Crappy Vs Snappy: Photog Uses Side-by-Side Comparisons to Market His Skill


One of the problems photographers face today is explaining to clients why it’s worth it to pay a professional to do a job the client often feels they can do themselves. And while people familiar with photography can immediately give a plethora of reasons why an entry-level DSLR in an layman’s hands is NOT the same as hiring a professional, clients often don’t get it.

That’s why Sudbury, Ontario-based photographer James Hodgins started his witty, “Crappy Vs Snappy” showcase. He either invites clients to tag along on shoots with their own camera or snaps his own crappy images in “P” mode, and then places the results side-by-side with his professional-quality shots. The client rarely needs any more convincing after that.

Here are a few of his Crappy Vs Snappy examples:







It’s a smart marketing tactic that Hodgins has expanded past the mining images you see here. According to PDN Pulse, when photographing business clients, he’ll take one picture with a camera mounted flash and his subject against a wall, and another in a studio setting. The difference is immediately obvious, and the images help him sell his skill to future clients as well.

To see more of Hodgins’ work, and keep up with his Crappy Vs Snappy showcase, you can visit his website by clicking here.

Crappy Vs Snappy [James Hodgins via PDN Pulse]

Image credits: Photography by James Hodgins and used with permission.

  • Clint Davis


  • Mark Houston

    Great Idea……

  • Richard

    It’s a great idea and well done. It’s not just the lighting and contrast, he has a great sense of what makes a good action image and what might make a good ad image.

  • Yeshen

    Great! Although industrial photography is not the best example example to use to illustrate the difference. I’m a product photographer, that’s an area where the difference is much more obvious!

  • Daniel Lalande

    When I seen the first image, I was like, this looks like the work of a guy I know…sure enough…it’s him lol. Impressive as always James :)

  • bob cooley

    Yeah, I’ll add a ‘well done!” to this as well – it’s simple, elegant, and the proof really is in the pudding here.

  • Igor Ken

    yet some professionals charge so much that the clients actually need to find a third alternative, and instead of taking the photos on their own, they hire a young photographer who charges way less and does a decent job. . .

  • Alex Minkin

    very clever marketing, though igor does point out that us young professionals without the same bills to pay may do nearly as good, if not same or better, of a job for a lot less, though really it just hurts us along with everyone else in the long run.

  • Alex Minkin

    they’re both pretty obvious situations, and having done both myself, i’d much rather look at industrial than clean white sweeps all day

  • ATrapAtNoon

    Any photographer who thinks other photographers charge “too much” hasn’t been in the industry long enough (or isn’t doing it for a living). Of course, the high-end photographers aren’t setting out to do a “decent” job, either.

  • Muhammad Faateh Malik

    when I officially become a great photographer, I will charge people a fraction for my services and give them 10times the quality. You gotta be good in this field and have connections so that you can get more clients.

  • Mansgame

    Good photography should stand on its own without gimmicks. This is nothing more than the photographic equivalent of a straw man’s argument. If the bad work was the work of a real person then perhaps there is something to it, but no self respecting manager would fall for something like this.

  • PT

    No, I really don’t like this. It seems to be pathetic one-upmanship. If your images are good, let them speak for themselves. No need to negatively portray people who aren’t as good as you (as a side note, a lot of these photos aren’t actually that good – it looks like a lot of processing went into making them look “pro” – a lot of which could be done on the “amateur” images too).
    Everyone has to start off somewhere. This to me just gives off the air of a guy who thinks he’s a lot better than he is.

  • Gregor_Albrecht

    Yes. And then you will be rich. And famous. And you’re gonna feed the poor. And steal from the rich (except for yourself). And then – at the peak of your reign – you will ban Instagram.

  • Jessica Judge

    As a young photographer, people expect a lot less out of me, but in my opinion and the opinions of many others.. it ruins the industry for not only us, but a lot of people if we under charge.. it’s a viscous cycle, a viscous industry.

  • Igor Ken

    you are totally right, I am not at all advocating this process of hiring mid-level photographers for the job, but in your own comment you can see how you say “or isn’t doing it for a living”. I from a photographer point of view can understand this, but clients actually don’t care, unless you work for a high-end campaign, the budget of the client is the lower the better. Again I am not a professional so I am not talking about the clients that pay thousands of dollars for a shooting.

  • ATrapAtNoon

    The problem with being great and charging little is that you end up with not enough time in your day. So, you raise your rates to help decrease your workload, and before you know it, you’re just “another expensive photographer” ;) That is, of course, assuming you become good enough to warrant all that.

    It’s all great and idealistic, but not realistic. I’d say about 90% of new photographers think this same way, but I’ve never met a decent photographer that doesn’t charge a premium price.

  • ATrapAtNoon

    I’ve been hired on jobs because I charged more than the other bids – it’s weird, but some companies view money as quality. I see your point, though. At the end of the day, the client will either pay or they won’t!

  • Zbigniew Piątek

    Perfect. That’s the way the light changes the image.

  • Joey Duncan

    said no one ever…..
    NO ONE has EVER hired somebody simply because they charge more, you won those bids because your presentation was better and worth the deviation in cost.

  • Joey Duncan

    i don’t think it works that way. This tactic of marketing is one of the oldest marketing strategies there is. How many customers would you gain if they understood the difference between great photos and ok one, YOU see the difference, but do your friends when they take pictures? No, they’re always ‘he dude check out my photo” and you just want to scream at them “ewww no, it’s horrible, WTF did you let a bird take that picture?” and you hide your expression and say “hey man that’s cool!. Because people don’t know the difference. i work in IT consulting AND as a “for fun” photographer and it’s the same in either jobs,. Some times, even a lot of the time people have to be convinced they need a better job you can’t leave it to them to understand their choices aren’t educated. This is a GOOD example of how to go about that.

  • ryanwrightphoto

    Great article, showing the difference is not only a win for the company but also a great tactic by the photographer

  • dannybuoy

    Which photos are which?

  • Dave

    Post processing on a professional is a skill that is necessary, I don’t know why you’re downplaying it as not being a part of photography. This guy is a great photographer, he composes them well, lights them well, and processes them well. You sound like a guy who is trying to justify your cheap prices and undercut others.

  • Dave

    His point was that people sometimes ignore the cheap bids because if they’re cheap, then they’re cheap for a reason, such as being unskilled or unprofessional. A lot of people will only buy the more expensive option as they believe it guarantees better results, so if 2 people had the same presentation but different prices, some clients would pick the more expensive one simply for hte fact it was more expensive and a belief that they will then provide better quality.

  • Scott Verge

    The bad work is just supposed to represent a company employee taking the picture himself with a point and shoot. I’m not sure what’s so horrible about it.

  • Kurt B

    Clever idea.

  • miah8000

    This isn’t his work against someone elses. These are the same subjects, same time frame which means that he shot both to demonstrate how they could be done poorly by someone less experienced. I do the same thing with my real estate photography when time permits to show a client why experience and processing matter in the outcome of the final shots.

  • Zos Xavius

    Really petapixel? You banned me from posting under facebook? I hate posting like this in an unrelated story, but what gives? You run a freaking blog. Of course there are going to be things that get posted that not everyone likes. Get over it. If you don’t want people’s opinions or can’t ignore the naysayers then don’t have a comment box. So much for free speech and opinion. That said I really liked this post. Can we be cool?

  • Danielle Skodak

    Amen said the young photographer over here :)

  • Jane Breau

    You are so far wrong here. It is very difficult for a customer to understand the difference. Seeing is believing. I think this is a very smart move, as way too many people think that the latest technology just does it all. I am speaking from experience.

  • Ryan

    I believe there are to many people out there who have a DSLR Camera and think they are professional (i have a dslr and know i’m not professional). This idea is really good idea for marketing. However someone know knows only a fraction of what goes into getting a good photo, I know there was a lot of post production done to those photos. That is what takes the most time and what photographers should be compensated for.

    However he is basically doing the worst possible shot (composition, lighting, and no post production) and saying this is why i am worth a fortune. That would be like a 5 star steakhouse taking its clients and buying a steak from the bargain bin and burning the crap out of it and saying “here’s the competition’s steaks you should pay $80 for an 8 oz steak.” What should be done is taking the best possible competition and comparing yourself to that and saying this is what the competition is selling this is why i am better. Doing it in this way builds a logical fallacy that someone with half a brain should see through.

  • CasualThinker

    That’s nice & I’d like to get tips & how he did the photos.

  • Roy

    And because it’s a viscous industry, many photographers find themselves in a sticky situation. ;-)

  • Damean Ravichandra

    I find the fluidity of this argument highly enjoyable.

  • Norshan Nusi

    Cut down the ambient light by 2 stops and use off camera flash.
    So this is strobist :)

  • Jake

    If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.

  • thingwarbler

    Your comments are just dripping with sarcasm.

  • Mansgame

    But a company employee DIDN’T take the picture is my point. He’s pretending to be a company employee. Now days a lot of people are very serious about photography. I am not a “professional” photographer but take all of our company’s photography and know what I’m doing. I’d imagine other companies also have people who are serious about photography who work there and would love to make a little extra bonus cash.

  • hugh crawford

    You obviously have never heard of this thing called the “markup” as in “We are getting a 60% markup on this so could you bill us a little more?”. Or “Fed Ex us a cheesecake and invoice us $1200″ .

  • Marvin Bowen

    Several people have mentioned the great degree of post processing these images have undergone. I don’t disagree they have lots of post adjustments, but I would like to point out one possible exception. The ‘effects’ seen here are perfectly possible with a well aimed and shaped light. If using strobe, color balance for that and let the ambient light take on it’s respective color/s. Underexpose the ambient, as well. Proper lighting technique can go a LONG way, and save you a TON of work in post.

  • dannybuoy
  • Aaron

    Great idea!

    I wish his marketing strategy came with a lesson to (mostly small) business owners about ROMI on quality photography.

    As an owner of a marketing company…. I stay far away from cheap photogs. When a good photo on my clients new menu’s can sell a $8 burger over the $7.50 option and they have a revenue increase of $30,000 a month. That is what speaks to them. That is why a $60,000/shoot photographer is worth his weight in gold if they (food stylists and the whole crew) do a great job.

  • Dave

    I disagree. People see a high price and translate that to value. For example; I tried selling a 4wd vehicle that had a couple problems for a price that was lower than it was probably worth just to get rid of it (I disclosed all of the problems it had). I couldn’t sell it. On a whim, I added 50% to the price and sold it in a week, fairly. Another example; a friend bought a new refrigerator so he wheeled his older but perfectly working fridge out to the street and put a sign on it: “FREE!. works fine” . No one wanted it. So he put a sign “$50″ and someone stole it.

    What I am saying is if the price is too low people view it as having no value. If you do good work and can produce a good product, as Mr. Hodgins does, do NOT make the mistake of lowballing your price. Human nature interprets that if it is expensive it must be valuable.

  • JHE

    You see, there are two problems in what you are saying:
    a.) most companies will NOT pay their employees for the photos, as they already work for them and will therefore mostly not find it necessary to pay for something made by an employee who is already getting a paycheck. (I am talking from experience here)

    b.) being serious about photography does not automatically make you good at it. I have a few friends who are REALLY serious about it, but their output is simply not worth any money. (of course, THEY see that differently)

    the strategy chosen here simply shoes the difference a pro can do. if your employees can generate the output that is considered pro then there is nothing speaking against their action. but as most cannot and – more importantly- most of the executives deciding on this matter do not acknowledge good photography when they see it, this is a powerful way to show them.

  • Theranthrope

    “We can fix it in post” is a disease.
    In this digital age fiddling with sliders and software filters or plugins takes seconds would have taken hours in the darkroom during the age of film; just because you have the power to fiddle infinitely with your images, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
    When you’ve crossed the line between “photo” to “photo illustration” (to be clear: it’s where, in post, you’ve composed your image beyond what is recordable via the camera), you’ve stopped being a photographer, as the art of photography is gone and you’ve become on the same-level as a CG-render; as a mere image-source for graphic design.
    You are no longer a photographer; you are now a graphic designer with a camera.

    “Better than Real™” isn’t. (…but then again, we’re talking about marketing here, not photography)

  • Richard Ford


  • Theranthrope

    It’s a valid question: on the right you have a plain and boring image and on the left you have a different kind of plain and boring image.
    The images on the right have bad lighting and no, or minimal, post production fiddling.
    The images on the right have okay lighting, with way too much post production fiddling. So much so, that it looks samey-samey to every other marketing image which has been designed to stand out. Like how all action movie posters have ugly orange people on a boring blue background, because it (used to) visually pop, but now they just kind of blend together so NONE of them stand out.
    Personally, I would preferred to have seen the image that wasn’t an option: a well-lit, visually interesting image, with minimal post-processing; you know… a photograph… that looks like it was taken by a talented photographer.

  • Jeremy Lawrence

    Uh, the main difference between these shots is lighting not post processing.
    The bad pics use on camera flash and the good pics use off axis lighting.

  • Jeremy Lawrence

    1. Move flash off to one side.
    2. Underexpose background 1 stop.
    3. Underexpose flash by 1 stop.
    And that’s the basics of what he did, though several flashes can be used and lighting ratios will vary.