I’ll have a Big Mac. Hold the Two All Beef Patties. The BusinessofPhotography Part 5

That day, we were on fire.  Our own 20 x 20 photo booth, dead center of the event hall — hard to miss the 12′ green screen and bank of six iPads as you entered the show.

Last year, we ran a similar green screen photo booth with Travel Channel, though much smaller.  The entire footprint of that booth was 20 x 20, with a niche carved out for the photo experience.

Last year, lines stretched around the block; this year, even without the Travel Channel as a show sponsor, the lines were just as long.

Let me back up.  The Travel Channel was a key sponsor of the Travel and Adventure Show series in 2014/2015.  This year — for 2016 — they decided (while participating in the series) not to have a booth.  No booth, no green screen — or, at least, that’s what I thought.

Wrong.  The Travel and Adventure Show management decided the coolest part of the Travel Channel booth was the green screen photo execution, and so they hired us directly to provide a very similar fan experience.  Just bigger, better, and even more rock and roll.

As we were working through the first show, a gentleman stood off to the side, finally flagging down my partner, Matthew.

“I have to have this.” He said.  “I have to have this.”

Matthew handed him our business card, and the potential client said he’d be in touch.

He was, later that day.  “I just love what you do.  The energy, the technology, everything.  It’s so wonderful.  I have to have you guys at my booth at future shows.”

Matthew told him we’d construct a proposal, and we did.

“Of course,” he said, “I don’t need prints.  Oh, and it’d need to be much smaller.  Oh, and just a photographer, to keep down cost — no assistants.  And, maybe just one background choice?  (Travel and Adventure has 12)  Other than that, everything the same.”


This is a challenge we run into frequently, and I call it the Big Mac Attack.  This is what I hear:

“I love what you do, I see how cool it is, but can’t you do it my way?  Won’t it be the same, just cheaper (and better) but CHEAPER?”

To me, it’s like going into a McDonalds and ordering a Big Mac.  Then saying, “Oh, and please hold the two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, tomato, onions, and put it on a potato roll.”

“Sir, then you’ll have pickles on a potato roll.  That’s not a Big Mac.”

“But that’s what I want, and won’t it be cheaper?”

Blank stare.

There is a big difference between customizing a photo service, and sacrificing your brand.

When running your own photography business, it’s a balancing act between “give the client what they want” and “stick true to your brand.”  Here’s how I differentiate.

Certain things are optional, and don’t impact the finished product or guest experience.  For example, the style of photo holder is (in my brain) totally unimportant.  (Though I’m working on a project now where those holders are integral, so no rule is set in stone.)  Generally, no one really cares — except a perspective client — what the photo print goes in, after it is produced.  As long as it goes in something.  So, when talking budget with a client, that’s one of those places where I can cut, lowering cost without hurting either our profit or the participant experience.

A participant doesn’t care, generally, about how big the print is.  They don’t really see a huge difference between a 4×6 and a 5×7, though the cost difference on supplies (and therefore to the client) is dramatic.  So, deciding between a 4×6 or 5×7 is one of those exercises important to an event planner, not so much to a participant.  However, GETTING a print — of some size — is important to the participant.  Most want a print.  Even in the age of Facebook and digital distribution, having that hard copy is nice.  Not having it looks cheap, in my view, though still doesn’t venture into the realm of Big Mac Attack.  That said, we almost never provided prints at the Indycar fan experiences, but the unique, immediate RFID based social media upload counter balanced to keep a great brand experience.

Size of the booth can easily be customized: as long as a client understands what the limits are for a smaller footprint.

However, cutting back or changing process and work flow DOES hurt the US Event Photos brand.   Think Starbucks.  If you order a cup of coffee and expect Pike Roast, but instead get something that tastes like Maxwell House, you are going to blame the Starbucks and wonder, “what happened?”  Too many cups of Maxwell House and you stop going to Starbucks (and shelling out $3.00 for a tall cup of jo.)

When contemplating what you can cut to satisfy a client’s budget, you have to evaluate each cut and how it might impact your brand.  If it doesn’t impact, it’s a great thing to get rid of.  If it does, it’s something to keep.  Period.  Not keeping it changes who you are as a company.

Many photographers — to save money and be more competitive on price — cut back on essentials — like, um, a photographer to run the photo experience, instead opting for a “photo technician”.  I never understood that.  If the photo isn’t great, then — what exactly are you doing?  Some cut back on equipment.  Again, that has the potential for impacting the participant experience.  Others, staff.  That reminds me of a poorly staffed Walmart on Black Friday.  Who do you blame?  Anyone?  Are you only there to buy the $99 72″ flat screen TV?  Walmart’s brand is to save money, you might not mind waiting in line for 20 minutes.  Sak’s brand is customer service: you better not wait for 20 minutes to drop that cash, or you might just decide a Timex will keep time just as well as a Rolex.

It’s tough when your business is slow to stick to your brand.  Without fail, that’s when a potential client comes around sniffing, smells blood thru some weird sixth sense, and decides they want a Rolex experience at a Timex price.  ALWAYS.  And, it boils down to this:  Which are you?  If you’re Rolex, you can’t sell your goods in JC Penny’s.  If you’re Timex, you can’t charge $25K for a watch.  Who are you?

There’s nothing wrong with being Timex.  Equally, there is nothing wrong with being Rolex.  However, you must decide who you are and stick to it.  If you’re Rolex, and go cheap, you’ll make no money and resent the contract.  If you’re Timex and go expensive, you’ll have no business: clients will be pissed.

Of course, the answer might be to be Seiko.  Not expensive, not cheap.  Just in the middle.  That’s actually where most of the money is to be made.  It’s also home to most of your competitors.  Just sayin’.  There’s a lot of Hampton Inns out there.  Not as many Waldorfs.  Same company, Hilton, different brands — and different guest experiences.

Me, I can’t remember the last time I set foot in JC Penny, though I stay at many more Hampton Inns  than Waldorfs.  Much to my dismay.  Sigh.


The following are actual questions perspective clients have asked:

“Hi!  I was wondering what you might charge for a greenscreen photo booth without a greenscreen?”

“You’d like to use a blue screen instead?”

“No, I mean, the screen is just so…GREEN.”

“Well, did you have in mind screenless background removal?”

“No, AGAIN (sigh, didn’t you hear me?) the screen is just TOO GREEN.”

(Surprisingly, we came up with a cool solution to this challenge.)


“Hi, how much is a green screen photo booth without the photos?”


“I mean, I just want to rent the booth and run it myself.”


“Hi, We saw you at a convention.  It was so much fun!  Our entire team had a great time.  We’d like a quote for an upcoming trade show, but … well, we’re concerned because we just can’t joke.”


“I mean, we can’t have too much fun.  We’re in a serious business.”


“I mean, we have conservative STANDARDS and IDEALS.”

“Um…..oh, boy you had me going there for a second.”

“I’m not joking.”  (Click)

(Into dead cell phone) “My bad.”


“I must have you.  THIS WORK IS SO COOL.”

“Wow, that’s great to hear.  What did you want?”


“Well, send me details, I’ll get you a proposal.”

“Fine.  But hold this date…”

(I send proposal.  They call 2 seconds later.)

“Like I said, ‘fine. You’re hired.”

“Do you have any friends?”

Florida Green Screen Photographers
Convention Green Screen Photo Booth
This year’s Travel and Adventure Show Series.
Orlando Convention Photography
Green Screen Photo Booth Themes

Who you are as a brand should be reflected in everything you do, across teams and events.

Washington DC Conference Photography
Conference Photography Photos

And, not just with one part of your photography business.  If you offer various services, those need to reflect your brand, too.  Here’s a glimpse at our conference photography services.  (Hint: our secret energy source is embedded in the collage.)

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