Hillel writes about buying photos of his daughter and the conflicts between traditional business models (selling prints) and our new digital world. I thought I’d add a few comments to the discussion.
First of all, the way he approached the photographer was destined to cause misunderstandings. I guess he knew it in writing “It probably didnâ€™t help when I told him that if I wanted additional prints I wouldnâ€™t order them from him anyway, I would just scan the print I got and make more.” Given that the photographer owns the copyright to the photos, even if they are of your kid and they sold you prints, what he pretty much said was “I’m going to steal your work”. Not the best way to help the guy work through the business challenges that he faces.
I’ve seen these same issues going on with photographers who take photos of rafting trips and people at ski-resorts. In the local white-water areas there are two outfits that take photos of you, one that sells online and will sell digital images and the other still takes photos on conventional film and only sells prints. I’m curious to see how it all works out, but I suspect the digital folks are going to win- they are able to take 10 photos of each boat as it goes by at no cost so its much more likely they are going to get the great shot that will make the sale.
At Snowbird a couple of years ago we passed by one of those guys taking photos on the hill. I’ve been by them many times but never bought a thing. This time we stopped by and there were actually quite a few shots that were much better than the ones I’d taken myself (go figure, they are the pros, I’m not). But what clinched the sale for them was that they were willing to sell me a digital photo for $25, or 6 for $100. Sure enough, taking advantage of the 0 COGS, helped them upsell me to the $100 package, and everyone is happy.
I do think Hillel misunderstands in his evaluation that the cost of the printed package has something to do with the cost of the printing. The cost of printing photos, even 8×10s is (relatively speaking) almost 0 today. You are paying for the photographers expertise and the intellectual property of their photo (and for a copy of it, not to own the copyright itself). They just have a pricing model where they charge more for more reproductions and bigger ones, just like Microsoft charges more for 4 copies of Vista than for 1, and charges more for 1 copy of Vista Ultimate than 1 copy of Vista Home despite the fact that the exact same bits are on each DVD, just different features are enabled/disabled. In many ways this photography business is closer to software than either side has realized yet.