How NOT to run your business. The Majestic Theatre:

Image from Despair INC. Their funny people.

by Gavin Seim: How often have you walked from of a business, annoyed at the lack of service? Businesses close everyday because people didn’t care enough to please. No matter what you sell, you need to give customers a happy experience. As photographers this is especially true. We’re selling quality and an experience, not a piece of paper. Similar in many ways to a movie theater, so today I’m using them as an example.

Last night I went to a theater called the Majestic in Yakima WA. Yep, I’m naming names. This is one of the worst Theaters in Washington because they don’t care. Poor management and inexperienced kids run the show. This “could” be a really nice theater, but you can almost feel the chilling lack of interest the moment you walk thru the door.

I went to see UP with family (fun movie by the way). The last show of the evening started and about half way thru I went to grab snacks. I was met by dimmed lights and told by a group of kids around sixteen that they were closing and cleaning so they could go home. Questioning this, I was informed that the owners make the decision. Then one young employee proceeded to make snotty remarks saying she likes the way they do it just fine and that they have lives too! Not kidding.


What is this about? It’s about service. Yakima theaters are owned by the same people and no competition means even less incentive. This theater, like some you’ve probably visited yourself has lost it’s vision of service. In a down industry becoming less and less needed, due to home theaters, big screens and great sound, you’d think theaters would try to stand out. Instead many cut expenses, lower quality and raise prices.

As photographers we’re selling something not required for survival. We’re not unlike movie theaters. Nearly everyone has a digital camera and can take simple portraits. Juts like big screen TV’s seem to be killing the theater industry and the only reason they make it is because they get the movies before we can buy or rent then. Imagine your business hanging by the thread of Hollywood execs who decide the release schedule of their films.

The reality however is it’s their own fault. Just like it’s the fault of photographer going out of business because of people with digital cameras. Blaming business failure on home theaters, or digital cameras, or photo booths is a copout to avoid the real problem of  not giving clients a great enough experience to make it worth their while. If the experience lacks, why should a customer bother. In our case the “experience can encompass everything from print quality, to attitude, to packaging to delivery time and much more.

Imagine a theater that charges $15 for admission, yet they had a polite warm atmosphere of people who cared. Picture, sound and comfort were amazing. You could sit in a private booth with your family and order food from a touchscreen to have it delivered to your table without leaving the show. This would be fun and different from home and that would make it worth it. The experience and quality makes it something you want to do. Just like a great portrait and a great experience is worth more than a snapshot taken by uncle Bob.

When the experience you deliver is poor, you’re suddenly competing with amateurs and do it yourself’ers. Theirs no reason for someone to pay you more. If cheap weekend warrior shooters and amateurs are taking your jobs it’s may be because you are one.

The bottom line here is service, service, and more service. In this world where lousy service and experience is the norm, I can see that the most powerful way to stand out in the crowd, is also the most underused. Service. Don’t become the Majestic and don’t expect your client to love your work if you don’t put out the effort to love it yourself. Being a real professional is more that just saying, it’s doing.

Take finished results to the next level with Hollywood Effects. Save 15% woth code PPS

Related Posts...

How to charge for photos? The a great question most photographers get wrong at some point.

How to charge for photos? The a great question most photographers get wrong at some point.

Creating Emotional real Photography Pictorialism in a sterile Ai age

Creating Emotional real Photography Pictorialism in a sterile Ai age

Photographic tone. It’s the least understood skill in photography that’s nearly been lost.

Photographic tone. It’s the least understood skill in photography that’s nearly been lost.

Free Filmist 2 film styles are here – 3 free 2024 film presets for Lightroom and Capture One.

Free Filmist 2 film styles are here – 3 free 2024 film presets for Lightroom and Capture One.

Tell me your thoughts....

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. Gavin, you are dead on. Totally right. I’ve had the same experience with local companies here. Small businesses that are trying to compete with big box stores, but their service is terrible and they insist you are the problem for not being a dedicated local shopper. As a ‘new photographer’ on the scene that is taking work from some of the established pros, I can tell you that a lot of my customers are really really unhappy with the attitude and disrespect from seasoned pros they sometimes had years of business relationships with. Me, I make every effort to make sure they are happy and in fact was just thrilled to hear from a business today that they saw a letter to the local paper from a customer saying how happy they were with me going above and beyond. I had to dig through the recycling bin to find it, and I was thrilled.

    Your advice is great, people should listen or they won’t be in business long. At least uncle Bob with the shiny new Rebel is nice.

  2. Thanks for writing; I continue to be baffled by the magnitude of customer disservice in our society today. I have been thinking about our business lately, and one of the TOP TWO things that I want to have as the foundation for the business, and what I want to be known for , is GREAT CUSTOMER RELATIONS! The tough part is… I feel like we are consistent with this now, yet it goes unnoticed (or at least not talked about) because, that’s what we are supposed to be doing. The SAD truth is that it is much harder to keep our clients talking about us by good customer service – It is SUPER EASY to get them talking when we suck at it.

    1. Good service does get noticed though. Getting clients to really talk about you is still not easy though. Remember people have lives. There’s often a feeling that if we do a great job people will live ever thereafter to tell friends about us. OK I’m exaggerating, but it’s easy to get that attitude. I’ve been there.

      The reality that they willing to talk to us but we have to give them the conversation piece to start talking with. They won’t do it just because. For photography this means getting great prints on their wall, maybe a beautiful album they’ll show to freinds ect. Give them a reminder to bring up how great you are and they probably will…. G

  3. We go into the BBQ Galore store. Meet a nice guy, show him the control regulator from our BBQ. The hose on the BBQ side of the unit has cracked and was leaking, it actually whistled, that’s how I found the leak. The salesman says, sure he a new unit, goes in the back room and comes with a new like model. Except the hose is one foot shorter the ours. I asked if he had a longer one. He replied “no” that’s the only size they carry. He did suggest that we could go down the street two blocks to the AIR WEST store (this is the Welding supply store in San Diego) and see if they might be able to replace the hose on our unit, or make us a longer hose with the correct fittings and then we could then come back to his store and purchase his model.

    So we proceed to the Air West store. As we leave the the store, I tell my wife this maybe a wasted trip, but since they do make and sell gas welding hose and control valves the might be able to help us out some way.

    We enter the Air West store and I almost apologize to to the salesman, saying ” I know I’m in the wrong store, but the salesman at BBQ Galore suggested we come here”
    to see if you could help us, and showed him the bad unit.

    The salesman looked at it and said ” Oh sure we have one with a long hose. We never carried this kind of thing before, until the BBQ Galore store kept sending so many people HERE that we decided to start STOCKING THEM!!

    I swear it’s true!

    Maybe you should sell what the customers wants, instead of what you want to sell.

    Lou Adzima

  4. Sell the customer what they need, provide them with what they want, then exceed their expectations when you get that figured out. Wish more people could do that, but customer service is trending the other way.

    Imagine if Amazon had not recently deleted your illegal books off your Kindle without asking, but instead gave you a choice of providing legit copies to replace them or a refund. Instead of a blunder they could have had a huge PR boost.

    Imagine if a company actually followed their own instructions.

    Imagine if a company actually did what they tell you on the phone they are going to do.

    I have been after Chase Mortgage for three months now. Home loan was paid off in April when we got a new home mortgage & new home. But they still had an ACH auto payment taken out in May, then again in June and then again in July! I can accept the May blunder, but they did it AFTER “they fixed the problem and it will not happen again”. On top of that, they (stole) my money and cannot give it back right away. Even going to the top of the department only got empty promises of hastened returns of our money but no followthrough. Even when we get our own money back, I still have to prove the fees that I incurred due to them is something they caused. AARGH!

    Worst part is I never chose Chase, they bought out my mortgage years ago. Glad to see them gone, but wish they were GONE! Also no more ACH.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

About the Author

Glad you're here.

I'm from WA State USA and started studying photography in 97. I started work as a pro (using that word loosely because I sucked) using film at age 16. I learned fast but was not as easy to find training then. Sometimes I beat my head against the wall until I figured stuff out.

As digital dawned I went all in and got to study with masters like Ken Whitmire. In 09 I founded the Pro Photo Show podcast. I started promoting tone-focused editing. When Lightroom arrived, I started developing tools to make editing and workflow better.

20 years of study and photography around the country earned me a Master of Photography (M.Photog) from PPA. I got to see my workshops and tools featured in publications across the industry. Once I even won the prestigious HotOne award for my "EXposed" light and tone workshop.

Wanting something calmer, I moved to Mexico in 2017. It's a land of magical light. I'm here now exploring light and trying to master my weak areas. I make videos of that for my Youtube channel, sharing what I learn. I hope you'll stick around and be part of Light Hunters Tribe... Gavin

Gavin Seim