“I’ve been a photographer for 47 years.” The old man with the toothless grin tells me. “It took three weeks to become a great photographer, but it took me three years to become a great Passer.”
“Really?” I say and take a deep breath.
“I bet I took your baby picture.” The Passer goes on without a pause. “My first year I took 18,000 portrait sets, with 6 shots and poses changes on each one.”
“And yet here you are.” I say with a smile. He either doesn’t hear me, or chooses to ignore the comment as he continues to rattle off war stories from The Good Old Days.
Portrait Passers rarely start off as Salespeople, they all seem to come from some other line of work and just kind of back into the job of selling Assembly Line Portraits. An annoying number of the Passers I have worked with used to be photographers-and all of them think they still are.
The Old Hands of Assembly Line Portraits that I have worked with for years know better than to waste their breath offering me advice on how to take portraits that will sell. But the odds are good that the first few times I worked with them they did offer advice and were mightily offended when I ignored it.
Now if I were to go into the Sales Room and tell the Passer how to sell portraits-they would stoke out on the spot. How dare I presume to tell them anything? What do I know about selling portraits? But they never get the point that I feel the same way about their advice on photography.
I’ve had some Passers that want to go so far as to come into the Camera Room and pose the subjects themselves. When they start playing that game I set down the Camera Remote and pick up my book. I then tell them to let me know when they are done playing and I’ll start taking the portraits.
The Passer, of course, believes that their advice is invaluable and that if The Photographer will only take the time to listen then the Sales will pile up and we will all be rich beyond the dream of avarice.
And there have been times when Nonbuyers have looked at Portraits and decided to Buy because they liked what they saw. Or the Passer was able to convince them that they liked what they saw. The difference between a great Passer and a So-So Passer who likes to blame the Photographer when the sales are not there, is that the Great Passer can sell, while the Bad Passer is only an Order Taker.
This is a point of some debate, as the best Passers and Photographers tend to work the Best Shoots-so are they really that good or do they just get the Easy Shoots? For the most part, they get the Easy Shoots-shoots where people want portraits and will buy pretty much anything they are offered. There are not as many of these Easy Shoots as there used to be, but there are still one or two a week. I rarely get the Easy Shoot, but I can still bring in the Big Bucks if I get the chance.
I seldom take advice from anyone:Passer, Fellow Photographer, or Trainer. If the Subjects are going to buy, they will Buy from the Basic Set-which includes proven sellers. If they are not going to Buy, they won’t buy the best portrait they have ever had taken. Not that all my portraits are the best, but most of them are pretty good.
I have also learned to distrust any Passer who tells me how great my portraits are, as they are just softening me up so they can offer up their sage advice on how to improve my already wonderful portraits.
Uh, yeah. I’ll try to keep your advice in mind.
The problem with Passers Who Think They Are Photographers is that they look at the Portraits the way a Photographer would look at them. That is to say, they notice all the imperfections, all the harsh light, all the dark shadows, all the Portraits take in a style that THEY Would Never Take. So they end up hating the portraits not because they are bad, or because the Subjects refuses to buy they, but because the Passer doesn’t like them. This general feeling of disgust and nausea they feel for the images is easily picked up by the Subjects who decide that these must be really bad portraits if even the Passer hates them.
Great Passers don’t care about the portraits at all, any more than a Car Salesman really cares what brand of car she is selling. The only thing that matters is that she has a Buyer for that model-the model itself means nothing. Great Passers are Great Salespeople who sell whatever they are given to whoever is sitting in front of them.
Passers who think they are Photographers actually believe that the Portrait matters a lot more than it does. So long as it is in focus, their eyes are open, and it is mostly centered, a Great Passer will be able to sell it-to someone who is even a little bit interested in Buying. If they have no interested in Buying, well, then there is no hope at all-no matter how good the portraits are, no matter how good the Passer is.