Archive for October, 2007

The Sad State of the Photo Business

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

The photo industry is in a bad shape. Noone is willing to pay for photos any longer, let alone for professional photos. While this is nothing new in general, the latest fad, “backward auctions” seems to set a new record low in this regard. The willingness to pay seems to be close to zero, especially for wedding photographers.

One example here in Germany is My-Hammer.de, an auction house for services. Potential clients enter a description of the service they would like to purchase, and then companies or freelancers try to beat their competitors by bidding low. So far, so good. This has worked in the public sector quite well, e.g. for buildings. However, if the state builds a house, they have an exact description of the work. Down to the last screw and the last nail. And it’s professionals competing against each other.

Which seems not the case for some of the photo jobs available on My-Hammer.de. Let’s have a look:

Example # 1

Auftrag 743833

This happy couple looks for a wedding photographer on 6th October, because their contracted photographer suddenly jumped ship (for whatever reasons, did he get a better job?). Still, they have a very concrete vision of what they want for their money:

  • A good and creative photographer (!)
  • One or two locations (!)
  • Shots prior to church, during church, and after church
  • Creative photos with a good judgement of light (!)
  • 100 shots
  • 20 prints 13×18 cm
  • CD-ROM
  • should be an official photographer or freelancer

Just looking at this, I’d say this is at least a three hour job:

  • 30 minutes prior to church
  • 1 hour church
  • 30 minutes after church
  • 1 hour post-processing

plus the time for getting there, plus the travel cost, plus the prints, plus the CD-ROM, plus handling. Let’s just add one hour for all this. That’s four hours in total.

The happy couple started their reverse auction at 160 Euro. An hour before closure, the lowest bid was at 154 Euro. That’s 38.50 Euro per hour, including VAT, or 32.35 Euro net before tax. Well, if he actually includes this job in his tax declaration. ;-)

I think this barely covers the cost, and no serious photographer can work at this rate. And forget about making a living from this. So my guess is that the photographer is either not a professional and that he is using amateur equipment (then good luck with your pictures!), or he is already so desparate that he will take any job that barely covers the cost. Now, how much emotion and creativity will he put into a job that barely covers the cost?

Sad. But it gets worse…

Example # 2

Auftrag 730954

Again, a wedding. The couple is not as friendly as the one above, as they have even more concrete ideas about what they get for their money:

  • A professional and experienced wedding photographer
  • Shooting from 12pm to 2pm (ceremony), and from 4pm to 10pm (party)
  • Photos prior, during and after ceremony
  • Photos during the party
  • Classic group shots
  • Professional equipment
  • At least four complete reference shootings
  • 150-200 high-resolution shots (at least 8 Megapixel)
  • Post-processing included, if necessary
  • Color, sepia/tinted, and b&w versions of the image files
  • Two CD-ROMs or DVDs
  • All rights for private, non-commercial use
  • Including travel cost, materials, and VAT

Again, let’s have a look at the real cost involved:

  • 2.5 hours ceremony (the ceremony starts at 12pm, but they want photos prior to the ceremony!)
  • 6 hours party
  • 3.5 hours selection and post-processing (estimated)

plus the time for getting there, plus the travel cost, plus the prints, plus the CD-ROMs, plus handling. Let’s just add one hour for all this. That’s 13 hours in total.

The happy couple started their auction at 350 Euro. At the time of writing, one guy was bidding as low as 282 Euro, or 236.97 Euro net (excluding VAT). Yes, that’s 18.23 Euro per hour before tax. Now, how sick is that?

But yes, it can get even worse!

Example # 3

Auftrag 745788

Another wedding, this time combined with a christening. Nice. Again, the guys have some ideas:

  • Start at 2 pm at the church
  • Until 10 pm at the restaurant
  • All photos on CD or DVD
  • One print from each photo
  • Photographer should have good equipment and ideas for poses

That’s an 8.5 hours job, again, plus travel time and cost, plus selection and post-processing (I’d estimate 4 hours), plus prints, plus CDs, plus handling (let’s estimate another hour for this). Let’s just say, that’s another 13 hours job.

19 bids in total, with the lowest bid being 180 Euro. Yes, 151.26 Euro net (excl. VAT). Yes, 11.63 Euro net before tax.

Ultimately sad.

So, what do I charge for weddings, and why?

I charge typically 148.75 Euro per hour (125 Euro excluding VAT). As post-processing is as important as the shooting itself, I charge the same for shooting and post-processing. Usually, a two hour shooting turns into a three to four hour job, i.e. somewhere between 450 and 600 Euro including VAT.

Here’s what you get for this money:

  • professional equipment (two high-end Canon cameras with high-end lenses)
  • pictures up to 16.7 Megapixel
  • experienced, creative photographer
  • classical posed photos and news-style photos
  • all photos on CD-ROM
  • all non-commercial rights
  • complete references available

But as I said, all this comes at a price. If you like my style but think it’s worth just 11.63 net per hour, I will be happy to pass your job. Then you should look at My-Hammer.de. Or even better: just take your point-and-shoot camera, hand it over to your friends, and let them do the shooting, complete with creative ideas and razor-sharp prints. I am convinced that you will be very happy with the results. ;-) But please do not blame me if you are not satisfied.

Oktoberfest – 2nd week

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Out little local fest called Oktoberfest is moving fast into its second week. Personal damages so far have been minor, but I got my usual Oktoberfest cold – it’s warm and cozy during the day, so you take only light clothes, and hot and sweaty in the tents, and then, when you get out (probably a bit drunk), you underestimate the coolness of the air. The cold hits you hard one or two days later. *cough* But other than that, the first Oktoberfest week was great.

By now we also survived the scared second weekend, which is also widely known as Italians Weekend, because usually the fest is packed with Italians who drive all the way to Munich in their motorhomes, flooding the Theresienwiese and the rest of the city. Fortunately, the rainy weather cleared up on Saturday, so that at least the grass next to the Oktoberfest could be used for a nap. The locals call this area also the “throw-up-grass”. Uh, yes, they are right. The wind blew a slight smell over to me, and it was not a good one…

Oktoberfest - taking a nap
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Oktoberfest Sleeping
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Oktoberfest - Drunk beyond belief
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

These photos were taken on Sunday at about 3 pm, so one can only imagine what might have happened in the morning, right after the tents were opened. By now I can safely say that I will be glad once this Oktoberfest is over again. Which is funny in a way, because you anticipate the Fest starting around May/June once the reservations are assigned, then come the Wies’n Warmup fests and events, and then – when it’s finally there – you have enough after half of the time.

Anyway, if you are still planning to come over to the Oktoberfest, please don’t let these photos stop you! The weather is fine, the beer is good, and the mood is great.