That explains a lot. I think I complete understand your position now. You can’t take criticism. Especially if it is public. Your professor didn’t love the shot you loved, so he must be a snob. I expect someone who charges people money for services as a photographer to actually produce photographs instead of snapshots, so I’m a snob. You have absolutely no concept that a bad review is an opportunity for growth, you’d rather attack the reviewer. Am I right in thinking that if you were in business, you’re the kind of person who would offer a full refund as a bribe to prevent someone from leaving a bad review of you? Am I hitting closer to the mark now?
My specialty was fashion and marketing before I retired. Some people loved my work, some people hated it with a passion. There were people who wouldn’t consider hiring me, and others who would call me first thing if they had a job. I look at every rejection as an opportunity in disguise. If you reacted to your teacher’s instruction like you’ve reacted here, I don’t doubt that they were completely justified in wondering if you’d learned anything from them. I take a lot of flack from certain circles, including the owner of my partner studio, because I’m more than willing to break the rules, but only if I’ve got a good reason before I do it.
When it comes to charging for learning, that is unacceptable. How would you react if someone read a book on being a plumber, bought a wrench, wrote it on the side of their truck and expected you to pay them for the privilege of letting them practice on your toilet? What if it was an electrician? Or a firefighter? Or a doctor? Granted, very few people are going do die from a bad photo, but the principle is the same. Back when I started photography, if you seriously wanted to be a pro, you didn’t go out on your own, you apprenticed with a master. I spent 4 years working for a master photographer, without pay, for the chance to learn from him. Slowly during that time, I started to set up shots and set up the camera, then he’d check everything before he shot the image. Then I started to actually take a couple shots during the shoot. By the end, he’d let me run a shoot now and again. He worked with me, he trained me, he was always honest and harsh at times.
My standards for being a professional aren’t actually all that high. If you shoot portraits, I expect every shot you deliver to be: well lit, in focus, exposed properly, composed well, artistically sound, and emotionally resonant. I’m a little more lenient in wedding and events because there are times you need to include a photo because of the emotional significance, but this is the exception rather than the rule and you don’t stick them in your portfolio. Also to be a professional, you need to be consistent enough that you can produce the same quality work no matter how tired you are, or how bad a day you’re having. If you’re charging, your client deserves to know what they are getting. If your quality is dependent on your mood, how much sleep you’ve gotten, how many cups of coffee you’ve had, or any other external factor, you’re not ready to be a professional.
On price, if you can’t afford a high-level pro, there are plenty of real pros out there starting their businesses that need good photos. Fauxtogs don’t hurt established photographers. We don’t want clients who can’t afford to pay out rates, they expect too much for too little. The people fauxtogs hurt are those who are trying to get a good portfolio together. They pollute the public consciousness by teaching the masses that bad photography is good photography, because the masses don’t know any better. People hire fauxtogs who will give them a disc because the real photographers (who are much better and charging about the same rates) care enough about their clients to ensure they get good prints. So the ignorant clients print their snapshots at walmart and think they got a great deal, and they must bet getting good photos because they hired a “professional.”
Like it or not, photography is a luxury. It is not a right. I have the same problems with someone charging for snapshots and calling themselves a photographer as I would someone charging natural diamond prices for lab created diamonds. It is dishonest. Fauxtographers are the guys on the street outside of a jewelry with 50 knockoff watches in their coat who will sell you a Rollex for 50 bucks. You can buy a $5 watch from them for $50 bucks or you can go inside and buy a $500 watch for $500. You’re saying that is acceptable because it costs to much to buy a Rolex. We’re saying you have the choice between buying a $50 Timex for $50 or a $500 Rolex for $500? Either way you get your money’s worth, so either is fine. All I ask of a watch salesman is that if I pay $50, I get $50 worth of watch.
I ask the same of a photographer, don’t charge unless you’re PRODUCT is worth the client’s money. I stress product because they are not paying you for your time, they are paying you for your PRODUCT. Even when I charge by the hour, I am charging for the product, not the time. To be successful in any business, you must provide a good product at a fair value. If your product isn’t good enough to net you a good wage, it isn’t your prices that are the problem, it is the product. IHF is only partly right in her talk of pricing structures. You add up your costs, overhead, taxes, and a living wage, compare that to the value of the product you’re wanting to sell, and if the product’s value is higher, you’ve got a chance of making it in business. It is skill and experience on the photographers part plus economic considerations like supply and demand that determines the products value.
Before you reach that point, every hour of work you put in and every shot you take is an investment in your future. As I have said before, I don’t measure someone’s passion by how much they love what they do. There are a lot of things I love to do, but I’m not passionate about them. I love to rock climb, bicycle, and swim. But I’m not passionate enough about any of those things to put in the training required to climb half dome, enter in the Tour de France, or win a gold medal in the butterfly. True greatness will only ever come to those who are willing to toil in obscurity.
For the record, here are Chamberlain’s Three Laws of Photography:
ONE- The rules of photography are simple and finite, and they should not be deviated from.
TWO- You may break rule one if and only if you have a good reason why it will enhance the photo to do so. (“I want to,” “It’s artistic,” and “It’s impossible to do it right,” aren’t acceptable reasons)
THREE- The expectations of the client are equal to the inverse square of the amount charged in relation to the value. I.E. If you charge half the client will have 4 times the expectation. Charge a third and it will be 9 times. Charge nothing and the client’s demands become infinite.