//It's been a while since I wrote a rant. Here's one to redress the balance. Warning: grumpy content follows...//
What is it that a professional photographer does? It's a question that's worth asking (particularly if you're a pro yourself), because all the signs are that many clients aren't particularly sure. If you take the narrow definition of a professional photographer as being someone who earns their living taking photos, you're missing the point. And you won't be alone.
By way of an example, I'm going to describe a situation I found myself in earlier in the year. A potential client (working for a local government agency) who knew of my work approached me for some information on pricing. The agency in question was tasked with promoting cycling in the region and needed to source a variety of imagery for their website, trailhead information boards and printed leaflets. I provided some ballpark figures... and that's when the fun started.
Because my quote exceeded a certain threshold, agency protocol was to pull in at least three detailed quotes. Fine, no problem with that, although by that stage I was already figuring on not getting the job since I don't generally win out on price.
The tender forms - there were two, one for library images and one for commissioned shoots - duly arrived by email. Right up near the top of the forms was a pair of check boxes, one for 'amateur' and the other for 'professional'. And I realised right there and then that I'd lost the job.
The remainder of the forms were no better, demonstrating to my eyes a complete lack of understanding of the value of photography beyond a commodity that was to be sourced at the lowest possible price. The clincher, for me, was the requirement to supply examples of my work 'at 300dpi' on CD for evaluation. Excuse me?
I filled in the forms anyway for the sake of finishing what I'd started, politely declined the request to supply hi res files and wrote the whole thing off.
The entire approach is so depressingly wrong-headed, it's hard to know where to start. But I can think of no other scenario where a potential client would even consider sourcing a product or service from an enthusiast, rather than a professional. After all, there's still money changing hands. It beggars belief that a government agency would risk public liability - let alone the public perception of its websites and publications - for the sake of saving a few pounds.
I regard my job as providing the highest possible images to meet the client's brief, within an agreed timescale and to an agreed budget. Fifteen years' experience as a full time photographer gives me the technical know-how to cope with anything the situation throws at me; the contacts to supply bikes, riders and kit; a mental black book list of locations for all eventualities; and last but certainly not least, proper third party liability insurance. With the greatest of respect, how many enthusiasts can say the same?
I do what I do because I get enormous satisfaction from the end result, but I never forget that being professional means a great deal more than receiving a cheque at the end of the job.