Shouldn’t We All Be On The Same Side?

“If they want it, they will buy anything.” The long time Passer says with a dismissive wave of his hand. “I only need two pictures and I can sell a package.”

“But we’re supposed to be taking all these poses and changing the lighting and the body angels and the background.” I say as I watch him enter the numbers for the days Sales.

“Well, maybe I could use three pictures instead of two.”

All of The Companies I have worked for have had the same general feeling when it comes to shooting portraits, more is better.  All but one.  At The Big Box Store we were required to shoot five portraits and The Lab would then print five portraits.  If we shot ten portraits, the Lab would print five portraits.  If we shot three portraits, someone would yell at us to shot five portraits.

People who want portraits will usually chose from the Standard Set.  Picky Buyers will want to take another portrait, even if nothing is really wrong with one of the first ones, just to show they are in change-but as long as they buy, who cares?  A surprising number of people buy The Book Pose, which is usually the plain vanilla shot with the flat lighting.

A good Photographer can get salable portraits of anything from a day old baby to a group of thirty to a couple of dogs-it’s the groups of three or four that are often the biggest pain.  Young families with no money to spare who want to get the perfect Freebie-and they always have that one child who thinks he’s so cute who really needs to be slapped.

A good Passer can pretty much sell anything you give them-within reason.  They will still have a hard time selling shots with eyes closed or people talking or kids falling out of the frame.  It’s the Passer’s job to sell the portraits and part of the selling process is telling the people what wonderful portraits they took.  Sometimes the portraits are wonderful, some times they are not so wonderful.  A bad Passer is one that tells the Subject how horrible the portraits are and at the end of the day blames the Photographer for shooting crap.

It’s always been a centerpiece of Assembly Line Portraits that each Division hates the others.  The Company likes to keep these little rivalries going.  They send out Newsletters from time to time that tell us how much the PreSellers, Photographers, and Passers have made and who is the best among these groups.  None of our jobs are easy, and none of us like to have it rubbed in our noses that So-and-So had twice as much is Sales as Such-and-Such.

Having a good Photographer and a good Passer doesn’t mean anything if we have a Bad Shoot thanks to the PreSeller.  So, just as the Passer can blame the Photographer for a bad day, we can both blame the PreSeller for booking a bad Shoot.  I never talk to the walking dead PreSellers so I don’t know what they have to say about Photographers and Passers.  Nothing good, though, I’m sure.  After all, if the Photographer or the Passer upset someone, they may not want to do another Shoot-which is money out of their pockets.

My question has always been, and still remains, what does The Company get out of having everyone at each others throat?

We had a Meeting a few years back and the Three Big Wheels of the Company where in attendance.  At the end of the meeting they opened the floor up for questions.  When are you going to increase the gas reimbursement? We’re not. Next Question. When are you going to raise our base pay, which hasn’t been raised in fifteen years? We’re not. Next question. When are we going to have better Shoots? That’s nothing you need to worry about. Next Question. This went on for a few minutes until the message sank in that it was fucking pointless to ask this asshole anything.  He nodded firmly and said good-then walked off.

We also tend to hate Management, now that I think about it.  Like most companies in America, The Company works under The Dilbert Principal-which is to say, Idiots in Management.  After sitting through a Meeting or two I got the distinct feeling that they pretty much hate us as well.  If they could outsource us to Indian, I’m positive that they would be using My Man in Indian right now.

The Lab doesn’t have any warm and fuzzy feelings for any of us either.  The Photographers play around with the lights too much.  The Passers crop the images too much.  Management tells The Photographers to use more creative lighting and that leads to more cropping by The Passers and that leads to more problems for The Lab, and so on.

The Company seems to think of it’s employees as a necessary evil, they put up with us because they have no choice.  One of the Passers is going to a Meeting at the Home Office in a couple of weeks.  She has collected a list of questions she wants to ask about how the Company is run and why can’t we fix a few things-like how the PreSellers are paid and how quickly we return to the same Shoot location.  I have a pretty strong feeling that she will not get to ask any of her questions-or if she does, they will not be answered.

I try not to get be too concerned about these things any more.  I customize The Standard Set for the Passer I am working with-they are selling the portraits and I want them to sell as many of them as possible.  I try to flatter the Subject in my portraits.  I do my best to get along with everyone.  I am always trying to improve my portraits.

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