Undercutting Your Opposition For Fun And Profit

Singapore 2014 464I’m not certain whether this column should be posted here or in my other weblog that deals with cars and general matters. You see opposition can take many forms besides those of business. But let us deal with photography here.

Are you in the photo trade? Or is it a profession for you? An art? A calling?  A racket, perhaps…don’t be ashamed to admit that – it is a business model that has supported many other endeavours.

Wherever you are on the spectrum, there are bound to be others beside you. If there is a lot of business to be done, or a lot of awards to be garnered, or a lot of nubile young models slathering over the artists, then you need not be quite so concerned if some of that good stuff goes to other people. On the other hand, if times are tough and models tougher, you may need to do something to channel it towards you exclusively. Here are a few suggestions:

a. Everyone loves a bargain. No-one wants to pay a buyer’s premium for anything. Always quote a price at least 20% lower than the people on either side of you for whatever job is going. It does not matter if you can see that you will make no profit, or that you’ll suffer a swingeing loss at the completion of the contract. Demand a deposit and decamp. All money then becomes profit, and if you ask for 50% deposit it becomes a a healthy one too.

b. Everyone is a photographer these days. The automatic program and the self-focusing lens have put an end to skill at the shoot and the auto-correct button found in the editing programs means that there is no need to be a good computer worker either. All you need to do is be a good salesperson.

Do not sell the process-people are not interested. Do not sell the equipment-they have better stuff that they got duty-free. Sell yourself. Eat more so that you expand, get your hair cut into the fashionable shape, and buy pointed shoes. Talk loudly and incessantly. They need to know where you are to know where to send the money.

c. Photography is all about emotion. It used to be about silver halides and stuff, but emotion is cheaper than silver. Gush. Be passionate. Weep with the masses, sigh with the solitary, bullshit with the bride. It may be a little difficult to sell emotion to someone who wants you to take pictures of a mine site that is being sold just prior to being shut down, but do your best. PS: if you are asked to photograph Wittenoom or Chernobyl try not to breathe in while you are doing it.

d. Buy lots of awards that you can wave in front of the prospective client to dazzle them with your goodness. There are any number of professional organisations in photography that will award you something – you just have to find them, pay the fee, and figure out what the judges are looking for.

If they are looking for technical skill and artistic integrity there is nothing to stop you from approaching someone else-eventually you will find someone somewhere who is looking for a small Manila envelope in the right hand pocket of their jacket. This is your key to all the awards you need. Try to get them printed on nice paper.

e. Remember that no-one likes a sore loser, so if you do succeed in taking a contract away from another photographer, make sure that you go round their studio and kick them. That will make them sore and further alienate them from the customers.

f. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but really bad photography can get up the nose as well. Consider producing horrible images that distress and revolt the viewer and then market them as a gritty real-life documentary that must be seen. Suggest that failure to appreciate it is based upon philistinism at best and outright corruption at worst. Ask around to see if anyone has a race card and play it until it wears out.

g. Have you considered crowd-funding an old gadget and foisting it upon the unsuspecting? Search your local patent office for industrial flowers that have long wilted and see if any of them can be re-badged and advertised with a small ” i ” in front of the name. Make a video asking for a modest amount of money, and pocket it. Best to have a confederate watching around the corner in case the cops show up.



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