Shooting and burning or shooting and sharing or whatever you want to call it, has had some time in the hot seat quite a bit lately.
Some people think it's making photography a commodity. Some think it's the downfall of the photography industry, as a whole.
I'm not sure I'd go that far, personally.
Let's go ahead and just put this out there... Shooting and Burning is a totally viable business model for some photographers. The problem is, the vast majority of photographers who do it, aren't the photographers it's a good fit for.
So let's unpack a few reasons you may want to reconsider shooting and burning or shooting and sharing.
Shooting and Burning is Bad for (Most) Photographers
Just about every brand new photographer starts out as a shoot and burner thinking, "I'll just shoot this session, hand over the digitals, collect my $75 check and move on... this'll be easy!"
Problem is most new photographers don't realize until it's too late that this business model isn't sustainable long-term.
You get into this vicious cycle of having to shoot more to be able to make ends meet. But the more you shoot at unprofitable prices, the more you get in the hole... and the more you have to shoot.
So you shoot and burn and shoot and burn until you burn out.
Then you quit, thinking that you're not good enough or that it's just too hard.
And this is why Shooting and Burning is terrible for new photographers. They're under the impression that they can't get paid well for their work, so they shoot at rock-bottom prices and shoot and burn themselves into the ground.
So if it's so bad for new photographers, who is it good for?
Want to shoot and burn? Great. Make enough money off of your disc or thumbdrive or online sharing portal thingy to justify the time it took for you to create the images you shared with your client. Make sure you're making a profit. Make sure what you're doing is sustainable. Run your numbers. Figure out how much you need to make per session, then set your session and digitals price accordingly.
I know... people see me as the "you have to be selling physical products" guy, but they're wrong about me.
I'm the "you have to be running a sustainable business" guy.
And when done right, shooting and burning can be incredibly profitable. You've got an insanely low cost of sale on digitals, so your profit margins can be quite nice.
So there you have it, right? Just charge a lot and Shooting and Burning is a great business model!
Not so fast...
Shooting and Burning is Terrible for Every Client
"I'm serving my client by shooting and sharing!"
"I don't want to be this gross salesperson, so I serve my clients by giving them the disc of images."
"We believe in the sharing economy and that this is the best way to serve our clients."
Let's get one thing really, really clear.
Yes, shooting and burning is convenient for clients.
They can look at their images whenever they want.
They can order anything they want, from any consumer lab.
They have the files to save forever (or a gallery that's online for 10 years!)
But convenience isn't the same as service.
Let's stop confusing those.
Service. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
We spend so much time and effort and energy and money "creating an amazing experience" for our clients.
We invest in the latest and greatest marketing materials.
We order custom thumb drives and deliver them in handmade boxes.
We do all of these things under the guise of "serving our client".
Then we hand them that thumbdrive and say,
"Here are your photos. Good luck figuring out what to do with them.
And that, friends, is not service. In fact, it's the opposite of service.
Someone who serves their clients uses their experience, eye and expertise to guide their clients through choosing the best images for the best locations on the best products for that client.
Someone who serves their clients crafts a completely custom experience for each and every client, based solely on that client's wants and needs.
Someone who serves their clients knows that selling and serving aren't mutually exclusive; in fact, they're one in the same when they're done correctly.
When done correctly, selling is serving.
Shooting and burning is convenient. But let's stop calling it "service".
Want to really serve? Be the pro. Suggest the best products for each client based on what you know about them.
Walk them through the process of figuring out what to do with the amazing artwork you've created for them.
And watch your clients light up with excitement about the possibilities they didn't even know existed (because every other photographer is only offering them a handmade box, a beautiful thumb drive and a swift kick out the door).