“I don’t need any more pictures.” The Customer said with a wave of his hand. “I’ll just scan the free one when I get it and make my own copies.”
My current Assembly Line Portrait work is done in Churches, taking portraits for Directories. This is near perfect Assembly Line work, or at least, it used to be. With the ever growing number of people who own Professional Quality Photo Equipment and have a copy of Photoshop they found online, it’s getting a lot harder to convince people to buy straight out of the camera portrait packages.
The Customer with the scanner has won, by the way, just about everyone now gives away a CD with all the images of a Portrait Sitting including a Copyright Release when they buy a certain number of portraits. So there is not even the toothless threat that they are stealing our images-we are giving them the images to do with as they will.
This idea that everything should be free is not just a problem for Movies and Music. Anyone that works in any medium that can be turned into bits and bytes can have their product transmitted over the internet. Portraits are no exception.
So far there is no real way to Out Source a Portrait Session, so I don’t have to worry about my job going to India-well, not yet anyway.
Our customers are a lot more educated than they used to be, and they have a lot more choices. In the Glory Days, a photographer could made a pretty fat living just going from town to town and shooting in a motel conference room-if they wanted a portrait, this was the only time to get it.
Now there is a Wal-Mart on one corner, a K-Mart on the other, and Sears at the intersection. Discount Portrait Studios are cheaper and easier to setup than ever before. Every mall I go to has at least three portrait studios, Assembly Line Portrait Studios hiding in plain sight and pretending to be personal and unique. These mall shops don’t pay enough for me to look too seriously at them.
The big Assembly Line companies are trying to get better, trying to add more bells and whistles, trying to include different poses and lighting, trying to postpone the day when they can’t compete with some robotic portrait studio in the corner of a 7-11.
I can see it now-one red eye like Hal 9000 and one of those Stephen Hawking robot voices-“Turn To The Right. No. Your Other Right. Ha. Ha.”