Shoot and Burn &The Death of Printed Photos

May 13, 2011  •  Leave a Comment
Shoot and Burn &The Death of Printed Photos
 In the earlier stages of my business while balancing my big family, day job, school & career I found shoot & burn to be an excellent way to embrace what I loved ( photography) and still have time to “get it all done.”

I am so tired of being quiet about this, afraid of the stigma our community attaches to shoot & burn photography, that these are inexperienced, or not real photographers… somehow less than, and why? Because we choose to do the profession we love, and not parade around as a salesman? Shoot & Burn allows me to make my customers happy by giving them full access to exactly what they want. I should never have to feel guilty for doing something that makes me happy, and works for my business.  It allows me to have few complications or problems, while doing what I LOVE and nothing more.  

Really and truly I’m a photographer; I never picked up a camera in order to become a salesperson, or a graphic designer laying out print projects. Of course I love to see my art finished in some sort of print, who doesn’t? It’s probably one of the most rewarding parts of this profession. But - to produce orders for customers is not an expression of art, for me at least, (maybe you enjoy ordering product & dealing with vendors). Selling product is a huge hassle, it involves many steps from clearing the payment to getting the right product to the customer which entails numerous emails with sometimes, how should I say this… discerning customers. It involves possible re-prints, waiting for shipping, and many apologies when you or other people (the lab, UPS, or even the customer) make mistakes. If that all sounded exhausting- that’s because it is! The sales process from following leads, to finishing products has all to do about business & nothing to do about photography. It kind of takes the joy out of pursuing your “passion”.

Another reason why I don’t like dealing in “product” is that I truly believe- If they want it- they will get it. Consider the stories we have all heard, of clients taking photos of photos, or using lo-res proofs or whatever other means even screen capture, to blow up their own boot-legged photos, messily cropping the original image to remove a watermark. I think it’s safe to say we have all experienced piracy on some level. Print quality /control is often raised as an issue against shoot & burn, but I would much rather have my customers using consumer labs and full res photos when they tell people that I took that giant photo hanging on their wall than having my work bootlegged, then butchered. Is it right? No, but its reality and we might as well roll with the punches. If people want to reproduce the photos on their own, they will probably figure out a way to do so- at the expense of your reputation.

Another reason I love about giving my clients discs: easy archival, (sure you may think I’m lazy, but I say efficient!.) My main focus is on the photography, not sales,&  not archival. Many of the best photographers have these complicated workflow consisting of stacks of hard drives and image backed up two, even three times each even going so far as to have off site storage!  That is admirable, but for my life a system like that just won’t fit. I back up 3 copies, one online so it’s technically off-site plus the client disc -that makes 4 copies. One year after the client gets their photos; I toss everything I don’t need. This is in my contract, so the client will know that their archival is their responsibility.  I don’t have any desire to have hundreds of thousands of files & folders stored on hard drives for years at a time. I just don’t feel like its necessary in this day and age.

I understand the idea of putting a value on your work. Many photographers feel that their “art” is not complete until it has been presented via some form of printed media, and that shoot and burn can devalue your work. Printed media is just something that is being lost in photography, tangible photos, are like…so old school. There is something so amazing in pursuing through a photo album. I liken it to listening to a record… sure an mp3 sounds great, but there is just something special in a record, a richness you will never get in a digital file. There is an entire sensory experience involved in the viewing of printed photos. When I crack open a photo album I smell an aroma from it’s paper… like library books, ahhhh. It’s so nice! I feel the page’s textures between the tips of my fingers; I can even hear slight distinctive noises, as I turn pages. With today’s new tablet devices, many photographers are not even using printed portfolio products anymore. Is a kindle book less entertaining than a paperback? The answer, is of course no, but it sure is a different experience. Both forms of media have their advantages. We have to face that the world is rapidly moving away from the tangible, and change with it, or be left behind.


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