The Artist vs. the Business Person
I wanna talk about the idea of you as the artist versus you as the business person. And I know we've kinda touched on all of this already but I wanna talk about the psychology of it. We as artists are creating from our heart. We're creating from our mind. These are the things that are very, very personal for artists. We feel intimately connected to the things that we create. And then we gotta sell it to people. And then we gotta attach value to those things. And then we have to want personal validation. It's really hard to pull those things apart. Because if you're truly an artist, there's a part of you in every single picture that you take. And as hard as that might be, you do not need to get personal validation from your clients. You have to get over it. You have to get over the idea that they are validating your vision. Because there are so many variables in why somebody's gonna hire you other than the fact that they like your pictures. If they called you in the first place your val...
idation is there. Put it in your back pocket, fill your heart with the idea that somebody likes your pictures, and then negotiate. Because the idea is beyond that they may not hire you. They may not hire you because they don't feel it's the right chemistry. They may not hire you because they can't afford you. They may not hire you because they've decided they're gonna go with somebody else. You cannot take it personally. And you can't let it beat you down. Because you're gonna hear no more than you're gonna hear yes in this business. Any business where you're selling art to any venue you're gonna hear no more than you're gonna hear yes. Inherently people don't understand the value of art. Particularly this art form. They don't understand that the food doesn't just magically appear on a beautiful plate with a beautiful background with gorgeous light and you just happened to be there with a camera to take a picture of it. They don't understand it. It's fine that they don't understand it, but you need to disconnect the idea that you are the artist. Listen, I've watched photographers crash and burn for years because they can't let go. They just can't let go. They can't get over the idea that I'm selling out or they don't understand what I'm worth or they don't get it or they don't understand me. It's not about you; it's about that. It's about the work, what you create. Put it on your wall if you're proud of it. But I don't need to put it on my wall unless I pay for it. It's yours; you own it. You own it in your heart too, right. It's personal. But you have to disconnect to be able to sell it and sell it right. And when people are rejecting you, it's not personal rejection. It's a business rejection. And I think this is one of the things that is really, really hard. And this is why people don't know how to price themselves correctly. Because they feel like they need to sell it for whatever somebody's willing to pay for it. Oh, my God, you like my picture? Please, you gotta say no to that idea. You have to say no to the idea that your client is saying you're great. Client's not saying you're great, they're saying they like your picture and they wanna buy it. So with that in mind, disconnection from the emotional part of it, then you can square up your shoulders, stiffen your jaw, and negotiate in good faith. When you take the part of it out that I'm the artist and this is my baby that you need to either reject or accept. It's very personal. The criticism we get as photographers is very personal. We put a lot of what we think in our work. It's not just us as photographers, it's all artists. All artists are passionate about what they do if they're good. And when you're pricing yourself, understand that the commodity you're creating has value. And that has nothing to do with who you are. Because when I look at photographs, especially photographs without names on them or who I know created them, I'm not judging that on who made the art. I'm just judging it on the art itself. And that's the core of understanding yourself as a businessperson in this particular business is that the person looking at the image isn't seeing you. They're not; they're just seeing what you can do. So if you're a baseball player and you can hit a home run, you're gonna get paid a lot of money. And if you're an actor who can read off the lines and do a really great job, you're gonna get paid a lot of money. And if you're a photographer who can make a great picture you're gonna make some money. Doesn't matter. Beyond that client relationships is about you and how you handle yourself. We've discussed that. But the art itself, the art itself is about the art itself. It stands alone and it has value and you need to price it accordingly and it's not about you. Because if you get punched in the stomach every time someone says no, you're not gonna be in this business very long. You're just not; you're gonna get hurt. You're gonna feel the hurt personally. And you gotta disconnect from it. It's hard, but you gotta. So I want to talk about that if anybody has any issues or wants to discuss what I just said before I talk about the next thing.
Give them a second to comment. Oh, we have a comment.
For me it's almost the other way around. I have a corporate background. I've been in banking; I've been in market consultancy; I have no problem with selling and negotiating. But the creative side of me has been something that's been bubbling for a long time. I don't have confidence in myself as an artist. When I look at my photos, I have plenty of self-criticism.
But that's true of all of us even now.
Yeah, I don't think that's--
I just get so frustrated with myself.
No, no, no, that's not an inverse relationship. That is not an inverse relationship. We all are innately insecure. That's the truth of it. Because when people criticize our work, we take it personally. That's insecurity. I don't know that we ever get over that. Because that's the thing that drives us to do better. And if you don't feel that, you're not an artist. If I had a bad session here I'm walking off the set and I'm beating myself up. Because that's the way you form your soul as an artist. You're a perfectionist. You wanna get it right all the time. So I don't think it's different. I think you're lucky that you have the negotiation skills. The rest of it is about understanding that we all, as artists, are all innately insecure in what we do. And that's what drives us to be better.
I think just in response to that, all of us, regardless of what form of art we do, in the very beginning you're nitpicking and you're just over-scrutinizing. My main thing that I had to learn to do in the very beginning was learn to cull. Learn to edit myself and do it quickly. Because when you're dealing with high volumes, you don't have time to think. But that's a learned skill. So when you're in the very beginning it's so hard to not look at every single little detail, blow it up to 500% and be like, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.
Yeah, no question about it. I've seen photographers paralyzed by that, by the inability to edit because they fall in love with every image or they hate every image. They don't know how to compromise. But also from the business aspect of it is just knowing which ones are commercially viable versus the ones that you just love. And you have to have the eye for that too. You have to see what has application and be mindful of that when you're creating. You ready for the firestorm? Because I'm gonna start talking about money, actual rates. These are, like I said, completely amorphous. They range all over the map. I just wanna give you sort of an overall roadmap to what is the difference between the different venues that we might encounter in professional photography rather than give you a price structure. You hear me, internet? I am not giving you a price structure. I want that to be clear because I don't want 1, Twitter messages saying, oh, my God, he said it should cost this much! No, guidelines, clear guidelines. All right, in my experience, editorial day rates, which is not food photography like we've been learning it, meaning an editorial entity calls you and says I want you to go to this place and take some pictures. Whether it be at a street rally or farmers' market or to take a portrait of somebody in their living room, editorial rates for newspapers start at around $200 a day. And some places will send you on one assignment. You get your work done, you go home, you bill them for the day. Some places will say we're gonna send you here and we're gonna send you here and we're gonna send you here and we need you to get that all to us. That's gonna happen; that's what a day rate is. They own you for the day. Again, these are negotiable. That's the low end. Anybody who's asking you to take pictures for a day, a full day, is saying a day rate means eight hours. For under that is ridiculous. Because in the old days you'd take your film and drop it off at the place and go I'm done. You don't do that anymore. Now you go back and you edit and you post produce and you deliver and you do all these things. So I would say no matter where you are, if this is an entity that is publishing things and they are gonna ask you to do a day rate for under that, I would be very mindful to figure out what else I'm gonna get out of the deal. And what does that mean? What else am I gonna get out of the deal? How many people are gonna read this? How many people are gonna see it? Is it gonna be a lot? Is it gonna be a little? How many people in the industry that are interested in it are gonna see it? Is it in the field you want to do? I've been asked to go out and shoot things that weren't food. Depends on what you wanna pay me. Not gonna put it on my website. Not really sure if I care who sees it because it's not in my field. But it's still money. I'm not gonna look down my nose at it. The reality is you have to understand what you're worth. And understand that there's a floor to this business. And again, there's lots of things that we consider currency in this business, and we'll talk about that later. So I wrote here editorial from $200-a-day day rate and up plus expenses, right, plus expenses. How did you get to the venue? Did you take the bus? Did you take the train? Did you take a taxi? Did you drive your car? All of that stuff matters. Gas costs money; maintenance on your car costs money. You need to charge a mileage rate. Standard mileage rates are something like 20 cents a mile or something like that. All of that's important. When we talk about food shoots, now we've already discussed this. We've already asked all of those questions. It depends on the size of the job. It depends on who's taking care of the food, the styling, the propping, all of these things. If you're expected to just show up and shoot and not control any of that stuff, okay. They're sending you to a restaurant. The chef's gonna put food out. There's gonna be a stylist there and everything's gonna be done. You're gonna take pictures and then you're gonna go home. Okay, starting at 200 and up. As soon as they ask you to do something outside of taking the pictures, that's when the rates start to climb. You want me to prop? You want me to style? You want me to book a studio? You want me to do any of that stuff? More money. Just for shooting. Publishing. Publishing is impossible to tell you what it costs. Because publishers are gonna dictate-- here's what happened in the publishing industry in the last however many years. The publishing houses used to hire the photographers to shoot for the book. Now that's true in some cases still. But what is becoming more and more prevalent is the publishing company is hiring you to write a book. They're giving you an advance. And then they're telling you out of that advance you need to pay for the photographer. This is a major problem. Because now you're negotiating with people who have absolutely no idea what photography is worth. And that bonus, that advance is what they were counting on. Because they have no idea whether the book is going to sell or not. So now they are protecting that money really carefully. I've run into so many problems negotiating with people for book deals. Because they don't understand what they're asking for. I wanna shoot 100 recipes. Okay, that's gonna be lots of money. And I'll cook the food myself. Okay, that'll be a little less money, but it's still gonna be a lot of money. And are you prepared to work nine hours a day for a month to shoot 100 dishes? Oh, I didn't realize. Yeah, of course, because this is what we're negotiating with. So publishing is very difficult. So here's what I've done for publishing. Look at the idea of what it's gonna take to do a full production. Because let's assume they're coming to you because they need a full production. And come up with a price structure, meaning I'm gonna charge X amount per day for photography, X amount a day for styling, X amount for propping, have a budget for props, have a budget for food Give them the line items, add it all up. And say to yourself what can I live with here? If I'm gonna do all this myself and have to hire people to help me, what can I live with? And I come up with a per-dish number. And that's what I've come up with personally for my work is a per-dish number. Because the production that I'm providing for you is at the highest level. I'm hiring professionals to work with me, and this is what it's gonna cost you to do per dish. Because every single dish that comes out-- Now per dish means I'm gonna give you variations on that dish. We may prop it out a couple of different ways. So that's what I've become comfortable with is understanding full production, overall dish, price it out per dish. Because now I've done all my math. I know what it's gonna cost to hire people for X amount of days. I know how many days it's gonna take. Once I come up with that number, I leave myself a little wiggle room. What am I gonna be comfortable with at the bottom end? You ever watch Pawn Stars? Where the guy goes, well, I want 10,000. Well, I'll give you 2,000. And it goes back and forth until you arrive at someplace where both people are comfortable. This is the art of this. This is the art of that. You go to the street vendors and everything else. It's always about the art of negotiation. But you have to have numbers in your head that you're comfortable with. You have to have a top price, your pie in the sky. Right across the board, I want top dollar for everything I'm doing. And then a bottom number where I'm gonna do this job, feel good about myself and be comfortable. And the price remains in there somewhere always. You have to understand how much time is involved. And remember what I said about five to seven dishes a day, fully produced food images. For our cookbook to do it right, in my opinion, if you start to get up near 10 a day you're starting to compromise the imagery. It's hard unless you're shooting everything with strobe and you have a big team of people working. It's a bear, and it's hard emotionally and physically draining to shoot that much in a day. And if you're doing multiple days like that, a good portion of the cookbooks that we shoot, we shoot consecutive, five days in a row, four days in a row, ten-hour days, 15-hour days between that and the backups and the travel and all the other things. You have to ask yourself, can I hold up for four days under these conditions? Can I work this hard for four days and still make viable art? All of that goes into the pricing and the negotiation of dealing with these things; yeah?
Back to something that Pala actually asked a little bit earlier, but it's kind of on the same vein as the cookbook concept. If you are working with a chef who wants to self-publish and you wanna work out something where you're making money if it gets published, what's a fair division? Should the chef get the majority because it's their creation or should it be 50/50?
Well, no, there's no way it could be 50/50. I really don't think that that's fair because the idea is that the hard work that goes into getting a publishing deal is his problem.
Is on the chef, yeah.
Right, and the idea of the creative vision behind the project, that's his intellectual property or her intellectual property. So I would negotiate something less than that, depending on how much work went into it. If they're only gonna use 20 pictures, then maybe 10%. If it's a much bigger project, takes much more time, a bigger percentage. So the percentage would be commensurate with how much time that you are putting into it. And also what the initial salvo is, right, well, what do you think we can negotiate here. And if it's like, oh, I only wanna give up 10% of my backend, then I can only do this much work. That's fine to do it that way. And that goes back to that first question I asked earlier was about budget. Well, my budget is this. Okay, well, I can do this much work for that much money. And that works out great for a lot of people because it usually sometimes is commensurate. My newest client, I said to her, she had no idea what it was worth. She had no idea how much work was involved. She said I have this much money. I said, okay, we can do this much work. Are you comfortable with that? Yes; perfect. And that's okay, it works both ways. Because the idea is that you can't let the client dictate to you every part of the negotiation. I wanna do it in this many days. I want my pictures on this day. I wanna work for these days. I wanna shoot this many dishes, and I wanna pay this much. You have no negotiating power in that situation. So you have one choice, yes or no. So if you understand that all of these things and the pieces are parts that fit together are things that you can control and you're willing to express that, then you'll have much more success in finding a fair ground between things. So like I said, the idea of price, if you're publishing a book in a small town or a small city with a small publishing house where food is cheaper, stylists are cheaper, space is cheaper, all these other things, you can build your pricing around those things. Know what things go for in your town. You can't base everything on New York pricing or L.A. pricing or SF pricing because these are the big cities where all the art happens and everything's expensive. So you're in a fairly advantageous position if you're in a place where you can shoot. Like even New Orleans is a great place because the economy's different there. And you can live differently on a different amount of money than you can in New York. So the reality is that you might be able to sell something at a better price, plus a lot of the people in New Orleans and the food that's in New Orleans is broadcast around the world. So you can get a lot of publicity. So you can make a decent living, get good publicity, take great pictures of high name, brand name chefs and their food, and create a portfolio that way. So where you are is also depending how advantageous it might be for you to be more flexible in your negotiation. So if you're approaching John Besh and you wanna do some photography for him, there's innate value in that for you to negotiate because he's a brand name. So that's where you can use that as currency. How high-profile is your client? How much exposure are these pictures gonna get? And would there be a possibility for re-licensing because he's a brand-name guy? He's a nationally known name. So that also goes into play with how much you can negotiate with people. Because if you think that your photos have the ability to have life beyond the project because it's a brand-name guy or a famous restaurant or something, you have the ability to possibly resell those images and make more money on the backend. And that goes for book publishing as well. If your author that you're working with happens to have a show on the Food Network, well, they're gonna be able to sell way more books, which means more people are gonna see it, which means if it does really well or makes the New York Times Bestseller list, that looks good for you. So you could be careful about who you select as a client and how much you're willing to bend based on what you think is the other value other than money that you can get from that relationship. So if it's a small mom-and-pop restaurant, you take what you can get. You work with them. You do as best you can so everybody's comfortable. You wash your hands and you move on because you know they're not going anywhere. But if you're negotiating with somebody who has the possibility of being a national brand, well then, you're rolling the dice a little bit, but the reality is that you got a good chance of maybe making money in another venue. So you have to think of those things. High-profile clients give you credibility. They give you credibility because the idea is that's their-- when I choose book projects at this point, because I think book projects are a lot of work. They're a lot of work on the backend especially because there's so much post-production that goes into it. When I look at the offers that I get or the negotiations that I go into, I take all that into consideration. Who is the client? Where is this book going to be viewed? Is it gonna be sold on Amazon? Is it gonna be-- all that stuff. That's important. So you need to understand those things. And you also gotta consider whether or not that client can be a repeat client. Whether or not you can form a relationship with either the publishing house or the chef or the restaurant where, if they do multiple projects, that you would be included in those, especially if you do a good job with the first one. You know that this person has definitely got a three-book deal and they're hiring you to do the first one. You negotiate, you do well on the first one. It grows, you can ask for more money the second time. That's from personal experience. That's not even just a theory, that's actually how it works. (audience laughing)
Can I ask a question, please, sir?
Why of course.
Excellent, when you're doing this pseudo a la carte type of pricing and a client come to you and wants you to go a certain way, what do you not budge on? If they say, oh, maybe I can bring in the props or I can bring in a stylist, is there anything that you just say, hey, no, I really need to stick to this?
Yeah, I think a day rate. I think the day rate is commensurate with your value. I think once you've established that, you don't wanna back off of it, especially if you have other room for negotiation in your line items. What you're worth on a day rate is kind of your calling card. It puts you in a certain echelon as a professional. At the end of the day there's negotiation, but you've gotta figure out where the wiggle room is. It's all semantics, but the reality is that day rate is the thing that you shouldn't really budge on. Unless, of course, it's the only thing there. And magazines and newspapers are going to dictate to you what they're going to pay you. And it's just a matter of yes or no. There is very little room for negotiation when it's just a standard show up and shoot situation. I'll pay you 200 to show up and shoot. Okay, I'll take it. Are you available? Sure, that's different. But these whole production things where you have lots of moving parts, that's where all the negotiation comes in.
I'm kind of interested to hear what you think about these two questions that came up. David G. From San Diego had said, with two major newspapers having fired their photography staff recently, how does that affect what you've been talking about? And then Cleo from Boston said, how to deal with the industry starting to devalue images since there are so many photographers everywhere?
Well, I think that the first part with the staff photographers of newspapers and things that are being let go, which is really sad. And I hate to see it, because I'm in that world and I know some of these people. There's a flip side to that, that there is opportunity because now newspapers and magazines that don't have staff have to hire more freelancers. So it opens the door. Similar to what happened when the New York Times and other venues followed suit in writing the new freelancer contract that included usage on the Web. Like I said yesterday, we used to get paid separate for that. And there was a lot of old-time photographers who'd been in the business for a long time who dug their heels in and refused to work for that contract or refused to sign it. And what that did was it opened the opportunity for younger photographers to step in and prove themselves. So I feel badly for the photographers who have lost a job because you never wanna see people lose a job, particularly when a lot of them have been in those positions for a long time. But it does open opportunity for other photographers who are in that area also looking for work to prove themselves. So I understand that. As far as the devaluing of photography, I struggled with this myself, the thought of it being devalued. But the reality is that good photography, if priced appropriately and if the people who are making it understand the business and don't give it away for free, will still be worth something. There's still a large market for photography everywhere. And the bigger the Web gets, the more opportunities there are. So it's inverse. I don't necessarily believe that we're devaluing it on a global scale. I do think that it's been watered down a little bit, and it's just about having to bring it back down to what's really good and what isn't.
Great to hear your thoughts on that.
I have one last piece in my thing that I wanna get to, and it's about advertising. Because I want to blow your minds a little bit. (audience laughing) Yeah, all the stuff we've talked about is about negotiation and this is as well. But I said to you earlier, I gave you those numbers where $5,000 photographer comes in at a $5,000 level and a $2,000 photographer and it's kinda hard to break out of that pigeonholed. I've done my research on what food photographers in advertising make. And the top of the business, the absolute top of the business is about $10,000 a day to show up and open your bag. That's not usage, that's not licensing. And there's probably three photographers in the world who get that money and they probably work maybe three times a year or something like that. And it's plenty when you do that kinda work. But the reality is that the rest of the piece of that puzzle, that money is mind-blowing to begin with. It's hard to wrap your head around that. And that's why that's the gold standard for a photographer to get into advertising. But the reality is there's a lot of money to be made in the rest of that equation. And a lot of that has to do with learning what they're talking about. So these are the terminology: print, Web, collateral, FSI, international, global, all of these things have prices attached to them. And I had to learn all of that. What is that? FSI means free standing insert. So like Applebee's is selling coupons and they're putting coupons in advertisements in the local newspaper. That's what a free standing insert is. Collateral can also be like FSI. It's all these kind of ancillary pieces that advertisers can use like banner advertising or things like that. Global and Web and print, all of that is pretty self-explanatory. Using it in print, but where am I using it in print? Am I using it locally, nationally, internationally, globally? All of that has a price attached to it. And it's kind of impossible to tell in the next 30 seconds or whatever I have to talk about how all those things work. But I'm giving you the information so you can go and research it. You have homework. Because if you are at the point in your career where you're gonna start working for advertising companies, you need to seek out a producer or seek out somebody who understands this business and the pricing of it so that you know that you're not undervaluing yourself. You need to understand what usage rates are. I still, when I'm negotiating this stuff, I have to refer back to old things I did. I pull up old invoices; I pull up notes. Because it's impossible to keep it all in your head. And it's so different from minute to minute to minute. And then pricing out an advertising job, outside of the day rate, outside of the usage, which is complicated, then we talk about buyouts. Advertiser wants to buyout an image. And I talked about this yesterday when we were at lunch. If it's a professionally photographed part of an advertising campaign, if they wanna own that picture, negotiations starts at $10,000 a picture. That's where it starts. Everything goes down from there of course. But the reality is, because there's more pictures, more value, and we get to do it that way. But the reality is that that's why it's so important to retain your copyrights. Because if one of your pictures who you did for work for hire decided to sell it to an advertising company, they are well within their rights to do that and they're getting that money. That's why it's important to hold onto your copyright. And then expenses also, for an advertising shoot, let's say for a major advertiser, run in the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Because now we're talking about multiple days on set, digital text, studio rental, stylists, catering. Like a movie set. This is what advertising jobs are like, big ones. And if you understand that-- And I tell this now for the idea to give you the resource to go out and research it. Let me drink some water. But I also want to tell you a story to end this. Because I just threw a ton of stuff at you, and big numbers and lots of confusing stuff that you have to go look up. But I want to tell you a story. Somebody came to me, a former workshop attendee and fairly good photographer doing local work, building a resume, doing a nice job. Got noticed by a big advertiser who called and said we want you to shoot this job. No idea how to do it. No idea that she needed a studio or stylist or a proper or props or lights. I mean, on and on and on and on and on. No concept whatsoever. She was being asked to do a job that could've paid her close to $100, and she had no idea how to do it other than take a picture. That's the difference. That's why understanding this business is essential because you don't want to get in over your head and lose an opportunity like that for life-changing money. And if you have the skills to take the picture to the point where they looked at your picture and said I want her or I want him, if you don't understand these things, if you're not researching them and constantly educating yourself about the business of photography, you may lose an opportunity that's like hitting the lotto. Retain your copyrights, understand the business that you're in, and make sure that all of the things that you know the value of your photography is balanced with your understanding of what the business you're in and what the potential is for you. Because the potential is huge if you understand what you're doing. And if your talent carries you to that echelon, you need to know how to do it. So that's business.
That's great advice, and 10,000 hours.
10,000 hour rule isn't bad either. That was Shawna.
That was pretty solid stuff.
Just researching advertising pricing will cost you about 3,000 of those hours.
Exactly. (laughing) We had a student in our last class a couple weeks ago shot a picture of his son skateboarding. Son Tweeted it out, two weeks later the shoe company in Atlanta called him and said, what's your day rate, we wanna hire you? And he was a first-time photographer and just starting his business. So be ready.
Gotta be ready; I guess that's the overall message. And that's perfect, you gotta be ready.
You gotta be ready.
Because if opportunity comes knocking, right, you wanna be able to answer the door with a smile on your face.
Yeah, you wanna be ready; be ready.