“This is a Camera” The District Manager pointed as he walked around the sample studio. “This is a background. The Subject sits between The Camera and The Background.”
Assemble Line Portrait companies, like all corporations, love meetings. They love to bring out New Ideas. They love to talk about Teams and Synergy and Customer Service. A lot of companies have their employees sign Customer Service documents of one sort or another-many post these inspiration documents where the Customers can ignore them.
The really annoying thing about Meetings is the universal themes they all possess. Every Company I have ever worked for has Made Customer Service Job 1-while the real Job 1 is getting as much as possible out of said customer. It is a Cardinal Rule that we never, ever say that Our Business is Selling Portraits-we want everyone to be shocked and awed when they are shown that first six hundred dollar package.
“How much money you make is entirely up to you.” Is a common refrain. If we just take better pictures, we’ll make more money. If only it were that simple. It never is, but in A Photography Meeting, one of the things we are guaranteed to see is a Power Point presentation with a snappy soundtrack and slide show of ‘Great Portraits’ from the field. These are portraits that fall into one of two groups 1) when we are doing Traditional Portraits-the stiff American Gothic style of portraiture and 2) when we are doing Modern/Contemporary/High Appeal portiture we want every shot to look like it came out of High School Senoir Studio. These styles change from Company to Company and sometimes the change happens within the same Company in a yo-yo like fashion.
“Poses, Props, and Sheets” was the favorite mantra of one the Companies. The idea being that the more poses, props, and finished product you had, the better the payday. Of course, that Company didn’t pay The Photographers any commission on sales-I can’t believe you want to be paid on someone else’s work-so there was no real incentive for Photographers to care about Poses, Props, and Sheets.
“The Dress Code.” is often covers at The Meeting. Men and women are to wear proper business attire at all times. I worked at one Company where I wore a Hawaii Shirt to work and I had a pretty nice collection. These brightly colored shirts are perfect for Assembly Line Portraits as they are light weight, cool, and kids often have wonderful expressions when you get close to them wearing all those bold patterns. The Company always wants a solid white or dark blue long sleeve shirt with a solid colored tie for the men, and business formal clothes for the women. I have seen people wear everything under the sun to work and no one has ever said a word to them-except for those rare times when Management has dropped by a Shoot. The Customers could care less how we dress.
“The New Pay Rate.” There is always a new Pay Rage, a New Commission, a New Way of Calculating Commission, an End to Commission, the New Salary Structure, and so on and so forth. These New Pay Rates always benefit the Company and seldom, if ever, benefit The Photographer.
“Don’t Leave a Shoot Early” Every Company I have worked for has had slow shoots where the last scheduled person is two hours before the end of the day. It is standard practice to shut down and leave after shooting that last appointment-especially if it’s setup and tear down day. The Company, of course, tells everyone that we will be there until the time of the last appointment. Funny that they have never learned that everyone leaves and not to tell people not to bother showing up.
My first Meeting I was kind of excited. I had all kinds of ideas about how to improve the Company, how to fix the countless things that were wrong, how to make money and make the Customers happy at the same time. But The Meeting is not a meeting at all, it’s a Sermon From On High and you had better pay attention to Moses or Else.
Every suggest I made was rejected out of hand and dismissed without any consideration. Every question was met with This Is The Way We Are Doing It and This Is The Way We Will ALWAYS do it! So after a couple of Meetings, you learn to sit with a blank look on your face and try to stay awake as the same old same old is rehashed and rehashed and rehashed again.
“That was a Great Meeting! I hope you all learned something here today!” says The Manager.
I have never been to a Meeting where the Speaker says-Well, that was a fucking waste of time-that’s what everyone forced to attend the Meeting says.