What it Takes to be a Professional Photographer

Lesson 4/17 - Supply and Demand


What it Takes to be a Professional Photographer


Lesson Info

Supply and Demand

We're going to go over the industry just a little bit because it's changed massively in the last decade, and mostly supply and demand. And this is no news to anybody. Seems like back in 2007, 2008, when we had the big economic downturn, lots of people lost their jobs. It feels like, 80% of them either became a writer or a photographer. Somehow overnight, because the number of photographers has been increasing massively, and it's probably, there is many reasons. The way cameras are now easier to use. The ability to get better images faster. But the reality is that, the number of clients has stayed fairly steady. It's not like there has been a lot of magazines go under, there's been a lot of new magazines come up. The way our media is ingested has totally changed with social media. Also, all these websites out there that are taking some of the space that magazines used to inherit. There is more photographers and the same amount of jobs, possible. So that means, there is more competition ...

than there is probably ever been. It's not to say 20, 30 years ago it was still super hard to make a living at this. Now it's just that much harder. So just, reality check. And there is another thing we're fighting against, I call it the iTunes effect. This is actually, Clemens did an interview with Rob Haggart from aphotoeditor.com, and he was talking about-- If you're an art buyer, and you go to iTunes and you buy a song for .99 cents, and it's basically a set of data, and it's some artist's amazing work, that they've created, and then you get an estimate from a photographer like me or anybody else. Saying hey, I want $5,000 for this set of images or this one image. They're like-- I just paid .99 cents for this unbelievable song, why am I paying you for $5,000 for an image? We're getting hit by what the music industry was hit with maybe five ten years ago, or farther back. This iTunes effect. Prices are falling out of the sky like a rock. I mean, it's kind of scary. And here is yeah-- I put 75% on here on this slide, and I talked to one of my friends after I put this together and I think it might be closer to 85% or 90%. So when I talk about prices, usage rates is what I'm talking about. How you price your photography, it depends on your genre. If you're a wedding photographer, it's a totally different thing. If you're shooting direct to the clients like portraits in a PortaStudio for a family, that's a whole different thing than what I'm talking about. I'm talking about usage rates like the clients is going to take your image put it in an advertisement in a magazine, that's going to be seen by however many people subscribe to that magazine, for a month. Or maybe some client is going to put it on their website and it's going to be up there for two years, and be seen by half a billion people. And so you price your work according to how many people ar seeing it. This is the rights manage model. How many people are seeing it. How long it's going to be there. How big it's featured in whatever the advertisement is. Those rates were pretty standardized pre-2008, like photo quote, there is definitely some software and some books out there that talk about how to price your images. Forget about it. Those prices are long gone. They're never coming back. So when I say rates have dropped 75% or more, I'm just talking about those usage rates. That's not to say-- It's still the same fee today that it was maybe 30 or 40 years ago for a magazine photographer. $500 a day, or less now for a lot of magazines. That hasn't changed in 30 years, as inflation has happened. The amount you make as a magazine photographer has technically gone down, even though the price is still the same. So these are usage rates that are on top of that more advertising than editorial. But the good news, after all that stuff that might be a little grim, is that there is still room for a new talent. And I think, there will always be, no matter what the genre if in music, in photography, in Hollywood. There is always room for amazing talent. But the key to this is you have to not only have talent and a good eye and create amazing work, you've also kind of have to be the jack of all trades and be able to market yourself well. And also, get out there and mix with a community that you're working in. Whether it's adventure sports or whatever type of photography you're doing, you have to be able to relate to people. Make a name for yourself in that point, but also the business aspect of it, because remember, shooting is only 10% of this thing, or 10$ to 15% depending on the photographer. The rest of it, making a career out of it, is what you do networking with people, how you get the job, how you market yourself, and that's a lot of what we're going to be talking about the rest of the time. Questions about rates. Aha. So over the years, as they have changed dramatically and since I entered the market trying to get into commercial or dealing with rights manage work, looking at the older model and knowing that it's nosedived, even since I got into it. Where would you recommend we go for those of us trying to navigate that-- fotoQuote or PhotoShelter's rates, do any of those matter anymore? Excellent question, and I've opened up Pandora's box. Yeah. In terms of like, how do you price your work. A and that is epically difficult. Aside from going-- because I know-- I've had some magazines come in with an offer, but I mean obviously you don't want to under price trying to go in confidently, with-- without low-balling, but at the same time, I have to start somewhere. So-- where do we look? I have several answers to the question, because even as a working pro these days, I'm constantly trying to figure out where I fit in the spectrum. Honestly, I've been way higher then most other photographers for the last 10 years, because I feel bad dropping those prices, down from what they used to be sometimes. I'd say, fotoQuote, or Jim Pickerell published a book, he used to own stock agency called Negotiating Stock Photo Prices. I highly recommend everybody find a copy on Amazon, you'd have to find it used because it's out of print. It's essentially fotoQuote in a book form, but the first two thirds of this book, called Negotiating Stock Photo Prices is how to build a price and how to negotiate pricing with clients in a logical way. So it's not like you're just pulling a rabbit out of a hat saying ta da $500. It's like here is why the price is this much. That is worth more than the prices in the back, that first two thirds of the book. So that is good-- FotoQuote, these days I say, if you're getting 50%, 50% to 60% of what Photoquote says should be the price, you're doing extremely well. I think the average photographer is probably more in the 20% to 30% of what FotoQuote says. So that just gives you a reality of my 75%, that's where I got the 75% number. I think also, join a pro photography organization that might have something to do with what you're shooting. I joined ASMP, and it's great, talk to their pros. I just had one of my friends call me a couple of weeks ago and bounce some numbers for a job he was bidding. And we talked to each other, we're like hey what do you think? Does this sound in the right ballpark? Am I way out in left field here? That helps a lot. If you at some point get a rep, hopefully they're knowledgeable about this stuff. That's not for everybody. I don't have a rep. Sometimes I call reps that I'm friends with though. If you're in that position and say hey, am I totally out in left field. I don't do that very often because I don't want to burn that relationships. We're trying to figure out as much as we possibly can. Like Instagram, I hate to bring up Instagram so quickly in this class, but it's the wild west of pricing right now on Instagram. It depends highly on how many followers you have. Maybe you're shooting for a client for their Instagram account. How many followers do they have? Those numbers are all over the map. It depends on who you are and what you can get. Does that kind of answer your question? A little bit? Yeah. We could do a whole 90 minute-- A full day class, on that topic alone. I'd say-- first thing I'd say is buy the book by Jim Pickerell that's out of print now, called negotiating stock photo prices. It's like 40 bucks. Maybe 80 bucks used now, because they're in high demand. But read the first two thirds of that book, and that will explain a lot stuff. There is several other books I know as well. ASMP has one on their website that talks about how to price your work. And it's a thing you build over time, figuring out and experience. You get put estimates out for a job and you don't get the job and then you ask the art buyer well, why didn't I get it? And maybe they'll say you're too much-- You're asking for too much money or it's a constant learning experience even for the top pros in their field. Thery're still trying to figure out well where is that zone? If that zone is shrinking. Can I got to that zone and still make a living. So that's just part of the craziness of the profession right now. But there is still room for talent. It all adds to the mix too, if you're making super unique images that nobody else can replicate you're going to be able to charge a higher premium,. I mean that's extremely difficult to do, to be in that small world where you're creating something that is very difficult to replicate but if you're starting out, that's where you have to be aiming, to something like that, because if I can do it with my iPhone, why would I pay you 5 grand to go out and do it?

Class Description

Working as a pro photographer takes commitment, passion and tons of hard work. Many think pro photographers are on an extended vacation and happen to take a few photos while traveling the globe non-stop. While many photographers do travel quite a bit, and some go to exotic locations, the reality is quite different than the perception. In this 90-minute class we will discuss what it takes to be a pro photographer including how to perfect your craft, dial in your marketing, build a following and how to find clients that will hire you. By the end of this class you should have a level-headed, realistic view of what a photography career might entail.