Monday, 10 December 2018

The difficulties of profitable, good value, event photography.

I know how difficult it is to get a good shot at an event, this weekend, I was at an event where we took around 500 images in 2 and a half hours and 2/3 of these were not used.
It's easier where there are more photographers 'camped' but this increases costs. Once ISO, Aperture and shutter have been set up, the 'camped' photographer can wait and capture images quickly and efficiently.  Here I was adjusting all of those settings on the fly for different light, poses and action shots (clarity over quick focus/fast shutter) a real challenge, but a rewarding one as the images we got, for the most part, I'm happy with.

But there are a number of things I really dislike about current event photography set ups*.
Firstly, the all round cost for participants and photographers.
(*Ignoring the issue that a number of event photographers look like eyesores in tatty jeans, unkempt beards and old T-Shirts).

The session we ran was a specific photography afternoon, the cost a simple £10 for all who attended, with a view to obtaining great images. While shots weren't guaranteed, we did our utmost to get enough images of all of the participants. This isn't the first time I've run a set up like this and the organisers seem keen to do it again with another group and were delighted with the images we provided. Almost all event photography is costed, whether it's a one off specific photography event, (like this one) or a competition, so it's only right, if the photographers are there providing a (difficult) service, then they should be appropriately paid. The reasons why the costs for prints at events are usually so high, is because it's pretty much commission only. Plus they need expensive, on site printing equipment.

Normal event photography though see's a small % of images used or sold. The wealthier participants get to select, one, two, three or four images, that they can have for costs around £15 and up to well over £50. Memory pens are usually reasonably priced, but putting the images on is prohibitively high. This is a real shame as the participants make the event, they wouldn't even have these images if they weren't performing.

Nevertheless, I appreciate photographers need to make a living, and there isn't a viable alternative to the current business model.

So with 181 images that we cut our afternoons work down to, here's how I'd like the participants to own them.

FREE - All of them. Yup, I know, that seems ridiculous. But all of the parents have already paid to be a part of the session and the photographer should have been paid for his or her time. Participants have taken a punt by allowing the session to go ahead. I'll sift out the poor focus, poor quality images, but crop, edit and upload them. They get the digital copies gratis. But there should be the opportunity for those participants who want quality images printed, for the photographer to make some extra income.

So here's the problem. Parents use PC's, iPhones, Android phones and Macbooks. Finding a way to easily upload and share the images. While protecting the privacy, and letting the parents order additional prints if they want, easily, isn't currently a realistic expectation.

A few have tried, but all of the solutions fall foul of the ideal solution by some margin. First, lets consider what a photographer would need and how would the business model for the provider might look.
  • A free to use non subscription service (like Google Photos, Instaproofs, etc). 
  • Password protected albums (like several offer already)
  • Easy downloads for the digital copies (non copyrighted)
  • Easy sharing on social media (like Instaproofs)
  • Easy order process for high quality prints/products for the end user 
  • Competitive pricing for the customer
  • A percentage of the income for the photographer, who is generating extra business for the printer. 
Although all of the above is available from one provider or another nothing out there at the moment ticks all of the boxes. I appreciate that the above model means people could download, upload to a competitor and perhaps save some money, but how many parents have the know how, time, or inclination to be bothered? With a smooth order process for a competitively priced product, surely the average user would click. Or perhaps digital downloads could be medium, not maximum resolution, meaning the product would look better via the original provider?

I'm sure, soon, someone will develop a platform that will allow event photography to blossom. But for now, it's slightly elitist as many parents simply can't afford or justify the outlay for prints.

Flickr is no use as it doesn't allow photo ordering and you can only share folders with friends and family who already have yahoo accounts. And who wants a Yahoo account now it's 2018? Plus they're soon going to reduce the allowance from 1Tb to 1000 images!

Instaproofs - This one came the closest, but it's still flawed. The interface was lovely to use and the album options superb. But downloading images was convoluted. Parents will want to push/hold on their iphones to save to device, but that's not possible. Right click on computers is disabled too.

Vistaprint - besides the barrage of promo messages on ordering. I'd have thought these would be the first. But no. Creating albums isn't possible. Only creating products from previously, personally loaded images, is possible.

Smugbug is subscription only.

Photobucket gets close, but they have grotesque click-bait adverts all over the place. The interface is also very dated. It's not very professional.

Dropbox doesn't allow for photo ordering, or password protecting folders, but it's a sound platform for sharing.

500px is download only and all public, although the interface is very modern.

Canon Irista - Offers no hard copy orders. Very limited functionality.

Google Photos - Shared albums is messy. No option to order hard copies.

SmugMug is subscription only after the free trial.

iCloud is utterly useless as Folder sharing isn't possible.

Amazon Prime photos, needs amazon prime subscription.

Imgur no hard copies - too much like Instagram, no albums.

TinyPic - Hosting only, clickbait adverts.

Image shack - no ordering.

So I've exhausted all of my options. Many of the above options allow for free permanent hosting, with no way of generating income. Merging the free hosting solution, with an ability to password protect albums AND order hard copies of photos, even if the storage for 'event' specific albums was time limited (or just limited - for the photographer to manage the space) would empower a new era of event photography fit for current times and open up a whole new world of possibilities for clubs, participants, photographers parents and online digital photo resellers.

Do you know of a service that offers the above? If so drop me a line and let me know.