The single most important lesson I’ve learned since then is that owning successful backgrounds in both art and business does not mean having to choose between two opposing ways of viewing the world. In fact, it’s proven to be an invaluable combination. Spectacular art, I’ve learned, IS great business when it comes to golf courses.

I have four basic tenets which guide every professional decision I make:

1.)    All golf course photography can be divided into just two groups:
           a.   Spectacular
           b.   Other
2.)    In today’s highly competitive golf world, only a spectacular photograph has any chance at all of capturing and holding a potential client’s attention long enough for the attendant marketing information to be absorbed. And if your advertising message is ignored, that golfer is very unlikely to show up on your tee sheet any time soon.
3.)     In today’s highly competitive golf world, then, any photography that falls into the second category is useless.
4.)     It’s never a good business practice to pay for useless assets.

In short, if your advertising photography doesn’t stand head and shoulders above the crowd, then you will be lost in that crowd and your advertising spending will be wasted. And spending more money while you’re lost in the crowd just means wasting more money.

So how do you change that? It’s simple, really. Treat photographers just like you treat any other vendor. In particular, make up your mind today that you will never again pay for photography unless the new photography you receive is significantly better than the photography you already have. Sounds radical? It shouldn’t. Think of it this way: if you traded in your old fleet of golf carts on a new fleet, and the new fleet that arrives is in worse condition than the one you are replacing, would you pay the cart supplier? Of course not. Then why would you pay a photographer who’s trying to replace your current photography with something no better (or worse)?

Holding photographers fully accountable for their results
Many photographers would like you to think that golf course photography is some mysterious -- almost magical -- state of mind which, on the best of days, will inspire the photographer to awesome artistic heights. Other days, though, the “magic” just won’t appear and the results – through no fault of the photographer – can only be expected to be average.

That’s bull. The truth is that photographers are always in full control of their own results.

There are four, and only four, attributes which separate a spectacular photograph from an average one:

  >    Spectacular light (or, at a minimum, the ability of a photographer to do spectacular things with less than spectacular light)
  >    Spectacular composition
  >    Spectacular timing
  >    Great (and appropriate) photography equipment

That’s it, and all four are totally under the control of the photographer.

  • >  If the light isn’t great, or if the photographer can’t do great things with the light they have, they shouldn’t shoot that day. Period. If you can’t create something special, then don’t create anything at all.
  • >  If the composition is poor, then the photographer was either incompetent, indifferent or just plain lazy.
  • >  If the timing of the photograph is poor, again the photographer was either incompetent, indifferent or lazy.
  • >  If the equipment was average (or worse), that’s no one’s fault but the photographer’s.

While the photographer has full control over the factors above, the course has almost no control over any of them if you’ve hired the photographer for their knowledge and experience, and if you are going to trust them to do their job well. (Really, if you’re going to dictate the location, composition and timing of every photograph, and if you know exactly what equipment to use and how to use it, and if you know great light when you see it and know how to use it, then why would you hire someone else?)

Clearly, then, a mediocre photograph is the result of a failure on the part of the photographer, not the course, and the photographer, not the course, should absorb the cost of that failure.

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