Making A Living As A Photographer

- - Photography Business

Robert Wright delivers a couple smart posts on the business of photography and that oh so important part, many photographers overlook, making sure you treat it like a business. He’s got some strategies for dealing with the current state of affairs which amounts to a stagnant day rate and thinly padded expenses.

US vs. THEM… or flogging a dead horse

US vs. THEM part DEUX!

I agree with much of what he says even though I’m a part of “THEM.”

He talks about working within the system but using whatever advantages you can to create positive cash flow. I’d say the biggest point to come out of it is that idea of renting equipment. There’s hardly a photographer that I hire anymore that doesn’t charge me to rent equipment. Hell, I just paid a $7,000 rental bill but what am I going to do about it, nobody owns equipment anymore and if they do they rent it to me. It’s only fair.

He also brings up the editorial photographers group (EP) which failed to turn editorial photography into a viable business but I will add likely mitigated the level of damage that was about to happen. I personally learned a ton from what I read on the website back then and many photographers that I dealt with changed their business practices for the better. I even cribbed off the contracts when writing and trying to understand a few of my own.

The big downside for me was that anyone with a camera was suddenly using the EP attitude to badger me into paying higher rates and signing their contract terms and the reality was they didn’t have the skills as a photographer to make those demands.

The barrier to entry in the editorial market has always been that you can’t make a living at the bottom of the market and now the middle of the market is completely flooded with photographers making it impossible to specialize in editorial photography. This can’t be good and I really don’t have a solution at the moment but at least Robert has a strategy for dealing with it.

There Are 54 Comments On This Article.

  1. In part Deux Mr. Wright strikes the nail with clarity and precision.

    “This is not a rational market…”

    The balance has been lost and while the hardship is upon photographers now, the effect will ultimately reach all corners of the food web.

    “This can’t be good” is understated.

  2. Photo Editor:

    You’re a photography director, so you’ve been around for a bit…

    When was the (seemingly) de facto industry-wide mag day rate of $500 established? And why is it sacrosanct with management?

    The reason I ask: I’d like to know when the $500 day rate was set in stone so I can calculate the fee/rate that would be adjusted for inflation. I’ve heard the $500 figure was established around 1988 or 1992. True?

    Here’s the handy-dandy inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Just plug in the numbers and years and ta-da!

    http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl

    It’s a little depressing.

    Regards,

    Nick

  3. To me this all sounds like business 101 and a half semester of 102. If it costs you X dollars to produce a job and the client is willing to pay X – y, then don’t take the job. From day one it seemed obvious to me that if a client didn’t like to pay high fees they would end up renting your gear from you; pay a higher fee and I’ll throw the gear in for “free”.

    I worked very briefly for a guy in Boston who – when asked how much should I charge – told me, “decide what you need for a job and that’s your price”. That seemed so vague to me I dismissed it: I wanted answers damn it.” He was dead on. If you follow the market you will find that there is always someone willing to shoot for less. The law of supply and demand is a bitch. Oh ….. and BTW: avoid being a commodity, it’s the only way you’ll ever demand higher prices.

    Regarding low paying assignments (i.e. Editorial) If you are under the impression that the $500 magazine shoot will help promote your business or that the production values will help your portfolio, this falls in the marketing line of your yearly budget. If the expense has a place as part of your marketing plan, and you can afford it, and you believe it’s a good value, then go ahead, invest the money by shooting the job but you must look at these jobs as an expense. The time you spend shooting for this money losing fee is time you could be marketing your business in other ways; pay attention, time IS money even if it’s in negative numbers.

  4. scott Rex Ely

    Not to badger you….Could you elaborate on your comment:”The big downside for me was that anyone with a camera was suddenly using the EP attitude to badger me into paying higher rates and signing their contract terms and the reality was they didn’t have the skills as a photographer to make those demands.”
    I’m not sure I understand how terms could be related to skills. I realize some contracts are negotiable but how does usage and re-use, factor in with skill? Are just talking about higher rates related to skills?

  5. The best way to raise your rate is to turn work down. It sounds illogical, but it’s true. @4 is correct – time is money and if you want your time to be valuable, then $500 for all the time you spend on an editorial shoot just isn’t enough (prep, shoot, post). You would make better money for your time working at McDonalds or painting houses.

    See, the thing is (this is a secret, so don’t let everyone know): the EP, while well intentioned and smart, are shortsighted and are ONLY seeing the financial value to editorial work. The exposure certain (not ALL) magazines can offer is worth more than money.

    Everyone basically pays $500/day so if you don’t like it, just don’t take the job. If a magazine calls with $500 for you AND they can offer some sort of “enriched” value (ie: better exposure which will lead to better jobs) then swallow the financial “loss” and do the job.

    It’s a free market and it just does what markets do. Period.

  6. I presume that APE was making a statement about how the skill and product that some photographers offered were not worth the effort in negotiating for them. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    The problem I identify in this is that it is a vicious cycle. Skills will not develop, product will not improve in this kind of environment.

    It is hard to see it now, but at some point the vast ocean of subsidizing photographers will dry up. It has been a good ride for photographic consumers but the current accepted practices are not sustainable.

    Ultimately, the legacy of this toxic habitat is the stillborn photographer.

  7. Oh yeah, I forgot to comment:

    “Editorial Photographers… was a miserable failure primarily because photographers in LA and NYC did not follow thru what we were trying to do.”

    This is retarded. I’m sorry, but it is so completely retarded I just have to laugh.

    Considering what I said above about the “exposure” value of some editorial, maybe there’s a reason there are more “famous” photographers in NYC and LA than there are in San Francisco?

    Obviously there are some photographers in smaller markets who get this. Soth gets it. Strebneski used to get it when his work was relevant to the at-the-time-current market. Helmut Newton got it so it didn’t matter that he lived in Monaco, enjoying his tax shelter and riviera lifestyle.

    I’m all for raising editorial rates, but the fact is the magazines have no reason to because there are so many wonderfully talented photographers out there who are willing to give away their time for free. What EP is suggesting is like rent control for the photo market. It may mean controls on rates, but it eventually just leads to fewer shoots commissioned.

    Sorry. That’s just how it is. You have to stay relevant to the market, especially when the market is crowded.

  8. “I presume that APE was making a statement about how the skill and product that some photographers offered were not worth the effort in negotiating for them. Correct me if I’m wrong.”

    Correct.

    @2: Nicholas: The budget for photography goes up but so do the expenses so the rate has remained the same, except for photographers who have a little leverage in the negotiations, none of them get $500.

  9. @5…

    I find it ridiculous when people make a statement like “You would make better money for your time working at McDonalds or painting houses.”

    Lets take a look at that statement: Even if you were a big shot McDonalds employee making the higher end of the pay scale at $10 an hour you would have to work 50 hours to make $500. Now, I don’t know what kind of editorial shoots you are doing, but I for one can say that from the moment I woke up to do a shoot to the moment I made the final delivery of the images, it never took me 50 hours.

    I’m not saying $500 for a shoot is good and we should NOT be happy with it, but if I was a new photographer I would much rather do one $500 shoot a week and have the rest of the time to build my book and find better photography jobs that spend 50 hours working at Starbucks/McDonalds/etc.

    Jeff

  10. @11:

    Ask someone shooting fashion for Nylon, Soma, Surface, etc. how much they are getting paid and how much time they spend doing production on a multiple page shoot including casting, production, shoot, post. It’s $0 (actually, it’s more like negative $ since they have to pay assistants, lunch, etc. out of pocket) and it’s more than 50 hours. And then the magazine chops your photos in half.

    Even on the paid end of things, Wired pays less than $500 per day and has sent photographers away overnight for shoots 2 days for a 1/4 page portrait=48 hours that could be spent doing something else.

    Managers at McDonalds make better than $10 per hour and house painters make BANK. Call around to a few painters for quotes and you’ll see what I mean. Time to enroll in some classes at Burger U (McD’s management school in Illinois).

    I’m mirroring APE’s point (not to put words in his/her mouth) – if you want to command higher rates, better contracts, etc. then your work has to be SO relevant and what you do SO specific and individual that they really, really WANT to work with you and can’t get something similar from anyone else (at least not without it being called a _”insert photographer name”_ knock-off). Clients are paying more if you’re worth it and belonging to as many groups as you want won’t make you a better/more relevant photographer.

  11. @12

    “Managers at McDonalds make better than $10 per hour and house painters make BANK. Call around to a few painters for quotes and you’ll see what I mean. Time to enroll in some classes at Burger U (McD’s management school in Illinois).”

    So, why would someone even be considering being a photographer if they were spending 100% of their working hours devoted to being McDonald’s management let alone going to school for it?

    Why work so hard to get a higher pay grade at MickyD’s when you can just put the work into being a photographer. True, some people may just not be cut out to be a photographer in the first place… but they’ll end up with a “real” job in the end anyway.

    As for being a house painter, I’m sure they do make “bank.” But I doubt you’re just going to put an ad up on Craigslist and start rolling in the dough.

    My point, spend the time on what it is you want to do (photography), rather than pissing away 50 hour weeks at a job you don’t like. Because really, who is going to work 50 hours a week at a low pay job and then spend the time needed to start a photography business. Getting to where you need to be in photography is beyond a full time job.

    Jeff

  12. Or better yet, go to school for finance, work for JP Morgan, Chase or Goldman Sachs and make INSANE BANK and retire at age 27. Travel the world taking pictures of whatever the hell you want to and convince your investment banker colleagues to invest in your books, exhibitions, etc. and live like a king.

    Seems to be what that Ashes and Snow hack did.

    If I had known better back when I was choosing which college to go to, I would have done that.

  13. Jeff, not to pick on you, but you’re illustrating what I see as the “problem” that’s allowing for market forces to keep fees as low as they are.

    By your estimation, $500 for a shoot, is equivalent to making $500 as an hourly worker.

    The problem is that as a photographer, you’re not an hourly worker – you ARE a business owner. So, the way that you figure out how much money you make, is by taking what you’re getting paid, and then SUBTRACTING your overhead operating costs and expenses. At this point for example, I am a very small operation and my overhead costs for a single day of shooting hover around $500.

    Using myself as an example, because honestly I can’t see how anyone could possibly successfully subsist on any less.

    So, lets say we have a shoot for a magazine, it is local, no travel and no assistants that will pay $500. It will take 4 – 6 hours, so let’s for arguments sake say 4 hours. If your overhead costs of doing business are $485 per shoot day you have “made” $15.

    $500 – $485 = $15 / 4 = $3.75 per hour = EP Photographer

    $10 per hour = McDonalds.

    So Jeff, what makes it difficult to make a living only as an editorial photographer is that there are hordes of talented photographers out there, who have no idea how to run a business.

    They see the $500 and think of it as $125/hour (12.5 x better than McDs…yay) without factoring in the long term costs associated with operating as a business.

    All of that said…. bottled water companies compete with free everyday. The talented photographers should always be able to find work.

  14. @15:
    LOVE the bottled water analogy. I will keep telling myself: you are VOSS. you are VOSS. ha ha ha.

  15. Jeff, just checked out your site – and wanted to apologize publicly because I’m afraid I may have assumed too much. Clearly you’re doing something right.

    But still, a $500 assignment still pays way less than McDonalds.

  16. Usage is king in my book.

    The rate should be commensurate with the usage rights granted.

    I’m only really interested in how long it takes if I can’t see any further value in the subject/image I’m going to make. Then I need to turn profit from that shoot alone.

    If I can sell second, third, fourth rights or use as stock further down the line then yep, I’ll shoot for $500 but only if there’s further mileage to turn profit for me in those images.

  17. If that $500 gig is getting you something worthwhile, and/or your overhead is $0 (which is impossible), then that editorial job may be worth it.

    I have a friend who has spent a lot of time and money on getting and shooting editorial jobs for Fortune, BW, Time, etc. It’s rarely ever led to a commercial shoot.

    I almost never shoot editorial work (once in the last year) and get lots of commercial work. Granted, I’m not getting jobs from big exciting ad agencies, and I’ve never done a Nike ad, but so what. I’ve been cash flow positive since day one, have never had to carry debt on credit cards, have always had insurance, and I get to shoot whatever I want in my free time.

    I used to do editorial, and it was pretty cool the first time I had shots in magazines I liked, but after five minutes, I didn’t care anymore. I have piles of magazines in the basement, full of potential tear sheets, that I haven’t touched in years.

    I’d love to do really great creative work for some really good magazines, but I’d rather make a living, and not be one month from not being able to pay my mortgage. Instead I shoot for medium sized companies that value good photography as part of their overall marketing strategy, and shoot the stuff I want, when I want.

  18. @15

    I know this is a business and the normal $NNN/TIME= $$$/hr does not apply. I’m looking it as a person starting out that has a camera and some gear they already own. They work out of their house and get work by making calls and working their ass off. Little to no overhead… basically the same expenses they would have just living and working another job. Now, at the end of the week you’re going to bring home $500. Would you rather bring that $500 home working one long day shooting an editorial job or working 50 hours at .

    I think the answer is obvious.

    And again, I am NOT NOT NOT condoning $500 editorial rates. I know this is a business and you need to do more than that $500 shoot to even hope to staying in business.

    And BTW, outside of one client who has a particularly low rate but I enjoy working for, none of my editorial shoots are for $500. They are for more than that at a minimum (and I’m not trying to say they are exorbitantly higher by any means) I’m not shooting big time stuff here (yet). If the smaller mags I often shooting for are paying more than $500 why aren’t the larger magazines? Or am I just that good… I think we all know the answer to that :-)

    Jeff

  19. Jeff, the few magazines I have shot for over the last few years have paid more than $500 as well, but I think, at least in my case, the larger magazines provide (at least in theory) exposure that the magazines I shot for don’t. It’s supply and demand. I think there are far more photographers who want to so for T&L, for their $400 (or whatever rate – read this months PDN to see how low it is) than industry publications that likely pay higher.

    Ironically, along the lines of what Robert Wright said about diversifying to find other revenue streams, I just received a call on a print order for portraits I did months ago. I do portraits (family kind) about as often as I do editorial shoots. The funny thing is the portraits usually pay much, much more money. I don’t look forward to them, though I do look forward to high dollar print orders. Makes it all worthwhile.

  20. I’m really confused? does shooting editorial just mean single images? Is everybody here portrait people?
    $500 is the day rate and that equals 1 page of usage right, it is also the page rate so if you shoot 2 pages you are at $1000.00 for the day. I can’t even imagine traveling for two days to shoot one photo for $500.
    I have never viewed editorial as a money making operation but a
    4 page story is $2000 and retouching (fashion/beauty) is another $2000 +/- which is not bat for what will equate to 3 days of work.
    Without doing this work i would not be getting better catalog and ad work so in the end editorial does work and it works well for my style of photography.

    I really think that anyone who tries to make a living off of editorial is pretty nutty, use it to expand into other areas.

  21. “There’s hardly a photographer that I hire anymore that doesn’t charge me to rent equipment. Hell, I just paid a $7,000 rental bill but what am I going to do about it, nobody owns equipment anymore and if they do they rent it to me. It’s only fair.”

    well, they own equipment, but they bill it out under “Studio57rentals” or some such. Hell, if you want any indicator that the business you are in is not a “business” you should know it when you are bent over ye olde copy machine faking receipts…I mean, Really, as Amy and Seth say on SNL, this is a legitimate business, but you are cutting and pasting with cellotape over an old Fotocare receipt from 1997 so you can bill out your profotos? Really. Hmm. Wonder what the IRS thinks about that. And you editors, you are not innocent in this either…I mean, Really, you believe there is a rental place called “HotShotzRentals” in the 10012-Really? but you couldn’t get the invoice past the dept. Head without some form or RECEIPTS-Really-you need to see all my original receipts? Doesn’ t this just make me look like heck, I don’t know–an EMPLOYEE? not a contractor, I mean, Really-when was the last time you asked your Doctor for his receipts on his bill for the rubber gloves he used to probe your p-shoot? Really….ok that was fun.
    The Fun thing about the internet is that information wants to be free, and it would be nice if all this crap were out on the table so we could get past it and get on to something rational, instead of what we have now which is the equivalent of a parent bribing a toddler to stop crying. I’ll try to save some more for a third post.

  22. If you work for Conde Nast the rate is $350. btw.

    The most logical bit said here is to put editorial shooting into the marketing column. For certain elements of the photo biz editorial is very helpful. One should just limit it to about 30% of your work. I have done one day editorial shoots for one page (a good page) that I spent 2-3 days on. It was negative income. But I just made a $30,000. deposit into my account from a job that I never would have gotten if I hadn’t shot the editorial.

  23. @24

    “I mean, Really-when was the last time you asked your Doctor for his receipts on his bill for the rubber gloves he used to probe your p-shoot? Really….ok that was fun.”

    Hilarious. Thank you!

    BTW, I usually ask to keep the glove when their done that way I know I’m getting everything I paid for.

    Jeff

  24. I own all my gear. I hate renting. At least I know the lenses haven’t been dropped.

    So I guess you can say, “everyone – 1 rents”. I will say though, that if renting is the only way I can get paid for the use of the gear, I’ll give it to my wife, set up a rental operation, then charge you a reasonable fee. After all, it’s only fair.

  25. Now if only I got the spelling and punctuation right. I of course meant “they’re” not “their”… I did pass 3rd grade Englush… barely.

    Jeff

  26. I once had to make receipts from myself to myself to get reimbursed for processing, since I did it myself. They (the magazine) wouldn’t accept the processing charges otherwise. Not fake receipts, but really, it’s almost as ridiculous.

  27. @27
    well this is the conundrum, it would be better if you owned your own gear and could bring it to the shoot because it could be cheaper for the magazine in the long run, even if they paid a reasonable rate for what they were getting.

    The mags have put themselves in this position of paying outrageous rental fees because they refuse to pay for what the work is worth. And when I say “worth” I mean a value commensurate with the value they derive in ad revenue.

    You can pay trec 1500 for what I normally take to a shoot or you can pay me. But I am not going to fake a receipt to get it because that is stupid. So they pay trec and end up paying for every little thing, plus delivery fees, etc, which I guarantee you are much higher that what I can do and still make money.

    I think it is funny we are here because there is a rational way to this marketplace, and that is allow photographers to set fees. If the magazines doesn’t want to pay it, they don’t have to hire shooter A or B. But the market has always been destabilized, and not necessarily by a continual flood of new photographers. It is destabilized by this maniacal hubris on the part of the magazines to think that by controlling fees they are controlling costs, which may have worked once when fees bore some resemblance to usage. Now fees bear no resemblance to usage, and they don’t even pay costs. And you have studios and rental house making BANK, and costs have skyrocketed. What is wrong with this equation? The price control!
    If the page rate or day rate was decoupled from rights it could simply reflect the cost of doing business. Different photographers could figure out different ways of economizing on equipment and provide a rate substantially higher than is going now, but overall substantially lower that renting every A clamp. We have the going rate for equipment, just look it up-the avg shoot rents/uses between 1000-and up per day. So what if the rate for editorial was 1500 instead of 500? That is basically what a low end corporate shoot bills out-to the photographer, not to some service provider. I am not blaming the rental houses and studios for this, they have just risen up in response to the irrationality of the market. And you need to have them because I am not going to have every thing I need for every shoot, but for the majority of work I do, I have what I need.
    So you say, well photog X will just underbill to get the work, which is fine, their priority is different, but they can’ t do that all the time, and also those with no gear starting out will have to rent, so everyone gets put back on a rational footing. There is a reason to hire established people and a reason to hire newbies, and you get what you pay for.
    I always chaffed at the submitting of receipts, it was demeaning, flat out wrong basically. You should submit an estimate, and and invoice. If the estimate is approved that is it, end of negotiation, plus or minus 10%. You don’t need to see up my p-shoot what I pay for anything. The buyer buys on price and quality. If they don’t like it, they go elsewhere.

  28. @24:

    Good point. Funny.

    Next time I’m asked for receipt backup, I’ll have to call Conde and ask them about setting me up with the employee health plan.

    Entertainment Weekly (Time Inc) covers all home internet & cable (TW Cable), and movie tickets for employees AND pays overtime if you go see a movie on your own time. I’ll have to bill them for all the movies I’ve seen in the past year and bill OT for the 60 hours I spent watching crap movies so I know what some celebrity I’m going to shoot has done previously.

    Oh yeah, and you’re right Conde only pays $350 per page.

    The IRS won’t care if you’re faking receipts to your client as long as you’re declaring the income. The IRS is actually quite pragmatic – they don’t care as long as they’re getting their money.

  29. Also, if you drive your own car out of town to do a portrait of some shlub in Yonkers, you would bill for milage, right?

    If you use your own cameras, bill for their use. If the client balks at the charge, tell them OK you’ll just book a digital package w/ a tech, etc. for $2K for their 1/4 page portrait… and tell them you’re just going to book a car service instead of driving yourself. ;)

  30. Even more depressing thought:
    The messenger who delivers the equipment to the location often charges more than you do.

  31. @24, 31 Robert: No, actually most just bill it under their company name. It works the same either way. One guy rented me his car. That was a nice touch. You have to show me your expenses just like a plumber, mechanic, carpenter and any other contract worker so I know you’re not ripping me off… and I know you’re ripping me off but everyone else doesn’t.

    So the system is broken, so what? In a climate where established photographers are having a hard time getting work and people are undercutting each other seems like the wrong time to fix it.

    Exploiting a loop hole in the system so you can still hire great photographers seem perfectly reasonable to me. Are you unaware that the people who own/run magazines are effing crazy? The people I work for don’t give a shit about quality, only cost and return on investment. And, to be perfectly honest I don’t think anyone can prove hiring great photographers results in any significant increase of investment. Plenty of well photographed magazines fail on a regular basis. Here’s one from today: http://tinyurl.com/295xaj

  32. That is a great point APE. The people who own/run magazines are crazy.

    There are no visionaries, no true patrons of photography left. It’s all gimme, gimme, gimme and give it to me now. It’s all about killing the golden goose. Why not, those eggs will be more exclusive.

  33. @36
    A mechanic shows you a bill for parts and labour, but you have no way of sourcing those parts yourself, so you accept the bill as is. Of course there is a markup there which incorporates the cost of inventory, middlemen and delivery. If you went to ACDelco and said, “I want to buy that part off the line” it would be less.
    The problem in photography is that you can “think” you are being ripped off because you look at the B&H website and see that that roll of film is 9$ and here is a photographer charging 20$. Well, the film does not walk to the photographers studio, nor the lab or your desk, there is a real necessity to mark-up goods and services that get paid by the photographer up front. If magazines want to buy my film and run it around on their couriers, then I would be fine charging them the going retail rate.
    Most of the magazines I work(ed) for :) had maximum rates for film/processing, that were somewhat higher but not much higher once you figured in processing, something like 25-30/roll/120 for c-41. Since D+C for C41 is 20$ and NPH is 8/roll retail I need to charge probably double that to make up for the lost cash flow if I revolve that debt 60 days.
    My mechanic or contractor gets to charge “carrying” charges and “shipping and handling” but I get limited to “fixed” amounts. It goes back to my first comment, let photographers charge what they want based on their real costs, approve estimates and hire based on quality and cost and you will see prices fall, and a healthier competition.

  34. A business model based on Editorial work makes no sense.

    Ed work is for fun, for staying sharp, and for making pics that will justify increased rates for commercial work.

  35. Unfortunately it’s not going to change until photographers turn down bad deals. As you can see by the comments, a lot of photographers don’t think it’s a bad deal, and if, as APE says, the owners of media don’t care about the quality of photography (even though it’s obvious photography does sell magazines), then this situation will be difficult to change any time soon.

    I actually shot a several day shoot for a magazine that required I leave same day. I had to buy film local (expensive), and when all was said and done, the magazine’s “rate” of reimbursement for film and processing was less than my cost for film alone. And they refused to budge. Do you think I ever worked for them again?

    They were the largest consumer magazine in the industry, and from the looks of it, they are not having trouble finding new photographers to take the deal. So does the magazine have any incentive to change? Nope.

  36. As someone whom helped start EP I want to chim in here.
    I think APE is somewhat right about EP.
    But I feel that best value of EP has been in Education. Letting a Lot of people know what to charge etc.
    Sure some crap work was over charged over valued…….(That never happened before)
    but so many more people started to know about the business.
    Speaking of the 500 day rate..because of EP Business week pays 850 day Forbes 750 a day (I think)
    What charged was the marketplace and the internet and digital…just image it without EP, a whole lot worse.
    If you think photographers are underpaid try being a musican,
    a dancer a fine artist. A starting band in Hollywood has to go out and recruit their audience so the bar will have them as a act or it is pay to play.
    I am not saying that is right. It is just the way it is for the Arts.
    I have been doing this business almost 25 years it as not changed in the big sense. In 1983 I was paid 2000 dollars after spending 3 months tracking down a Afghanistan war leader that was important at the time…turns out I was in the wrong War.
    I should have been in Lebanon covering that War hanging out drinking having a way better time than I was having and making more money too.
    So just remember cover the subject that matters way more then shooting for this magazine or that. Editional is all about resale. Ps I still sell pictures that I took in Afghanistan only of refugees.And I had to follow my heart at the time to go to Afghanistan.

  37. Hi Mark, I have your gear here. Let me drop it off and we’ll drink to Ye!

    I would also like to confirm Mark’s identity and that he was indeed a founding member of EP. As for myself I joined its founding crew, as a highly trained monkey. They had me do tricks and fetch them coffee.

  38. Well, as someone who actually made their living painting houses and building them, as well, for quite a few years, I will attest to the point that shooting photos for a living far exceeds that existence, for me. BUT, it taught me for than any single experience in photography about how to understand the people around me and how to communicate on the personal level that is key in the type of photography that I am frequently called upon to do.
    We should all be paid a fee that allows us a lifestyle that brings us joy and fulfillment, but just because you make photographs for a living in no way entitles you to an existence without worry or makes you any better than the people you photograph.
    We are privileged and should realize that, as we demand a fee that reconciles with the time and effort we put in.
    jeremy

  39. A Photo Editor wrote:

    “The big downside for me was that anyone with a camera was suddenly using the EP attitude to badger me into paying higher rates and signing their contract terms and the reality was they didn’t have the skills as a photographer to make those demands.”

    That was not the intention. Nor is EP about “US vs. THEM” mentality. Unless of course you are speaking of “US” as Photographers AND Photo Editors and “THEM” as jerks like Gerry Levin who sent all of us down the river and over the falls. Let’s face it, we’re ALL paying the price for the TimeWarnerAOL deal….

    Mark Richards wrote:

    “As someone whom helped start EP, I want to chime in here. I think APE is somewhat right about EP. But I feel that best value of EP has been in Education. Letting a Lot of people know what to charge etc…Speaking of the 500 day rate, because of EP, Business Week pays 850 day Forbes 750 a day (I think)”

    Kudos to Mark Richards and Olivier who were among the dozen Bay Area photographers who started Editorial Photographers. I wasn’t part of EP at the time, but I supported what they were doing with the Business Week negotiations in crafting an agreement that once again actually made magazine photography financially viable.

    The Business Week and Forbes contracts were good for everyone involved. Business Week pays $850/day against $1200/page. Forbes pays $800/day against $1275/page. Photographers are actually able to make a living and Photo Editors waste less time coming up with reasons why the rates haven’t changed since Margaret Bourke White was starting out…

  40. The bottom line to all this prose is:

    1) photographers who manage their talent like a business ultimately succeed. Whether they shoot editorial for free or $500 or $2000, they calculate the cost / benefit ratio to their advantage and end up winners.

    2) The success of a magazines doesn’t depend on quality photography. It’s the sum of a larger whole. It seems as though successful magazines are run by better business people than most photographers understand. You want that to change – form a great winning business strategy that will move you to the top of the heap so all the successful Magazines are paying you what you need.

    3) Don’t take the whiny attitude of, “if only they would change I’d be making a great living”. Be proactive – you make the changes necessary to get what YOU want out of the business.

    4) Most likely, the state of our business will follow market pressures. In other words: photographers should anticipate low wages until they get traction in the market place through either superior talent or superior hype combined with exquisite business savvy. In other words: Differentiate or die.

  41. Smokin’ thread. Love it!

    @ 46: the only thing I would add, is diversify as well

    Regarding EP, I still meet photographers that don’t have the first clue about things like copyright or even any idea of what they should be charging. Sites like EP are invaluable for at least providing a starting point with learning such basics.

    Case in point, I saw an amateur photographer offering his rate today at $50 for the first hour and $20 per hour after that. What the?

    Moaning about how bad the industry is won’t ever improve it. Period. Which is why I never moan about it anymore. Remember when you were getting into photography and you had the chance to get something printed ? Yeah, some of you probably fell over your selves to get your stuff in print (come on be honest. I know I did – once.). Well that hasn’t changed for people that want to get their stuff in print – whether they are chompin’ at the bit to be a full time working pro or working 9-5 during the week. This demographic IS NEVER going away and WILL continue to undercut. What matters is your cost of doing business and what you pull through the door to meet it and go above it.

  42. “film processing” is done spending hours indoors in subdued light, doing things no average human being understands while listening to music that no sane person would broadcast on commercial radio.
    the only difference to photo-shopping is that your hands might smell funny for days and there is no undo button.

  43. “The most logical bit said here is to put editorial shooting into the marketing column. For certain elements of the photo biz editorial is very helpful. One should just limit it to about 30% of your work. I have done one day editorial shoots for one page (a good page) that I spent 2-3 days on. It was negative income. But I just made a $30,000. deposit into my account from a job that I never would have gotten if I hadn’t shot the editorial.”

    Ditto…not $30,000 but for every editorial I do I meet pubicists, company owners, syndication, access to subjects. My career started in editorial and the subjects got me the commercial jobs. The majority of my portfolio is not personal work but editorials.

    Just accept editorial for what it is a marketing tool and access to subject matter.

  44. @ 48

    Not really my bag either. I’m lactose intolerant and can’t deal with too much cheese.

  45. I have spent the last seven years investing what little dollars I had into my black and white photography fine art business, as an uneducated highschool drop out with a college diploma in the culinary arts- hahahah… now there’s a great high paying career… anyways 25,000$ in debt to the bank, $10,000 in debt to my landlord- who has been very understanding and a great friend allowing this debt to incur as a result of me quiting job after job because at my very replaceable min wage level of jobs in the woderfull food service industry- most employers will not allow an employee to pursue art shows, travel, photograph… therefore I just leave and do the shows anyways… I am so in debt… I don’t get calls for photo shoots… I get answers like- oh I have a digital camera and do it myself… my art- ooocccaaasssiioonnally sells but no where near enough to sustain any kind of living unless of course a cardboard box is a chosen place of residence… I have hit a wall and I am ready to either give away, sell or even smash the equipment… I don’t need a hobby… I’m not that old… I need a career a business and a reasonable standard of living… based on my rant and me telling you the truth of how much money- most of which wasn’t mine in the first place I have wasted on this endeavor… should I look further.. mayby.. it’s my business sense… mayby I’m just marketing my work and wasting time in the wrong locations, markets and venues… please send some real advice… everyone tells me my work is nice… nice for a hobbyist- makes a hobbyist feel good… nice- pay a business it doesn’t feed me or keep a roof over my head or pay back the debts incured.

  46. Eric Schmiedl

    Mark,
    Have you thought about doing what the rest of us do (or did) when just starting out? Working as a photographer’s assistant and/or doing corporate/events work both pay decently well and provide regular income as well as a good education. Particularly the former.