I've always thought some aspects of high-end photography were absurd. Do you really need to pay somebody $50,000 to take a picture of a Buick? It occurred to me any number of times when I was working as a reporter, and I'd see a big photo shoot somewhere, that (as a longtime amateur photogapher) I could do something that would be 90 percent as good, for 10 percent of the money, and that 99 percent of the people who viewed the resulting ad would never be the wiser. Anyway, those over-priced chickens are now coming home to roost.
I was a witness to an example of this price gouging a while back . . . a motorbike manufacturer wanted a still ad photo of their latest model, on a pedestal, on a beach, at sunrise. There were three ways this could be achieved :
1. Use stock photos of the beach, and pedestal, commission one for the motor bike, and post-process it all digitally (probably the most cost effective),
2. Commission photos of all three components, and post-process digitally (more expensive, but still reasonable),
3. Assemble a team of marketers, stylists, photographers, other hangers-on and 3 models of the motor bike, fly 8000 miles to a foreign destination, put everyone up in a hotel and provide food and transport, wait a week for the right sunrise.
Which did they choose? . . . well, option 3 of course! Instead of telling the client that the exercise could be done as effectively via options 1 or 2 they spun only option 3, and milked it for all it was worth.
Crazy thing is, I got to know of it because they managed to break one of the pedestals, so used a quick-fix boxwood one, and PhotoShopped the end result back in Europe! Although the microstock scenario might not be directly comparable, the changing mindset will hopefully lead to a shift in this sort of client robbery, giving the client more options on how to achieve a desired result.
I don't buy into the excuse of justifying inflated prices based on potential large rewards (i.e. what's $50 000 if the car sells $50 million). On that basis we should be paying variable prices for everything, from food to cameras, based on our individual net worth.