Step 1: See photographer page on Facebook. Notice she is in your area. Notice that several people have posted ooohing and aaahing comments on some of her pictures, so she must be awfully per-fesh-uh-nul. With a name like Sassy Snapper Photography right up there on the top of the Facebook page in Scriptina font, of course she’s professional, right?
Step 2: Schedule session with photographer. Meet her at the park at noon, after your baby’s morning nap. Give her a check for $150 – that’s to cover the picture-snappin’ and the digital files. Feel a little surprised when you ask for the “total, with tax” and she says “Oh just the $150 is fine, and could you just make it out to Janie Doh please, not Sassy Snapper Photography? Thanks.”
Step 3: Feel even more surprised when, after the session, Janie Doh tells you to come over to her car with her so she can give you your digital files. What? Right here, right now? Apparently so. She says it will just take a few minutes. So you stand in the parking lot and bounce the baby on your hip and sing the theme song from Yo Gabba Gabba while the photographer downloads the images into her laptop, burns them onto a CD, writes your name on the CD with a black Sharpie marker, tucks it into a paper sleeve and hands it to you.
Step 4: Once home, put the CD into your computer. Open a couple files. Find that the files are at some bizarre size – 22 inches by 28 inches, what in the world do you do with THAT?, and what does 72dpi mean? – and furthermore, about half of them won’t open at all. On the images that open, notice the dark circles under your baby’s eyes, lots of blinks, lots of awkward positions, plenty of crying shots when she fell down, a bunch of images that are really dark, a bunch of images that are almost completely white, a nice series of images where your baby was smiling but the photographer focused on the trashcans in the background that appear to be sprouting from your baby’s head, and a couple halfway decent shots – IF you can figure out what the heck to do with a picture sized at 22 inches by 28 inches at 72dpi. They sure look weird and distorted when you try to resize or crop them.
Step 5: Call photographer and tell her about the files that won’t open. She says that’s a shame, but she doesn’t know what in the world to do about it because it looks like she didn’t save a copy on her laptop and she already deleted the pictures from the card. She tells you that there were about 300 pictures taken, so it’s too bad you lost some but there should still be a whole bunch left to pick from. Ask photographer about the size of the images. She doesn’t know why they’re sized that way, sorry. They should print just fine. Ask photographer what can be done about the dark circles, the awkward positions, the dark images, the white images, the trashcan-is-the-focus images. She doesn’t know, sorry. She can tell you what SHE does, which is to get on this free online site for picture editing and play with them there.
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So, how do you feel after reading that? Whether you’re a consumer or a photographer, I hope that little series of events makes your skin crawl. I hope you’re upset and annoyed about every aspect of the transaction, because if you’re a photographer you’d best not be doing *any* of the things listed up there, and if you’re a consumer you deserve better than that. Better treatment, better quality, better respect for your memories, better EVERYTHING.
The steps outlined above represent a hypothetical, but ENTIRELY possible, transaction by a new breed of, *ahem*, ‘photographic workers’ let’s call them. This particular species of photographic worker is commonly described as the Shoot & Burner. If I may stereotype for a moment, the typical Shoot & Burner you are likely to encounter is either A) a MWAC (mom with a camera) or B) a GWAFTJ (guy with a full time job). Now before you go all whackadoodle on me for those stereotypes, let’s remember please folks that I did not make up the term fauxtographer, and similarly I did not make up the term MWAC. (I did, however, make up the term GWAFTJ, which I will elaborate on in a moment. I have to admit as an acronym it is sort of unruly, but as a descriptive term it’s highly accurate. )
So who are the MWAC and the GWAFTJ, and why do they Shoot & Burn? And how is what they do different from a Professional Photographer who offers digital files for sale? This big unruly topic is going to be discussed in several parts. Right now you’re reading Part 1, wherein I am describing the general appearance and actions of the typical Shoot & Burner. Part 2 will compare and contrast the Shoot & Burner to the Professional Photographer who offers digital files (because they are NOT the same species!), and in Part 3 we’ll discuss digital files and printing, up and down and inside out.
To finish up Part 1, let’s look at the MWAC and the GWAFTJ individually.
A) The MWAC. For the record, I don’t even like the term MWAC, because I happen to be one. A mom that is. With a camera. And being a mom has made me a WAY better photographer than I would have been without kids. That little sixth sense I have about when, exactly, your baby is going to turn and have the cutest look in the world on his face was honed by watching my own kids. I’m more comfortable with newborn sessions than I would have been had I not handled my own newborns. And my incessant silliness and joking with my own kids has made me completely unselfconscious about being a goofball with my little clients (“Ok, everyone say BOOGERS!) Most of my Professional Photographer friends are also moms. With cameras. So don’t think I’m just against all people who have given birth and purchased a Nikon. I’m using the term MWAC as it’s defined all over the internet – Mom With A Camera: Member of the skyrocketing group of amateurs-turned-wannabe-pros who start part-time photography businesses shooting mostly children and babies, who make extra cash by undercutting real pros.
The MWAC is generally a Shoot & Burner because that’s all she’s got time for. She doesn’t want a full time job. She wants a flexible job she can do pretty much from home, without a lot of hours involved. Maybe she used to work, and misses having a job and being in the ‘adult’ world. Maybe she’s missing the extra income she used to have, and likes the idea of bringing in a couple hundred extra bucks a month for a small amount of work. She figures offering low-cost photo shoots and just handing over the digital files is a reasonable way to make that couple hundred extra bucks a month. Since the MWAC is interested mostly in a flexible, low-hours job, her photography skills are self-limiting. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Anne Geddes didn’t become Anne Geddes with just an hour here and there of dabbling in the darkroom.
B.) The GWAFTJ. The Guy With A Full Time Job tends to have a typical 9-5 schedule. That leaves his weekends free, and he decides to spend a Saturday here and there earning some extra dough shooting weddings. He’s a Shoot & Burner because that’s the level of involvement in photography that he prefers. He knows that brides have budgets, and sometimes amongst all the decisions on dresses and and DJs and decorations, memorializing the event gets overlooked and underfunded. With just $500 or so left in her budget, she’s pretty much limited to an inexpensive shoot & burn photographer.
Professional Photographers who cover weddings regularly know that there’s a LOT more time involved in comprehensive artistic wedding coverage than just showing up to shoot the wedding. I’ve only covered a couple handfuls of weddings myself, but my estimation is that I spent an average of 40 hours per wedding. This included the consultation to ensure that I documented the couple’s day as they preferred, pre-ceremony coverage, the ceremony, wedding party images, the reception, processing the images, creating a slideshow and proof album for the couple for easy decision-making, and another studio appointment for album design, then of course the actual album design time and ordering. Shoot & Burners don’t do any of that. They generally show up just before the ceremony starts, shoot for a few hours, then hand the couple a CD of a couple thousand largely unretouched images to wade through.
So now we’ve taken a peek at the way two types of Shoot & Burn photographers operate. Stay tuned for Part 2!