Thursday, March 1, 2012

Showing Your Work - Just How Much is Too Much?

A question that comes up in conversation (especially among newer photographers) is "should I show my client before and after examples of their images so they can see just what I've done?"

While having examples of finished images in your marketing materials is acceptable to let the client know you will remove skin blemishes, soften lines and brighten teeth, I make it a personal habit to not show the SOOC (straight out of camera) image alongside the finshed product. Even thought the differences can be striking, I don't want the client to also see areas I've chosen to liquefy, or just how deep their wrinkles or eye bags appear without digital assistance. I just want them to love the finished product because they look beautiful. They will understand that I am a talented photographer whether or not I choose to share just how the image got to the final point.

One definite thing not to do is work the image in front of the client. I have spoken to so many photographers who have said something like "oh, just give me a minute and I can have that ready" or worse yet, actually done the Photoshop work while the client waits and watches.

Here's the reason for keeping the production aspect "behind the scenes". It completely takes the magic out of it and undermines your ability to charge for what we do. I can retouch a file in 3-4 minutes because I've gotten proficient in it after years of practice, not to mention the in-camera skills that made the file easier to finish in the first place.

There's a story about a woman who was walking through a park and she came across a man doing a painting. As she drew closer, she realized that the man was Pablo Picasso . . . and she became very excited. She walked up to him and said "Mr. Picasso, I have admired your work for so long . . . and I would love to have you paint my portrait. I will pay anything for that . . please?!?"

The man sighed, took the canvas he was working on off of his easel, replaced it with a fresh canvas and began to paint. About 20 minutes later he turned the canvas around to show her. The woman was elated! "Oh Mr. Picasso, it's beautiful! I can't believe how wonderful it is . . . and to be able to own such a personal piece of your art . . . how much do I owe you?"

Picasso calmly stated "Twenty-five thousand dollars."

The woman's tone abruptly changed. "Twenty-five thousand dollars?!?!? Why, it didn't even take you 20 minutes!"

Picasso, who had already replaced the canvas with his previous project, paused and said "On the contrary, my dear woman. It has taken me a lifetime."

Think about it . . . we didn't snap our fingers and get good. We were not overnight sensations. We've spent a long time learning, creating, perfecting. Don't devalue your work by making what we do seem "easy". Just because we've gotten good at a particular aspect of this business is no reason to make it appear that anyone with a DLSR, a computer and a mouse can be a Photoshop wiz.

And since we deserve to be well-paid for the amount of time, effort and money we've put into educating ourselves . . . please, don't give your work away.

- David Grupa

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