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Good Enough to Succeed in Photography

goodenough

It’s been a tough few years and people are frustrated with the state of the industry. Everywhere I turn, people seem to be saying that a photography career isn’t what it used to be and that budgets are tight. Many of the blogs I read and the message boards that I visit all seem to be repeating the same message: There’s no work, there’s no money, and the competition is too intense to succeed. To quote one frustrated photographer, “How do you f’ing make a living shooting pictures anymore?

While it’s absolutely true that newspapers and magazines have been badly hurt by the economy and that the business of photography has been fragmented, people still need pictures. Just look at the magazine racks at your local bookstore and the sheer number of publications that are shelved there. The ads in those magazines all need pictures and the stories within the magazines also need pictures. People still need photography.

I think the real change that’s occurred is that there’s an ever-increasing number of people who are entering the business and that increase has naturally led to intense competition for the work. People have always loved the idea of shooting pictures as a way of life and many more people are now pursuing photography because the barrier to entry is now virtually non-existent. Technically, anyone can be a photographer these days. And pretty much anyone is.

How did this happen?

D4s_58_1.4_back34r.highTechnology. Technology changed how photographs get made and that same technology is what’s made it possible for the sheer number of photographers to grow so quickly. In the last 30 years, these are just a few of the technologies that have become commonplace: autofocusing, auto-exposures, TTL, motor-drives, digital cameras, Photoshop, RAW captures and the Internet.

And?

What all those things mean is that it’s a snap (pardon the pun) to be a photographer these days. Simply head down to a decent professional camera store, pick up a good Nikon or Canon DSLR, a high-quality zoom, a decent flash and just like that, you’re a photographer. Then, upload your pictures to Flickr or PhotoShelter and instantly, you have a distribution network for your photos. This very process is happening every, single day.

Consider this: In less than two minutes, I can set up my current camera to autofocus, auto-expose, auto-white balance, TTL flash and RAW capture and hand it to my mom (who knows less about photography than I know about brain surgery) and tell her to just point the camera in the general direction of what she wants to shoot and the camera will do the rest.

If she doesn’t get the exposure just right, I’ll fix it for her later in Lightroom. If she doesn’t compose just right, I’ll crop it later in Photoshop because I have so much file size to work with. I won’t have to teach her how to change the film in the camera because the 128GB card will hold about 7600 images — more frames than she will likely shoot during her trip to the beach with her grandson. Finally, I won’t have to really coach her very much on waiting for the “decisive moment,” because at ten frames a second, she’ll likely get plenty of them. The frames that aren’t so decisive, I’ll just drag to the trash icon in the lower right corner of my Mac. Will she make any powerful, innovative, compelling images? Not likely. But the point is she will make consistently usable images and she’ll be happy with them. There will be many, many pictures that are, “good enough.” What I wonder is how many professional photographers are saying something similar about their own photographs.

The question is, if you’re a professional photographer and “good enough” is all you’re striving for, are you really all that surprised that you have so much competition?

sportsphotographersLet’s say you want to be a sports photographer. What does it take to be a sports photographer today? Well, you need a camera that can capture the peak action and most high-end DSLRs will do that with the frame rates they offer. You need a telephoto lens that will autofocus faster than you can do it manually and most will do that easily.

You’ll need a few other items to make pictures, but for the most part, you now have all the same technology at your fingertips that every other photographer at the game will have. And that’s the problem. The technology—the cameras and lenses—are the great equalizer. Everyone begins from the same technological place now.

That wasn’t true at all just a few years ago. Back then a sports photographer needed to know how to follow focus and be great at it. They would also need a good meter to determine exposure and the quirks of different film emulsions and how to use push-processing when they shot in low-light. But even if they had those skills, once the pictures were processed and ready to be distributed, they were still limited by geography and time. Today, none of that is true. The technology in today’s digital cameras and the connections and speed of the internet make the barriers to entry almost non-existent. The only remaining barrier is access to the game itself. And even that is easily overcome.

For example, there are many picture agencies that specialize in professional sports imagery. The images that their photographers capture appear in national newspapers and magazines like Sports Illustrated and other major publications. In order to produce images for distribution, they routinely acquire credentials for major events and send photographers out to shoot and pay those photographers little or nothing for hours of work on the sideline. And you know what? They have a line out the door of young photographers who are willing to make that deal—access, in exchange for coverage. The photographers are looking for experience and imagery that will build their portfolio, and the agency owner is looking to profit and grow from that. And this kind of arrangement isn’t something new.

newspaper1When I was a photojournalism student in college, I wanted access to news events. And the only way I could get that access was with a media credential. So, I made a deal with a small weekly newspaper. If I would cover Friday night football games for $6 per published picture, the editor would write a letter to the Los Angeles Police Department on my behalf so that I could get a press pass. Without hesitation, I gladly took the deal.

Once I had my pass, very little was off-limits to me and my camera. I shot warehouse fires and plane crashes and any other news I could get to—for the experience. After about a year, I had some major news events in my book, so I said so long to the weekly and moved on with my pictures. I had gotten the access, improved my portfolio and tasted the news business. Then I drove my portfolio over to a different newspaper and for the next 18 months, my press pass said The Los Angeles Times. Mission accomplished.

The point is to grow. Expand. Push. Take some risks. Shoot something you don’t already know how to shoot. Just keep shooting.

If photographing sports is your thing, outwork everyone else at the game. Because once you realize that everyone else has essentially the same technology in their hands that you do, the only thing that will separate you from the gaggle of other photographers is how hard you’re willing to work to beat them. If you’re assigned a baseball story and you haven’t shot much baseball, study it—even if it’s only on TV. Learn the players and the strategy and whether a certain player has a tendency to break his bat at the plate. While everyone else is showing up 30 minutes before game time, why not get there early to shoot batting practice to get your timing more precise? How about a remote camera in addition to your handheld? How about looking for something other than game action? If you have to do a portrait at the ballpark, how about setting up some lights rather than just bouncing your speed light off the ceiling?

olympicphotographerThe most successful photographers do this—and more. A baseball shooter I admire is at spring training right now making great images of the team he works for. He has the same camera and lenses that everyone else has, but his images are better because he knows the game and he outworks everyone else. Another photographer I know shoots Olympic figure skating. He has been known to actually diagram the entire routine of a skater during their practices so that he will know precisely where they will glide, where they will leap and where they are likely to fall. Is it any wonder that he rarely misses the shot—or that he is the go-to guy for figure skating?

My inspiration whenever I feel like cutting a corner or leaving a case of lights behind is to remember that there is always a cubicle job that will be glad to have me if the photography gig is too demanding and competitive. That terrifying thought has inspired me to drag six cases of lights through an airport more than once when I needed to kick myself in the ass. And I’ve never, ever said to myself, “Gee, I’m glad I took the easy way, left all the lighting gear behind and just brought my on-camera strobe.” The pictures are always better when you push yourself harder.

If there is a better way to go through life and earn an honest living than being a photographer, I’m not sure what it could be. It’s like having a ringside seat to anything you want to learn about.

If you want to know more about airplanes, work for Boeing or Gulfstream or Airbus. Love cars? Shoot for car magazines or Lexus or Ferrari. Have a passion for architecture and design? Work for architects or interior designers or the magazines that publish their work. Fanatical about golf? There is an entire industry that needs product shots of clubs and balls and even golf carts. Would you rather be on the course? You can cover tournaments for the PGA, the golf magazines or even shoot PR pictures for companies holding golf outings. If you want to travel all over the world and still be involved in golf, you can make images of courses for the designer or make amazing brochure images for golf resorts.

The work is definitely there in all those spaces and countless others. There is a niche for everyone. Heck, I even know of a guy who makes most of his living shooting nothing but kids scooters. One, single brand of kids scooters. And he does quite well financially too.

carphotoThe photographers who are shooting the new Boeing planes, or the latest Ferrari, or the golf resort in Hawaii, or the latest scooter designs are not striving to just be “good enough.” If they ever do, someone else is right behind them to take their spot.

I teach every year at a workshop in Colorado and while I’m there I look at portfolios along with picture editors from Sports Illustrated and the New York Times as well as photographers from university athletic programs, international magazines and global wire services. Typically, out of about fifty portfolios each year, three or four stand out from the rest. Those photographers—without exception—are the one’s for who “good enough,” never is. They push. They reach. They grow. They push even harder. It shows very clearly in their pictures. And I remember each photographer’s name, where they are from and I follow their work. The pictures are that good.

Occasionally, a photographer just has a natural gift of vision and every image looks different than anything you’ve ever seen before. Those photographers are rare and they are the one’s that have the most potential to really make their mark in this profession. In twelve years of looking at portfolios, I’ve met only three people who had that rare and special eye. The images are the kind that make you cock your head and linger for a while on each image and wonder how and why they saw that subject in just that way. I make a point to follow those photographers too because I hope that someday I might learn to see as well as they see.

squirrel

The desire to be a photographer, to some, can be similar to the desire to be an actor or a novelist or a rock star. The dream is more often the focus than the hard work that’s needed to get there. The idea of walking the red carpet at the Oscars, or being a solitary writer on a tropical island, or performing in front of thousands of screaming fans at a sold out concert, or shooting from the pit at the Indy 500 can be powerful visions. To get there, and stay there, takes desire and drive and risk and perseverance — in both those other professions and in photography. And the fear of ending up in a cubicle is probably as great a motivator as any.

But, it’s worth the effort. You find yourself in places and with people that you would never get to meet if you were in the cubicle. And, you create photographic souvenirs of each experience along the way. It’s the ringside seat to everyday life that makes photography truly worth the effort to be more than “good enough.”


About the author: Joey Terrill is an advertising and editorial photographer with clients that include American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, ESPN, Golf Digest, Major League Baseball and Sports Illustrated. Visit his website here. Terrill also writes about photography at The Penumbra Project, where this article originally appeared.


Image credits: Photographers by Augustas Didzgalvis, Photographer at London 2012 Olympics by James Blunt, MC Stradale vs. LP-560 by Tom Wolf and “Am I close enough?” by Peter Trimming.


 
  • 4dmaze

    “How do you f’ing make a living shooting pictures anymore?” Answer: Lighthearted anecdotes about working harder and better than everyone else.

    The article does a good job of pointing out the problems with making a living at photography but suggesting that the solution, “Love cars? Shoot for car magazines or Lexus or Ferrari.” is a bit vague and not especially helpful. How people GET those projects is the key, now how much they want it. An article showing the process of how modern photographers succeed in business today would be really helpful. i.e.: What portfolio techniques were the most persuasive/effective, how they got their foot in the door, what styles are trending now?, was it more who you know then what you knew?, Did joining any organizations/clubs help?, Did you have to give away any projects on the premise of more work?

  • OtterMatt

    Networking is the short answer. Everything today is networking. Sidle up alongside shooters at events, maybe slip them a card with your info. Ask for tips, show up early for training sessions and talk to the guy running it. Join freaking Linkdin. Your first break can come from being in the right place at the right time, but 9 times out of 10 it will come because someone you know and who knows you needs a favor or some cheap and quick help. That’s your foot in the door, and the more people you know, the quicker it comes.

  • 4dmaze

    Thanks for the constructive input.

  • BDWT

    Yup. The importance of networking is true of any industry, I find the only real difference is that many photographers are freelancers and thus we jump from job to job, client to client more frequently than say, someone who works a steady 9 to 5. There’s also the exceptions, there are some photographers have steady employment from a magazine or company but I don’t know too many people in that position.

  • http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/ Colby Brown

    While more “competition” is certainly part of the shift that has happened in the photo industry, the more compelling answer of how the industry has changed lays in the revenue streams that have shifted, changed and or evolved over the years. The dream of being a photographer is still a viable one and photography as a whole is not dying. In fact I make more now than I ever have, often more in a month than the average photographer in the US makes in a year, and I do this by diversifying my business portfolio and the services and products I have to offer.

    I often get a good laugh when I read photographers raving about the the evils of social media or when I am told by other photographers from the old guard that I am not a true photographer because outside of taking photos, I write books and lead workshops and work on marketing campaigns with large companies. Once people wake up to the evolution that has happened in the photo industry, a clear picture can be made on what financial opportunities are viable in this day and age and which ones are no longer a reality.

  • OtterMatt

    Networking is important to a job seeker in any industry. It’s absolutely VITAL in an industry where most of the work is on a contract basis. Those 9-5’ers almost never happen first job out of the box.

  • Pickle

    Man, professional photographers are some of the most insecure and whiny people I’ve ever come across. Every day it’s complaining about amateurs and how the world is against them. It’s really simple: Either be savy enough to make a living off this, or go get your real estate license and start a new profession where you’ll again complain about how there is too much competition.

  • Heie

    “Simply head down to a decent professional camera store, pick up a good
    Nikon or Canon DSLR, a high-quality zoom, a decent flash and just like
    that, you’re a photographer.”

    Well, as a Pentax shooter, I guess it’s all been for nothing then :(
    http://www.alexjansenphotography.com

  • http://acorner.net/blog Alexandra G.

    Excellent article!
    “The dream is more often the focus than the hard work that’s needed to get there.”

  • Cameron Prescott

    That kind attitude tells me you’re the kind of person who leaves their lights at home. Good luck with that.

  • whisky

    “good enough” ain’t bad … it’s just “good enough”. :)

  • slyman

    lol do you at least have a better argument against what i said instead of an ad hominem?

    photography is somewhat of a self serving profession. i mean you get to go out and have your fun and have a job that you like where you’re likely your own boss. all to produce pictures that someone will have the pleasure of looking at for a couple seconds, a pleasure that could be provided by many other things or even by someone providing the pictures for free. and you still get the satisfaction of producing a nice image and having your pictures looked at.

    i will say that one benefit of people putting money into the industry is that sensor tech and whatnot are advanced and those advances can be applied to something useful like studying the cosmos.

  • Edgar Allan Bro

    Easy. You don’t try and ‘make a living’ in a field selling a commoditised product with declining gross revenue and near-zero barriers to entry against strong competition from hobbyists with a practically zero cost base.

    Well, at least that’s what you would say if you took a high school economics class, rather than daydreaming about being a ‘pro tographer’ because SnappinMoms, Jasmine Starr and Canon ads told you it was super easy and profitable.

  • Gsmith

    What a ridiculous thing to say. Especially on this website where so many readers DO make a living shooting pictures. Basically, you’re an idiot.

  • http://www.sin3rgy-creative.com/ David Liang

    Exactly it. Creative networking.
    I know guy that started showing up at vintage car group meets, and shooting their cars. He now makes a living doing that. No one’s going to get handed anything you gotta go out there and find it yourself.

  • Pickle

    Most people can live with good enough pictures of their kids playing in the backyard or a birthday. Most people can’t live with a good enough dentist, plumber, surgeon, or other professions where a mistake can mean loss of life or property. Photographers like to think they do a very noble thing that nobody else can do, but that’s just not the case anymore.

  • T.j. Grant

    This article is nonsense. I spent over 5 years and thousands of dollars on high-end camera equipment in an effort to become a sports photographer. During that time I got zero paying jobs, despite having a nice portfolio which I developed over time. Local newspapers, websites, high schools and colleges were glad to have be shoot for free in exchange for access – something the author of this article acknowledges happens. But never once did anyone agree to pay for my services. I’m sure people make a nice living a photography somehow. But I don’t see how its done. Too many people are willing to shoot for free in order to gain “experience”. There will always be such people. Its impossible to compete with free. As a sports photographer I know who shoots for an NFL team told me “If you are thinking of becoming a professional sports photographer – don’t”.

  • Dave_TX

    There is a difference between a snapshot (even with a $6k rig) taken by somebody with more money than sense and a photo taken and processed by someone skilled in the art. Quality equipment certainly makes a difference but skill with regards to composition, lighting, exposure, timing sets the casual clicker apart from the serious photographer (amatuer or pro). The casual clicker is generally satisfied if everybody in the photo is recognizable. That is not to deny the sentimental value of the photo to those involved but it won’t be of interest to anybody else.

  • slyman

    i did say that there is a niche to be filled by some people but it’s not a very large one. i’d venture to guess that most of the people here who are pros have been in it more than a couple years. and of course there are going to be a large amount of people who do make a living off of it here, this is a photography blog. doesn’t mean there are tons of jobs to be had for people who aren’t getting paid to do it. and i wonder how many of the people making a living off of it mainly by doing portraits and wedding photography, but make nearly nothing off of the things they would prefer to make money off of.

    nice job making a two line comment that is one quarter ad hominem though.

  • Donald Giannatti

    I think the problem is two fold:

    1. The designation “photographer” – small p versus “Photographer” – capitol P. Too many think they are the same and I think there is a big difference.

    We teach kids how to write in schools. Every school. How many of them end up as Writers? Do we call someone who sends Christmas cards and tweets a “Writer”? Of course not… they write as a natural course of their lives.

    We teach kids to play an instrument. How many of them become professional musicians? Would a kid with a kazoo or a second year piano student be called a musician? Nope… they are studying to be one.

    In photography, the act of taking a photograph makes you a photographer – by definition. So a selfie is a photograph as is any “pro” working on a gig.

    Problematic in that there is no separation between what is clearly a simple action and the culmination of years of experience and craft. In nearly every other endeavor I can think of that line of demarcation exists clearly. Only in ‘photography’ does it become an issue.

    2. The lack of understanding how the business is done. In the recent past, the way to become a photographer was fairly clear. Go to school (or don’t), find a photographer you like and assist (apprenticeship) with them until you had your book ready. The assistantship was 30% photography and 70% learning the ins and outs of a very complex business of commercial art.

    These days, as the author notes, someone goes to the camera store for a camera on the way to the printer to order their business cards. They don’t have a friggin’ clue how to shoot, what a body of work is, what the role of a photographer is, how to deal with clients – hell, how to find a friggin client even, or what it means to take/shoot/deliver an assignment.

    They watch the video classes, and drool over the rockstars shooting models in skimpy bikinis with 6 assistants at the photographers beck and call… yeah, that’s the way it is in all studios… heh. They read about crop sensors and full frame sensors and hang out at websites designed to create link-bait more than content that furthers the craft. They think the interwebs are real… and it is not really their fault.

    That path of apprenticeship is almost gone.

    So they begin to whine that there is no work. They fear the kid with the kazoo, the mom with the facebook account. They think working hard is making photographs of model mayhem ‘alternative’ models. Again, not really their fault. They have been led to that place by celebrity photographers and cultural con men that feed off of their energy and like button snaps.

    I would challenge any photographer to this:

    How many new contacts did you make last week?
    How many clients saw your work last week?
    How many cold calls did you do last week?
    How big is your Art Director/Designer list?
    How often do you add images to your porftolio?
    How many personal projects did you complete last year?
    How many personal projects did you share with those who would be interested?
    How big is your book? Is it a body of work or a collection of images?

    How do you make a living as a photographer? You do what you need to do. I know too many successful photographers to listen to the whining of those who probably shouldn’t be a Photographer, but should remain a photographer.

    (I am only discussing commercial/advertising/editorial here. I have little to no interest in consumer photography… that genre is in serious trouble.)

  • Biff

    Fascinating & insightful post.

    Can you share your thoughts on wedding photography (if you have one) it’s a subject dear to me.

    Should your view be negative, don’t sugar-coat it. I want to hear it unvarnished.

  • Donald Giannatti

    I have long said that the world of consumer photography will be the biggest crash yet in the photo world.

    I have reasons for that… one being that the barrier for entry to consumer photography is simply non-existent. While people are very upset at and make fun of GWC’s, the bottom line is that the level of work in the consumer realm is quite easy to produce… and a lot of people are producing it.

    Now that is not ALL the photographers fault. The consumers want the same ol / same ol and the photographer delivers. Rarely cutting edge, most always ‘safe’ work that is beginning to not only be safe, but also easily created on a myriad of tools – from iPhones to P&S.

    Secondarily in this genre there is no third interested party. No shooting to brand, no shooting to layout, no prep for particular demographics… just shoot stuff and it is good. (Before you flame me, I am speaking in generalities of course.) There is only one client to please – and they very often do not have a high threshold of aesthetic appreciation. And they don’t need the images to help position a brand or create more customers.

    Secondarily, there are fewer and fewer weddings being done, per capita of women under 35, than each preceeding year. The numbers are so staggering that within the next 25 years marriage could disappear. (Of course this will not really happen, but there is no knowing where it will bottom out.)

    Adding to that conundrum is the fact that younger people are wanting to do things differently than their parents and grand parents – and the ubiquitous wedding photographer making prints or a book may find that they are quickly out of ‘fashion’ as something else, something we may not even be aware of, comes charging over the photography hill… taking all by surprise.

    Not me. i am pretty certain that wedding, maternity and in some ways seniors photographers – as they exist today – are “dead men walking”… the work is becoming run of the mill, and easily copied/reproduced/cookie cutter created. That means that the ability to ‘stand out’ will become harder and harder till it is nearly impossible.

    NOT because of a lack of creativity on the part of the photographers, but because the consumers want the same thing they have seen elsewhere, and the popular culture has a rigid disdain for things that deviate from the already tired path…

    Until they see ‘the next thing’… and then, THAT becomes the new solid, safe way.

    From music to cinema to books, the trend is to do the same thing again and again (Teen Vampires anyone…?).

    My suggestion has and is to be multifaceted, try new things, adapt fast and easily, watch all trends like a hawk and do not, under any circumstances, become locked into what you are doing today as the ONLY way it can be done.

    it isn’t. It just isn’t.

  • Biff

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing your insights with us.

    I didn’t need you to sugar-coat it because there’s value in hearing opposing views from both sides of a question.

    One thing I would add to your list of suggestions is something you alluded to:

    Standing out.

    If you have the ability to stand out in your field, then that’s a leg up on the competition.

    And there is no denying that there are many wedding photographers who are a cut above & are making good money at it.

    The reason you did not include it in your list, is your belief in its diminishing returns due to low-barrier to entry.

    Which I agree with up to a certain point.

    But from some point upwards: the barrier does begin to go up.

    This comes in the form of putting several aspects together & combining them into one well-oiled machine:

    – a highly-competent & good understanding of the business side (of thousands who get cash for shots, few really generate good cashflow from it)

    – people skills (there are tricks & techniques that can be exploited by even ‘non-people’ persons, to become adept at closing deals & getting the business, then there are more techniques for getting people to loosen up & look good in shots, most of these tricks are extremely subtle yet add-up to provide a very smooth service that equates to better cashflow)

    – a consistency that comes from years of experience (anyone can copy a good shot, but to consistently get good shots in the field under time-constraints & ever-changing conditions, is not something just anyone can do easily with consistency)

    Getting all of this together is in itself a barrier not so easily overcome.

    Now what you’re saying is that, if this is part of what’s needed to stand out, then it’s very hard to stand out, specially with more competition.

    And what I’m saying is this: it’s both a positive & a negative.

    That barrier means: it’s harder get in.

    But that barrier also means: there is less competition.

    There is less of you who stand out.

    As big as the competition is for most of the journey upwards: few have really put it all together in comparison.

    Because the barrier exists.

    But only past a certain point.

    So the question is: can one still stand out many years from now with so much competition?

    And a clue to the answer lies in the ubiquitous Guy With Camera.

    As many GWCs as there are, very few will really put it together.

    Hell, it’s the very premise of your post.

    We lump every shooting soccer mom & GWC into one big pile of competition when in fact, few of those really dish true competition past a certain point.

    Once you apply a certain standard of competence or excellence: then much of the competition falls by the wayside.

    And it really becomes a case of your ‘photographer vs Photographer.’

  • Biff

    Because this is an exercise in self-improvement: I’ll blow my premise with a counter-point.

    “As many GWCs as there are, very few will really put it together.”

    But that can be taken the other way: it can also mean that with so many GWCs even if just a few percentage make it, the sheer quantity of the former, means there’s a big quantity of the latter.

    Meaning: more competition.

    Which is also the point of Giannatti’s post.

    In this case, the question is:

    Is the upper barrier big enough that few of these competent GWCs can overcome it..

    Or is the sheer numbers coming in just so large that the barrier gets flooded & the upper market gets saturated?

    For now: few really got it (compared to how many ‘p’hotographers are out there)

    But will it hold? And for how long.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    But just like anything else (movies, golfers, restaurants, cars) most photographers are “average” because that’s all the creativity they have or that’s what the client wants.
    And if your competition is constantly the guy/gal with a camera then maybe you need to rethink things

  • http://jakartawebdeveloper.tumblr.com/ Jakarta Web Developer

    Nice Article

  • Peter Pumpkineeter

    Agree with a lot of the comments here, basically silly advice to fill a page to serve ads. Love cars? become a car shooter? seriously? I feel like the author doesn’t really know much about the business (BTW, most car “shoots” are now CGI and 3Ds, no actual photography happens.) Want to be a sports shooter, OK, just be the best and you’ll make it. Well, it’s not that simple anymore, there’s too many willing to do it for free and too few outlets actually using anything other than handouts for coverage.

    You’re right that things are bad though. Access in exchange for free pics has become the norm in many types of photography now thanks to the hobbyists and semi pros who have decimated the business. I believe Range Rover was recently offering “free use of their vehicle” FOR ONE DAY in exchange for a “lifestyle” photoshoot and a lot of instagram hash tagging. I recently lost a job for one of the big motorcycle manufacturers to an enthusiast with a good camera who was willing to take 3 friends and 4 bikes and ride around all weekend taking pictures. The agency AD told me he was forced by the manufacturer to take these images and use them in a national print campaign!! I shot the same job previously for about $50K!

    Why does this happen? It’s not because clients are cutting back, it’s because they can. Bottom line is if you do anything for free, access, use of their toys etc. etc, you’re contributing to the collapse of the business. Photographers need to push back, hard against clients asking for cheap and other photos doing it for cheap. I’d like to see the establishment of a national minimum day rate, say $2500 plus usage, rentals, crew, digital etc. Call around to any other craft and you’ll quickly find there’s a minimum that most trades work for. $2500 may sound like a lot but, it’s not, you still need to charge for crew, digital, gear, and especially usage based on the media buy or exposure levels. People still expect to get web use for free when in fact, its the most important usage now for clients.

    One other thing, photographers are all liars. Many of them love to tell you how busy they are, how much they charge and how long their johnston is. It’s all lies. Most are suffering, barely making it or already bankrupt but, if they admit that, that means they’re a failure or no good at what they do (in their minds) so, no one will admit it. If you’re getting rich and being busy, you must be good! Same rules apply to realtors. I know one big talker with a studio he can barely hang on to who goes to the food bank to feed his family.

    Microstock and the rise of the camera enthusiast who will do the job for free have ruined the business for all but a very few rock stars in the 1%, it really is time to push back

  • Peter Pumpkineeter

    This is the problem in a nut shell, you spent FIVE YEARS doing it for free in the hopes that some day they would pay you !!?? And after 5 years, you gave up, only to be replaced by another sucker who was willing to put in a few free years. Eventually he’ll be replaced by another, ad nauseum. This attitude that someday they’ll pay me is so stupid and pervasive because of the guys who write all these advice columns who have no clue what they’re talking about.

  • Cary

    “I believe Range Rover was recently offering “free use of their vehicle”
    FOR ONE DAY in exchange for a “lifestyle” photoshoot and a lot of
    instagram hash tagging.”

    The major prize for a camera manufacturer’s contest (Hasselblad) was the LOAN of one of their cameras for a month.

  • Cameron Prescott

    That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard, look at 99% of Protogs out there, do you really think they got there by having people look at their work for only a couple seconds? No they put time into their craft and people look at their images years or decades later.