Become a Fan

My Photo

Designed by

« Happy holidays from Colorado. Er, I mean Somerset | Main | OS gets active »

December 12, 2007

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341cc2d753ef00e54fb4659d8834

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference So you wanna be a pro, huh?:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

David

Seb,

If XXX should reply please post.

It kind of adds further weight to what you and many other pros say about the photography industry become devalued.

I was once told that in a business plan a budget exists for all aspects to get the product to market. So for a magazine a budget will be in place for photography. Furthermore, if a budget doesn't exist for photography the business plan is flawed.

Along these lines a local sports magazine wanted me to submit photos for free, but they'd give me a byline. I declined. The nerve of them wanting stuff for free. Whilst I am no full-time pro, I am trying to act as if I were and I somehow doubt a full-time pro would give their work away for free.

Why is the photography industry treated in this way? Can't imagine a artist being asked to produce a painting for free. Has the ease with which a photograph can be produced de-valued the profession in the eyes of the public?

Seb Rogers

Hi David,

Photographers are treated this way because enough are prepared to give their work away for free to make it worthwhile for many companies to attempt a blag. The law of supply and demand is at work here, too: too many photographers, not enough viable outlets for the work that they produce. It's only likely to get worse.

In the case of XXX, I'm somewhat pleased that they're clearly having some difficulty filling pages. There's a question to be asked at XXX corporate HQ here, along the lines of 'is it more cost-effective to pay the going rate for images that we choose as suitable for our high-end product, or would it be better to waste several days of salaried staff's time chasing freebies over which we have no control?' But I don't suppose it'll occur to anyone that the first option is a. likely to be cheaper and b. gives them back editorial control over what, after all, is supposed to be a premium product. Humph.

But you can flip this whole situation on its head, too. Whilst a business that has no art budget is arguably flawed, how many photographers run their affairs in a business-like fashion? (Hint: not nearly enough). If photographers want to be treated better by potential clients, they need to start behaving as though they're running businesses, not expensive hobbies. The dSLR craze has made this situation far, far worse, with many wealthy amateurs undercutting pros (and, incidentally, buying gear that in many cases pros simply can't afford).

Photography is rapidly heading towards the kind of status that TV already has: the preserve of the wealthy and privileged who don't need to earn a living wage from their endeavours.

Well done for sticking to your guns. It's the right thing to do, even (especially?) if you're in the minority of photographers doing so.

David

Hi Seb,

Your rants are amusing, and your business sense is much appreciated...by me at any rate.

Though I must admit I fall into the amateur who does not need to justify equipment purchases. (I'm not wealthy.) Putting it another way, sports photography is a paying hobby. I enjoy it, and it pays for nice gear. I'm even declaring earnings for TAX and pay NI. I'm a good boy. :)

Whilst I can, and could undercut the pros how does that help me in the long run?

My local newspaper has a new sports editor; in my introduction I made it clear that photos are not free, but the cost is reasonable.

Seb Rogers

If only every part-timer / semi-pro / wannabe (delete whichever offends you least) had your attitude :)

The thing is, it's not that hard to subsidise a hobby, or even make enough to pay for some nice gear. What's much harder is to make enough on top of that to cover all the other overheads, pay a salary, stick a bit on one side for a rainy day and keep the taxman at bay.

But full-time pros are as much to blame as part-timers for the parlous state of photography today. What irks me - and this is at the root of many of my rants - is that the problem usually boils down to an inability to do simple arithmetic. Turnover, expenses, profit. It ain't that hard, really. But spend too much and charge too little and (funnily enough) it all starts to come apart at the seams.

You have to know when to say 'no'. XXX's blatant blag is just one extreme example.

David

Hi Seb,

I don't wish to flame myself, but perhaps people like myself are a big part of the problem.

Thinking about it...

* I have some skill (how much is a matter for debate. sometimes the image on the LCD actually looks like that in my mind!!)
* I have a vast amount of pro-level gear.
* I have the commmittement to get the job done, be it raining, cold, hot, sunny etc.
* Although I will not give my work away for free, as it is a "hobby" I can afford to sell it cheap.

I'm just waiting/looking for that big break.

Seb Rogers

Hi David,

It may help to remember that if that big break ever comes, you'll be competing against people like you...

:)

David

yup.

that's why i have a big solid monopod.

"i have no idea how my monopod became embedded up their ar$3!"

lol.

on the airline company front... you should have asked... if i give you free images for use in the magazine and you provide me with a byline, i desire a free flight in return, and i will tell my clients about the wonderful service in return.

just a thought.

Nick

Well said both Dan and Seb!

I got some chancer trying to licence my flickr photos for 'a credit' the other day, but I declined and told him to pay for some pro work instead.

David

he can licence for "a credit". a credit of cash. ;)

i must confess, I have given photos away for free. when i was training with the newspaper i would regularly do so. it seemed only fair. they were teaching me alot

Glennon Simmons

Hi Seb,

I just got an e-mail from a local mag asking for recently shot cyclocross pics and a story. When I asked about compensation, I got this response:

We ask about 500 words about watching the race and taking the pictures. No compensation other than we'll list your name and put a small ad if you wish for your photo site. We're a free magazine and running on a shoe-string but between 20K and 25K people will see your pictures and read your words ... should stimulate sales on your picture site. Regular contributors usually pick up some swag from time to time ...

I had the cover of the mag in question in November, and let them have it for free. Well, I was supposed to receive a t-shirt, which I never did. I didn't notice any increase in traffic as a result.

Here was my response, which I made after reading Seb's post:

I don't have the bandwidth to do an uncompensated project at this time, especially on short notice. I can make a deal for three images and a 500 word story at $100. Let me know if you are interested and I'll crank something out. Otherwise, I'm going to dedicate my time to other projects. Thanks for your interest.

Of course they turned down my offer, which I feel was reasonable. Or was it? I try to consider my time, equipment and the expertise the shot required in determining my pricing, but this is so abstract. How do I determine the value of my photos? And since I'm just starting to be noticed by local mags and such, I wonder if I turned down an opportunity to build my portfolio with published work. I definitely don't want to contribute to the demise of photography as a viable profession, but I probably could have benefited from the exposure in some small way. So even though I feel that I did the right thing, I still feel like I lost.

Glen
www.glennonsimmons.com

David

Glen,

If you give your work away for free now, how will you then be able to charge in the future?

If, like me, sports photography is a serious hobby, stick to you guns and acknowledge that your work, time and effort has value. These cheeky sods are just trying to get something for free.

As a thought....even if the mag is free it will still make money, otherwise those people wouldn't have a job.

How much page space would the article have taken?

So, be sneaky, phone the mag and ask how much a full colour advert would cost for the same page space.

That will surely give you an idea as to cost.

I had a similar problem here. Just walk away.

Seb Rogers

David... if I may, two points. One (and playing devil's advocate here), given that you admit to having given work away for free yourself, your post has at least an element of the pot calling the kettle black ;-) And two, ad space rates are in no way comparable to editorial rates. Good idea, but I don't think it'll work in practice.

Glen, personally I think you did the right thing, but then I would say that, wouldn't I? :) Many people will say (and there's a large element of truth in this) that pitiful or non-existent remuneration for photography is just market forces at work. I'd counter that market forces are the cumulative result of individual decisions. You can choose whether or not to work for a 'client' who doesn't pay (or doesn't pay enough)... and in fact I'd go further and say that, if you value the business side of your photography, YOU and not the client decide what the rates are. That, after all, is how a plumber (say) works.

In reality, of course, it's not that simple. The problem of free or underpaid photography is, broadly, that it pulls the rug out from under all of our feet - established pros and part-time pros alike. That's why I feel so strongly about it, and that's why it takes up so much space on this blog. But it's especially hard for people just starting out, because there's a lot of pressure to get your foot in the door, built a portfolio, blah blah.

As you've discovered, promises of riches tomorrow just don't work. Generally speaking, the 'clients' who procure photography this way wouldn't dream of running their businesses in a similar fashion, so why would you?

One answer is that, for some people, the glow of satisfaction of seeing their work in print is enough. I can understand that, but it comes at a price. As David points out, if you give away work now, how will you ever be able to price it at a sustainable level? You have to price to run a profit, and you have to do it from the start. It's crazy to do otherwise.

And even if you're not interested in running your photography as a business, plenty of people are. Worth remembering as you agree to hand over another batch of images...

Just my two cents :)

Danx

If I want that my photos will be viewed from the whole world I put some of my best pictures in the web!
It makes me laugh this: "we're UNABLE to pay you"!!!
Cheers,
Danx

warhead


Hi Seb,

I don't wish to flame myself, but perhaps people like myself are a big part of the problem.

Thinking about it...

* I have some skill (how much is a matter for debate. sometimes the image on the LCD actually looks like that in my mind!!)
* I have a vast amount of pro-level gear.
* I have the commmittement to get the job done, be it raining, cold, hot, sunny etc.
* Although I will not give my work away for free, as it is a "hobby" I can afford to sell it cheap.

I'm just waiting/looking for that big break.


Keep waiting sunshine. It isn't going to smack you in the face. If you want it you have to make the break yourself. And as Seb so
eloquently points out, now ain't the best time to do it. It wasn't five years ago and it will be less so in five years time, probably less. So get your arse in gear!

Richard Starkie

Some of your clients are amongst the worst offenders for not paying for photos. All the UK magazines do it, as do your buddies at Bikemagic. BM do the "photo competition" thing you so dislike and anything on the BM gallery is fair game for them too.

If you really believe what they do is wrong, why not boycott them?

Is it really your view that amateurs, many of whom who would quite like to see their images published, paid or not, owe you something and should refuse permission just to protect your income?

Many amateurs shoot mountain biking purely for pleasure and have no desire to turn pro one day. Do you expect them, when asked for permission to publish one of their shots for free, to say "no thanks, poor old Seb might lose out"?

I think that's a pretty unrealistic expectation.

Seb Rogers

Hi Richard,

Welcome to the debate :) You've raised some interesting points, so I'll take them in order.

1. 'Some of your clients are amongst the worst offenders for not paying for photos [...] BM do the "photo competition" thing you so dislike and anything on the BM gallery is fair game for them too.'

I'm not sure what you mean by that, to be honest. Magazines don't generally pay for reproduction of images on letters pages. The rules of most photo competitions usually stipulate that reproduction of entries related to the competition won't be paid for. Website 'reader' galleries don't usually offer payment for submissions. And so on. I don't have an issue with any of that, and nor would most photographers I know.

(Incidentally, I've just checked BM's gallery submission terms, and they state 'by posting your photographs on the Gallery section of this Website you grant Magicalia an irrevocable, royalty free, non-exclusive, worldwide license allowing Magicalia to display your work on this Website. Magicalia undertakes not to publish your images outside of this Website without obtaining your permission first.'

In what way is that 'fair game'?

Magicalia has a right to use the image for the purpose for which the image was originally submitted, and the photographer has an opt-out for any further use. Seems reasonable to me in the circumstances, even though I usually balk at words like 'irrevocable'. For the amateur snappers at whom the gallery is aimed, I don't see a problem - and nor do these terms impact on any pros' livelihoods).

2. 'If you really believe what they do is wrong, why not boycott them?'

I don't believe I ever said, or implied, that any of my regular clients were doing anything 'wrong'. My views on copyright, licensing, payment and associated business practices are on public display on this blog and I'm sure all my regular clients and colleagues are well aware of them.

I am also running a business. It's not in my interests to continue to deal with clients who undermine that business... so I don't, and nor will I in future.

3. 'Is it really your view that amateurs, many of whom who would quite like to see their images published, paid or not, owe you something and should refuse permission just to protect your income?'

Not at all. Either you've completely misunderstood me, or I haven't made myself very clear.

This entire discussion has revolved around the issue of a client expecting free use of images in circumstances which would normally involve payment. It began with a well-known airline with (I'm presuming, but it's a safe guess) deep pockets approaching more than one established pro for 'free' images.

It's cheeky at best, but the main reason I blogged about it is that it's becoming a bit of a habit. And that's bad news for anyone trying to earn a living from photography.

The problem is that some clients' new-found cheekiness coincides with many amateurs' well-meaning ignorance about when, how and how much to charge for their work. Or, put another way, the boundaries between pro and amateur are blurring. More image buyers are willing to use 'amateur' images, and often for entirely the wrong reasons - because they're either cheap, or free.

I can't stop it happening, but I can try to flag up some of the issues for the few dozen people who bother to read my blog :)

No photographer - pro or amateur - owes ME anything at all. But giving away free images to commercial enterprises is dumb at best and injurious to working pros - in some circumstances, at least - at worst. The onus isn't on the image 'buyers' to stop blagging, because it just isn't going to happen. The onus is firmly on photographers to apply a little common sense.

4. 'Many amateurs shoot mountain biking purely for pleasure and have no desire to turn pro one day. Do you expect them, when asked for permission to publish one of their shots for free, to say "no thanks, poor old Seb might lose out"?'

Of course not. See my point above.

Richard, I hope you don't think I'm knocking amateurs. I'm not, and the fact that I'm running three courses this year specifically aimed at enthusiasts who want to improve their mountain bike pics should demonstrate that.

What I'm suggesting is that there are situations in which giving images away for free is, frankly, daft. Broadly speaking, if it's commercial use for which a pro photographer would normally have been commissioned or a pro stock image used, then an amateur image should be paid for at a similar rate. If you wouldn't write a cheque to //image buyer x// to the value of the image in return for, er, nothing but the rosy glow of seeing your work in print, don't give it away for free.

And if you WOULD write a cheque in return for the rosy glow of seeing your work in print... more fool you.

5. 'I think that's a pretty unrealistic expectation.'

Only if that's what I expected. Which, as I hope you'll now see, I don't :)

Andy Waterman

On a not completely unrelated topic, what do you reckon to the way Prince and Radiohead are tackling the changing face of the music industry? Basically it appears that both artists now see albums as loss leaders (Prince gave his album away with the Mail on Sunday, Radiohead charged a nominal fee to download theirs) to draw people to their gigs - which appear to be very profitable (Radiohead: £45 per ticket, Prince: was it 21 nights sold-out at the O2 arena?). Who's losing out here? Well the record company's for a start. I don't think anyone will feel too much sympathy there though.
Secondly though, I can see this having a negative effect on new bands; bands who can't command high on-the-door prices for their gigs, and whose recorded music is otherwise worthless in an age of file sharing. Still, quality will out I guess - Arctic Monkeys have done pretty well from giving their early songs away on Myspace.

I'm sure this bears some parallels with the photography business. Probably the stuff about quality - good photographers who can take a commission and exceded expectations are always going to be in demand. Bad photographers and people who have previously made a living off of stock are probably going to have to look elsewhere.

Mike Osborne

To throw more flamable things on the fire, I would say that you can't really compare photography with much else outside the 'art' world. I can't think of many professions where you can do it as a hobby or a full/part time job, You don't really get people doing plumbing as a hobby, or people doing accountancy just for fun at weekends. Pro photographers (for sake of argument anyone who actually makes money on a fairly regular basis), *Should* know that their time, knowledge, and eventual product are worth something, as do plumbers and accountants. (Try getting a plumber to work for free, infact no one would expect a plumber to work for free...) Where things start to fall to pieces is that there is no regulation. That is to say for plumbers and accountants, they have done exams/courses & have qualifications, so people know what to expect from them, with photography, (especially since digital started to take hold) anyone with a camera can now call themselves "professional" with no experiance what so ever. Granted that is how most people started out (and I admit that I am in that 'transition' period) But because of the lack of training, there is no buisness ideals taught to people who want to become photographers (unless they activly seek it out). Together with the "I have a digital camera, I can do that" attitude that some companys/people take, therefore not paying for the 'service' that a professional photographer would give, coupled with the exposure newbeys want, mean that companys have been able to get photos for free, (or in exchange for "credit") and so they expect to get the next photo for free. If the newbey was educated (university/college/photo course/etc etc,) then he would be able to say to the company strait away how much he is worth. If this had happened from the outset (I'm not exactly sure when the outset was, but its gone anyway) then people would see photography as a valuable commodidty, in the same line as an editor/jouno/publisher is in the magazine world.

My experience in this field is somewhat from experiance, I was asked about 2 years ago to quote my council a price for an accomodation guide (which costs £1) Including selling my the copywrite to the photos (would have been about 150 photos, about 3" longest side, maybe the odd half page) I politely replied that I wouldn't sell the copywrite to the photos, gave the reasons and then gave a price per photo. Needless to say I didn't hear back. However I only knew that from trying to teach myself the basics of the photo biz from blogs (like this, cheers Seb) and forums, The only thing is they probably paid some over eager nipper (or amateur) £150 for the same thing.

A quick mention for amateurs, They are amateurs and as per definition do it as a hobby. But should they want to start selling photos then in my mind, they should do exatly the same thing as if you decided one day to become a plumber/accountant, thats to learn about your trade, which would include the buisness side. On the flipside, If a company wants to use an image an 'amature' has taken the company *should* compensate them the same ammount as if they had used stock (not microstock) or a professional photographer. But I think that that is a little bit of a pipe dream (aulthough I'm sure there are a few that do). and I'm not too sure how to correct that... :-p

As Andy said; Good photographers who can exeed expectaions will always be in demand. Bring on the revolution! Lets see who is still around shooting in 10 (or five) years time.

Thats rather a big reply, And I hope its kinda on topic and makes sense. I didn't mean to mention microstock...:-p

Seb Rogers

Hi Mike,

Some interesting points...

'Where things start to fall to pieces is that there is no regulation.' Actually, I don't think regulation is the problem. Photographers don't need college courses to be either competent at what they do or moderately financially solvent - and I'm living proof :). What most photographers who hope to sell their images would probably benefit from is some basic business training, and that's something that's sadly lacking from many college-based photography courses.

'The only thing is they probably paid some over eager nipper (or amateur) £150 for the same thing.' Probably true, but you can't win every battle. And image buyers almost always get what they pay for :)

'Lets see who is still around shooting in 10 (or five) years time.' And there's the rub. I'd like to be shooting in 5 or 10 years' time, but I can feel the rug being pulled from under my feet. Photographers need to shape up, and fast, otherwise photography will become the preserve of the wealthy instead of a viable means of earning a living.

And no, I've no idea how to achieve that... except to spread the word via my little corner of the web :)

Mike Osborne

I hear what your saying Seb, I like to think in 5-10 years time the industry has sorted itslef out, It has to, but I think it lies with educating the new comers, if they can't make a saleable image at the going rate, then for them to try harder, not sell it for less. (or nothing, just to get your name out) Of course this depends on weather the client *wants* to pay for it, even though they should..

It goes back to a previous entry of yours 'Filthy lucre' - (11/10/07) Something eveyone hoping to turn 'pro' should read (almost Photo Buisness 101) but It comes down to "Don't give up your day job", unless you can make photography work for you.

Seb Rogers

Hi Andy,

'On a not completely unrelated topic, what do you reckon to the way Prince and Radiohead are tackling the changing face of the music industry? [...] I'm sure this bears some parallels with the photography business.'

Well, yes and no, IMHO. Both deal in the sale of intellectual property rights, but that's about where the parallels end. Despite Youtube and PTP file sharing, I don't think the music industry has quite the same over-supply problem as photography right now.

There's another difference, too. Although the big music companies are suffering at the hands of cheap or free downloads and artists bypassing the traditional supply lines - and canny music artists are benefitting directly as a result - in some ways the opposite is happening with photography. The trend is for image buyers - whether they're corporate, editorial or libraries - to demand wider-ranging IP rights from photographers. And, for a number of reasons ranging from ignorance to fierce competition, many photographers are giving in to the pressure.

You're right that there'll always be a market for pros who can deliver high quality time after time, but while the market experiments with cheap or free 'user-generated' content, some of those pros will be driven out of business.

You could say that's just market forces at work, and you'd probably be right. But markets are both driven by and affect individuals, which is why I'm always banging on about knowing the value of your images.

Nick

"Some of your clients are amongst the worst offenders for not paying for photos"

/cough, Singletrack.

Without getting into a slanging match about whether he's right or wrong I've heard Mark Alker justify it as 'giving the photographers exposure' and that if the photographers want paying he can get their shots elsewhere.

Seb Rogers

Hmmm.

Mark and Chipps are friends of mine. I wouldn't class Singletrack as a client, in any case, largely because they don't pay :)

As for 'exposure', it looks like Mark and I will have to agree to differ on that one. How many Singletrack contributors have gone on to forge successful full-time careers as photographers?

simondbarnes

> I wouldn't class Singletrack as a client, in any case, largely because they don't pay :)

Things are (slowly) changing on that front :)

I like seeing my photos in print, as do many other people. I generally won't give them away (and have turned down people in the past) but I am often happy to receive bike bits in exchange, as long as the value of those goods add up to what I feel use of the photo is worth. You probably hate me for doing that but at least I try and attach a value to my photos unlike many people who are happy to give them away for nothing.

Seb Rogers

Hi Simon,

Perhaps I should qualify my last comment - Singletrack does pay, just not at a level that makes it a viable source of income. But maybe, as you say, things are changing on that front. Putting a value on your images is certainly better than giving them away for nothing :)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search this blog

  • Google

    WWW
    sebrogers.typepad.com
free counters