Last week I was talking on the phone with my mother and she mentioned that the most recent photo she had of me is over 6 years old. As photographers we never think much about going in front of the camera. It’s not that I don’t like getting my picture taken or have some kind of phobia about it… I’ve helped out a lot of friends with shoots and have been a model in some cases. So I asked a few close friends if they would be willing to set aside a small amount of time to take a portrait of me. I offered a trade of services, a portrait for a portrait but I understood that they were working professionals and may not be able to make the time. So to keep my options open, I decided to place an ad on Craigslist to see what the local area had to offer. I knew I would have to pay for quality and I said that I would pay “Market rates.”
What happened next sincerely horrified me.
I promptly received 30+ emails from people claiming to be “Professional Photographers” and offering me their services for as low as $55.00 for a 2 hour session with 5 poses and all images on a CD. NO career can be sustained on one off 55.00 jobs and that doesn’t even begin to cover your operating expenses let alone pay you a living wage. Not only that, the people that are offering such rock-bottom rates are hurting the local market by lowering people’s expectations and standards of photography.
Not all of the photographers were bad or anything, some of them were pretty good but were charging far too little. Turning the tables like that has opened my eyes on what it’s like to be one of my own clients. Not all but most of the websites were terrible, a flickr page or completely unusable. The emails were extremely unprofessional and poorly written. Some of them didn’t even contain links to portfolios, they just had attached photos. Photography is a service industry – first impressions, even via email are EXTREMELY important.
If you are unsure what to charge for your photography services PLEASE go here and figure out your operating expenses and then ask around about what other photographers charge in your area. You are doing no favors to anyone by being “The cheapest” and you certainly don’t want that to be your reputation. You get what you pay for and this venn diagram sums it up nicely:
After nearly 4 months of traveling the country working on my Occupy Wallstreet project, “Portraits of the 99%” I have finally taken a bit of a break to recharge and get the body of work seen by the world. Upon doing some non-occupy wallstreet work, I’ve noticed something has happened: I’ve become REALLY good at making portraits.
Now, I’ve always considered myself a portrait photographer so of course I MUST be good at making portraits, right? Since working on the “Portraits of the 99%” series I’ve become much more observant of the nuances of the human condition within the confines of my frame. Gesture, facial expressions, body language. When I was on the road I had to work really fast because more often than not I was working on limited time and with people who were on the move so I became very sensitive to all of those things. Now that I’ve got the time to slow down and work with my subject things are much different. It’s hard for me to call my 4 month long and counting occupy project “practice” but I think photographers are always practicing while on the job or off. It’s really worth the effort and has made me much more aware of what I am photographing.
Quick post today, I wanted to share the interview that KTVU Channel 2 in Oakland did with me on the project last night. (I can’t post the video but you can click the thumbnail and watch it on their page)
I’m very excited at the opportunities that could come of this, some of you know that I have been shopping around for a gallery to hang these images in and this has already gotten me a few phone calls.
The other thing I wanted to share was the jump into color:
I’ve been working on a new promo to send to magazines showing that I am a portrait photographer. I thought what better way to do this then use some of my most well known work but something felt a bit off to me. So now I’ve been playing with really tight crops and color images from the “Portraits of the 99%” series. Let me know how you like it!
The only reason I did not stay inside the station when they shut it down was because I did not have press credentials because I don’t usually do this sort of thing. I was simply at the right place at the right time. Some will say that I’m taking sides with No Justice No BART but to be honest I don’t agree with how either side handled this situation. I Think it was very foolish of No Justice No BART to think that they could get away with blocking the turnstiles or that it would even make a difference beside anger and inconvenience hundreds if not thousands of commuters.
I also believe that the SFPD were far too aggressive – I was shocked when they locked everyone inside the station and surrounded the protesters. I saw at least 2 people get beaten up and dragged away. The protesters were all very young – 18, 19, 20.
For those of you who live in San Francisco who haven’t yet been to Adobe‘s Photoshop & you event at 550 Sutter St: Shame on you. Even if you’re not big into photoshop, or still shoot film – you should go. The event takes place over the course of 2 weeks from July 23rd to August 6th. They offer classes, lectures, demonstrations and raffles – all for free. You can view the full calender of Events at their website.
I’m really busy over the next week because I’m working on 2 films that are being submitted to Sundance, but I was able to make it to some of the weekend events – WOW.
Scott Kelby, if you don’t know who he is, is an educator, photoshopper, founder of NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) and an excellent photographer as well. He also tours the world giving his famous “Light it, shoot it, retouch it” seminar which he normally charges hundreds of dollars for. At the Photoshop & you event, he gave it to a room full of people for free.
It was an amazing talk, he worked with 2 models and did exactly what the name of the seminar says: He lit it, shot it and retouched it, all live. What was different about this session was he was working with continuous lighting so he let the crowd photograph the models as well. Personally, this is not something I did because I like to create my own things rather than work on something that has been done for me but it was still a blast.
After each shoot he demonstrated some retouching techniques in both Photoshop and Lightroom, and in the end did an amazing composite with the above model by placing her into a grungy alley and making it seem like she was really there, all in a matter of minutes. It was very educational and entertaining, Scott is a great presenter and a pretty nice guy as well.
After his seminar he agreed to do an interview with The Candid Frame’s Ibarionex Perello, which should be coming out next month.
Like I said, even if you’re not a photoshop junkie you should go. Go check out the calender of events, there are some great things happening there until August 6th. There’s some great people there who are happy to meet other photographers or retouchers and the chance to see and experience all of this for free is a really great opportunity.
I’m a photographer who’s afraid of taking pictures. There, I said it.
I’m afraid of missing that moment. Of not being able to recreate that light, or that expression.
I’m afraid of failure. Of not being good enough.
But every day, I pick up that camera and shoot. You have to, fear is a part of being an artist, a photographer.
Practice makes perfect, and if you practice enough, maybe you won’t be afraid any more. Or maybe you’ll
simply get used to photographing while you’re afraid.
We’re all afraid of something, and pushing your limits is the only way to over come your fear.
Last weekend I shot a small campaign for Glide, a local non-profit that provides healthcare and other services for the homeless and needy. The campaign was for the Pride Team for an event that will be raising funds for the organization. The event was a Drag show, so the assignment was to take studio portraits of the performers. We took individual portraits, pairs of portraits and a group portrait. The group portrait has become sort of the center of attention for the campaign, but the individual portraits will be used during the event itself.
Anyway I had a blast working in the studio with the client, an art director and a crew of stylists and one thing I decided to do independently was shoot some behind the scenes footage with my trusty SONY NEX3, nothing too crazy but I wanted to document the shoot. I put together a 2 1/2 minute behind the scenes video and posted it to my vimeo, and within hours I got a flurry of emails from the client, the art director and a number of other people at Glide. They wanted to license the video for the event and for their website, and I was more than happy to comply with this.
Even if you don’t have a lot of fancy gear or don’t necessarily have a lot of experience shooting video, do it anyway. It’s a great way to learn, and you might make some money in the process. It’s simple at first, grab a friend and have them film some stuff around the set and then put a few clips together and you just might get a nice source of extra revenue.
If your camera gear isn’t insured, do it now.
No seriously, stop reading this and get on the phone with an insurance agent and get insurance RIGHT. NOW.
If the image above made you cringe or cry a little, then it’s about time we had a good, hard talk.
Being a sole proprietor or freelancer means that if your gear breaks, YOU are responsible for replacing it. If you have all of your gear insured, that is some serious weight off your chest, especially since that $5,000.00 camera could easily put you out of business if it breaks. I’m sure many freelance photographers would like to think that they’re business won’t go down without a fight, that they would ride it to the end, jump ship at the last moment and various other metaphors. If your gear isn’t insured, you’ll be on a quickly sinking ship and you WILL go down with it.
Just because you’ve got the latest gear with all it’s weather-sealed technology doesn’t mean you can EVER be too careful. This is you’re livlihood we’re talking about here, and you need to treat it well.
I decided to do my next video project on a unique little barber shop on Larkin and California Street. Cut Up Barber shop is owned by Allen Barnes, who has been a barber for almost 50 years. I go there every so often for a trim. He quickly became a friend as he told stories of his life and experience while cleaning up my beard. His shop is very old fashioned and unique. There’s a stack of playboys near the waiting seats. There’s a pool table in the back. There’s beer in the fridge. It’s an amazing little shop and Allen does a fantastic job.
As photographers, we are constantly thinking about what we will be shooting next. We all have things we would love to shoot, specific projects that we want to dive into when we have free time.
Now if we’re lucky, we will be bogged down by lots of work from demanding clients who will pay us our living. However, it’s important to shoot for yourself, and what better time to do this than during a month where work is slow?
It’s good for you, because it will keep your creativity flowing. And it will also give you new work to show your clients, a sign to them that you’re always thinking about your work.
Sometimes portfolios take time. Especially fashion portfolios, you have to book models, stylists etc – even if all of your crew consists of good friends, it can still take time to sync up everyone’s schedule.
I’ve shot a portfolio in a week. When you really get into something, something you’ve wanted to shoot for awhile and have it fully realized in your head – that’s a powerful thing.
Whats important is that you indulge yourself. Don’t shoot a portfolio for someone else – “Oh X client will love it if I have a portfolio of this” You need to do this for yourself, it will be much stronger.
Keep those creative juices flowing. Shoot what you love, for you.
The next time you hear a friend say “They’re paying me 100.00 to shoot their wedding!” show them this picture. It’s more then pressing a button, it’s more than perfect timing, it’s more than knowledge of your camera – it’s all of those things and THEN more. Shooting weddings is hard – that’s why people hire professionals to shoot them, and pay them professional rates. This goes for every type of photography, you get what you pay for. Digital photography is so accessible and inexpensive now, it’s no surprise that some families are opting to have Uncle Bob who just got a DSLR shoot their events.
Focus on making great pictures. It’s slow for everyone, but this business is cyclical. It always comes back around.
I received a few emails from some potential clients this weekend, each of which were both involved the same industry; custom high end tailoring and clothing.
Each client asked me what my day and half day rates were. I explained to them (in as few sentences as possible) that I don’t work by day rates. The services I can offer them are of more value that can be measured on a clock.
My services include (but are not limited to): Photography, (of course!) access and use of Makeup artists, hair stylists, wardrobe specialists and location scouts, a full retouching studio for light or heavy retouching and print services.
I said it would not be fair to throw a price at them if I simply did not know what it was that they needed, and with internet marketing clients’ needs are so specific that it’s only fair that you are compensated for catering to those specific needs.
I also feel that it’s easy to be taken advantage of by using a day rate or half day rate. If something takes far more or far less time than anticipated, you’re stuck either sitting around doing nothing or rushing around trying to finish within the day. Something will always happen that is out of you or your client’s control, and you may not be compensated well enough to handle those situations.
On the other side of the coin, I can totally see why clients like the consistency of day rates. It may help them plan their budget better. Because of this, you must become very skilled at putting together accurate, all encompassing estimates and bids. I can see how a day rate works for studio photographers, or senior portrait photographers. It’s a different type of clientele. But speaking as someone from the advertising and editorial world, I have chosen to eliminate day rates from my vocabulary.
Check out Shakodo for pricing tips and advice, it’s free to join and frankly it’s a really amazing resource.
So for the last few weeks I have been working on my portfolio. Not shooting for it specifically, because you know, you’re ALWAYS working on your portfolio, what I’m talking about is physically ASSEMBLING a series of prints into a book to show to current and potential clients.
Building a portfolio is hard. You have to somehow set aside your pride and ego and look at your work objectively so you can edit, arrange and make it the best presentation of your work. Sometimes a favorite photo of yours has to be edited out, because it doesn’t fit with the rest of them. This alienates you, because you feel such a great attachment to this photo. So you go back and fourth and back and fourth and you question your worth as an artist and pretty soon you don’t even know who you are anymore.
So yesterday I made the mistake of saying “My portfolio is DONE. This is the most comprehensive collection of my work that I have ever put into a book.” Well first of all, of COURSE it is. It SHOULD be, being the newest work. Mixing in some old with the new, it should cover all the things I’m good at and show the new things I’m good at. Second of all, a portfolio is NEVER done.
I was showing this book to a client today, and between the time I had said that and this morning I had a little itch at the back of my neck. I kept going back and going through the portfolio, over and over again. By the time I got to the meeting with the client I was very nervous, and it was all because I declared to myself that it was “Done.”
So here’s a few tips to avoid that stress:
Your portfolio needs to show your absolute BEST work. Even something a little bit weak will bring the rest of the images down. Choice of subject is very important. If you’re a still-life photographer show-still life. If you shoot people show people. Your lighting, techniques and moods should be similar, but not the same for every image. It’s ok for you to take sensitive portraits of someone and later in the book show something with a sense of humor, as long as it still looks like it was taken by the same photographer.
Versatility and Flow
This is going to sound hypocritical, but you must display consistency AND variety in your work, or you won’t be getting any. It doesn’t have to be a huge shift, but just enough to get your client to look a second time. This also creates a flow throughout your book, you need to keep visual interest. The last thing you want the flow of your book to flatline, it’ll be boring. You want it to ebb and flow, rise and fall, over and over again.
Edit, edit, edit
Make little thumbnail prints of all the images you want to include in your book, and lay them out. Remove the ones that don’t work, and then do it again. And again. And again. Then have a few friends over for some drinks and have THEM look at it. Show it to a peer, or graphic designer friend. Your portfolio should contain no less than 10 photos (Any fewer would be too short) and no more than 20. (Any more would be ridiculous) And remember, nothing but your VERY BEST.
Hopefully this will help some of you out there deal with the stress of portfolio building and showing better. My meeting went fine, as long as you believe in your work (And it’s good work) and show confidence throughout your showing you will have a better chance than some of coming through and getting a new client.
The reason behind the lack of updates around here is because I have been on a bit of a working vacation. I have been in New Zealand for the past 3 weeks, doing work for an orchestra in Auckland and working on my new promos.
What’s that you say? What kind of a vacation is that?? It’s a damn good one if you ask me. Being away from home and only having a little bit of work to do has given me a lot of time to work on things I have been putting off. My new promo for example:
Also what I’ve had time to work on is the list of companies I’m sending them to. And you photographers know how big of a deal that is.
That’s not to say that my work with the orchestra and the time spent on the marketing piece has taken up all of my time – most of my time is spent out in the sun on the beach or in downtown Auckland with Alanna. I’ve even taken some time to do various portraits of friends here for a personal project, which will eventually turn into a new promotional piece. These sort of vacations from your hectic work schedule are healthy – but of course it doesn’t mean you should do nothing the whole time. Just because you take a vacation doesn’t mean your marketing has to as well.
Something that every photographer struggles with is how to price themselves. Most of the time, they under-price themselves because they are scared that someone will say no. The problem with this is that it hurts the entire industry. If you set a new low for portraits (I’m looking at you, Craigslist photographers) you will be setting a new low for expectations of photographers and the services that we provide.
And our services are valuable.
Photography is everywhere, this is a very visual time whether it’s photo or video, and people that can provide this service well get paid well.
Start with some research. See what other photographers in your area are charging, because it’s different from city to city. You can’t charge a New York rate in a Mississippi town. Have yourself a minimum rate that you will go and shoot for, and you can figure out that minimum rate using the ASMP’s cost of doing business calculator.
Keep in mind that you will NOT be shooting 365 days a year, so it’s important that the work you take can pay your expenses on days that you’re not shooting. Which brings me to my next point:
Don’t charge by the hour. You will ALWAYS be selling yourself short, unless it’s some sort of event photography in which case you should have a minimum time for. Take for example, you charge 75.00 an hour and you’re heading out to shoot a portrait of a business man. His people have given you one hour with him but it takes you 10 minutes to do the portrait. His people will then decide to pay you for only 1/10 of your time. It happens.
If you can do a shoot in 10 minutes that was thought to take an hour to complete, this means that you are very skilled and should be paid more, am I right?
You should also remove the term “Day Rate” from your business vocabulary as well. It comes down to a time issue – if a client has you for 8 hours and you’re done shooting in 3 they have you for another 5 hours – which is time you could be spending managing your business.
And that’s what photographers are, businessmen. You have to know your numbers and be able to set your rates competitively. Don’t fly into the market and undercut your competition – that’s just tacky. Research, and price fairly. Are you better than a mall photographer with one of those “studios” in the middle of the floor? Then charge more. People will eventually come around and see that they get what they pay for.
You know what the difference is between a professional career photographer and an enthusiastic hobbyist is? Patience. I learned how to shoot originally with film, and when photography was a multiple-cost process of buying film, shooting and then paying for development you made your shots count. I love digital. I love how it’s finally maturing and how it’s bringing out a lot of talent in a lot of people. But as far as shooting goes, I hate how fast it is. People will shoot hundreds of photos and then dig out “the one” from this pile of what’s otherwise junk. When I shot film, I made each shot count. When doing portraits I would talk to my subject, get to know them and photograph them as they got comfortable. When I did still life I would study what I was shooting carefully and study the light and make it perfect before I even took a single frame. Ask anyone who has shot with a 4×5 camera – when it costs you about $8.00 per picture you slow down and work meticulously to make the image the best it can possibly be before you take that picture.
My advice to you is to put that digital camera away for a day and shoot some film. Pick up a Holga. There’s something very organic about loading, winding, spooling, developing, washing and printing your film by hand. You will learn a lot from this process and it may make you enjoy your digital photography even more so.
Since it’s invention, photography has been a print medium. Salt-prints, ambro-types, tin-types, everything was printed on something. Today it seems like it’s everywhere in newspapers, magazines, billboards, etc. With the digital age dominating, we are seeing a decline in newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and more integration of digital mediums, such as electronic billboards, internet ads and even a few video-based magazine ads with paper-thin LCD screens.
Studies show that kids between the ages of 8 – 18 consume multiple types of media at the same time, most of them digital while print is being left in the dust.
Then there’s the iPad. Personally, I love having a printed portfolio, but this slick new toy or at least the concept behind it may very well replace printed samples. Photography schools and programs are already starting to teach 35mm film exclusively to fine-art students. We’re coming into that sci-fi world that we’ve been seeing in the movies since the 1950′s, minus the flying cars. So what do you think? Is print media dying? Will it be replaced by iPads and other types of digital medias and display? Comment and place your vote below!