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  • Perfectionist tendencies

    OK, this has been bugging me for the past few days and I wonder how everyone else deals with it (if you do). I tend to be detail oriented and a perfectionist in many areas of my life, and of course that tendency is showing up in my photo restoration work. I spent 6-8 hours on both of the photos that I recently did. I wanted them to be as good as I could make them - and I'm happy with the results.

    BUT, I don't know that anyone would actually be willing to pay me for the extra time I spend on detail. Now, I know I'm new at this, but even once I gain a lot of experience, I can't imagine cutting the time down on that first photo (babylift) I did to anything less than 3 hours. It was just a lot of work - period. (When I brought the photo into a reputable lab here in town, they estimated 1.5 hours and I just can't believe that - not to do what I did the way I did it anyway.)

    So, I've been wondering how to handle this (forgetting about my inexperience for the time being). I assume that once I know better what I'm doing, I can estimate what techniques will be needed to restore any given photo, and how long those techniques will take me. What I'm worried about is that people won't want to pay for the "perfect" (well, as good as I can make it) restored photo. So, perhaps I can create some sort of breakdown saying, "I can provide this result for "x" $$, or this result for "y" $$." In other words, if someone tells me they only have $30 to spend, I can tell them what sort of result to expect.

    While I'm still in the learning stages, I don't mind spending extra time to see how good a result I can get. But I have a feeling that after a while, I'll start to feel resentful if I constantly feel like I'm doing extra work that isn't being compensated for in some way.

    Does anyone else have these concerns? How do you deal with them?

    Thanks, Jeanie

  • #2
    A couple of points here. To begin, when just starting out it is going to take a long time to do a restore. As you become more adept at using the functions of your particular image processing software, things speed up. Each photo you work on teaches you a little more about how to handle certain types of damage etc., so that, as time goes by and you " pay your dues" you begin to see that what once took 3-4 hours or more is now done in 1or 2 or 3. When starting out keeping your prices around the $30 level is not anything bad,(I wish I could have done that!) in my opinion anyway, at that level you have room for modest incremental increases in price as your skill level matures and you are able to do more work in a given amount of time. When you begin to do something you never start at the top, so count the "unpaid" hours as a sort of 'Tuition fee" and get on with the sheer joy of doing what you enjoy.As time passes there will be lots of business to cover the tuition fees. Dont dwell on what others are charging or doing as you know the area you are in and must adopt the business policys which are suited to it. Not what works in another area with a different client base. Too much contemplation about what seems to be lacking as regards pay etc, is a sure way to become frustrated and discouraged, something which is very ungood. A university student pursuing a line of study isnot going to be an expert while learning the basics of their choosen field and is not recieving any compensation for learning. But at some point they will, and so will you. Just keep on restorin' and love every minute of because, as the song goes, "These are the good old days." Tom

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    • #3
      I still (after years) have a problem with this issue.
      I'm sorry to say that I just don't think enough people are willing to pay the high prices. Sure, there are a few, but that's just it, a few. Could we make a living on those few?

      I think in order to reach the masses, this service has to be reasonably priced. So that the average person can afford to bring back more work. Here are some questions I've asked myself:
      How much would you be willing to pay?
      If the price were too high, what would you do?
      If you were to charge by the hour, how would you adjust your prices as your skills and speed increased?
      Is it really fair to charge someone by the hour when there is no standard measure?

      I like to think of this work as a craft. How do they charge? I'm guessing it's by the piece, not the hour (someone correct me if I'm way off on this).

      For me the bottom line is, I don't think too many people are willing to pay me what I think I should be paid for my time and skills. But I'm ok with that because I enjoy this, and I am free to make the choice to do it, knowing all of the above.

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      • #4
        I've spent most of my working life in darkrooms. Its not a field to become rich in. Conventional darkrooms are a thing of the past.I'll miss them.

        That said I enjoy digital work because much can be done that would not be possible any other way.

        I still maintain a darkroom a home to work with old neg sizes most people never heard of. Also I am a photo lab manager. These 2 areas allow me to do enough restorations to make a far amount. While I would love to do restorations full time I'm not sure enough money can be made. You know the old saying "dont give up your day job".

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        • #5
          Perfectionism taken to extremes can put you out of business. You spend way too much time on each job and don't get the money for you time involved and most of your hard work is missed by the average customer. However perfectionism in healthy doses as in having an eye for the details with out being consumed by them is what customers will notice and come back for. I guess you have to find a happy medium there somewhere. Don't ask me how as I am still looking to find mine.
          DJ

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          • #6
            Thanks for everyone's replies. It's good to know I'm not the only one grappling with this issue - and it's nice to hear how some of you have chosen to deal with it in your approach to this work. It will definitely be a learning process for me as I figure out how to strike a balance that I'm happy with (and that my customers are happy with).

            Tom, just to be clear, I'm very much aware that I have a LONG way to go before my "tuition fee" is paid off. I feel like everything that I'm doing now is one big crash course - and probably will feel that way for a while. Of course, I hope the learning doesn't ever completely stop, because that's when I'll get bored with the whole thing, I'm sure. (In addition to my perfectionist tendencies, I have an intense desire to always be learning something new. Unfortunately, that doesn't make for a very "stable" life. ) In any case, thanks for your advice. I will take it to heart.

            Jeanie

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            • #7
              Originally posted by sjm
              You hit the nail right smack on the head for this newbie too! However, I have encountered a lot of people who print images right off the net at 72 dpi and are absoutely thrilled with the end results! I can't understand why they don't see the inferior print.
              YES!! I can't understand it either!

              Solution? They are not part of our target market. Perhaps if you were to show them a side-by-side comparison of a 72 dpi (often printed at 200% ) and a 300dpi print, they might at least see the difference. But I get the feeling that the 72 dpi would be "good enough" for them, i.e., they don't want to have to pay money for the better version. I know there are plenty of people like that, but I don't plan on spending my time convincing them otherwise. It feels like a losing battle. I'd rather spend time finding the people who DO appreciate the work that I do.

              My $.02 for the day.

              Jeanie

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              • #8
                Jeanie,

                It seems as though you are one of those who want absolute perfection. That being the case, you might not have to worry about servicing the masses. You might look at a different area of this type of work. For instance, you might learn and perfect other skills that would enable you to deal in different ways with museum quality items. These skills would not *necessarily* be computer related, and you might need to be among the top people doing this type of work. Then you would only need to deal with few clients. Your time might be considerable in working with certain items, but the pay would probably be high, thereby limiting the *number* of jobs needed, and giving you more satisfaction from your accomplishments. Just a thought.

                Ed

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                • #9
                  Ed makes a good point. You cant be all things to all people, so dont try. The only thing you can do is to be true to your own ideals and let the chips fall where they may. As to "paying ones dues", I didnot mean to imply that your work was in any way inferior or less than exceptional quality as from what I have seen your talent is far greater than I could ever hope to aspire to and is ,simply, exceptional... "paying dues" in all truth never stops for anyone, if you reach a point that you think you have stopped---that is a dangerous point as you have stopped learning, perhaps "burned out", and then is the time to quit. We all have miles yet to go, each job done simply improves already good skills, I thought I detected a note of perhaps some discouragement and was in my usually oblique manner trying to render some aide. I apologise if I came off in a patronizing or insulting manner--that was not intended, I assure you. Some folks will be satisfied with a pixelated mess printed on a $75 printer using the cheapest typing paper avaliable. Why? That is territory which is unexplorable I think. Perhaps those folks have the ability to see in a more trancendental plane than we do, or perhaps they just dont care. Who knows, but it is amusing while at the same time bemusing. Tom

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                  • #10
                    Ed, Very observant. Although I've tried to tone down my perfectionism over the years, I'm still working on it. In some ways, it's helped me learn a lot of things as I don't want to give up on something until I've found the best solution I possibly can. (Hence, I've been trying to figure out the best way to scan textured photographs for over 6 months (on and off) now.) In other ways, it is exhausting!

                    I don't want to seem "snobbish" re: people who seem satisfied with 72dpi web prints. I'm really not! I'm just baffled - and pretty convinced that they are probably not going to be the ones coming to me for my work. However, I do think that there is a broad spectrum of people in between them and fine art/museum quality restoration that I will most likely be working with. Your suggestion is intriguing though and I'll tuck it away in a "safe place."

                    Tom, In no way did I take your post to be patronizing or insulting! I appreciate what you wrote. I find it interesting that you picked up on a note of discouragement. I don't think I realized it myself, but now that you mention it, I think that I started looking a the "big picture" and quickly became overwhelmed. If I just focus on one photo at a time, I love doing this work! So, perhaps I should just stick with the details for a while longer before I stick my head up again to see where I'm headed.
                    Originally posted by thomasgeorge
                    Some folks will be satisfied with a pixelated mess printed on a $75 printer using the cheapest typing paper avaliable. Why? That is territory which is unexplorable I think. Perhaps those folks have the ability to see in a more trancendental plane than we do. . .
                    Actually, I think exploring that angle could be fascinating!

                    Jeanie

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                    • #11
                      It is usually the folks who display the perfectionist tendencies who are the brightest scholars, the problem solvers and the ones others turn to when a question,problem or occasion for advice arises. The quest for perfection is also the quest for knowledge. One never should loose it or life becomes a bleak experience. Tom

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                      • #12
                        Very well put Tom. I think you summed it all up in three sentences.

                        As Yoga might say: "Couldn't myself have better it said."

                        Amanda

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