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May 23, 2009

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Andy

Would be interested to hear how you went Pro and how you think it is for people these days and the best way to do it.

I think a lot of people don't think they should be charging for their photos in some ways (rightly or wrongly).

Seb Rogers

Long story short: back in 1996 I had £500 in the bank, an old F801 with 3 lenses, no debts and no dependants. I gave myself a year to turn a profit. Within 2 1/2 years I'd bought my first house and I've never looked back :)

It's much harder now, largely because there's so much competition. Anyone who wants to turn pro (in other words, earn the bulk of their living from photography) needs to be commercially minded from the outset. Simple as that.

Much of my direct competition has turned up since dSLRs became (more or less) affordable. I can think of only two of the half dozen or so recent UK-based pro bike photographers who earn a full-time living from their photography; the others have other sources of income out of necessity.

If you're not sure whether or not you should be charging for your photos, don't give up the day job :) And (if you haven't already) watch Harlan Ellison's youtube rant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

Andy

Interesting. Didn't realise there were so few pro full time mountainbike photographers.

I guess the other thing is that at the lower end of the scale is that people do it purely for pleasure and that they aren't interested in any financial reward - more just recognition from their peers or a few comments on Flickr.

Will watch the rant later.

Seb Rogers

Those figures are UK only. There are more full-time pros in north America, though most of them earn the bulk of their income from commercial shoots rather than editorial (commercial pays much better), and many of them double up as snow sports snappers in the winter.

Few aspiring pros bother to research the market before launching into it (I was as guilty of that as anyone ;-)). It's over-saturated right now, which puts big pressure on fees and, by extension, margins. Not a good time to be launching a career. Doesn't mean it can't be done, but to make it stick you're going to have to be very, very good, very stubborn and very disciplined about making the sums add up...

Colin

Some impressive pics up there Seb, nice work and motivates me to continue my efforts in search of the perfect pic;-)

I think the main point here is just don't give your work away for free. Always aims to get paid for it and hold out until you do. Obviously the rate should be commensurate with how good the image is, how much time/effort has gone into getting it, and what it's going to be used for and where. It's not just photogs who are to blame (perhaps desperate to get something in print) because I think the bike industry, to some extent, can also be blamed. Free pics in return for publicity, right?

From what I see, editorial pays fairly but you aint gonna make a good living from it. The ones that do well are into commercial work, and/or topping up the funds by doing weddings.

The bike industry seems to work in interesting ways, and photogs certainly have to be careful. After all, there's good reason why skilled riders are given gear/frames/clothes for free since they're then mobile advertising boards.

Then again, some magazines pay pretty well for photos and stories. The ones that don't are usually easy to spot with the poorer quality photos they include. The successful mags do charge a surprising amount for advertising so it is only right that this should trickle down to the photogs.

To a certain extent you have to be stubborn and hold out for the right deal, right. But you've also got to get your ass out there taking interesting shots and bringing them to the mags, continuously showing them what you have and and being positive about things. It aint all bad. It's actually good fun:)


Seb Rogers

Hi Colin,

I hope I never implied it was all bad... and I'd certainly agree that it's fun :) But perhaps that's part of the problem - the fun bits can get in the way of good commercial decisions, and that's a problem if the pics you take are earning you a living.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: photography is a special case that gets people all fired up about all sorts of wonderful stuff to do with creative fulfillment, but that leaves photographers vulnerable to being exploited (whether knowingly or not).

The point of my original post was to illustrate how expensive it can be to earn a full-time living from photography. Doesn't mean it can't be done, shouldn't be done, or that it isn't enjoyable :)

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