Sometimes I hear people say photography has been commodified. Often it’s by someone trying to talk down the profession. It depends on what value you attach to photography.
The way I see it commodities are objects that can be compared, often on price alone. When I buy table salt I can decide which offers the best price. Choosing a restaurant is based more than on cost alone: the quality of the food, service, atmosphere, location and availability all go into the value proposition. It’s the experience I’m investing in.
Professional photography is more than just the images. Quality images are a given, much like the restaurant there is also the service, availability, location and experience. I’m flabbergasted when a client tells me about the photographer who hides behind their camera and doesn’t interact or worse, a prima donna. One magazine had a photographer swear at their photo editor!
Photography is subjective, a creative and intellectual medium. Open to interpretation there are a range of styles to choose from. How an image is crafted depends on the photographer’s vision, skills, experience, diplomacy and tenacity. Crafting images specific for the needs of each individual client means you receive photos customised for your needs.
The opposite to commissioned photography is stock images. There is a place for stock photography but a there’s a big difference between rights-managed and royalty-free photography. The latter, referred to as micro-stock, are cheap, generic images used everywhere by anyone, including your competitors. Rights-managed are more expensive but do allow for time and region limited exclusivity. More often than not these licenses cost more than bespoke, commissioned photography created specific for your brand.
The business side of photography is just as important. You want to know a photographer has adequate insurance, has the necessary permits and licenses plus a workflow to ensure you actually receive the images. Professional photography is about problem solving. That includes visually translating your brand as well as dealing with problems as they arise. This comes from experience, in return you receive a better client experience.