The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat

“I don’t want a lot of pictures this time.” The woman says without even sitting down.  “I just need four 5x7s of this one and an 8×10 of that one.”

“Ok.” I say and crunch the numbers, I tell her the total and she gives me a credit card.

By the end of the day I have a little over $2000 in sales and a pretty good average.  I’m dead tired, but it was a pretty good day.

Next Day-

“I’m just here for the Church.” The rude woman says and looks down her nose at me.  “We’re not buying anything.”

The total for that day is-wait for it-$25.

This was at two different Shoots, but I have had good and bad days at the same Shoot as well.  There have been few times when the difference in daily totals has been this different.

It’s all about Location, one Shoot will have people willing to spend money and another will not.  A couple of Companies back I felt that there was a bit more to be done about this problem.  They had a ton of records and they could look back decades and see which Shoots had bought and which had not.  A Good Shoot might go bad, but it’s damned near impossible that a Bad Shoot will turn around and become a good one.  I always thought that maybe, just maybe, we should not shoot the Bad Shoots any more.  Let one of our many competitors have those particular accounts.

One of the Old Timers I used to work with talked about the rules for booking accounts.  He had a list of things like the size of the church, the health of the members, and how old the cars in the parking lot were and if they appeared to have been washed recently.  In the end, there are a few ways to tell if a church will be a waste of time.  Poor churches in bad neighborhoods are usally Bad Shoots, but not always.  Really well to do chruches where The Mayor and the local College President attend are usually Bad Shoots as well-we’re not good enough for them.  Our ideal customer is one that has money to spend and is willing to spend it on portraits.

Shit Shoots like the one where I had one buyer all day are also most likely to be the ones where the people bitch and moan about the quality of the portraits and want retakes on their Freebie.  I worked for one Company that didn’t have a Freebie-this sort of helped to weed out the Nonbuyers, but half the time they still thought they were getting a Freebie-and they bitched and moaned about that.

This Too Shall Pass was the favorite phrase of one of the Old Pro Passers I used to work with.  Whenever we were at a Bad Shoot, we could console ourselves with the idea that Tomorrow Is Another Day.

I’ve worked with a lot of people who get totally pissed off when they have a Bad Shoot.  The look unhappy, they throw things around, and they often end up yelling at the cheap bastards to get out of their room.  It’s easy enough to let the bastards get you down, but I’m not really into that, never have been.  I may bitch and moan here, but I’m still all smiles and have a nice day at work.  It is only a couple of days, and maybe this Church will get a nice big X beside it’s name and we will never darken it’s door again.

These two Shoots are like countless others.  At one place they commented on how high the prices were, but it didn’t stop them from buying portraits.  At the other, the prices stopped them dead in their tracks. It was all about the Benjamins.  My Manager likes to say that if the Prices seem too high, we aren’t offering enough Top Line Products-which make the lower priced Products seem a tad cheaper.  It didn’t work at this Bad Shoot.

The problem is often the Minister or the Shoot Coordinator, they want the Free Book, but they also want all the money anyone attending their church has in their pocket.  So they tell them not to buy anything.  But this time it really did seem that money was the only issue.  Either they didn’t have much, or they just didn’t want to spend it.  In either case, it ends up being nothing but a waste of time for me and The Company.

The Bad Shoots are not as common as they could be, but they do tend to stick out in the memory more.  I tend to think of the great days where I have a few thousand dollars in sales as ‘Normal’ days and everything else as sub-par and somehow off.  Of course, a day with no sales to speak of, is a really Bad Day.  I have other days to look forward to.

I used to be excited about looking at the website where everyone’s sales totals were on display.  I would often be near the top, or if I wasn’t I could at least console myself with the fact that most everyone else was in the same boat I was.  At places where I was the top dog, I liked to revel in my Favored One status and take a bit of pride in doing so well.  Now I tend to see it all as a game of chance.  If I do great at a Shoot, the odds are good that someone else would have done just as well-maybe better.

Assembly Line Portraits have systems in place that allow simple, repeatable results.  We take the same basic poses, offer the same basic products, and yet some of us make a hell of a lot more money.  In the right location, a good photographer/passer can still run a $250 or better sales average.  I’m not there yet, but I am working on it.  Of course, at some places there is nothing you can do-you just have wait it out.

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