Efficiency and Creativity

Packshot on 01/04/2011

Mike Harrington has raised the bar with his challenge to me for this week: to write an interesting blog post about the difference between day rates and pay-per-shot rates in product photography. Here’s a tip: if you ever want me to accept such a gargantuan challenge as that, do what Mike did, and approach me before my critical faculties have woken up, at the point of my first sip of my first cup of tea. This is a more than reasonable attempt, though…

For people reading this who aren’t familiar with the conventions of the creative industries – and particularly the photographic industry, with which I shall deal specifically here – I shall write this as simply as possible. The difference between day rates and pay-per-shot photoshoots are more pronounced than meets the eye: each is suited to different requirements of different types of work. Speaking broadly, there are two types of photographic imaging in which the Packshot People specialise: all-encompassing product photographs, with products shot free of distractions against a white background, and creative product photographs, in which products are photographed in distinctive contexts, aimed at associating the products with certain lifestyle choices. Both types draw upon the same areas of technical expertise, although creative product shots draw upon an additional skill, and an additional degree of experience: creativity.

The question is an obvious one: granted, different jobs require different areas of expertise, but why should this necessitate different rates?

One answer to this question is that day rates for creative photoshoots give just as much, if not more, value for money than pay-per-shot shoots. In situations in which models, lighting and props require consistent and time-consuming alterations and manipulations (such as in the image provided below), it can be beneficial to everyone involved in a photoshoot to work to a day rate, which affords freedom from the distraction of keeping one eye on the time, and allows the creatives to concentrate on the significant matter: crafting well composed, technically astute images that convey the desired messages as effectively as possible.

It might be said that there is a second, more wide-ranging answer, though. It ought to go without saying – although, as insiders keep pointing out, somehow it is increasingly becoming a point of controversy – that creativity and efficiency are not necessarily compatible in the way that other qualities are. Paul Saxton, creative director of advertising firm Creative Target, touches upon this point in an excellent, partially humorous article on the effect of efficiency on creativity. Though its focus is on the advertising rather than the photographic industry, its message, on the effect of efficiency drives diminishing enjoyment and satisfaction, could perhaps be applied across the creative industries. You can read it here.

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