How to be a professional amateur?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Perry Way, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. Perry Way

    Perry Way Member

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    I found an interesting ad in Craigslist in the photo+video section yesterday. Some old lady has a mess of B&W 120 negatives (6x6) and wants prints from them all. She related that she took them to a photo shop nearby but since they were B&W and 120 film, they said they could not do it. So she was asking for someone to print them for her.

    So I emailed her, saying I might do it for a fee. But then I offered two other resources, one of which would be to send to a shop to get scanned. Then she could print them out on photo-printer herself without venturing into the darkroom or paying for that.

    I told her about the waste of the paper if one prints square on a rectangle paper. And that to be prepared for the additional cost associated to that.

    So, I got a reply from her this morning. She is saying she wants maybe a bunch of 4x4's and she's got 450 negatives (she counted them last night, but I didn't know she had 450 at first, I thought maybe a dozen...).

    So now I am wondering to myself, I am an amateur here. But how do I be professional about this? Do I charge for my time and material costs? Do I charge per print? Knowing she is an old lady and wants to see these pictures before she dies, because they are from her youth and she doesn't have the prints, do I put a smile on my face and charge her full market price? Or do I make someone happy and go into the poor house myself? All things to consider. I'm just posing this situation here to get some ideas and feedback before I respond back to her. If anyone has some experience with this, I'd appreciate hearing that.

    Thanks!
     
  2. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    It's a toughie alright. You have to firstly decide what your materials costs are, (450 sheets of paper plus chems) then work out the time involved and how much you want for that. You can then tell her what the materials are and negotiate what your time is worth. I would suggest that you're open about the actual costs and the time involved and you may be surprised to find that you can come to an agreement that works for both of you. That's the best deal - one that no-one's happy with but that everyone can live with! BTW - whatever time you think it will take to do a print is an underestimate - and I don't care how much time you think it is - IT'S TOO LOW!
     
  3. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    All 450? Here's what I would do. Contact print them on cheap RC photo paper in bulk and have her choose which ones she really wants printed. You should check focus before wasting paper too. An overexposed shot of uncle larry's friend she doesn't remember from 1930 is probably not going to bring a smile to her face as much as a really nice shot of herself/family. I would print only the best ones and charge for materials and a low hourly rate (these aren't going to print like today's negatives; they're typically much denser and probably not well exposed/processed ergo it will take a lot of time.) You have the advantage of Variable Contrast paper and you're going to need it. I would print a few well rather than taking 500 hours of time to get good prints from all of these.
     
  4. q_x

    q_x Member

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    I think you're right, Bob NY.
    What I would do:

    1. Check out how much money would cost all needed ingredients. Tell the lady you won't make any "single photo correction". Just batch.
    2. Take the money before the job. And take payment (just how-much-do-you-want-to-take, I would take as much, as the ingredients cost) after the work is done.
    3. Think and plan slowly, do the job quickly.

    I would make whole day batch with 100 pieces per day (first day - setup and play with first 50), sorted with density or needed contrast/time, so you will not play with timer during session - so 5 or 6 days full of work. This is work for two persons. 100 4x4 pcs is (as I think) quantity that will your chemistry hardly handle, so at the end of day you can "throw soup out" and make fresh soups for the next day.

    One person to do the dry part, one to do the wet job. One person can handle this, lets say with 10 pcs shifts.

    Choose some soft paper with short washing time. You can wash with some "special" solution. Dry overnight.
     
  5. David Brown

    David Brown Member

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    The lady ran an ad. She has been to a commercial shop in an attempt to have prints made. IF (big "if") you want to help her out, fine. But consider your material costs, and yout time! This would be a professional job. This lady is not (or should not be) expecting someone to do it for her as a favor, and to loose money in the process. If that's truly what she wants, pass. If she truly wants 450 prints, on the other hand, you stand to make some money.

    Chances are (from my experience, as you said) is that when you quote her the price, she'll say "no thanks".
     
  6. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    Scanning this many negatives would indeed take a lot of time. I'd probably just make contact prints and then have her pick the best for enlargement. Charge for materials at cost, plus an hourly rate.

    I did a similar thing for my Dad a few years back when he found a box full of negatives from some old roll film folder (maybe a Kodak Autographic, as there was evidence of a stylus being used on the negatives). One thing I did to speed up the contact printing was group the negatives by approximate density.
     
  7. trip_wt

    trip_wt Member

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    For this amount of prints I think the best thing to do would be find a large commercial lab that deals with large numbers of negatives and prints anyway.
    They will most probably be scanning and printing on RA4 but for just 4x4 prints I think the quality would be plenty good enough. Perhaps when she has looked at the 4x4s you could offer to make larger prints of any ones she particularly likes.

    If you could find a lab for her and work out a deal with them, explaining the situation, I think it would be the best option value and timewise.
     
  8. OP
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    Perry Way

    Perry Way Member

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    Thanks to everyone for responding. I must admit that when I initially responded to her ad, I was thinking she had a handful of negatives and it seemed to me to be not a problem. But 450 just seems overwhelming. However, if I could do this job over a few weekends and she paid in advance at least the material costs, then I think the prospect of making extra money in a horrible economic hardship time sounds like a great idea to me. Heck, I could then afford to buy more equipment, like that Mamiya 7 I've been itching for.... y'know? Or pay off my truck early, which would really help also.

    So, what I've done is done some checking around to get the negatives scanned. I found a shop that will, at that volume, do the scans at 3,000 DPI for $781.50. Not bad in my opinion. And they will provide some 20 CD's or .. whatever.. I just remember the cost.

    Honestly I haven't found any labs to do Black and White, and I personally don't know of any myself either. All the labs I know of are doing color only.

    So the other option I gave her was a minimum of $2500 (USA) for the job, and if that kind of price was not such a concern to her (she lives in a rich area) then I could do the job for her over several weekends and we'd work it out on time plus expenses. I figure my total chemicals and paper costs would be no more than $500. And I figured $500 per day is a very decent billing rate for my time. But probably I'd be looking at 5 or 6 days, not 4 thus the $2,500 minimum.

    I think David Brown is right though.. I fully expect to her from her "no thanks".

    :smile:

    Once, again, thanks for the feedback, everyone.
     
  9. Maris

    Maris Member

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    When people find out that I do hands-on traditional darkroom work I occasionally get asked to do photographs from old negatives, glass plates, ancient album snaps and the like.

    My first question is always "How much have you budgeted for this work"? This gets the idea across, in a nice way, that real money will be involved.

    Then total up the cost of all the materials that will be needed, with a realistic allowance for waste, and ask for that amount up front as a deposit. This gets rid of time wasters and people who were only "thinking" about getting those old negatives printed. Double the material costs for delivered photographs and then add labour charges.

    My labour is worth about average for ordinary work in Australia, notionally $20 per hour, and I figure that 20 negatives a day is limit beyond which fatigue ruins quality.

    I try to deliver more than expected. The final work is always on archival fibre base but I make a surprise parallel set on resin coat. When I deliver the complete package I say something like "Here are your archival treasures to keep safe. And here is a second set for your friends to pass around and look at".
     
  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    somewhere between 25$ and 50$ / print
     
  11. Lopaka

    Lopaka Member

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    I checked a local pro lab here that still does B&W printing, they charge $10 for a 4x5 print. I don't think $4,500 would be in line with what she was thinking.

    Bob
     
  12. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    As soon as you tell somebody you will do something for money,
    you're saying you are a pro
    no ifs and or buts
    and you d•mned well better do it professionally.

    The first problem you solve is this:
    I am an amateur here. But how do I be professional about this?

    You can be one, or the other. Not both,
    and there is no going back.
    it isn't the actual exchange of money that makes you a pro,
    it is your obligation to fulfill your promise to do the work.

    If your motivation is to be helpful, fine. Help.
    If you are doing it for profit, fine. Make some dough.

    Will it put you into the poorhouse to make these pictures for free ?
    Then you probably shouldn't take the project on, even for pay.

    Expect most of the images to be boring, bad, and technically challenging to print.
    Are you up for this ?

    Good question,
    good luck.
     
  13. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Member

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    I think if you go for this, you have to set expectations. I've printed for others quite a bit, never this many, but I make clear distinctions between prints that are 'proofs' with no spotting or cleaning up afterwards. A straight print only density and contrast corrected on RC paper - I charge $6 a piece for that in 5x7 size. I can knock out as many as 30 of those an hour without breaking a sweat.
    For anything that requires my interpretation and doing dust spotting, toning, etc, I charge MUCH more, in the realm of $50-60 for an 8x10 or 11x14 (the paper is not the expensive part).

    Explain to your customer what they can expect from the prints. If you're going to dust spot and refine every print, you're putting an awful lot of time in. If you're doing straight prints with decent contrast and density, it's much easier. But they have to understand the difference. Show the customer examples.

    For the quick and dirty I'd charge about $2,700.00, and for the fancy work it'd obviously be in the realm of $25,000.00 if they wanted every print done to the best of my ability. But that would take a very long time indeed, spread out over a year maybe.

    You could also offer to do contact sheets. I do this for customers too, using an 11x14 sheet of RC for $12 a sheet. It's standard procedure with enlarger / exposure / contrast, etc always at the same setting.

    Then it's easier to strike a deal.

    One more thing - if the negs are damaged or require cleaning, I make a clause for that. Plus I waive all liability of damaging the negatives while in my possession.

    Good luck.
     
  14. argus

    argus Member

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    There's a few things to take into account befor you should even think about accepting the job.

    you should have:
    1. a full automatic print processor (from dry to dry)
    2. an enlarger with measuring probe & time/graddation controller, think Heiland Splitgrade.

    100% hand printing 450 negs will drive you to insanity.

    I don't think that you can make more than 10 quick&dirty hand printed enlargements per hour, so count at least 45 hours of work for the job without going for perfection. With a print processor and automated enlarger, things can go faster.

    I regularily do small batches of old and large negatives for fellow photographers and charge 36 Euro / hour + 3 Euro per print 5x7. All ex. VAT - with a minimal starting price equivalent to 1 hour. RC paper, no spotting.

    G
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 23, 2009
  15. darinb

    darinb Subscriber

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    Have you considered just using a DSLR, photographing them on a light table, inverting and sending them to Costco? It would take you a half day or so...

    --Darin
     
  16. Fotoguy20d

    Fotoguy20d Subscriber

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    I've done that myself with 120 negs and some 4x5 negs. Expect to have to do some basic photoshop work - probably cropping to size and/or straigtening and then adjusting levels/curves - on each and every one.

    Dan
     
  17. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    There are labs in the San Francisco Bay area that do black-and-white work. Most of them are custom labs and will charge custom prices for this job, even though they most likely will cut you a break on the volume. If you really want to help her out, I'd suggest doing this in phases, split the job up into smaller jobs, so it will fit her budget and your schedule. It will also keep you from over-committing to your supplies and if you blow the budget because it takes a lot more than you expected to print the photos, you won't have to eat nearly as much cost as you would if you took on the whole job.
     
  18. OP
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    Perry Way

    Perry Way Member

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    This is a decent idea and one that I had in a round-about way suggested to the lady would be more cost effective to her, but after I sent her my initial bid amount, she didn't see fit to even return my message. No "No thanks" message, nothing. Just dropped off the edge of the planet, never to hear from again.

    I think a lot of rich people are like this. If they don't hear something they like they just move on without regards to the sensibilities of others. I've noticed this as a trend kind of thing. I'm sure some rich people are different. I'm just sayin'.....
     
  19. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    Not a big surprise - but then it was a good exercise for you. That won't be the last one that comes up and it's worth the exercise so you now have your "ducks in a row" for the next time.

    Bob H
     
  20. OP
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    Perry Way

    Perry Way Member

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    True, good excercise. Hey, I really appreciate the mindspace y'all provided on this topic. I hope the discussion benefited others as well as myself.
     
  21. MikeSeb

    MikeSeb Member

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    Know a lot of rich people, do you? If not, you might think about dropping the "sharp" part of your web handle.

    My definition of "rich" is "having sufficient net worth to support oneself for life without a salary or wage income". Your statement says nothing about them, but quite a bit about you. Perhaps I've missed some exculpatory nuance not conveyed via web-forum musings.

    How acceptable would this statement be if, for "rich people", you substituted another group for which your shoulder supports a similar chip? I doubt you'd have felt confident making such a statement publicly. "I think a lot of [insert group name here] are like this. If they don't hear something they like they just move on without regards to the sensibilities of others...."

    I am not a rich person by my definition. My line of work brings me up against a broad spectrum of folks. I can firmly attest that rudeness respects no socioeconomic boundaries.

    Something to think about.
     
  22. OP
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    Perry Way

    Perry Way Member

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    Yeah, actually I do know a lot of rich people. In fact my parents are in that category and it's one of my pet peeves the way my mother treats average Joe's and Betty's as if she is superior to them and looks down on them from some high position. I used to be rich as well before I fumbled around with the wrong business partners. At one time I knew more rich people than average Joe's. But I was a different rich fellow, and those who knew me could verify that. All in all though, I think my experience is my experience, and that's that!


    My statement says nothing but my own experience. If you happened to have taken notice, I ended with saying "..I'm just sayin'...."



    Well, since you're making assumptions about me, why don't you finish your assumption with the exact "group" you are inferring about?


    Look I spent an incredible amount of mind space accomidating this lady. Please note that in no way was I even thinking about making money off her. She sounded like an old lady with lost memories and I was trying to re-attach them for her so she could die with those memories relived. My only concern was that I wouldn't put an undue amount of stress on me, nor take on something bigger than I could handle. Not only did I put some mindspace onto this topic but so did quite a number of photographers here. I told her in emails that I was seeking help from others. I even mentioned this website. That lady was very rude in not even acknowledging the time I spent on trying to accomidate her. She just ignored all of that and pretended like nobody was even trying to help her. In my experience, a LOT of rich people are this way. They figure they have the money, and they can choose whether to do something or not on their every whim. As a result they tend to think other people are ready willing and able to bend over and do cartwheels and yadda yadda the list goes on and on... They simply don't care about other people's sensibilities. To them it's all about the mighty dollar. In the case here since no billable work was done, this lady didn't even owe me a "Thanks, but no thanks". I am very used to this from rich people. It is a common trait.

    Of course there are some rich people not like this, but my exerience is that they are very very few and far between the vast majority of which have an inferior attitude about "the help".

    If you expect me to change my mind about that, you're going to have to cite as many if not more examples that disprove my own experiences in life, rather than complain about my supposed "rudeness".

    If it looks like <subject>, smells like <subject>, sounds like <subject>, then it probably is <subject>. Stating the obvious is more like citing a fact than a matter of rudeness.
     
  23. MikeSeb

    MikeSeb Member

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    I can offer no better refutation than your own generality-strewn reply, so none will be forthcoming.
     
  24. Curt

    Curt Member

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    This looks like a job for a club or some students under supervision. I wouldn't try to steer her into anything she doesn't want. If she wants 4x4's then that's what you do. Get the materials in bulk from Freestyle after you get the estimate in order. Several people could do it, I for one would not want to do a job like that alone unless the work was extremely important and the client had a huge wallet and gave ample time for the project. This is one that would put your personal like on hold for some time. Give it some real thought. You could bid for some of her work, let her know that hand processing is time consuming and expensive. You have to educate the customer, the more time spent there will save a lot of heartache later.
     
  25. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    typically people don't care about the legwork someone does
    to give them an estimate ... all they want is the bottom line.
    often times people get a few estimates and decide after they compare prices.

    if i had come across someone like this on my local-list, i would have
    done the math, and emailed her a price, not something low so i would underestimate
    the amount of work to do, but something kind of high, seeing it would take on average 1 hour/print.
    ... and then wait to hear back from her...
    if i didn't hear back it would have been a blessing in disguise because 1 out of every 10 jobs is
    ALWAYS diseased and this sounds like it could have been one of "those jobs" ..

    450 custom prints is a ton of work ... and i am guessing,
    the lady had no idea until you gave her a price how expensive
    it was going to be to have prints made.
    she probably came to the realization that money is tight -
    and it wasn't worth it to have someone (novice or pro) make old-school photographs for her,
    who knows, maybe she is thinking her kids or grandkids can scan her film and she
    can get 11¢ prints made at her local pharmacy.

    sorry to say this but no one can beat 11¢ a print ...

    if you want to do work like this down the road ..
    ask your family for grandma's shoebox of old negatives to print for practice
    (so you can see how hard it can be to print someone's 50-70 year old snapshots),
    or get a brownie or crappy box camera and a bunch of film and practice printing film that is poorly exposed and over developed.
     
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