Buy these photos or your family will hate you forever


I’m not a salesman, never have been — but I know when someone is trying to ream out my wallet in the friendliest manner possible.  I had one of these experiences last night.

My mother bought a car recently.  You might be thinking, say no more, car salesmen … but this isn’t about car salesmen.  Not really.  As part of her “great deal” on the car she also received a voucher.  This was not a voucher for a free burger at Burger King, or a two-for-one deal on putters from Golf World … no, this was a BIG MONEY voucher for a studio photography session.

Ah, I hear you say.  Ah indeed.

No, poor Mum has never experienced the kind of hard sell which comes with such vouchers.  She innocently believed the voucher she now possessed entitled her to $800-worth of professional photos — which it did, technically, but you have to consider what that $800 represents.  My mobile phone contract, for example, includes $700 of calls a month.  This is not the same as dropping $700 into a payphone and making a year’s worth of calls.  This is $700-worth of phone calls in the same way that a loaf of bread is worth a trillion dollars in Zimbabwe.  You have to consider the scale.

We discovered the scale of the pricing yesterday evening.  Myself, N, Kid A and Kid B — even the dog — all sat through an hour and a half of posing in excruciating positions while trying to look natural.  Am I smiling?  Yes Mr Photographer, I do believe I am smiling.  These are just tears of happiness streaming down my face.  This is a cramp of joy in my hamstring.

After the session came the “consultation” with the studio owner, and that’s when the real pain began.  That’s when we discovered just how far our voucher got us, and how much deeper we’d need to dig to free ourselves from the emotional blackmail which had just been hand-delivered to us.

So, here are a few questions and comments a studio “artistic director” might throw your way if he or she is trying to put the hard sell on you.

What do you do for a living?  You should interpret this as: how much of your disposable income am I likely to be able to corral?

Describe your house to me, as if I were walking into it for the first time.  Why did I get the feeling he was hoping I’d reveal the location of a hidden wall safe, along with the admission that the combination was just my date of birth because I’m hopeless at keeping track of long numbers?

I’m really pleased that you’ve decided to have this done now, with your children at this age.  I kept thinking: was there any kind of decision-making process involved?  We had a voucher.  Use it or not?  That was the extent of the decision-making process.

This is something you might only have done once or twice in your lifetime.  Oh crap, I thought, is it going to cost that much?  The answer to that unspoken question was yes, yes it is.

This photo (of N and I) is perfect.  It might not be something you would buy for yourselves.  But for your children, in the future, it will be priceless.  It will be how they remember you.  Oh, fabulous.  Thank you for reminding us that we will one day be dead, maybe soon.  Can we have the image laser printed onto our tombstones? 

For the family portrait, you really need to get it in at least the 20×24.  At least.  Anything smaller would look silly.  Because anything smaller won’t cost you an additional $650.

How much have you budgeted for this?  It was a PHOTO SESSION!  We had a VOUCHER!  You budget for holidays, groceries, car purchases and home renovations.  Sane people do not budget for a family photo session.

You can pay it all upfront, or half now and half later.  Or, we also offer a monthly payment plan.  AHHHHHHHHH!

Sorry, you can’t go away and think about it.  The moment you leave this office, if you haven’t made a purchase, we have to destroy the files.  WHY?  It’s fucking digital!  Why in the name of all unholy do you need to destroy the image files the moment we leave?  I understand that to do otherwise would undermine your pressure-selling, guilt-tripping, heartstring-fumbling, account-plundering, exploitative arseprick business model, but come on!  If you demand that I buy now, immediately, lest the opportunity be whipped out from before my eyes and cast into the fires of Mordor, then you can take your photo “art” and jam it in the same dark smelly orifice from which you’d extracted your sales pitch.

Needless to say, N and I resisted the sales pitch.  We’ve resisted worse than you Mr photo salesman — doorstep sellers in London, timeshare salesmen in the Canary Islands, gypsies in Madrid — your sales kung fu is tired and weak, and I’d rather fly the family to Thailand for a holiday and pay a Thai photographer to take shots for a week before forking out for one of your packages.  It’d probably be cheaper too.

But our piddly little free “$800” portrait is just lovely.  Thanks!