Friday, November 16, 2007


Check out this video interview with writer Harlan Ellison. HERE. (NOTE: he uses some rough language so be warned if you are easily offended.) He is very ticked off and IMO rightfully so. Us freelance photographers, myself included, deal with the same thing every week. I just don’t get why so many people think photographers should work for free, for very low fees or don’t think photography is a real job. I’m glad some still see the value in professional photography especially all my wonderful wedding and portrait clients. I’m also glad I have a great relationship with the assignment editors and photo editors at the Detroit News. Thanks guys! But I’ve lost count on the number of photo jobs (mostly magazines and companies) I have lost out on this year alone because the client wanted everything for almost nothing. It seems now days they don't even want to talk or negotiate. As soon as I start talking about the fees, rights and how the photos can and can not be used, they just stop returning emails and phone calls. I don't feel I'm looking for out of line fees, only fair for what the job is. And if anything I'm still below the average. I use to wonder if its that that my photography isn't that good. But many tell me how much they like my work and my style. I use to say being a freelance photographer gets harder every year. Hell it gets harder every week. Then there are the photographer want-to-be’s who have “real” jobs, so I’m told, to support their habit. Well maybe another day on that one I need to go take a time out before my head pops off.


Blogger Sam said...

I believe those fotogs with a 'real job' to support them don't do this on purpose, they just don't have a clue how much a picture is worth, what usage rights are normal.

Most of them will work in jobs where they get paid every month, so they can't estimate at all how much a picture should pay, they probably are not good at negotiating stuff, too, since they never need this at their usual work.

For a normal person $10 might seem a lot of money for a picture, and since they don't know better they grant all rights the client requests, being proud to 'earn money' with their hobby.

There is something to do to work at the situation: educate those who might sell pictures about price and rules. Tell everyone how much a photo should pay, what rights should be given, what not. How should these people know what a picture should cost if no one tells them?

Of course a lot of people don't like talking about money, since either someone else will say 'have you read, he only gets $xxx for a picture' or because someone sez '*that* much for a picture? He must be rich!'

So start, educate the masses, spread the knowledge. It need not to be *your* prices, any information about what is reasonable will do.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Bryan Mitchell said...

Good points Sam. Except in many cases education doesn't seem to do a whole lot. All that matters is the "wow, I'm going to get published and thats cool. I must be a good photographer. Good thing the money doesn't matter." To them it doesn't but to the picture buyer it does. There is a bunch of lousy photography published these days because of the "bottom Line". This is a real complex issue that I know I don't have answers for and I was just ranting some. I also know it will never go away and probably get worse. So if you make your living at photography you have to keep supplying a quality product, keep evolving, keep staying ahead of the game with new trends but also knowing when to say no.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

It can all be summed up in this: "You Get What You Pay For" I know it seems so hard right now, but I am just hoping that after a few years of the clients "getting what they pay for" they will start to realize what they are getting is CRAP. I don't have photography background. But, I do work in the advertising field... I know Art (photography) isn't cheap and you do notice a difference in quality when you pay the righteous amount. I buy printing and clients are always mandating we go with the cheapest printers, paper, etc, and sometimes it would be wiser to go with someone, someproduct that is reliable and a bit more costly. I can't imagine how hard it is out there for you freelancers, but hang in there!!

10:51 AM  
Blogger Bryan Mitchell said...

The thing that always gets me is there "seems" to be no problem paying the other people. The person looking for the photo gets paid, the printer gets paid, Fed EX gets paid, the ad rep gets paid, the editor gets paid, the gas station gets paid, on and on. I'm not sure why people think photographers should not be paid.

Part of the problem is photographers themselves in taking low rates. Part of the problem also is every household has a camera and many don't think it takes any skill. I need to blog more about what goes into getting a photo shot and delivered, although John Harrington already does that very well.

I also believe for many, not all, picture buyers quality is not that important anymore. If they can get a photo that is 50-60% as good for 80% less or even free, then that is the way they go. Photography has really been watered down and I think most consumers don't really know or care about quality photography so they don't even notice.

Again I am mostly talking about Newspapers, Magazines and PR here. I'm glad my wedding and portrait clients look for better. That is why my focus has been on weddings more.

11:12 AM  
Blogger M Palmer said...

Sam's point are right on. I am working on getting something started in the photography business, and I am never comfortable with pricing my work.

I have only done a couple of paying jobs outside of portraiture and had no idea where to start when it came to pricing a freelance job. I was asked by a upscale retailer to go and shoot a artist hanging his sculpture at the new store they were opening, It was short notice (24 hours) and I did not discuss pricing. I just asked for what they thought was customary and normal for this type of work. They paid me alot more than I would have asked for such a job. So is that my starting point for future jobs? I do not know.

I have friends that own portrait and architectural companies and they were not much help when I asked about pricing freelance jobs.

Most will sell themselves short for the chance to be published, or aspire to be in the business and cannot make money because they do photography to cheaply.

Is there a foundation of pricing that is accessable to photog's wanting to get into the business?

11:21 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Bryan, just want to say that your pics are always amazing. I come to your site about once a week. Joel and I still love our wedding pictures. And you do get what you pay for. When looking for a wedding photographer a few years back, someone had suggested this one guy that was "so good" and "was really cheap." Well, his pictures sucked. He charged like $800, but everything looked like a frickin' posed prom picture. Anyways, keep up the good work. Photographers should get paid.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

That video was flippin awesome. I'm not a photographer, but I couldn't agree more.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Bryan Mitchell said...

Wow, this video has touch a nerve all over the web. M, here are some places you should visit.
To get you started.

Thanks Rachel!!!

1:50 PM  
Blogger Sam said...


yes, education is not everything, but it is a thing that can be changed.
The other main problem you mentioned, that a lot of people would like to be a fotografer and would sell under value just to say 'I was published', well, this is fun once, twice, maybe a few more times, but then a person might notice they get ripped off *if* they know what the normal value of this kind of work is.

I think this is a cycle thing, and right now the demand for good fotografie is going down. It will go up again, but who knows when.

Right now I'd rather offer workshops for these wanna-be-fotogs, there is a lot more demand for that (plus there you can tell more people what fotografy should cost *ggg*).

5:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You see the posts on the MMBA board...people whoring themselves out giving away free pics, from an expensive camera they never figured out how to use (auto modes should be banned from DLSRs!). Sad. For the real photogs.

11:15 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home