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Trivializing what we do

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  • Trivializing what we do

    Several months ago, I was at a meeting of the local genealogical society. I thought it would be a good opportunity to offer my services.

    Coincidentally, the guest speaker gave a presentation on creating a family photo album. During the lecture she showed some otherwise excellent photos which were "restored" in a very mediocre manner. She said she bought some software for $69.99 and used it to "restore" the photos. She said, "I don't know how it does it, but all I have to do is click the mouse, and it's done."

    After this statement, I knew my services would be a hard sell.

    Just this week, an ad in Popular Photography touted the new Microtek scanner which "restores" photos while it scans. Included in the article was an inset of a help wanted newspaper ad for a photo restorer with knowledge of Photoshop 7 and 20 years experience. A large salary range was offered for the accepted candidate.

    The message was clear: "Buy our scanner, or hire a highly-paid specialist."

    And this message of trivlialization is not limited to photo restorers.

    A friend of mine is a graphics artist. He is degreed in both art and photojournalism. He once told me in exasperation, "Anyone who buys a copy of Adobe Illustrator thinks he's an artist."

    Part of the problem, I believe, is that many don't know what a good photo looks like. They don't know the work that goes into a well-done restoration.

    As a consequence of these misapprehensions, when we say we'll restore a photo for $100 or $200, we look to some folks as scam artists. All we're doing, after all, is just clicking a mouse button.

    Your thoughts on this?


  • #2
    Microtek link

    BTW, here's a link to info on the Microtek scanner:



    • #3
      It's nothing personal against photo retouchers. Anything related to computers develops a "magic box" prejudice with a lot of people.

      Even within the computer community those of us who strive for excellence are seen as needlessly overcomplicating things that anyone with the "right software" can do with the push of a button or by using a wizard. Graphics, audio, programming, communications, I've seen the same thing in every area.

      It's just human nature. I watch Norm Abrams build a corner hutch and say "I could do that if I had the right tools". People aren't comfortable thinking they're limited in any way other than they don't own the right equipment. And the builders of tools and software wouldn't have it any other way.

      Can't get a date? Just change your shampoo. Kid not a genius in school? Just buy toys that talk. It's never us that's the limitation, we're just not buying the right things. Not making enough money? Just change your credit card.

      That scanner rocks, by the way.
      Learn by teaching
      Take responsibility for learning


      • #4
        I can't blame anyone for trying, that's how I got started. However,
        what bothers me is that people are satisfied with a bad job.

        One of my favorite lines is " Everyone can own a camera, but not everyone is a Photographer". I think this is applicable to quite a few professions, including what we do.


        • #5

          I guess this means that I've been wasting my time spending hours retouching severly damaged photos. I must have been fooling myself into thinking these restoriations were very challenging and difficult. I'd like to see how well the Microtek or any scanner can fix up some of the restoration challenges you have on this site. :-)

          I guess I should stop taking my car in for repairs, and just buy a new car that is advertized as being able to fix itself.

          Eventually though, limitations of the one button fix will surface too.



          • #6
            A key part of your observation: "Part of the problem, I believe, is that many don't know what a good photo looks like. They don't know the work that goes into a well-done restoration.

            I'm confident most who do R&R professionally would agree.

            The challenge these days is the level of "perceived quality" and the value customers associate with it is lower than professional expectations and abilities. To the untrained eye what's "good enough" for many would be appalling to the seasoned professional.

            There's no question that quality work, especially on difficult images, takes a lot more time (and deserves to be compensated accordingly) than what many people are willing to pay for.

            Perhaps this signals a need to reevaluate pricing and service models: So-so: $40; Very Good: $80; The best you can get: $200 -- and let customers decide what they're willing to pay for vs. "This is gonna cost you $200 to restore."

            Another issue is customer education from the perspective that the $200 job is going to take (say) 4-hours of work vs. $40 is gonna buy 15 minutes of your time. Making it look "too easy" (like pro golfers or tennis players on TV) can hurt you, too.

            A number of years ago when IBM was the big gorilla on the block, they purposely built HUGE cabinets for their computers, making them look especially impressive. Inspecting "under the hood" (something few people did) revealed many of the cabinets had a considerable amount of "empty space" and relatively few installed components. It was a perception thing. A BIG, room-filling computer gave a greater impression of power (and value) than one the size of a couple of dishwashers.



            • #7

              The Microtek scanner is simply the latest generation of Applied Science Fiction Digital Ice, a system long respected by the retouching community.

              Learn by teaching
              Take responsibility for learning


              • #8
                Originally posted by DannyRaphael

                Perhaps this signals a need to reevaluate pricing and service models: So-so: $40; Very Good: $80; The best you can get: $200 -- and let customers decide what they're willing to pay for vs. "This is gonna cost you $200 to restore."
                I don't do restorations as a source of income. But if I did, I don't think I would want to give someone a "quickie" $40.00 job, then have someone who knows what they're looking at see it and say that I do terrible work. That wouldn't give potential customers much faith in me.



                • #9
                  From another board:

                  The photographer is a guest at a dinner party. He has brought along a few samples of his work for people to look at. The hostess remarks, "these are really nice, you must have a great camera".

                  As he leaves, later that evening, he remarks to the hostess, "that was a fine meal, you must have some wonderful pots and pans."

                  Guess its all in how you look at, or something.

                  Part is perception. I once knew a wedding photographer who had a 35mm back for his medium format camera. He was convinced that the size of the camera marked him as the "pro" and even tho most of the prints ordered were only 57 and 810"s if you did not show up with that big camera the customers would not believe you could do a good job for them.

                  In my experiance there was some truth to that.

                  Now with the advent of the digital camera and all the small retouch software, anyone can be and think they are experts. Part of it is the pride generated by "doing it yourself". Shot a wedding in a backyard where the brides father had built a deck. It was a real mess, bent over nails, split boards, shakey, etc etc. But he spent quite a bit of time showing it off to all the relatives who oh'd and awed over it. I just tried to avoid standing on it

                  I look at all this as a reason to do more complicated and better work. Let them do the easy work and mess it up, then we can come in and clean it for them, at a good price of course.



                  • #10
                    It is true that there is a growing tend of intelligent software for a host of problems including the area of image restoration. And these quick solutions in the hands of a beginner will never equal the work done by someone who has put their time in restoration.

                    My solution is to create some before and afters showing quality work that the potential customer can view. I give them the price in a matter-of-fact, but polite manner and let them view the before and afters. As a rule, I have found that when it comes to treasured old photos the customer will choose quality over price.


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