My photography wise has been like a deep river. From the surface it doesn’t look like much is happening but beneath the surface is another story.
It’s Thanksgiving Monday up here in Canada. The funny thing is that we still have lots of leaves left on the trees and best of all there are autumn like colors on them. Two heavy frosts recently, something that we hadn’t had the past couple of autumns have triggered the trees into going golden and orange.
Today’s blog and there won’t be another for a few days after this is more rambling thoughts about photography than anything specific.
I have always believed that when you are hired as a photographer, designer, musician, anything creative you are hired because of your uniqueness. Not because your look is the best or most popular of the many lookalikes out there but because you present something in a unique and interesting way. If this makes any sense, it was more important for me to be different rather than “better”. One only look at the popular photo sharing websites to see the hundreds and thousands of clones of the clones. Everyone it seems wants to emulate the most viewed or most popular picture. Copying someone is a great way to learn how to do something. That’s the easy part. The hard part is finding your own style.
The tradeoff in doing that is that you might not always garner the most views or comments or be the most popular but then that’s not the goal of being creative is it?
Being unique also has it’s advantages. Instead of your photos being one of thousands and millions lost in a sea of lookalikes your art should stand apart and here’s where it gets interesting.
I’ve always believed in not giving pictures away. It seems not a week goes by when I get an email from someone asking me for the use of one of my photographs in exchange for the publicity that it will generate. Uh huh. It isn’t always the small business that wants photos gratis. There have been a few times where large international companies have asked for a break when pricing images the reason being that “we usually pay this much” for photos for this purpose. That’s analogous to me going to a high end clothing store and saying I usually buy my jeans from Walmart for $50 so maybe you could cut me a break on these $500 jeans? You know what would happen if you suggested that but in the photo world too many photographers are tripping over themselves to have somebody, anybody use their photos.
I’ve passed on quite a few of these offers over the years and will continue to do so. Under value your work once and you will forever be in that price range in all future dealings with that customer.
From that extreme we go to another. You get the usual email asking about using one of your photos. Usually the customer is told that the photo is with an agency and you send them the contact info and once in a while you still have the photo where the rights are yours to negotiate. That part I like. There is a tradeoff. The agency generates more sales but at a price often they take 60% of the sale but when you negotiate the rights and sale yourself you get 100%.
Usually requests are for photo usage like greeting cards, prints (which are an entirely different matter), advertising campaigns and the most lucrative of all the annual report cover.
Annual reports have been the most lucrative source of income in terms of lump sum payments for a long time. When a corporation which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars wants an identity to present to their shareholders they don’t skimp. They want exclusive use to that photo and pay for that right. That means that the photographer is giving up all future usage of that photo for all time. How much is that worth? Does $17,000 sound excessive? It isn’t at least to some companies. I’ve had other similar sized corporations balk at paying anything near that for the reason that I wrote above, ” we usually pay this much” and the result has been that their annual report covers have looked like they were pulled from a calendar from twenty years ago. Not a nice way to represent your business to your shareholders.
What doesn’t make sense to me is companies that deal in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually will not hesitate in spending thousands of dollars a day on consultants, etc. but are not able to see that their corporate image is worth more than a cheap photograph. Those happily seem to be in the minority and there is still a good living to be made for those who create a niche for themselves.
Like I wrote in the headline, a time to give thanks.
Autumn is a great time because that’s usually when art directors are looking for art for their annual reports and what better place to live to have photographs that relate to the resource and energy sector.
Another note on photography or rather photography blogs. If you’re like me you like to read about photos, find out how they were done and best of all see photos.
It’s been rather frustrating finding interesting photography blogs. Most it seems are about the blog owners desire to separate you from your money. BTW, I’ll be traveling to X for a seminar or class that I’m giving or sign up for this trip in the winter with me or take my Skype class to learn more about that. Do these people have any interest in taking photos anymore? I’ve seen some very talented photographers go down this route. I know that it’s almost impossible to make a living from only your photography. That might be impossible today with all the very talented competition giving their photos away for next to nothing. The result is that these once talented people are being marginalized and their photo business is now teaching photography. Sorry but give me a well paying nine to five job. The idea of being the starving artist has never appealed to me and now that I am retired no one is happier than I to have made that decision.
If anyone comes across photo blogs that they find interesting and informative drop me a note, I’d love to see what everyone else reads. A caveat. If that blog is more about the photographers business that their photography, not interested.
ps. the photo at the top of this post is totally unrelated, I can’t use that one so instead I bring you David Thompson Country again, :)