Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Value and Price

I belong to a couple of photography chat groups and on one a recent discussion revolved around the setting of prices and customers' reactions. A customer might ask, "how much is an 8 x 10?" and be horrified if a larger dollar amount is cited.

So - what IS a photo worth? Really, it's all about perceived value. What are you buying? Ink on paper? That's only worth pennies or a couple of dollars at most.

No, what the customer is buying is the tangible memory of a moment in time portrayed through the skill, artistry, education and experience of the photographer.

It's been said that anyone with a half-decent camera (in this instant gratification world of digital imagery) can be a "pro". And yet, the debate on photographer versus equipment rages on.

In reality, the skill and artistry of the photographer sees the moment and utilizes knowledge and experience to capture it in the best possible way. If the photographer has a better quality camera and lens set up, the technical quality of the image may be better than one shot on an inexpensive point-and-shoot, for example, but the 'vision' of the photographer will still create a beautifully composed and exposed image with whatever camera he or she has at hand.

Like a talented musician, the photographer plays the instrument she has. In the right hands, a cheap violin will deliver a lovely tune; but played on a Stradivarius that same lovely tune will have warmth, depth and feeling resonating from the instrument itself - impossible to completely replicate on a cheaper imitation. A cheap camera will likewise produce a decent photo when used by a good photographer. But that same photo, taken with a higher resolution camera, and a faster, sharper lens, will retain more detail, show richer colours and offer more options for editing to become that final magnificent image that someone will keep for all time.

So, what is a photo worth? If a house is burning down, what is one of the first things people grab on the way out the door (assuming family members and pets are safe)? According to insurance industry statistics, it is family photos that people cherish and try to save. How can you really define the value of a cherished memory?