will throw the interest free finance option at you. I bet you didn’t expect to be leaving the photographers with a finance agreement did you.
2.The photographer will tell you that if you don’t buy today that all images will be deleted that same day – For most High Street photographers this is utter crap, because lets say you change your mind a week later and decide you want to double your order, it just doesn’t make good business sense.
3.They may try and throw the “use your holiday money’ line. Because a holiday will be over in a week, but you will have these photographs forever.
4.Of course there is always the ‘let me phone the studio manager’ line “to see if he will allow a discount “– and I bet if he does, the discount will be about 15%.
5. The Magic Question – (This one really gets under my skin)So the photographer will say something like ‘If you don’t mind me asking, what’s most important to you about your photographs/photography shoot/children/family (take your pick) Once you tell the photographer this he will keep repeating your answer for ever more to try and guilt trip you into buying
5. The No Law – Their is a rule in high pressure sales that states; it takes five No’s to get a yes. So the best way to avoid this is to simply not use the word No, alternatives like we’d rather not, we’re not sure, we need to think about it are much better. This will throw the photographer and his sales technique and mean he quickly has to gather himself and try a different approach
6. The Cut -The salesman (photographer) will try and pressure you into trying to buy a very expensive photography package that he knows you can’t afford – Before slimming down the package by a few photographs and then offering the new package at a considerably lower price.
7.Finally lets not forget your credit card – The photographer will try and bully you into making a credit card purchase if its all he has left to play with.
You may not think these scenarios are true, but these guys are highly trained salesmen who have have had a lot of money invested into their sales techniques and lets not forget you are supposed to be only collecting your 10×8 photograph, so why are they even bothering to sell you anything at all – Well that was the idea right from the start – To sell you the most expensive photo package they can.
Reprints and Copies: So you have made your £1400 purchase (minus 15%) and got your pictures home and grandma loves them, in fact so much that she wants a set of her own. Can you pop down to your local Jessops or Max Spielman to grab a few copies? Not on your nelly – Most large High Street photography companies do not allow you to make reproductions of their works and this is stamped on the back of your photographs so you have to go back to them and pay another £1400.
So there you have it, that £10.00 photography shoot voucher has all of a sudden cost you £90.00 a month for 12 months and the only person left smiling is the photographer. Lets not forget that the High street guys are as ruthless and tricky as any car salesman or double glazing window salesmen. Because the majority are target driven and paid on performance, so the more photographs they sell, the more money they will earn.
So why could using an independent photographer be better and save you money?
Their Not tied down: Well an independent photographer is not tied down to trademarks, branding and technique, nor are they tied to sales targets and most are happy to just cover their expenses and make a comfortable wage.
More Creative: An independent photographer can shoot a set of images unique to you and use an approach that suites your requirements with custom designed poses and styles, based on the client’s creative brief. Whether it be changing the lighting set up throughout the shoot or even shooting with a lifestyle studio in the comfort of the clients home, meaning; you don’t have to drag the kids across town to the studio.
Up Front Pricing: An independent photographer will also be a lot more upfront about his pricing structure, so no nasty surprises at the end.
Freedom: Most independent photographers are also more than happy to let you just have a set of digital copies, which you can get printed and framed yourself rather than being tied town to getting expensive reprints from the High Street guy.
Relationship: One of the best things about using an independent is that you have the opportunity to build a rapport with them over a long period of time. One photographer may photograph one, two or even three generations of your family, so they really get to know you well. Unlike the High Street photographers who can experience a high staff turnover, meaning you never get to know one of their photographers for more than a year or so.
So as you can see the advantages of using an independent photographer over a High Street Photography company can far outweigh the disadvantages, so my recommendation is to always contact your local independent photographer before approaching the High Street Guys.
I am an experienced independent photographer based in Leicester City and have shot all over the United Kingdom and traveled across the world. If you are in Leicester or the surrounding areas and would like to book a photography shoot then my prices for portrait shoots start from as little as £35.00, with an agreed amount of final images, which you will be free to have printed wherever you want.
If you would like to book me for a shoot then you can contact me via my contact page or call me direct on 07889 473279.
See more of my photographs HERE