Being selective can cost you short term, but long term?

Richard Charpentier Arizona Photographer, Printers, Prints, RLC Design Leave a Comment

If you’re proud of the work you do it stands to reason that accuracy and quality are very important to you, right?  If you weren’t concerned about being accurate and producing quality results I highly doubt you could be super proud.  At least that’s how I think.

Sometime being picky about what you produce can cost you though.  This week, after being out for a week and generating no revenue, I found myself fighting with an issue that started the week off in the negative column.  A printer issue first thing Monday left me grumbling.  And it left me re-calibrating everything.  Head cleaning, head level adjustments, and printing a lot of test swatches.  How much testing occurred?

$150 worth of paper out the window.  Ink too……  Several hours playing with the printer to boot.  Monday’s printing definitely started out on the wrong note.

Now the issue I was having was only occurring on thicker papers like my Vibrance Rag and Optica.  And the issue wasn’t pronounced enough to jump out at a client.  But it jumped out to me immediately and my first batch of client prints for the morning got thrown away.  One of the ladies that works on our front end in the gallery saw the prints and said, “They look good enough to me.  Are you sure you need to throw them away?”

When it comes to print quality for clients I really want to see things spot on.  I have clients hanging in galleries all over the country.  And I have clients purchasing individual pieces for family and friends.  And where ever the prints I do get hung, they’re an example of the type of work I do.  Is good enough really good enough when your work is on someone’s wall?  I think spot on 100% is a better representation of your work, don’t you?

This applies well beyond printing

For me, I like working with businesses that provide quality.  I own an Airstream for a reason.  Researched for over a year before buying that in 2004.  I wanted quality.  My studio runs Apple platforms as well as my household computers.  Once again, quality.  When I make purchases my hope is that the individual or company selling to me has the same work ethic I do.  And if they don’t they lose my business quickly.

Beyond printing I’m also a photographer.  And over the past few years I’ve gone on a learning binge for a reason.  I decided that I’d get into the portrait game and offer high quality sessions for select clients.  When I made the decision to start doing portraits I didn’t hang a shingle out saying I did that.  Instead I spent a huge amount of time studying, learning, taking classes, practicing, etc.  Why?  Because when I finally felt it was time to hang the shingle out I wouldn’t be offering a low quality, “good enough,” service.

Unfortunately there’s an epidemic of bad portrait photography out there.  It’s not hard to miss.  Folks get their first DSLR and a “big lens” and the shingle goes out immediately.  Since they’ve been taking snap shots for the past 20 years they put up a website and say that they’re a pro photographer with 20 years of experience.  They are everywhere, and it’s really confusing to customers when they try to figure out what a professional photographer is.  Believe me, I’ve had many a conversation with local business owners taken in by a low price and a shiny new DSLR.  And they’ve told me consistently, “We should have shopped around and found out why this person was so cheap.”

My favorite example is very simple.  If I hand you a stethoscope it doesn’t make you a doctor.  It makes you a person with a stethoscope.  If I hand you my 5DII it doesn’t mean you’re a pro.  You’ve got a camera.  Now let’s see what you do with it.  🙂

Not only is being selective costly to me, it makes things more expensive for my clients

Every week I hear the following comments:

  • Printing on canvas is how much?
  • Costco does canvas, what makes you different?
  • Wal-Mart charges X for and 8×10.
  • You’re too expensive to print with, and my customers don’t want to pay that much for a reproduction of my work.
  • Can’t I get a “bulk” discount if I do more than 2 prints?
  • Photographer X charges a lot less for a sitting.
  • What do you mean I have to license the image from you if I want to use it in an advertisement?

Fortunately I have many simple answers:

  • All canvases and fine art papers run here are 100% archival.  I don’t think Costco is offering that on the low end canvases.  What that means is we’re creating a long term print for you, not something that will fade in a few years.
  • Yup, my photo services are more expensive than others.  But I can promise you I’ll be spending hours on your images after the shoot, I’ll select only the best, and we’ll work together on picking those images you want to use or print.  And the color quality will be spot on, not a shot in the dark.

With many small businesses it’s a boutique experience.  If you have a photographer who “turns and burns” (does your shoot, burns to a disk without looking the images over, and then just drops the disk in your lap) there’s a high probability you’re going to be disappointed.  My favorite article on the subject is found over at  The author is spot on!

So, while I might grumble when having to spend hours recalibrating things and count up the expenses, in the end I know it’s worthwhile.  When a client hangs a reproduction or a photo I’ve done for them I know 100% of the time that I’ll be proud to have that showing as an example of my work.  And I know it will bring me more business.

Funny how this post which was just going to be about my print headaches on Monday evolved.  I hear every day that I’m “pricey”, but there’s a reason.  I’m willing to waste a ton of paper to get it just right, and clients never see the “boo boos.”  That’s my problem not theirs.  My job for each client is to present them with high quality images that will last and that they’ll be proud of.  There’s something to be said for someone’s pride in their work!  🙂


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