- Rob Bayes
How Much????? Actually - it really doesn't matter!
Last Saturday I did something I haven't done in a very long time. I bought a photo from the official photographer at an Equestrian show. And I found myself silently saying the same two words it seems many utter in their heads and often out loud when doing so. How much???
Yes. The guy who generally takes 100+ shots of our horses per showing class at every event we take them to put his hand in his pocket and paid for one single print of a photo taken by someone else. I imagine you're wondering why? Was it such an amazing shot that I had to have it? Did I miss an important moment of spectacular misbehaviour caught on camera by them and not me? No. We won a prize in the class. And that prize was a bespoke glass photo frame engraved with the event details that you couldn't buy, only win. If you're feeling confused now by the 'we won a prize' statement and why that motivated me to spend my hard earned cash here's the important bit. To collect our prize we had to buy a 10x8" print to go in it. For £26. No photo purchase meant no frame. Now some may say this was a great marketing tool to sell photos. Some may say it's a bit cheeky to give a prize that you actually have to spend money to claim. Both may be right. But it happened. I spent the money and collected our prize. The frame now has a different photo in it (yes, one that I took) because the engraving was done so that only a 'portrait' photo was suitable and the one I bought was 'landscape' as it was a shot I couldn't have got myself due to where I was stood and where the judges had competitors trotting up.
So yes. I found myself silently uttering those words that I've heard so often and seen regularly typed in social media posts when discussing the cost of event photos. And then I found a voice in my head saying something else. It really doesn't matter.
Anyone who attends Equestrian events either at the same venue or at different places will probably have noticed that it's not always the same photographer in attendance and that different individuals and companies have different prices, options and services. No different to any other service or product, after all there are thousands of restaurants in the world serving burgers, likewise coffee shops, clothing stores, hairdressers, shoe shops......you get the picture. None of them are bound by any rules to charge the same price for the same product/service or obliged to provide it in an identical manner. It's what differentiates them from eachother and makes them individual. Some are big corporates and some are one man bands or small businesses. They may provide a similar product/service, but they'll each have significant differences that affect how they do business. Staff costs, equipment costs, travel costs, a whole variety of overheads and business expenses that some will have that others don't. And that will affect prices. Designer labels always cost more than high street fashion. People still buy them. There is no uniform business model that dictates that prices should be the same. Event photography is no different.
Forget photos for a minute. Consider a cup of tea. Or coffee for the non-tea drinkers like me.
What is it? Boiling water, a tea bag or leaves, some granules or beans, milk (or not), sugar (or not). And something to drink it out of. That's it. So why is it that the price varies so much depending on where you're drinking it - shouldn't it be the same regardless? A roadside truckstop will charge less than a London hotel. A fast food eatery will charge less than a small boutique Michelin Star restaurant. It's still a hot drink to you and me. But the truckstop will probably have a smaller wage bill. The hotel will have higher business rates and more expensive equipment to pay for. The restaurant may have a smaller footfall and client base. Each will affect what the business owner needs to charge to stay in business hence there will always be variances. It's still a hot drink to you and me.
But Rob - that still doesn't explain why 'It really doesn't matter'. You've just explained why it sometimes costs more or less.
Ok. Here's why. It all comes down to need and emotional attachment.
If you really want a hot drink and you're in any high street in any town or city anywhere in the country you'll have plenty of choice where to get one. A cheap and cheerful takeaway from a burger van, a pricier mug from a big chain or a china cup and comfy leather chair in a hotel/bar/restaurant at a steeper cost. If you're at a pub in the back of beyond and it's the only place for miles - you're stuck with what you have on the menu. If you really, really want that drink you'll buy it. If you're put off by the price, or not really bothered about it, or think there'll be ample opportunity to have a hot drink another time then you won't. Do you 'need' that hot drink? Is it that good that you really have to have it? If the answer to either is 'yes' then price becomes less significant. If the answer is 'no' then it's more relevant.
Photographs are no different. Does anybody 'need' a photograph? Sure - they come in really handy for selling horses, promoting businesses, blogging, sharing event reports, showing off your successes (and sometimes failures) to family/friends and recording memories. I'd be a bit daft to suggest otherwise given that it's how I earn a living. I'd also be a bit daft to expect everyone to need a photograph every time they compete or be willing to pay above what they consider a fair price for one. But some do. And that's where the 'emotional attachment' element comes in. Some will be keener to pay more if there's a specific reason - the first time they jump a certain height, compete at a certain venue, gone out with a new horse, or if a horse is being sold or retired, or they've qualified for a certain competition. Or like me - if they've won something. I didn't need that photo. But I wanted that frame.
That's why I believe it really doesn't matter. There'll never be identical pricing in the world of event photography. Or tea/coffee, shoes, handbags, equestrian apparel/tack, trainers.....you get the picture. People are often willing to pay obviously inflated prices for all sorts of things just because it has a certain name/label attached to it, but are quick to dismiss others purely based on price without considering why it costs what it does. Sometimes you may have to pay more than you usually do or want to. Other times you'll come across a good deal or a bargain price and wonder why it's not the norm. Neither are wrong. Just make the most of the latter and appreciate that sometimes you'll have to put up with the former if you really, really want it.