Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Podcast Wednesday: Should We Shoot The Shoot And Burn Wedding Photographers?

Good Morning Everybody,
OK, are you fired up? Whether you are a Shoot and Burn photographer or not, this topic is HOT among the Main Street, (established studio) wedding photographers currently in the market. Some professional photographers say, "Shoot them all, they're stealing my business!" The S&B's say, "Hey, I'm just trying to make a dollar, too."

Please, no nasty emails -this blog is about L-O-V-E, at least the love of photography that is. And remember, Shoot and Burners need love too - even if a lot of the established studios are ready to shoot them.

But, you know folks, it's a changing world out there especially for a lot of people who have been in business over the last 5, 10, 15, 20 years. The entire wedding industry has been turned upside-down with digital. It seems that everybody is a wedding photographer and not many people are making enough money to make a house or a car payment from what they are earning shooting weddings.

The real question; How do Main Street photographers compete with the Shoot and Burn wedding photographers? Is the client getting what they're paying for - for the bucks they are spending? What about the Orphan Brides? Those brides that took the disk and run, never to get wedding pictures printed, albums design and passed down from generation to generation. Are we going to have a large part of an entire generation of brides without any printed record of their wedding? Are the images that ARE printed going to continue to be the standard medium so many professionals have been delivering for years? How many of today's brides are having their hard earned dollars "burned" by receiving a lousy quality product from those less than scrupulous operators working the wedding market these days?

I'll cover all this and more in this week's PodPodcast Wednesday - give a listen. Just hit the PLAY button on the G-Cast widget to the right. Enjoy! David

Related Links:
A Thought About "Shoot And Burners"
"Shoot And Burn"
Tips that will help you click with the right photographer.
A Guide for Brides to Be by Alice B. Miller

P.S. You can also download this podcast or all others right here.

News You May Have Missed
A Wedding Booth on steroids was recently featured in LexJet's monthly newsletter. It tells and shows how one photographer created quite a buzz at a local bridal show. This article lists step by step what made the booth have so much appeal - a good read. Here is the link to the story.

Here is an interesting off-the-wall piece for you. I found it over at fellow blogger the PhotoNovice site. It's a Chase Jarvis video [link] showing how to do high-speed photography. If you like that kind of stuff and I do - it's worth the watch.

And last, but not least - something for free. In these times of economic downturns, everybody is looking for a deal. Every now and then I head over to just to see what's cooking. And, every now and then find a little gem or two. Heck, browse all their categories and you just might find that perfect holiday gift priced just the way you like it - FREE.

That's it for me today everybody. I'll see everybody tomorrow for Business Day Thursday: Putting Your Best Image Forward. See ya' then, -David


  1. Hey, David, great podcast today. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I originally started thinking about turning my hobby into a business about a year ago, and saw myself as being a shoot-and-burn guy. I thought then that a lot of photographers over-priced their work.

    But once I dove in and really started looking at it, I decided that I couldn't go that route. I'm like you, I understand why some people do, and I don't begrudge them. But like you, my pride simply won't allow me to give my client an inferior product. Plus, I have a good friend who used a shoot-and-burn photographer over the summer, and the experience was just as you described -- inferior, jpeg pictures that are going to take a LOT of work in Photoshop to get usable. And this from someone who supposedly TEACHES photography at a local junior college. ARRGGHH!!!

    Anyway, I think there are some instances where doing some limited shoot-and-burn stuff works. For example, I've done some fall portrait shots for some clients this year. I'm going to sell them picture packages, but I'm also going to give them one or two low res 4x6 jpegs so they can take them down to Walmart and have Christmas Cards made. That's something that I don't have the time to really do this year. Maybe I'll be a little bigger next year, but not this time around.

    Anyway, thanks, David for all you do. Still looking to try to take your Master Class in the spring!

  2. Great podcast!

    Did I hear this correctly... A shoot-n-burn collection, with reduced pricing on albums good for one year?
    I guess the reduced album pricing would be at a level where profit would be the same as if they purchased a collection that included an album credit. I’d be worried it would cannibalize the album-included collections. I guess I would only present this option to those prospects who are only looking for a shoot-n-burn deal.

    The Orphan Bride album creation business is BRILLIANT! I’m sure there’s a demand for this.

  3. Shoot and Burn photographer = a lousy quality product?

    Really? No chance in sight that S&B's team up with clever people bundling a presentation based on the raw material? So it's not only the medium, its more how to get the result? Not only about the adventure, but more about the workflow?

    If this is the opinion of the majority of the established wedding photogs - well - then you're going to face interesting times.
    In every business you'll have a hard time if your trying to tell the market what they really need. While the market isn't listening.

    Maybe this is just another king voting for a new kingdom.

  4. Insightful podcast...nicely done. Thanks!

  5. David,

    Great post and podcast...this is something that has been happening in our industry for the past couple of years now. If I were part of the Main Street crowd and feared someone charging $800-$2000 to shoot a wedding...I would look at my own business model! If your brand and your imagery isn't heads and heals above the "joe photographer" out there that is shooting on the weekend, then dig in and innovate! Build a new website that incorporates and drives your brand, start a blog, start a newsletter that is branded to your site and message, offer a new product, build a reputation as a leader in your area by sharing ideas and think outside the box(create a new box).

    Having a strong brand will make you feel more successful than just making money. Your brand will have the effect of pulling people in with viral marketing and word of mouth, which is not price subjective. 90% of our brides this year we met on the morning of the wedding...that doesn't happen without a strong brand. We recently innovated with Wedding Video Testimonials(click website), which has already shown terrific results.

    Sorry we missed catching up in NYC at PPE.

  6. Sounds like you are trying to convince people that the train actually hasn't pulled out of the station, let alone disappeared down the track.

    You aren't going to convince any weekend warriors that are doing this for pocket change to quit. You also aren't going to convince brides that shop based on price alone to do anything other than shop on price alone. These people deserve each other.

    Wall, meet head... head, meet wall.

    The wedding market direction is that the middle ground is giving way. The multitude of shopping-center based "Studios" are going to be looking at some tough times if they are pushing a wedding-only based business model.

    By the way, putting that pdf link on your site that links to the buffoon from Ohio ranting about shoot and burn photographers lowers the overall quality of your site.


  7. I think I fit in the middle ground. I used to just shoot a wedding and give the disk. I did not have the time or experience to take care of prints and album creating. I did do all the post processing, color correction and cropping, but that was it. And I still offer it, but at a higher cost.

    My wife and I were shooting a wedding for a friend in Lexington Ky. We show up to the wedding to see a huge frame with 5X7s from their engagement shoot. All the prints looked like they took them to Walmart, awful prints!!! I then realized something. Professional photographers don't just charge a high price for prints to make money, although it is nice to make a buck. Professionals sell prints because they want to control their quality so their work does not look like S#%!.

    That being said, I still offer the disk, at a higher price and hopefully clients will end up buying prints instead. But in this age of digital people all offer the disk, either cheap or not. I live in Northern Kentucky as well and it seems that even the bigger wedding photographers will offer the disk. What do you do?

  8. Great talk! I thought it was pretty well balanced, and not overly accusatory. Well done.

    Did you see the story on CNN today about the photog who shut down and ran off without delivering?

  9. One more thing that I want to say about the shoot-and-burn guys that I didn't put in my original comment.

    My biggest problem with that business model is that it seems, for the most part, that you have to sell the bride a bill of goods for it to work. By that I mean the S&B shooter has to convince the bride that for $500 or $1000 she will get a disk full of images that she can take down to Walmart of Sams and have an album full of images printed that will match what she would get if she paid David Ziser or some other pro wedding shooter considerably more money for a finished product. Now we all know that is just not true. Not in this universe.

    If the bride and groom are really strapped for cash and the shooter is honest -- the images won't be pro quality and the printing will be subpar -- then I don't have a problem with it. Everyone knows what they are getting into. Otherwise, to me, it's just not cool.

  10. I think a lot of the problems that pro photographers are having are the result of two things:

    1. Younger people place much less value on prints; To them, printing most photos makes about as much sense as printing out email messages. Photos are taken to be posted online and shared via sites like Facebook. Physical photo albums take up space and are hard to show to distant friends and relatives, and therefore hold little or no value to them. (They may change their minds years later, but it's too late then, for them and for the photographer.)

    2. The barrage of photos that people see online (on sites like Facebook, Flickr, etc), taken with cell cameras, cheap P&S, and dSLRs with dirty kit lenses, have devalued photos in people's minds. Photos are quick, cheap, and transiant. Having seen only these photos, many people don't even know what good photography looks like.

    People will pay (only) for perceived value. Until pro photographers realize the digital generation places very different values on photography, and adjust accordingly, they will continue to lose business to S&B.

  11. All,

    My wedding tog was a shoot-and-burn. He provided high quality photos on a DVD and we ( me and the missus ) will decide how **WE** want them printing.

    Sometimes when I read the pro forums it surprises me how much moaning the wedding togs do. My wedding tog offered a service that his clients ( me ) wanted. He certainly wasn't cheap, but being a tog myself ( sports ) I was willing to pay for quality.

    As a top bike brand says ... "innovate or die". If the market desires shoot-and-burn step up and do it, or wait for the competition to take the business.

    The world is changing, adapt.

  12. Great insight. I didn't think shooting and burning had a place in today's photography world, but you points made me change my mind.

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