Are You Quality?
“We are what we repeatedly do” ~Aristotle
No doubt about it, this is the age of quantity! We want it all, preferably for less, and we want it now! How many of us pass up the ‘50% more for the same price’ package in the grocery store? Or the ‘Buy 2, Get 1 Free!’ promotion? How about ‘Same Day Service’? We like that one! Who wouldn’t? Get more for your money in half the time is what it’s all about! Go Quantity!!
On the other hand, what if the great deals came with a codicil? What if the sign had some really small print? What if the deal isn’t as good as it seems? Maybe we wouldn’t be so apt to go back and partake of that particular deal again?
How about the cut-rate hair salon that really lives up to ‘cut-rate’ part, such as the $10 color job that leaves you with cotton-ball textured white hair -oops! You were going for red, weren’t you? Or the low rate insurance that leaves you less than covered in the event of an emergency? Or maybe the fish you bought from the freezer on the back of that nice mans truck that only cost $3 and a night in the ER…As bad, or maybe sad, as these examples are, we, as consumers, should always approach ‘too good to be true’ deals with caveat emptor firmly in our minds, indeed, let the buyer beware!
So, this is the age of quantity. Is this always a good thing? What about in regards to your work, your craft? Should you jump on the quantity bandwagon and ride it for all it’s worth? We have to make a living, right?
Quality vs. Quantity
Return with me, if you will, to the days of yore, when customer service meant something, when people began and ended their careers at the same job, and when pride in a job well done was the norm. I’m not sure when all of that good stuff went by the wayside, but somewhere, somehow, while we weren’t looking, it did. Not completely, of course. There are still pockets that survive, here and there. It’s the ‘here’ part I’d like to address.
A couple of weeks ago, a reader of TipSquirrel was kind enough to leave me her impressions of what I wrote in a tutorial. I had maintained, basically, that any job worth doing was worth doing right and that every little thing that could be fixed in a restoration should be, whether readily visible to the naked eye, or not. The commenter felt this was a waste of time and felt that there should be a “balance getting a good result with producing enough work to pay the bills”. Call me crazy, but I totally disagree. I’ve been told my entire life to “never say never”, and so I won’t, but I will say that I’ll (so close as to not even be noticed, at no time, don’t hold your breath, no way, not at all, not on your life, under any condition) not let work out of here with only a “good result”. Here are a few reasons:
Reason #1: I’m working in a field, digital photo restoration, that is taken up by many, many people, many of whom don’t know a daguerreotype from a Polaroid or a parietal from a ramus. Many think that because they’re a photographer, or because they have a copy of Photoshop, they can automatically do photo restoration. Often, when ideas are bandied about on how to make a few extra bucks working from home, photo restoration is the number one suggestion – never mind you don’t actually know what the blue devil you’re doing! So how to stand out among all the dreamers who think photo restoration is a paint-by-numbers skill? Be the absolute best I can be and continue to believe that my skill will set me apart.
Reason #2: I’m a wee bit on the obsessive side – just a wee, mind you! I still angst over the restorations I’ve let out the door that weren’t quiet perfect – and none are ever quite perfect! I did, eventually, have to come to terms with the obsessiveness, and learn when to say when. But that “when” moment is not ever set at just “good enough”!
Reason #3: I want to avoid humiliation if at all possible. Call me crazy. However, if someone ever decided to enlarge one of the photos that I restored for a family reunion poster (or whatever) or, say, to cover the side of a bus (it could happen!), how humiliated would I be to have everyone talking about all the spots (or whatever) that were left on it! Sure, that’s not terribly likely to happen, but where there’s ever a chance, I’m going to cover my fanny and all my bases. That’s just me, though…
Yes, I’m a throwback to another age, I readily admit it. I have a work ethic that suits me and my customers to a “T”. I know I’ll never make tons of money off restoration, but I’ll be rich in satisfaction with a job well done, I’ll be content that I’ve done the best job that I can do, I’ll sleep well knowing I don’t let my work go out the door being just “good enough”. I also understand that there are people, a lot of people, that sleep perfectly well when they’re work goes out “good enough” and they probably sleep on better sheets than me. As long as they’re fine with that, so am I. In a perfect world, there would be no debate. Quality would go hand in hand with quantity. We’d all be really fast, and really good. But this isn’t a perfect world and often one or the other, quality or quantity suffers and we have to choose which way we’re going to go.
When it comes to the work you do, quality or quantity? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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Janine, I’m with you 100%! My feeling is that no matter what type of art one does – and I do restorations, design, retouching, etc. – it should be the absolute best product possible. I design ads, and I hate it when one of my sales managers asks me if I like an ad I’ve sent them to take to a customer. OF COURSE I LIKE IT! It wouldn’t have left the office if I didn’t feel it were the most wonderful, effective ad I can produce. It may not be the best anyone could send out the door, but I’m skilled and professional, so nothing I consider ho-hum gets away from me. Too much ho-hum comes to us from agencies whose designers obviously don’t care that yellow type doesn’t show on a light blue background, 4 pt. reverse type set in Photoshop is illegible – I could go on forever. I’ve noted that the older a person is the more likely they are to take pride in their work and make the extra effort to send out a high quality print. The old-time work ethic. I really appreciate your discussion. Give me, and let me send out quality every time!
I agree with you as well, but there also has to be a good balance. Quality is definitely key of course (otherwise what are we doing?), but an enticing element of Quantity is timeliness. If a designer is able to produce Quality work in a timely manner (i.e. realistic and not slow), then the client is happy on both accounts and the designer can proudly stand by his/her work which makes all the difference in the world. 😉
First read this post and the one titled age spots yesterday and now I’m ready to talk about them. I do admire and respect your work. The information you publish on restorations is very helpful. Your success in competition is laudable, for sure. I have not come up against you in competition to my knowledge, because I complete at only one level, in the marketplace. Even with my modest pricing schedule it is easy to send customers fleeing. People who will pay their plumber $500 for an hours work (I recently did ) often think photo restoration and retouching is too expensive at $100, regardless of the extent of damage and time/skill required.
On age spots. When I first started into this business I went after every possible spot and scratch in a photo and even today I spend way too much time on some of them; I share your pride in a job well done. There needs to be a practical limit and that limit should be set by the marketplace. Doing restorations with the assumption that the photo will someday be blown up for the side of a bus is beyond the needs of most customers and if asked to pay for it they would decline. Many of the photos that come to us for restoration would not enlarge well to that size when new.
As you know customers have many reasons for having restorations completed. In many cases they are thrilled to have their relatives back. Some cases are tragic, such as the loss of a child, followed by serious damage to the most treasured photo of that child. These people don’t want a poster, they want peace of mind. They get a high quality restoration and print in my shop. My promise is to apply a creative and technical approach, with tenacity not found in a production shop and to treat photos as a part of the customer’s family history; restorations are handled as unique art, not rushed like a casual object.
One approach to pricing that I found on a website of one of my Linkedin groupies (Photo Restoration & Digital Alterations) is worth considering: the price increases with the planned enlargement. In other words, the customer determines how much fine detail they want restored at 400%. Sure, I work at that level for specific needs such as damaged eyes, but when doing the final spot check, I remind myself to back off to 100% or 200% depending on the size of the print ordered. If a customers is planning a really big enlargement, a high resolution scan is better than restoration at very high zoom rates, right? I haven’t implemented that pricing system, but I’m think about it.
Yours, in quality restorations.
On many levels I agree with you, however, I differ a little in my thinking when it comes to the limits of our work being set by the marketplace. I believe my limits are set by me, alone. Yes, I could do as the marketplace demands I do, by getting a certain type of damage on a certain type of photo done in a certain amount of time for a certain amount of money, but I – and this is my personal creed, I speak for no one else – is that I will do the job my perfectionism demands I do, no matter what. I will get every speck & spot off that I see because, at the end of the day, that’s my work and my reputation and if I’m the only one that sees how all those specks are gone, so be it. When I first started in digital restoration, I tried to play the market demands game, but it’s just not how I do my work. I will continue to do the very best I know how, no matter if a photo can and will be enlarged or not. Am I over the edge in the obsessive / compulsive arena? I guess I’ll have to be the first to step up and admit that, but that’s my damage and I’ve pretty much learned to live with it. Over time, as my reputation and expertise have grown, I’ve noticed people aren’t balking at the prices I charge, but then again, I’m determined not only to give my customers the best, but to make it affordable for them! In the end, i think we both win. Again, this is my experience and I realize I’m in the minority, but I’m okay with that.
Thanks again, Joe, Glenna and Jessica, for your input! We’re always so glad to hear from you!