Still life photographer Mariano Pastor shoots product images in his studio for L’Oreal, Givenchy, Schick and Lancome.
He recently launched a website and business called Via U! where “smaller companies can get the same quality photography he creates for his Madison Ave. clients at a price affordable by the common man.”
The site is pretty slick and allows you to pick a background, then pick a composition (or even compose it yourself in a 3d layout modeler) then you ship him the product with some simple instructions and voila, download your photo the next day.
What’s it all cost? Nothing.
He shoots it for free and if you like the shot you pay $112 (half price introductory offer), for all rights.
I like the premise of serving an undeserved market (mom and pop need a killer shot for their local newspaper) and certainly product shoots at $250 a pop or less (at least editorially) is not unheard of. And certainly many companies have built in house studios for this very reason, but just selling images to everyone for a flat fee, regardless of the use seems like a bad deal for photography.
I emailed Mariano to ask him what happens now that L’Oreal says they’d like to pay $112 for a picture? He said “L’Oreal loves the price.” Natch.
When I asked him if he was worried about the backlash from other photographers for selling product photography based on the time it takes to make a picture not the usage he responded with:
How the business of commercial photography is changing is a subject that I considered a big deal while planning Via U!.
All in all what you have going now is what economists refer as “disruptive technologies”. The automobile for instance proved to be pretty disruptive for the horse and buggy industry. The digital camera and photoshop has made possible for a large number of people to achieve results previously unattainable. Digital distribution globalizes the market.
What you end up with is a tsunami of pictures that results in lowering prices. Wonderful for photo buyers, grim for photographers.
You may make the argument that Via U! makes it easier for our client’s to work by charging a flat fee and doing away with usage rights. And we do… no negotiations. That is nice.
However, our policies are also simply reacting to the forces unleashed by technology. Similarly Getty and Corbis are struggling to deal with microstock for the same reasons.
Can’t say I’m complete surprised by this. I know product photography was one of the categories hit hard early on when companies started doing the shots internally so maybe this is just the natural progression of a photographer competing for the bottom dollar there, except something doesn’t feel right to me. Doing this kind of thing for small companies seems like a smart play, delivering the same price to billion dollar companies seems rotten.