“It’s Good Enough”…Revisited



 Dirk Witt, Brooks Clayton and Rick Trummer at Imaging USA, San Antonio, TX

Here are some thoughts from Brooks Clayton, president of Mid-South Color Labs, Inc.

Back in the Fall of 1999, I wrote an article for the Tennessee PPA magazine entitled, “It’s Good Enough”. That was during the time of transition from film to digital. In that article, I cautioned against the wave of portrait and commercial photographers and their clients who were accepting quality that they would not have accepted a year earlier by saying “it’s good enough”.

In that article, I said: “Our focus must continue to be on the customer and producing the best quality we can.”

I was also bold enough to say: “The real danger here is that unless we continue to differentiate our work from discounters or mass-marketers, we unwittingly become part of a downward spiral of quality and then pricing and finally go out of business”.

Well, fast forward almost 20 years and we see that many photographers (and labs) have indeed gone out of business. Some just gave up and others struggled to survive but ultimately didn’t.

Many of those photographers who made it and the new ones who have decided to make this their profession have come to the realization that if they are to prosper, they have to step up their game. They see that the market once again supports quality… when quality and creativity are presented to them.

Notice that I said: “when presented to them”.

We talk with clients daily who tell us that they know they have to go to the next level by offering more creativity, quality and wall portraits. They realize that they can’t be successful by selling only digital files or small prints. They have to offer products and services that set themselves apart from the crowd. Yes, they have to differentiate themselves.

And for those who have tried it, it is working. Today, we produce more and larger wall portraits than we have ever produced. Products that speak quality and creativity like stripped canvas prints, Gićlee prints and Painter portraits, complete with contour brush strokes and oil colors are selling like never before.

In all fairness, I must say that I know of many photographers who were in business in 1999 and continued to produce quality images and prints, in spite of the temptation to follow the trend. They hardly felt the tougher economic times because they continued to market themselves.

So, what is the take-away here?

If you really want to be successful:

  1. Create images that show you are a creative professional.

  2. Make your product offering different than your competitor.

  3. Display and offer large and non-standard size wall portraits.

  4. And perhaps the most important, sharpen your selling skills so that you can truly convey the value of your work in a way that touches the heart and soul of your client. Not high-pressure, but high-touch.

  5. Tell stories of just how important portraits are to you, personally, and to clients who have shared their stories with you. Stories are powerful!

As photographers, we often lose sight of what a gift and service we provide. Sadly, in the last two weeks, our lab has printed bereavement photographs of six teenagers who died way too early. Those photographs will be among the most treasured possessions of the remaining family members. Does any other profession come close in providing such comfort and support? It makes us proud of what we do.

In conclusion, “it’s good enough” really wasn’t in 1999 and it certainly isn’t now. There are great opportunities in our wonderful profession for those willing to stay focused.