Friday, August 27, 2010

A Photographer's Rant!

Businessman Communicating using a bullhorn or megaphone from a mountain peak.
A photographer's Rant: Sometimes you just want to get your voice heard!
The following is an actual  "Rant", if you will, from a photographer who posted it on a forum I am involved with. He agreed to let me share it on my blog provided he remained a "man of mystery" So be it.

I've transitioned into stock from assignment work and this year (2010) I've not shot any assignments at all. The world of assignments for me became a place of extreme stress and frustration as the new blood with their kit DSLRs and Clickpic websites flooded the market over the last few years with not a care in the world about licensing or copyright or charging anything like a workable fee just so they could get "in print". They have generally undermined the licensing business model so that I now get prospective clients telling me "I'm" unusual for not handing over copyright....!

What I can't stand in the modern advertising assignment world is how we photographers are essentially squeezed from both sides. We have to almost beg to get assignments, or offer up 20% to a rep, advertise in ridiculously expensive source books to be seen as 'hip', enter ridiculous competitions that the organizers extend deadlines on to maximize profit, yet that never lead to any real meaningful work. We have to run round with three or more ridiculously expensive snakeskin/zebra/armadillo bound 'folios' available at all times with our work printed on dried virgin's skin just to impress some acne-ridden twenty-something with the title of "creative director".

If he does commission us we have to fight unrealistic budgets, give away unrealistic rights, jump to someone else's timetable, work with pretentious a-holes on set and deliver work to unrealistic deadlines. Then we have to wait 90 days to get paid. Oh, and we have to be super grateful too.

The turnover can look good but the profit margin is the real story.and what cost to us of all that hassle and built in jerk-factor?

When I entered our illustrious industry it was partly because I enjoyed making images and partly because I enjoyed the idea of being my own boss. I found that increasingly with assignment work I lost the enjoyment of making images and I was never really my own boss. I found that client loyalty existed as long as the next estimate and if someone else was cheaper well.... you all know the ending.

With stock production I am, as much as can be expected, master of my own destiny. I can shoot when I want, take a day off when I want, and arrange my own productions so I can maximize profit. I treat stock as a pure business model and simply put, I shoot for money not pleasure. I have always said that if I could find another way of leveraging money from this industry I would do that too. This may still come. There's so much naive blood out there coupled with rich hobbyists that there's got to be money to be made. Good luck to the Chase Jarvis's & the Vincent LaForet's of this world, they've realized that for us all to survive we've got to do something alongside making images for a living. Lectures, apps, DVDs, seminars, courses, the list is endless.

While prices may be falling I'm a relative newbie in stock (3 years seriously and 5 years altogether) so I'm still working out what works and what doesn't. I wasn't shooting stock in the glory days so for me any sales are good sales (apart from PA of course...;)). The more I'm images I'm placing the more money I seem to make. So I'm continuing for now along the same trajectory while simultaneously reducing my expenditure as much as possible.

Success is a goal that each of us sets dependent on our expectations, our needs and wants and what we think is achievable. For me, being able to live by making images, or talking about making images and being master of my own destiny is a measure of success. I count myself lucky that I can pick up a camera and earn a living without having to be a corporate cube-farm slave like many of my friends. Sure they make more $$ than I do but...are they happy???!! ;)

My comments:  Where did he find a rep that would only take 20%?!!!


donfarrall said...

I am experiencing the opposite. I made "serious money" during the "glory days of stock", now agencies and photographers alike are willing to give away images for so little that I have been compelled to return the bulk of my efforts to assignment work. Stock (photography) was once my main source of income, now it is supplemental, and I have ramped up the assignment work. Yes I still very much enjoy producing stock images, but I can not invest in them in the way I once could, because the return potential has been so compromised. For the most part I kept the assignment door still open, and shooting stock made me a better assignment photographer. I'm not as busy as I would like to be, but some of that is the economy, and I think that will come around. We all know it is more than the economy that has gutted the money out of stock photo sales.

John Lund said...


Good points...I sense your own "rant" coming on!


Anonymous said...

I agree with the frustration here. It's not just stock photographers that are feeling this, but photographers in general. When I'm shooting a wedding and people are stepping in front of me with their cell phones and point-n-shoots... imagine... oh just imagine... the rants.

John Lund said...


I would imagine that Wedding photographers would have a lot of reason for "rants"...including an influx of competition from those fleeing the declining stock world....