Still life photographer Mariano Pastor shoots product images in his studio for L’Oreal, Givenchy, Schick and Lancome.


He recently launched a website and business called Via U! where “smaller companies can get the same quality photography he creates for his Madison Ave. clients at a price affordable by the common man.”

Picture 1

The site is pretty slick and allows you to pick a background, then pick a composition (or even compose it yourself in a 3d layout modeler) then you ship him the product with some simple instructions and voila, download your photo the next day.

What’s it all cost? Nothing.

He shoots it for free and if you like the shot you pay $112 (half price introductory offer), for all rights.

I like the premise of serving an undeserved market (mom and pop need a killer shot for their local newspaper) and certainly product shoots at $250 a pop or less (at least editorially) is not unheard of. And certainly many companies have built in house studios for this very reason, but just selling images to everyone for a flat fee, regardless of the use seems like a bad deal for photography.

I emailed Mariano to ask him what happens now that L’Oreal says they’d like to pay $112 for a picture? He said “L’Oreal loves the price.” Natch.

When I asked him if he was worried about the backlash from other photographers for selling product photography based on the time it takes to make a picture not the usage he responded with:

How the business of commercial photography is changing is a subject that I considered a big deal while planning Via U!.

All in all what you have going now is what economists refer as “disruptive technologies”. The automobile for instance proved to be pretty disruptive for the horse and buggy industry. The digital camera and photoshop has made possible for a large number of people to achieve results previously unattainable. Digital distribution globalizes the market.

What you end up with is a tsunami of pictures that results in lowering prices. Wonderful for photo buyers, grim for photographers.

You may make the argument that Via U! makes it easier for our client’s to work by charging a flat fee and doing away with usage rights. And we do… no negotiations. That is nice.

However, our policies are also simply reacting to the forces unleashed by technology. Similarly Getty and Corbis are struggling to deal with microstock for the same reasons.

Can’t say I’m complete surprised by this. I know product photography was one of the categories hit hard early on when companies started doing the shots internally so maybe this is just the natural progression of a photographer competing for the bottom dollar there, except something doesn’t feel right to me. Doing this kind of thing for small companies seems like a smart play, delivering the same price to billion dollar companies seems rotten.

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  1. Product photography is on its last legs. This is bottom feeding for the remaining dregs. It REALLY is going CGI and what isn’t going that way will be shot in-house, at least some elements. When it comes to product photography, other than someone like Thomas Card (and then even still) it’s mostly in the hands of retouchers. There will still be a market for the top top, but like everything photography related in the last 10 years, it’s only the very high end that really get paid anymore – the bottom and middle are long gone.

    Mariano can do what he likes, but I can’t imagine that he’s thrilled with his new business model, or will be soon. It’s like a budding fashion photographer that dreams “I want to shoot 1000s of Look Books and seamless catalogue stuff for the internet when I grow up”. I think not.

  2. I would take issue with the use of the concepts ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in this context. The simple fact is that the market price for a service depends almost entirely on the relationship between the supply of and the demand for that service. As Mariano points out, the advent of new technology is simply driving up the supply, at a much more rapid pace than the demand (internet merchants and online catalogs have driven the demand up *some*). It is not as if the larger corporations are somehow *responsible* for the dramatic increase in supply.

    It is clear that the product photographer is becoming an endangered species. The question that remains for me, particularly as I am an agent of photographic talent, is whether the technology will render even the most *creative* of shooters obsolete. I’d appreciate your comments on that question.

  3. The service he is providing through ViaU is a commodity and priced as such. There’s a limited number of setups, and the customer is making the creative decisions, such as they are. Given that there’s a market for this type of photography this is an ideal means of serving it, as it isolates the commodity aspect of studio photography.

    Every one of these photos is an assembly line result, where a given lighting setup and background will produce the desired result. Very easy to replicate by anyone with the necessary technical skills and equipment. And by charging the cost plus tiny profit, the photographer helps to defray overhead with a basic product.

    But when the customer wants something more, then they’ll have to realize that what they want is the individual creative skills of the photographer. If the photographer is truly unique in their ability, then he/she can charge whatever the market bears.

    Holding out against the commodization of a product is a fool’s errand. But embracing it and using it to highlight your true value is brilliant. I’m guessing this will become much more common, and rightfully so.

  4. We live in a time of change in the world of photography and every photographer knows this.

    I suppose that vocational photographers around the globe are going to struggle with these changes for quite some time.

    Perhaps the answer is as simple as: Shoot what you like and find a way to charge enough to make a living.

  5. Never underestimate the power of greed to obliterate creative thought, destroy careers, and compromise an entire industry.

    John Welzenbach created a very similar business plan in Chicago 20 years ago albeit with out the web interaction. He offered very nice formatted product pictures at a very reasonable price and quick turnaround. While John did well with the program it had little if any effect upon those who actually thought about what they were doing and charged accordingly. John knew this and also supplied wonderful pictures to those who wanted more.

    There is an overwhelming amount of pictures out there at give away prices. These will suffice for many…great as this cannibalistic behavior will make room for those who are serious about their work. There simply are too many people calling themselves professional photographers or photographic artists.

    Have I said it’s all about content?

  6. The funny thing is, his larger commercial clients probably get a discount on that price because they buy in bulk!

    • Also, Mariano can just eBay all the crap that people send him. Bonus.

      • @Mason,

        nope, he sends back the stuff for FREE ::loco::

  7. I really dig his story. Check it out:

    “When was the last time a photographer showed you something really new?
    Via U!™ is about innovation. It’s about making the way you direct and buy photography simpler. It’s about giving you more creative control. Above all Via U! is about quality and integrity. About stripping away extravagances and asking you to pay only for real services. The truth is that great photography doesn’t really have to cost that much. It’s a simple idea, but also a big idea.
    Simple enough, that is, to create your layout online and escape all negotiations. You know what you’ll get before you start. Great original photography, to use as you wish, at an affordable price. After twenty-five years of shooting for Madison Ave. I believe Via U! is my most creative accomplishment.”

    He’s showing his clients something new?
    Hi clients get more creative control?
    It’s about quality and integrity?


    Sounds to me like he has hit a creative roadblock himself and can’t manage to compete with the big boys.

    I like where he says Via U! is his “most creative accomplishment.” Nuff said.

  8. Honestly I think this really takes the craft and creativity out of the profession, and makes it instamatic. I guess for some people that’s fine, but I enjoy doing what I do and get great satisfaction from it. I’m not sure he can say the same.

  9. this kinda makes me want to puke. it is the the same as the interior design in a box, rather than hiring a designer and working with a professional. you can also get a logo online for $25, but it sucks.

    LOVE the demand for cookie cutter production like stuff in our society. i wish we would go through a revolution in industry that goes back to the roots of talented professionals, similar to the interest in saving the environment and being ‘eco’. i think it has started in the food industry but has not hit the mass market.

    i know this will set off lots of fires, but whatever.

    • @An Art Director, I agree 100%.

      • @Donnar Party,

        In the interior design metaphor, this site is more like the furniture manufacturer’s web site the interior designer orders from.

        I’d assume that if you want the furniture manufacturer to perform the interior design that would be an additional service and charge. Likely most would refer you to an interior designer.

        This is simply separation of a photographic product and creative services.

        In other industries this is the difference between blue collar workers who build the product and white collar professionals who create or design the products.

        He is simply separating the product from the creative service.

        • @Mike,

          I agree with you 100%. In it’s infancy, photography was just a means for documenting life. Artists made it interesting but that demand is not there in this particular market.

          Art Directors get bent over stories like this, because we fight for so long to get to the position of making the decisions, only to find out, that’s not the case. Business professionals, in any industry, have always wanted to save money, get quick results and have always cared least about quality. As you stated, “He is simply separating the product from the creative service.” Well put! Creativity is not a factor in this portion of Mariano’s work. His art is separate from his work now, and I imagine he’s quite relieved by this. Awesome!

  10. Sometimes it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel –Just more tunnel.

    There is more demand and more venues for commercial uses of photography right now than there ever was before.

    At the same time, what were once arcane and very technical processes are now highly mechanized and automated. And that coincides with more people doing a good enough job of executing the technical side of photography to satisfy 98% of the potential clients for one’s services.

    If you want to survive as a photographer figure what what is unique. Not just about you, and how you do it, but also about what is in front of your camera.

    Four things missed so far in the discussion of Mr. Pastor’s venture. Byy pricing and marketing the way he has:

    1) He’s combined the Olan Mills (or any other portrait studio chain) where the client chooses the background etc. approach to the work with a smart way to generate microstock sellable work (no prop expenses).

    2) He appears to have largely taken the expensive side of selling out of the equation.

    3) How many assistants does he have working for him that are actually doing the shooting?

    4) He’s staying busy.

    Photography isn’t a commodity (although photographs are). It is a service.

  11. The concept is not new, just the means of delivery. I shot jewelry for a number of years and the reason I got the work is that my client had been using a cookie cutter catalog outfit and he wanted to cut out middle man. There have always been product photography mills out there.

    Prepackaged creativity will run it’s course. Eventually the image buyer catches on that his/her product is rendered no differently than the competitor and the cycle begins anew.

    • @Paul O’Mara,

      Very good point. If I may add; the barrier to entry to be a product photography mill has become much, much lower.

    • @Paul O’Mara,

      Good point. Instead of photo folks getting bent out of shape over the ‘reality’ of our industry today, we should be more accepting and move on. The quicker we do this, the quicker we can get back to where we were. Photography needs to suck for awhile before it can be cool again. It won’t take as long as people fear. Look at the music industry. Yes, there is still a lot of crap on the radio and all over the front page of iTunes but, if you know how to dig, and where to look…. wow! music is great again! Photography, TV and cinema are sure to follow.

  12. Tell me this is an April Fools Gag.


  13. APE wrote: “Doing this kind of thing for small companies seems like a smart play, delivering the same price to billion dollar companies seems rotten.”

    One question: Does that mean it would be OK for the corner gas station to charge you a different price per gallon based on your annual income?

    All photography is not created equal, and trying to force basic product photography into the same box aswhat someone like, say, Dan Winters produces is pointless.

    • @Scott Hargis,
      It didn’t seem that basic to me besides the fact he’s been doing it for 20 years and it’s easy for him. Otherwise, I’ve paid a lot more for a lot worse.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        It seems then that he is raising the bar for basic product photography.

        What this site does not provide is custom creative service. I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought put a food processor under a bridge.

        This custom creative service is not included in the $250 price.

    • @Scott Hargis,

      “One question: Does that mean it would be OK for the corner gas station to charge you a different price per gallon based on your annual income?”

      The above is an Apples & Oranges argument.
      The small company will use much less media space than Loreal. If Loreal uses WW media space they can and will pay for it. Licensing images is about eyeball count!!! The small company can not afford the cost of that media or the cost of custom art production and creation.

  14. ‘Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality.’ George Santayana

    • @schafrick,

      That’s a keeper!

  15. To be clear, he is giving the client All Rights, but he is also retaining Usage Rights as well, for him to sell the image as stock, to other clients? Do you think the Clients know this? Even at $224 and All Rights, you’d be amazed how some people can get bent out of shape and possessive, if somone else is using “their picture”.

    Are you also saying that he’s now charging the large commercial clients the same $224? And for All Rights? Similar to the lime image at the top? Please tell me no.

  16. There’s another side to the “automobile put the buggy makers out of business” example that is always used when describing the current economical state of the photography business.

    In the late 1800’s, a person could expect to spend about a month’s salary on a good custom built saddle. Today, that same saddle will start out at about $4000, go up from there, and you’ll wait a year to get it.

    Gold was $21 an ounce in 1890, $1200 today. So basically your spending about the same three to four ounces of gold for your saddle in either era.

    Now, of course you can go to your local livestock supple store and buy a mass produced saddle for about 1/4 of what you would for your custom saddle, but it won’t fit either you or your horse properly, and it will fall apart pretty quickly.

    Whether we’re talking about tack or photos, there’s always the cheap option, and there’s a place for that. If you have a small business, this site could be just the thing for you. But, if L’Oreal chooses to have their products look exactly like everyone else’s, I think they’ll pay for it in the market place.

    Great photography is a luxury.

    People buy L’Oreal for something more than just the quality of their product. Whatever that something is, it must be reflected in the photography they use to market their goods. You’re not going to get that from a service like ViaU! or Olan Mills.

    Same can be said for the editorial side. You have to offer consumers more than what they can get by just surfing the Getty or Corbis site. An automated slideshow generated by an AOL bot, is not the answer to the current problems faced by in the magazine world.

    The town where we live happens to have a buggy maker. He owns at least three commercial buildings on main street. I doubt too many of us could afford one of his buggies. Plus, he’s doing something, a real art and craft, that he appears to enjoy very much.

    About a century ago, Cadillac switched to automobiles instead of buggies, and it worked out pretty well, which is great, but their not making buggies anymore.

    Why’d you pick up a camera in the first place? If it was just to make money, you probably could have chosen a better profession.

    I wish him much success and happiness (which I’m sure he’ll have, at least until a service comes along priced twenty dollars less) but I would suggest that Mariano Pastor isn’t making pictures anymore.

    • @Kenneth Jarecke,
      This is a brilliantly written, original take on all of this.

  17. Carl’s correct, John did a place called cheap shots, or something like that and i think it worked for a while when the market was down. Later on it becomes just that, cheap shots.

    This stuff has come and gone through every down turn in the economy and will also disappear when the economy improves.

    Unfortunately most forecast are for this to happen in 2013.

    For a hundred bucks you can’t offer full service, it’s just not possible and honestly you can’t keep going back and making client changes,/requests for free and shooting soccer balls on shitty backgrounds is nothing anyone aspires to.

    The only answer to this, or anything for that matter is to offer more in style, service and uniqueness.

    It usually means to do more than survive, but thrive, you have to become more complete.

    In other words up your game.

    Photographer’s are strange. When things are slow this is the time you should be your busiest, shooting new work, selling to new clients, moving forward.

    This type of stuff is just moving backwards and in this business even standing still gets your passed by, going backwards . . . that’s not a viable business plan.

    It’ll pass, it always does.



  18. Four or five years ago, I was up to my eyebrows shooting editorial product photography for print. Then came the gutting of print budgets and the rise of unpaid interns churning out marginally acceptable images with their point-and-shoot cameras. Product photography, except at the very rarified levels found in some advertising campaigns, is no longer a viable sub-set of the photographic profession.

    And perhaps even at those higher levels, as Mariano Pastor’s assembly-line product photography Web venture might indicate, there probably isn’t enough work to go around.

    When I was scrambling to replace rivulets of my lost revenue stream, I sketched out a design very similar to Pastor’s “Viq Q” concept. My idea involved a Web site for art directors, with assorted check boxes for instant ordering of backgrounds, lighting styles, shadows and silos, clipping paths, and perhaps a special effect or two. “It will make it so simple to assign product photography,” I’d enthuse to art directors.

    The more I worked on the concept, the less I liked it. “Similar to making Dunkin’ Donuts,” pointed out one of my wiser friends. The site probably could have generated revenue, but it would have been a soulless exercise.

    Now, I shoot things I’m enthusiastic about, including images for the so-called “fine art” circuit. I also do some writing and teaching. The bucks are not nearly as big, but there is more satisfaction.

    As great as creating images can be, I’d suggest to any of my kids that they fully understand the perils and pain involved before setting out on a career in photography.

  19. There are a lot of really bad product shots out there — particularly by smaller companies who can’t afford even a semi-pro photographer. I see the potential appeal of this service — you get a passable product shot at a low price.

    If you have a product of monetary value, however, the round-trip shipping/insurance might wind up costing more than the actual image. That’s kind of strange. And the range of creative options is very limited. You get a vanilla product shot, that’s about it. It sounds like this guy has a preconfigured lighting set up and a green screen. If that’s all you need/want, it might be an okay deal.

    It will be interesting to see how much business this guy actually gets. In a way, I think this sort of product offering is actually good for professional photographers. It makes it easier to differentiate what you do vs. the economy solution.

    Every now and then you see situations where two competing companies grab the same stock photo and publish strikingly similar ads. I can see the same sort of thing happening with this service as well — your competitor’s product shot looks identical to yours (it would be really funny if two competing companies chose that table background).

    Bottom line, I’m not sure that many of us are chasing the $112 product shot market. It probably creates a market opportunity for potential clients who go this route, then decide they want to do something a little more unique.

  20. I think it’s important to note that he’s including return shipping in the price, (“We will return your product free of charge.”), . I wonder what happens if someone sends him a pair of 60 lb. dumbbells…

  21. interesting, but very old news to me.. the studio i worked for has been doing “all rights included” stilllife photography for more than 15 years. and they keep growing and growing ever since. (running gag in-house: “hopefully we will have all the backlog cleared once the crisis is over.”)

    several reasons why this is fair and works: product photography has an inherent best-before date, because new stuff keeps coming all the time. then it’s hasslefree for the studio, they get paid for the work and dont have to keep track of all the violations. most product photography is a craft, and who would pay a carpenter depending on the usage of the table he built?
    ever since photography school i have always tried to stay clear of any usage-rights photography, because in a lot of cases it’s just a rip-off. is any photographer paying royalties for his camera, because he plans to make money with it? your ISP? phone-company? they all deliver goods that allow you to make money from it, and they never ask how much. they provide a service, you use it.
    same with product photography.
    negotiate the quality, the type of work that goes into it, etc, than name a price.

    • @grubernd,

      The primary advantage in retaining rights to product photography are for licensing media usage. Why should a little company pay the same usage rights for local town advertising as a transnational company pays for marketing worldwide?

      The media space for the small company might be a few thousand dollars, while the media space internationally tens of millions of dollars. Licensing is a flexible model which allows a fair value to companies large and small. Licensing images is part of an intelligent business model.

      • @Bob, licensing is the business model when it comes to prefabricated images (stock, story-journalism, etc) but it is not the right thing for “work for hire”. at least in my world.

        • @grubernd,

          “work for hire”???!
          Are they paying for your healthcare, your vacation, your pension, any profit sharing at this “work for hire” position?

          “Work for hire” is digging ditches!
          In your same market, I’m willing to bet another photographer is licensing images made over a 3 month period and being paid more than your “work for hire” pays over the entire year or more.

          • @Bob, selling a product at a certain price should cover all costs and provide a profit. in photography some things can be very easily calculated while others are highly based on perception.

            • @grubernd, I’m not reading coherency from you. But as you have responded to two of my posts, I’ll make the assumption you are still of the mind that licensing isn’t for most applications of commercial photography.

              It does not matter whether you call your work “art” or “craft”. It is the sum of your time, talent, and resources. Learn to “perceive” the value your work provides to both yourself and your client. When I first went ‘professional’ I had a hard time looking at some basic documentary images as something to retain artist rights too as well. That changed.

              Here’s an example of how and why creative licensing works well for all parties.

              I shot a piece for a trade magazine earlier in the decade. It was a small medical lab/institute. For a day of shooting (film) & lighting on location my creative fee was under $2K. When the piece was published, I was contacted by both the primary doctors of the facility, a third doctor teaching there, the architect of the lab, and three equipment suppliers.

              They all wanted to use images for their various needs (web, marketing, other trade editorial). I also used the images (which I retained the rights) to market to other people in these industries. $2k wasn’t much for the work we put in. But the residual sales equaled another $10K+. Had I just given the publisher the rights and walked off with my *day of pay*, they would have distributed the images (possibly licensing the images themselves), and I would have left a lot of money on the table.

              These images represented value to each of these clients. Why should (or would) they not pay for that value. Of course it was not a one size fits all licensing scheme. Each license was tailored to each clients media needs. That way a small doctor did not pay the same as a big equipment manufacturer. I have also had four clients all participate in a shoot, sharing my production costs and creative fee. Then each client licensed the resulting images at different rates based on their own needs. This is a win for all.
              None of these images would be mistaken for art. They are commercial communication. A valued craft.

  22. 12 background choices, probably all in place 24/7.
    $112 for ~5 minutes shooting, ~5 minutes other….?
    = ~$650./hr during slow times
    He will get repeat business, multiple objects per image, etc.
    Hey, there’s routine all the time, even in creative workflows.

    Who wants the 10 concepts for $1K gig?
    (against blue sky, clouds $20 each)

  23. The business model for Mariano looks much like the race to the bottom we have been experiencing for awhile. The top sectors are getting narrower while the bottom is getting larger. The bottom is the bottom = just making a living, or possibly going under for many. What has by and large disappeared is the middle. This isn’t just the middle class of photography, it’s the middle in our consumer society.

    Photographers aren’t the only ones suffering. America is hitting the bottom – this is a vicious cycle. Buying cheap photography so you can almost compete (marketing) with the other guy selling the same cheap asian made goods is not a *choice* for many smaller business owners. Walmart and other big box stores are breathing down the necks of many smaller companies. American’s are buying this cheap crap because they are hurting, and in some cases don’t know any better. Sure it’s not like being on the bottom in Africa, but it is the lower end of America.

    What is going to happen when Chinese & Indian studios start offering American & European clients the same thing as Mariano – for a third the price? Does Mariano really prefer charging low ticket high volume over high ticket low volume? Is he going to enjoy dealing with the public at large for much less ticket? He’s a talented photographer. If he’s doing this, it probably isn’t because he *wants* to be sleeping in a cot in the studio, and working 80 hours a week.

    Meanwhile we live in a creative space (of mind) were almost all independent film studios have been bought up by large media companies that mostly continue to regurgitate the same movie schtick (not similar!, but remakes, sequel III, blah…..), and the public buys it!

    A creative space where, “of the 13 million songs for sale online last year, 10 million never got a single buyer and 80 percent of all revenue came from about 52,000 songs. That’s less than one percent of the songs”

    Where the (supposedly creative) fashion industry churns out the same vapid, self absorbed sheep-poop year after year after….

    Welcome to good enough! Homogenization is selling too – just at low to nada.

    Just for some balance to this rant, there is plenty of creativity around today.
    It’s online, it’s on TV, it’s in smaller places/spaces. Mostly it is not sustaining itself financially.

    • @Bob, a lot of photography is seen and presented as artsy stuff while it is a regular craft like carpenting or cooking. to be great you need the art in your blood, but you can just as well be pretty good, make a decent living and be a respected craftsman.

      most people cook, but only some are chefs, and only a few will ever rise to world fame. same rules apply to photography.

      it just isnt that way in the perception of most people. why? because ages of artsy pricey fancy business models have shifted the perception that photography is not payable by any regular small to middle sized companies, but those are the backbone of any decent economy. and if they think that photography is too expensive, then they wont buy it, but just ask their uncle with a camera to do it. which again shifts the perception to “photography doesnt cost a thing”. drat. first it’s too expensive, next moment it’s too cheap. bummer.

      we need to go back to sustainable business models that work for all participants. just insisting on “it’s been that way forever” is no good.

  24. This seems quite clever. maybe I’m missing something.

    Instead of simply cutting his prices or offering discounts to fill his calendar — something many photographers are doing, and will feel the very harsh effects of when they try to raise their prices as they get back in the green — he’s offering a severely limited service at the discount price, and still doing his high-profile work at high-profile prices.

    Some of these clients will never move up his pricing ladder; fine, they never would have otherwise so he’s making extra money from them. A few will want more options and will later opt for his full service, and he’s just converted someone who was happy with “good enough” into a serious client.

    As for rights, this isn’t fine art. It’s product photography. What is he losing by giving away the rights? What, is Dan & Sheryl’s Cookies in Peoria going to license a photo of Marcia & Peter’s Cookies from Schenectady? Is he going to sell images of branded products as stock? The license is largely useless to him.

    • @B, exactly.
      and i am quite sure he still has a “resale prohibited” clause on the invoices, so his images dont end up in (micro)stock libs or somewhere else.

  25. Personally, I think it takes a fair amount of creativity to find an income flow to get through one of the worst economic eras of our country. It provides a very basic service nothing more. Is he cutting his pricing, I don’t think so, he knows what the bottom line. He is probable keeping his pricing close to what his time costs for doing a very simple shot. That’s what the consumer gets.

    Loreal wants more and they pay more. He has added a line to his business model that wasn’t really necessary until this year. Will it stay around when there is an up turn in the free flow of money, he only knows, maybe he’ll keep it, turn it over to an assistant.

    Cudo’s to creativity, I bet there are a lot photographers out there wondering how to effectively fill the calendar without giving the farm away.

  26. I was working at a major magazine in 2007 when we brought in-house all product photography. Using the same basic set up he has, I frequently shot 30-40 images in a three or four hour session. The cost savings to the magazine over a year was in the six figures.

    The truth is, you can shoot tethered and go from the product in your hand to a fully prepped print ready siloed file with three dimensional transparent shadows in minutes if you know what you are doing and have a decent lighting set up and digital workflow in place. If he isn’t going to do this, someone else is because the work simply doesn’t justify the high prices.

    My money says that most of that Loreal ad was created in post and could have been put together from mostly stock photos anyway. If Loreal could create that ad from photos they bought for a few hundred dollars, why wouldn’t they?

    • I should add that the components of the Loreal ad that fit into the workflow that Mario will need to churn out the work-a-day images are the bottle and the dripping brush. The hand is a bit of a different story.

      High end ad clients likely will want to be on site for the shoot, shoot a lot with miniscule changes, refine the image as the shoot progresses and walk away with multiple files to work from. That is a service that will still be expensive by comparison.

    • @Another A,

      “was working” there?
      Is the publication still doing well?

      Have you ever wondered why a corporate board of directors will hire a CEO (paying a fortune), who does not make any money for the corp, and in fact may put the corp in the red? In fact they may continue to keep the CEO, with losses to the corporation. The reason is fear and risk. While the CEO may (or may not) be making poor management decisions, it could be a lot worse.

      If an editorial publication has to spend 6 figures a year on content, that is not necessarily a losing proposition. It could be far worse if they cut costs -hire a cheap solution- and then lose readers and advertisers. The publication could have gone even cheaper with text instead of images if lowest cost was the primary focus. When editorial publications cut out creative content, they may no longer have a product people wish to consume.

      Same with Loreal. The price paid for first rate images is nothing compared the the media space budgets and the risk to the brand of not going with the best available.

  27. Why not have a photo booth vending machine set up in malls? A client could bring in the product, place it in the booth and select different backgrounds to be rear projected behind the product. Pop in the appropriate number of quarters and in three minutes, viola! – a DVD with your shot pops out.

    • @Andy Ptak, It’s only logical that eventually there will be a product photo booth in the corner of Kinko’s to produce adequate images on demand, not too much differently than you describe.

      • @Another A, Obviously I was being sarcastic, but after I finished I looked at the text and went hmmmmm. I think the Kinko’s idea is just around the corner – you should speak to them before it’s too late!

      • @Bob,

        Oh shit, it’s come to this?

        Maybe it’s time to retire and go and work at Walmart. What’s the difference?

  28. How is what he is doing that much different from what you do?
    You both offer a service that is basically a template that be customized by the customer and you both offer that service at a lower price than going the bespoke route. Your web template site seems to be very successful.
    Am I missing something?

  29. I had an acquaintance say to me the other day that all that was necessary to be a photographer these days is good taste. Via U! proves him wrong.

    Back in the early 90’s when most of us had to go to service bureaus with our syquest cartridges to work in photoshop without layers or history, the world was abuzz with desktop publishing. Who needs a printer or a designer? Quark and and a Macintosh and anyone can design their own collateral. Albeit that collateral used 5 different fonts and had no cogency. The desktop publishing revolution managed to put a lot of printers and a fair amount of designers out of work. Those who upped their game stayed in it so that when clients realized that Uncle Morty was not a graphic designer they had someone to go back to. Printers left the city but are still around though not in the volume they once were.
    The digital imaging revolution killed the lab business. In the old photo ghetto one could swing a dead cat and hit a lab. Now it is a niche business. Is this is what is to become of photography? The NYTimes ran an article in the media and advertising section about the shrinking path available to photographers in this digital recessionary stock agency era.

    I am not going to get all grumpy and lament that things just aren’t what they used to be. That is a given. That is life. Thank you Peter Schafrick for your comment – it is spot on. The more one can differentiate one’s self from everyone else with a subscription to and a 5D the better. The quality of the work has nothing to do with the tools – it is the concept behind it. Of course, it has to be technically flawless as well but if you haven’t got ideas in this marketplace it is time to seek a different one.

  30. As David Ogilvy said, (and I’m paraphrasing here…):

    If you have an idea, an idiot can push the button. If you don’t have an idea, Irving Penn can’t save you.



  31. so what does the conde nast/hearst/time digital studio pay for a 10 shot day?

    ….this guy is getting 2500….no object over 18″, nothing that requires styling like clothing…

    If he has a 20 shot day, etc. and so on.

    how many still life studio photographers do you know who are double and triple booking days just to gang up on fees and make it worthwhile?

    …and they are doing much better and more creative work for less than this guy is charging to shoot crap one way on a bg no art direction required.

    So now who is dragging the industry down?

    anyway, the real question is volume-what kind of volume is he doing? And can he scale it?

    btw, catalogue pays less for this AND they need clipping paths.

  32. This is sooo timely! I was just in a meeting yesterday about shooting fountains for a construction company when the guy said to me,
    “because this is going on the web we don’t need your 100%(quality is what he’s referring to), your 90% is like 100% to us.”
    “What the ^%&*))^??? is he talking about?” I’m thinking in my head, I always do 100%!
    He’s talking costs! He doesn’t want me to spend the time to do my best because he’d like to get more things shot!

    EVERYONE IS ON THE TIGHTEST OF BUDGETS THESE DAYS -wake up people and smell the Folgers because most can’t afford the Starbucks!

    Mariano is just giving people the 90% they can afford!

    I may copy his effort!

  33. And before long, we’ll have doctors and others in the world of medicine, building websites that ask you to fill in all of your symptoms, and the prescription will be mailed the next day.

  34. “And before long, we’ll have doctors and others in the world of medicine, building websites that ask you to fill in all of your symptoms, and the prescription will be mailed the next day.”

    Two points.

    Medical malpractice liability prevents this to some degree and the enormous popularity of health-oriented websites demonstrates that this has already happened.

    The largest barrier to sensible ‘automatic’ medical diagnosis is that the symptoms might be similar in many diseases but the ability to distinguish all the signs and their importance is lacking in most people. Diagnosis is a combination of sign and symptom detection, access to a database of facts and the ability to interpolate the signs and symptoms.

    (Most EKG reading is done automatically by computer these days- a good example of a relatively closed diagnostic system.)

  35. You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man. ~Frederick Douglass

  36. I say we all start sending over stainless steel, highly reflective products to Mr. Pastor to photograph, and slow his “assembly-line” photography business to a crawl. Thanks for making it more difficult for those who rely on photography to support their families.

    I sure hope my contribution to this web page doesn’t create more business for Via U; however it just might. Had to vent, though.

  37. I’m surprised at the amount of coherent and reasoned thought in the comments on this post. Perhaps “the sky is falling” crowd are on spring break?

    Everything is being automated. Not just photography, everything. The consumer gets to choose: mass produced, good enough, and dirt cheap. Or custom made, of sublime quality, and extremely expensive. There is no middle ground left.

    I think the only types of photography that won’t be killed by microstock, cgi and your uncle Lenny are the genres that require people as subjects. Celebrity photography, editorial, portrait and weddings, that sort of thing. People are unique, and if you need a photo of that particular person, stock or cgi won’t do.

    Product photography, landscape photography, wildlife photography, architectural…the machines will take all this over.

    Thank god I shoot people! :)

    P.S. The fact that a bride can hire a portable photo booth for her wedding reception means that even people shooters have to watch their margins and marketing.

    • @matt haines,
      “P.S. The fact that a bride can hire a portable photo booth for her wedding reception means that even people shooters have to watch their margins and marketing.”

      We offer BOTH wedding and photobooth services as a part of market differentiation. Weddings are hectic, chaotic, and high stress. The booth mostly runs itself and requires less than one hour of post-processing for a four-hour event.. each serves a completely different purpose as can be seen at one of our recent weddings: scroll to the bottom for the booth slide show.

      I see Pastor’s site as something similar – market segmentation like any other major brand. there’s something to be said for ‘passive’ automated income streams…

  38. Sad and lame. He thinks it is easy because he has been doing it for so long and can do it in his sleep. He does everyone a disservice by telling the “client” that their grandson could do their job with a point and shoot. Oh wait, he is going to give it away. Cool they even save the long distance charges from calling the grandson.

  39. Mariano is turning photography into an IKEA type of shop.More power to him. He has another advantage. He will not waste any time negociating most of the fees . Mass consumption at its finest.he is desentizing potential customers about the value of fine craft and the creative process.

    An analogous comment now because while the complaints are legitimate at the same time this is possibly the worst case of the kettle calling the pot black. Let me explain.

    I was working as php , html programmer back in the day,I was a skilled action script ( flash ) programmer also. By 2005 there was tons of ready-made web sites ( some of you photographers downloaded those for free ).A few small tweaks and Ta- Daaaa !!!!!.

    If you click through some of the links on here.You will notice that a lot of photographer use ready-made web sites or wordpress as a backend .Why buy a cow when you can get milk for free .

    The Japanese will invent electric robots photographer assistants . I’m just saying.

  40. Mariano is clearly a genius. He realizes that little bits of money add up to a whole lot. I’ve seen his work and it’s high quality–always! He’s filling a need. Good for him! And good for the clients who are smart enough to recognize a great deal. That, in itself, requires vision.
    Lisa Haber

  41. I wonder just how well this will do. I was thinking about doing something like this in Australia a couple of years ago but decided people looking for a cheap job would still be too tight. In the States of course you have a lot more people to service.

    Compared to full blown adland this is very very cheap. Compared do DIY its still pretty expensive.

    Mind you, the smart ones know that on the web, it’s the pictures that sell the product. The better the shots the better the sales, assuming they can find your site; but that’s another thing again.

  42. The bottom line, despite the fact that this is not good news for product photographers, is that this guy is way ahead of the curve. I think most photographers who hate what this represents, would have done it in a minute if they had thought of it first.

  43. Let’s face it , all of us knew all along that anyone with a camera could take pictures. This is just another reality check about what we should have majored in twenty years ago when we decided to make our hobby our career
    instead of going into something a bit more secure.
    Technology gave access to virtually anyone who has an eye ball.
    On the level of supply and demand, the shift went from a fairly ballanced playing field to a totally lopsidded paradigm where demand fell drastically with the closing down of retail corporations, and a huge surge in camera
    abilities. Canon seemes to be puttinmg out a new camera every month now, allowing access to thousands of more people who still think that photography is a career choice.
    Party is over guys. If you love it, go down with the ship. But don’t expect any saving grave out there, because the fact is technology will make every aspect of this profession accessable to a point where the only thing that you can shoot that will be unique will be a timer shot of your suicide.

    • Well that pretty much says everything I’ve been feelinmg the past three years. Brutal, but true.

  44. i have three words for all you naysayers….blah, blah, blah.

    having worked directly with him for years as an art director representing high end clients with very particular upmarket needs i can tell you he is a triple threat. not only is he the consummate professional he consistently produces an amazing “product” and with this very user friendly and smashingly designed site does it for the right price!

    what isn’t to love?

    • @david john basque, It’s like belching after a good meal. Maybe that is fine in some circles, but it will alienate others.

      The real thing here is quantity, or volume. Emerging photographers will rarely have that volume. So if they try to match the prices at the top, without his volume, then they will never truly emerge and move on. I suppose it could be argued there are simply too many photographers, but much like belching in a nice restaurant, this is an F’d up way to clear the room.

      I don’t rely upon volume, and I put quite a bit of time into each production before and after a shoot. The organization and production aspects of what I do means I might be able to do 20 shoots a year. I don’t treat photography like a commodity, and I don’t think anyone else should either.

      Great for him if he can make a living from this, but understand that he is pushing a business model that will not generate new talent and new emerging photographers. If the ADs and CDs of the world just want low prices from high volume shooters, then they should accept a conformity in the results, because that is what happens when competition is quashed. Those who want photographers to remain a viable and sustainable creative profession, who want talented individuals with fresh ideas, will find a way to be fair to creative professionals while allowing plenty of room for profits.

    • @david john basque,

      I get the feeling the price would be even better if he paid the client for the opportunity, then came over took out your trash, did the windows, and mowed the lawn ‘;P

      Just think with HiSpeed internet (and culture) we will soon be able to hire ADs in Bangalore for $14./day…. on spec!

  45. I’m beginning to feel like a fool as most veteran photographers might in these rapidly changing times. However, that is when the greatest ideas in history were born. They cam from the necessity to survive.

  46. I think the idea is brilliant; well tuned with current reality, many people will benefit from this pioneering approach, well suited with the times. Congratulations for coming up with such a agreat and innovative idea, wishing you successfult and profitable results.

  47. I think the idea is brilliant; well tuned with current reality. Many people will benefit from this pioneering approach, well suited with the times.
    Congratulations for coming up with such a great and innovative idea, wishing you a successful business and profitable results.

  48. Many people here are missing the point—some willfully, because who wants to acknowledge that their comfortable way of life is gone forever?

    Why should photography be any different than any other business offering a product or service? The price structure of the past—before cataclysmic technological change overwhelmed the industry—should be sustained just because, well, that’s the way we always did it? Nonsense.

    As someone else here said, the basic problem is supply. Supply has exploded due to the digital tsunami; truly, “good enough” has been more than enough for a long time, but even GE was in scarce supply when it was much tougher to attain with older technology.

    Now, “good enough” is just about brainless, and there are orders of magnitude more GE shooters (or shots) than before. Presto, explosively increased supply with demand that, if it’s increased, hasn’t come close to overwhelming supply. The result is inevitable.

    Carrying on ad nauseam about how things “used” to be, or “should” be, is a waste of time. Mariano is to be congratulated on figuring out how to meeet a market demand and make a profit, or at least break even, while offering a higher-end product for those who want it.

  49. […] assault on fees. But I also can’t insist that the client shoot every image. If shooters like Mariano Pastor are offering product shots to own for $250 and my client finds out about it, there’s only so […]

  50. It’s now a long time since this idea was hatched. I wonder how it’s panning out for him? His Facebook page hasn’t been updated in a very long time

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