I swear, if somebody asks me “blank” one more time my head is gonna explode

Richard Charpentier Photography, Prints, RLC Design 5 Comments

Another title to this post could be “The printer / photographer’s rant.”  🙂

Okay, I promise you I won’t rant…..much.

Months ago I’d written about doing reproductions of paintings, pricing, etc.  If you recall, I cited one reproduction specialist who charges over $1,000 per matched piece.  Pretty steep.  I charge $50 each, well below the industry standard.  I followed up a few months later regarding creating matches of paintings as well after I found a little push back in the client community for my shooting and matching services…….

And here I am again.

A short time ago a potential client walked in looking to talk with me regarding shooting a few paintings, color matching, and getting her work set for reproduction.  I explained the process, explained my color matching, and final proofing with the client on hand.  $50 each.  The potential client’s face wrinkled up a bit and she stated, “Well, I’ve got a company that does it for $25 per in Nevada.”

Oh well, good bye potential customer.  I’m not budging, and I’m well under the professional industry standard.  What do I do exactly?

  • Image the painting in studio:  The studio lighting is actually set up at optimal distance to ensure no blow outs or loss of detail to shadow.  Cost a little to setup, but makes life easier.
  • I image the piece with the 5D Mark II:  I’ll take several frames at a few specific apertures.  I then check on my color calibrated monitor.
  • Normally I’ll spend an hour matching:  Even with the lighting just so, and a great camera, color matching work takes time.  Have you ever looked at a pastel?  Yeah, the colors get mega blended.  And the camera sometimes makes up it’s own color instead of what’s in reality.  This is where Photoshop comes in.
  • The customer returns for proofing:  During proofing we’ll usually run 2-5 proof prints with the client guiding the final process.  It’s how they see it that matters.  Up to an hour is spent with the client’s in house for that perfect match.

So, what I’m saying is I’ll spend up to 2 hours doing this work to make sure the print matches the painting.  All for $50.  That works out to $25 per hour.  I charge $65 per hour for Photoshop work on images people bring me in digital format.  Clearly I’m a dumb business man because what this all tells you is that I should be charging $130 per painting setup, imaging, and match.  Hey, I think I may adjust prices very soon!  🙂

Whew!  Vent boy, vent!

Now, before I had the studio setup there were a few other photographers in town who shot film of paintings for reproduction.  Heck, I’d refer people to them.  They’d do a 4×5, the client would bring it to me to scan in, and we’d be off and running.  The cheapest photographer charged $65 per 4×5, and I’d charge $35 to scan it in high resolution so we could make massive prints.  Remember, this was when I was learning the ins and outs. Between me and the other photographer the price was $100 per (65+35=whaaa?).

So, doing a great service that almost no other shop offers….and people still try to ratchet me down.

The best part?  This non-client was referred here by another shop.  I talked to the person who referred the client over and told them what just happened.  They were a little surprised as they’d talked to the person withing the past hour.  The referring shop told her I was $50 per, explained my process, etc.  So, this person came in here already knowing my price and process and still tried to get over on me.

I hope the shipping company that delivers their delicate originals forgets to put “Do Not Fold” on the next envelope going to Nevada……..

Vent over!  I need some chocolate.

Comments 5

  1. Maybe you should get a used Kodak machine like the ones Walgreen’s use, and put it in the corner. When somebody won’t pay your regular fee, offer to take the picture for $10 per shot, then point to the machine and say “have fun.” $1 per 8″ x 10″ print.

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    You know, creating accurate reproductions of paintings is super easy. Anybody can do it……

    That’s why when clients come in with their own files I do a proof print of what they captured, just to show them that yup, nailed it right on the head…..errr, well, close enough? 🙂

  3. It’s always best to give your clients two choices, both of which you can live with. Her choice was not to use you, which isn’t a choice you want. Does she really have another option in Nevada? Who knows. Next time explain what you can do and charge them $50. Then explain how you can spend another hour doing even more for $75. Ask them if they want the $50 option or the $75 option. Either way you win. They get excellent service and a great finished product. It’s a win win and you won’t lose nearly as many clients. Hope you don’t mind me adding my two cents.

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  5. Maybe you’re priced too low, Rich. If you (or your pricing) is marketing you to the low-ball/cheap service crowd, you probably *should* expect folks to try chewing you down, don’t you think? Marketing yourself as a good value attracts folks who want a good deal. Marketing yourself as a high-end, best-in-the-business reproduction shop (which I think you are, judging by your blog posts) should attract clients who want the best and are willing to pay for it. Is that feasible for you? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it would weed out a bunch of the hagglers. I’d like to hear your take…

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