a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Digital Photography at Agility Trials

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Digital Photography at Agility Trials

SUMMARY: Here's what I hate about digital photography.

In "the old days", when a photographer shot photos at an agility trial, the usual routine was to shoot all day Saturday, print the photos overnight, then make them available Sunday by posting, stuffing into albums, or just putting into boxes for you to leaf through.

I could spend maybe 5 minutes, usually less, looking at the photos to identify my dogs. If I liked the shot, I whipped out $6, bought it, took it home, and put it into my album.

Compare and contrast:

Digital photography has put the onus of work on the dog-agility buyer. Understand that I do a lot of digital photography and I spend hours going through my photos, tweaking most individually, labeling them, and uploading them to my photo site. But some--if not most--photographers at trials do only the uploading, with minimal or no sorting and minimal or no editing of any of the files. And they take a whole lot more photos now than they did then, too.

So, instead of maybe 2 to 5 minutes at the trial, now I wait until the photos are available, days or weeks later. Then I scan through barely legible thumbnails on sometimes hundreds of pages containing hundreds or thousands of photos, trying to identify my dogs. Thank goodness that all of my dogs so far have been easier to recognize in thumbnails than, say, black and white border collies, or shelties, or corgis. But it's still a challenge at thumbnail size. It takes real concentration.

For example, I just spent an hour and a quarter going through one photographer's photos of a recent show, and that's without finding anything that I particularly wanted to buy.

If you find a photo of your dog, you click the thumbnail to display a new page to confirm what the photo looks like somewhat enlarged. But of course it's still not quite the same as what you'll see in print; I've been disappointed a couple of times. If you like it, then you click the "buy" button. Then you fill out what size you want and whether you want it cropped and so on, then click the add to cart button. Always waiting for the pages to load, which even on broadband often takes time.

Then you find your way back to the thumbnail page that you were browsing and continue, repeating the whole process for every photo that you're possibly interested in.

Then you go to your shopping cart, fill out all your personal info, go to the payments screen, pay for it via paypal or credit card, meaning that you're going to have to deal with that payment later when it comes due. And you pay postage, which often isn't trivial--it usually makes it so that buying just one photo makes that photo seem amazingly expensive.

Then you wait a week or so for the photos to show up in the mail--which means that someone somewhere is spending the time to package and label them, and ship them, and there's the material used for the shipping container, which now most likely goes right into the recycling bin.

And furthermore, most (not all) photographers charge a stunning fee for the photos. No $6 or $8 prints. We're talking sometimes as much as $20 for 4x6 prints, here. I mean, really. They promote them as works of art, I guess, that are color corrected and cropped and all that. They must get buyers, because they keep doing it. But I resent having to spend all that time and then PAY SOMEONE ELSE more than I used to spend on snapshots. The ones who are still in the under-$10 range are particularly the ones who don't seem to sort (for quality) or do any precropping or anything like that. OK, I can put up with some of that for a lower price.

But I can't even offer to process and print them myself to save $; most photographers charge at least as much for the digital version of a photo on the assumption that then you could, heaven forfend, print as many copies of the photo in any size that you want and THEY wouldn't get any more money for it.

And many of them sell photos through a photo service, removing some of the advantage of dealing in digital--no individual dealing or edits or anything. For example, I recently won cert's for about 6 free photos from one photographer who was generous enough to donate them to various raffles. But I found out afterwards that (a) you can apply only one cert per order and (b) you can apply it only to the photo, not to the postage and handling. And the photographer said, sorry, that's the way it's set up.

From a business perspective, I guess I can understand that. But now i have free cert's that will probably never be used. I guess that makes the photographer happy, too: Looks like a nice guy but never has to deliver.

And are the photos I get any better than the ones I used to get? I'd argue not--because in the day, I bought only the ones I liked that turned out well anyway. Do the photographers make more money at it and are they happier about it? OK, unhappy customer, happy photographers. You figure out how often I buy photos of my dogs any more. Makes me sad, but thank goodness for friends who like to dabble in photography and sometimes do it at agility trials, or I'd have nothing.


  1. Argh!

    My pet peeve is the sites that don't allow right-clicking to open the thumbnail in a different window (to save page reloading time and to be able to more easily compare photos). Then when trying to go back to continue browsing, it goes back to the top of the index page or worse, to the album index page. I assume the no-right-click is to prevent people from saving the photo, but if people really wanted to steal the itsy bitsy thumbnail, couldn't they just do a screencapture anyway?

  2. Oh, yeah, that too. Sometimes it's deliberate, I'm sure; sometimes it's because the photos are loaded from a database and so the browser doesn't have any knowledge of the individual photos--which is another annoyance, that on those sites, I can't bookmark specific photos to reference later.

  3. Iam a photographer and I can agree with some of your comments. But again its how I make my living. I still have prints the next day but sometimes I can't because of a one day trail. You must understand that there is more work for the photographer in this digital age. We use to take it to a lab wait for it and we were done. Now we have to sort, crop, process the image. It takes time to make a great photo. As far as a cert. I would never of done that to a client I would of worked with you to get your photos that were coming to you.

  4. As I said, I do a lot of photography myself, and I generally hate the whole there-is-more-work thing with digital photography. Yes, I used to do the same thing--drop it off at the developer, pick up the finished shots. Now, I can quickly discard the ones that I don't like, but the ones that I do like always need SOMETHING done to them--cropping, increase the contrast, color correction, just *something*, then save it. I used to spend no time processing my photos except for putting them in albums. Now I often spend more time tweaking them than I spent taking them. So I *know* what's involved. I'm just saying that I liked being able to buy a few dozen snapshots of my dogs at $5 each compared to having to decide on one "really nice shot" at $20--for a 4x6, not even a hang-on-the-wall size... I'll always hold off until that one perfect shot comes along, which it almost never does, and so now for my latest agility dog, I have only a couple of shots of her doing agility, compared to lots from my previous dogs. Makes me sad. But I just can't justify that kind of money on a regular basis for just one picture.

    Obviously photographers aren't hurting from the switchover, or they wouldn't be doing it, so I may be in the minority.