[Original airing date: June 2, 2011]
I love what I do. I really do. When people who aren’t in the business of doing what we do, they think of stuff like America’s Next Top Model. They think everything we do is always glamorous, the models are always beautiful (don’t you wish that was always the case?) and every thing we do is exciting. That was the primary reason why I wrote this blog back in 2011.
I am FINALLY going to write a blog geared strictly to photographers. It’s not about how to deal with models. It is not about the perils we go through in a photo shoot. It is not about discussing anything about bootcamp (finally a blog without bootcamp). I am discussing some serious issues that photographers face with regards to this business known as photography.
Photography can be a very sexy and exciting occupation. You are surrounded by beautiful people, exotic locations and ending up with magnificent billboards, magazine covers and big ad campaigns. It is there for the taking. But something a lot of photographers fail to realize, those jobs are really hard to come by and secondly, you don’t get them overnight.
So what does one do when they are sitting there waiting for GQ to contact them? You have to build a consistent form of revenue if you wish to stay alive in this business and now it is time to discuss the unsexy business aspects of this business, hence the title of this blog.
To a lot of people photography is just photography. If you own a camera, you can shoot a wedding. If you own a camera you can shoot an event. If you own a camera you can shoot a magazine spread, and we (photographers at least) know that this is soooooooo not the case.
I’ve been a professional in this arena for over 10 years now, and it is JUST now that I am finally turning a profit and making sustainable income. Could I have done it faster? Quite possibly, but then I didn’t have anyone schooling me along the way in the business aspect and a lot of work came through hit and miss.
I try to tell upcoming photographers that you do not make a lot of money testing for modeling agencies. The market is flooded with photographers that are probably a lot better than you that will shoot beautiful models for free, so it would behoove a modeling agency to go with the photographer that is free than to actually pay you to shoot their models. Models don’t have a lot of money, so if you are lucky, you MIGHT make $300.00 on a test shoot. If it is a female, you will have to pay someone for hair and makeup. You may have to pay someone for styling, so in the end, you end up LOSING money shooting for an agency. How does one counter that? Shoot 4-5 models in a single day. Discuss a flat rate with the crew and everyone will walk away with something for their books and a little something in their pockets. If you can book 4-5 models in a single shot you stand to make $1,200.00 – $1,500.00 for the day. Which is why a lot of photographers will shoot males. A lot less overhead and a lot more money in their pocket. If you are lucky enough to book this three times in a single week, that can make anywhere from $3,600.00 – $4,500.00 for the week. Not bad for a week’s worth of work. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty of this, that turns out to be 20 – 25 models you will shoot in a single week. That is A LOT of work. So in the end you will EARN that $4,500.00. When you do test shoots, it is not about the bells and whistles. It is about getting the models in there and getting them out. New York photographer Rick Day (http://www.rickdaynyc.com/) does a complete 3-5 look shoot in a matter of 45 minutes to an hour. You can’t devote a 4-5 hour session to a test shoot. It turns out not to be cost effective.
So how do you make an agency send you 4-5 models at a single time? Who says it has to all come from a single agency? If you pull a single model from 5 agencies, you got five models. You develop a formula and shoot them all the same way (or in a similar style), so you’re not playing with lights and trying to get all artsy (save that when you shoot YOUR work). Right now it is about a business, and this is why you see some photographers work and it appears to be the same thing over and over again. They don’t have the time to sit up there and changing lighting set ups, building sets and doing crazy styling. Look at the work of New York photographer Shameer Khan (http://shameerkhan.blogspot.com/), he has all the major agencies practically eating out the palm of his hand with very little overhead (if any). When you are testing for an agency, all they need are clear concise images of their models so they can be booked for paying gigs. That is the job of a testing photographer.
Not all money will come from agencies and you have to develop an income that will sustain you over the course of a year. I shoot corporate head shots for many of the law firms in New York City. Is it glamourous? Hell no, but guess what? A single headshot from any given photographer can run from $150.00 – $300.00 depending on the deals you work out. If you are lucky they will keep you on “staff” and when they get new hires (which usually happens after the summer), you will be called in to shoot their head shots. So at $300.00 a pop a session of 10 lawyers that is $3,000.00 just for head shots. Nothing changes, they sit, you click, you’re done. Something to think about.
I do work for various clothing manufacturers for their websites. They will contact me to shoot clothing for their websites. INCREDIBLY unglamourous. But for a quick $3,500.00, you go in, you shoot clothing on mannequins, you are out. My last shoot was shooting Christmas sweaters. They had a complete staff. All I had to was shoot front, side and rear of each sweater. It was boring as hell, but it got the job done. So you see where this is going.
There are multitudes of ways of making money as a photographer where in some instances a model isn’t even part of the equation:
- School portrait
- Still life
Art galleries need to have their artwork photograph for catalogue and insurance purposes. Insurance companies need work photograph for insurance purposes. Schools need to have their students photographs taken. College campuses need photographs taken for their brochures. Law firms need exhibit photographs for court cases. Real estate companies need photographs for their listings. The list is endless and there is NOTHING sexy about it. The only thing that is holding you back is that you are sitting by the phone waiting for that phone call from Vogue.
Think about it.
To see original blogs, go to: http://dallasjlogan.blogspot.com/