Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

I feel dirty.

Not dirty like a rooting pig, but dirty like a shoplifter hiding soup in my pants. A soupy-panted shoplifter who's trying to start his own store.

Before I go too far with this analogy (arguably, I've already gone too far!), let me fill you in...


My daughter's preschool has a professional school photographer come in twice a year to do portraits of the kids along with a class picture. Then, they send a number prints home for us to look at, purchase the ones we want, and return the ones we don't want. Included in the samples are a number of 8x10s and a few smaller portrait sheets.

By the way, I won't mention the name of the company, but it begins with 'L' and ends with 'ouch'.

My first thought when we got the first package was, "How dumb of them. They waste a bunch of money doing this."

That was until I realized how effective the scheme is. It's easy to say, "No thanks, we don't want to buy any pictures." Especially when you're poor, like us. But when they do the shoot for free, then actually put a prints in your hands, it makes your resolve soften a little. Ok, let's be honest, my resolve didn't soften much, but my wife's did. It doesn't help that my daughter photographs well (my son got sample prints in the same fashion, but pro photographers have a hard time getting a natural smile out of him).

Yeah, putting pictures in the family's hands is a genius move by this company that ends in 'ouch'. It gives that little extra nudge to help the photo-happy person in the family (played in this drama by my wife) sway the stalwart (that's me) toward the purchase. Who cares if it costs the company a buck a sheet to print them? I'm sure they get a lot more sales by doing it.


As to why I feel dirty...

Well, my wife wanted one picture in particular (my daughter in a cap and gown) but the $12.50 a sheet cost was a bit too much for us to pay. She suggested I photograph the picture to copy it because it was a picture we couldn't get ourselves (well, I could, except we don't have a red cap and gown in extra small handy). I quickly volunteered that there is a scanner at work and the quality would be much better. Then I started hedging...

As I thought more about it (and especially at work while I was doing the deed) I started to feel dirty. How can I, a supposed photographer, copy someone else's work in good conscience?

Obviously, viewing the image is ok, they sent it home with us! Scanning the image for our archives seems reasonable. But, printing a copy for relatives definitely feels wrong (my wife convinced me to do it in the first place by suggesting that we don't pass images or prints on to anyone else in the family). But what about printing a copy for ourselves... doesn't that seem ...dirty... too?

Of course, this is all coming from the guy who actually felt guilty about software piracy in the 90s (that doesn't mean I didn't do it, I just did as little as possible and felt guilty about it when I did do it).


So what did I do? I scanned the image in question along with the class picture but kept the DPI to 300. Between the quality of the scanner (not great) and the JPG compression, that makes reprinting the shots at 8x10 a stretch. For now, we'll just keep them in our archives of unprinted images. Later on, if we decide we really want a good quality 8x10 from it, we can go back to L___ouch and pay for a reprint.

Obviously, I can't post the image in question here. That'd definitely send my moral meter off the wrong end of the scale...

As my wife said, we should just blame it on my daughter: she's just too cute!

1 comment:

Ryan Corneliusen said...

ah, yes L___ouch. I've been seeing loads of job listings for photographers in my (NJ) area.

Being poor sucks, especially when you have a creative talent.

I know how you feel.