Become who you are

You know what would be  news? Something different. No, not another microstock “save the world” launch. Nor another “look, we slashed our prices so low, it’s not funny anymore”. I am sure even image buyers must be fed up of receiving another flier, email, phone call, or goddamn tweet about another discount or super low pricing.

No. What would be news these days would be an archive, photo agency, even solo photographer announcing the launch of a premium collection of absolutely insanely beautiful images for a ridiculous expensive price. Hyper good images for Uber money. Now, that would grab everyone’s attention.

What this business has lost is the sense of luxury. In a world ( that sounds like a movie trailer, especially if you read it with a deep, deep voice), anyway, in a world where we are constantly reminded of recession, poverty, calamities, earthquakes, grounded air flights, bankruptcies, corporate greed, crooked multi-millionaire CEO’s, and price saving cuts and lay off, it would be a fresh breeze to see and enjoy luxury.

It would be nice to see and hear that this magazine or website has just published an insanely beautiful spread of amazing pictures that cost them a fortune to publish. No, not another blurry image of some celeb caught in some very common act (like having a baby, or not wearing a ring). No, something as magnificent as Irving Penn, Lee Friedlander, Eugene Smith, Herb Ritts and so many others that have raise this profession so high. Something that you would look at and say “wow”. Not for what it depicts but how it depicts it. Something that would bring you bliss, joy, happiness, something that would inspire you, lift you, make you feel more than human.

In this cacophony of discount merchants screaming helplessly on how cheap their images are, it would be such a relief to hear someone proudly announce how expensive his images are. It would be good to see publishers stop taking their readers for idiots and uncultivated and start showing exquisite exclusive photographs. Stop taking the lowest common (and priced) path by printing the same images over and over, not because they are good, but because they are cheap.

What has happen to brands that they have such a low esteem and associate their product and services with boring photography? What has happened to magazines, or websites, that they don’t mind anymore having the same images as their once dreaded competition? What has happened to readers that they don’t seem to care what they pay for?

There is a luxury market for almost every product and service out there. For every cheap car there are very expensive ones. For every cheap health club, there are luxurious ones. Why has the photography world given up on luxury content? Especially at a time when everyone is a photographer. You would think that the logical reaction would be to move away from the bottom feeders and start offering something of very high value.

So stop sending press release about how low your prices are, how you can have 3 images for the price of 2, how your company can out price any competition. Leave that to the Wal Mart’s (Corbis and Getty) and other discounters. Value your work. Value what you do for a living. Be proud, be expensive, be exclusive, and be valuable.  Leave the crowd, become an individual.  Because at the end, you are how you present yourself.

This business has too many Surveyors and not enough Bohemians”  Roger Therond , legendary photo man, once said to a good friend of mine, Eliane Laffont. This blog is about restoring the balance and letting the Bohemians talk.

Paul Melcher  has been named one of the “50 most influential individuals in American photography” by American Photo. He is currently senior vice president of the PictureGroup. He writes the Thoughts of a Bohemian blog

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

3 thoughts on “Become who you are

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  • April 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm


    Fantastic post. I agree 100% and I put the very same thought into practical use several months ago.

    As a full-time architectural photographer, I find myself increasingly competing with many new photographers who are entering the market, many with lower-end rates. I began to have difficulty differentiating myself on a marketing-level, and especially competing at the mid-range prices I was charging. Feeling that I produce quality work, I decided to change all my marketing material and advertising copy and replaced all with my new “tag-line”: “High-End Architectural Photography for Discerning Clients” and I raised my prices 30%. The response to my advertising skyrocketed and I’m enjoying more business now than at the rates I’d previously charged. You’re entirely spot on in that there is a market for clients who are willing to seek out and pay for work that will make their image stand above the crowd.

    Thanks for the great post.

    Best regards,
    Paul Timpa

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