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Author Topic: Competition = working for free.  (Read 14943 times)
lisa_r
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« on: August 18, 2009, 10:29:46 AM »
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Well, I am in NYC working in fashion, and clearly the competition in fashion has been such that everyone does editorial shoots either for next to free, or more typically as a $$ loss. Of course they do it for the exposure. Seems not to be the case in other specialties, such as food, architecture, etc. Am I right? Does mags in food/architecture/sports, etc. expect photographers to work for free?

(I have thankfully had a lot of commercial work for many years so I have been ok, but many are starving over here ;-))
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Dustbak
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2009, 10:47:15 AM »
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I cannot tell you anything about NY since I work in the NL's however over here the situation is not much different. As long as there are loads and loads of people willing to work for free just to get their names in what they perceive as the pinnacle that can be reached as photographer (publication in a so-called 'hot' consumer fashion magazine) there is no money to be made.

I refrain from working for those kind of magazines. The B-to-B magazines pay better, even if they are not as hot  When I don't want to make money I much rather photograph stuff I really like for myself instead of working for some magazine (or any other freeloading 'client').

So, I guess they do expect you to work for free and if you are not they will find someone that does.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2009, 10:50:11 AM by Dustbak » Logged
Graham Mitchell
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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2009, 12:14:09 PM »
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2a8TRSgzZY
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jonstewart
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2009, 01:40:43 PM »
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Good One Graham,

That just about sums up the basics!
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TMARK
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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2009, 01:50:09 PM »
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On NYC and Free Editorials:  

1.  You can squeeze some money out of the job on the production through markups.  Even Conde Nast would wink wink nudge nudge at 2-% markups, except when they made you rent from Fotocare which billed them directly at a highly discounted rate.

2. The exposure is worth their page rate for advertisers.  So think of it as part of your marketing budget.

3. I usually got work after an editorial.  $30k - $50k catalogue shoots, beauty shoots, etc.

4. There is usually minimal art direction, if at all.  You get a letter of intent from the magazine which gives your stylist the ability to pull whatever clothes, accessories etc you need.  The production is paid for, at discounted rates, so you can use the Piers or Splashlight or Fast Ashley's or Shoot Digital, and their equipment rooms.  Like those Brieze Focus umbrellas with an HMI?  Go to the Piers and get your freak on.  

5. The food us usually very good.

All that being said, I don't really shoot fashion anymore.  I lost the drive and energy, I have a wife and kid so I can't be at Mars Bar or the Rabbit Club all night, or that awful Lit Lounge where the newbies like to hang.  About two years ago I felt I was pushing harder and harder for the same amount of work/money I made the year before, so I started phasing out of fashion and beauty and getting into motion, which pays better, has less competition, a higher bar to entry, etc.  No one asks you to work for free in motion, because even a small music video, shooting the Red so no film/processing costs, runs $10k in hard costs, paid out with 30 days.  Two days of shooting, location/studio fees, transpo, lighting rentals, feeding 15 - 20 people, editing time, day rates for those 15 people, etc.
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TMARK
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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2009, 01:53:11 PM »
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Quote from: foto-z

Fantastic!
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Dustbak
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« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2009, 02:37:13 PM »
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Quote from: foto-z

So recognizable!
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2009, 02:59:30 PM »
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Just love that.

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nikf
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« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2009, 07:11:02 PM »
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another YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE
(Harlan Ellison -- Pay the Writer)
Ok, it's Harlan Ellison and he talks about writers - but it's the same sick nonsense everywhere.
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bradleygibson
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« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2009, 07:51:47 PM »
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Great stuff, guys!
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asf
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« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2009, 11:22:00 PM »
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Editorial was never about making money.
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Frank Doorhof
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« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2009, 01:42:58 AM »
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I think working for free is sometimes not bad, however in the end it has to pay for the bills.

I do a lot of seminars for almost free, simply because they always pay back in visitors to the workshops.
I started out doing hairshots for almost free but only with some of the top hairdressers, it helped me to get into that market and there are large budgets there, that first session earned me also some prices and nominations which in return got me free clients and exposures.

For magazines it's always a bit more difficult.
When there is an oppertunity to get paid by an advertisement I will most of the time do that, simply put it gets me more revenue than working for the usual fee.

I think the market has changed a lot over the past years, there are A LOT of GWC's out there that do a nice/ok job that is more than enough for most magazines over here.
When you want to make a difference it's almost impossible to get there because the magazines are already struggling to keep alive, so they can stay the way they are pay little or nothing for photography or pay a lot more and get better shots.... but will they sell more with better shots..... (they think not).
So the best way to get in is to offer the work for the same price but demand advertising space.

I know a lot of people will now post that this is ridicilous and that a photographer should get paid or else do nothing.
I'm afraid however that those phones will stop ringing very quickly, the only way to get work is to work, the only way to get your work seen by the big public is get published......

It's a different method of work, but in the end if it pays the bills and you can save for later, what's wrong with it.....
Different times, different methods as long as the end result is building your business.
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heinrichvoelkel
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« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2009, 02:01:04 AM »
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Quote from: asf
Editorial was never about making money.

excuse me?Huh you solely speak about editorial fashion, don't you?

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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2009, 04:20:05 AM »
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[quote name='Frank
It's a different method of work, but in the end if it pays the bills and you can save for later, what's wrong with it.....
Different times, different methods as long as the end result is building your business.
[/quote]




I suppose that in general you have a point, but I am not sure that it always works out as positively as you seem to be suggesting it might.

I have not done a lot of magazine work because of geography: at the time when it was of interest I lived in Glasgow and publishing was in London, 400 short miles away but light years away in terms of living costs - a pointless choice to make when other work existed closer to a comfortable home.

Regardless, I did get involved with shoots for some English magazines via the IWS - the International Wool Secretariat during the early 70s. I also did quite a few trips to European destinations for English Vogue both for the IWS and also directly Vogue´s advertising sales people in Scotland. My experience of those days was disapppointing to say the least. We had no budget to speak of; we were shooting clothes supplied by the clothing chains buying the space and most of those garments were size 14s where the girls were pushing it to fit a 12, 8 or 10 being closer to their real size. Hotels/airlines/tourist boards picked up the travel. If I made eighty quid for a shoot it was a big deal!

I got something like twenty-eight pages in Vogue for the first trip and around twenty to eighteen or so for the others. Great exposure, you might think. Well, it brought me zero returns. I got the work in the first place because I was already doing reasonably well in fashion; absolutely no new advertising fashion came my way from the magazines. And I emphasise: that wasn´t editorial but advertising fashion we were shooting and there was no money there either.

In the end, during a trip to Lisbon and then the Algarve, it all came to a head when during the Lisbon leg we were staying in the Dom Carlos Hotel. The lady from Vogue wanted to go for a walk around town after dinner and the model (they would only hire one) cried off with a headache. I was still quite a young man and the lady from V was maybe sixtyish (?) - older people always looked much older in those days - so I had to do the honours on my own. The moment we stepped out of the hotel the problems began: wolf whistles, laughs, the entire gigolo bit was unleashed upon my embarrassed head. Asking myself whether it was worth it came up with the not astonishing reply that I was far better off without the pain. To be fair, I think the lady was as embarrassed by the circumstance as was I - but it soured everything.

In short, if the magazines are too miserable to pay properly, let them do without you; they will lose real, paying clients whilst you may or may not lose some which are probaly too likely to remain largely imaginary.

That video spells it out perfectly and, in my opinion, trying to wriggle around the obvious facts simply underlines the insecurity we all face within this trade. I hardly think of it as a profession now - if ever, indeed, it was.

Rob C
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Graham Mitchell
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« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2009, 04:50:38 AM »
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Quote from: Frank Doorhof
I think working for free is sometimes not bad, however in the end it has to pay for the bills.

Sorry, Frank, I have to disagree. Enough people have had this attitude now that many magazines won't pay for photos at all any more. These magazines trawl the internet looking for photographers to give up content for free in return for 'exposure' and I think that entire sector is drying up as a source of income for photographers. The irony is that the exposure is counting for less and less, and will soon be worth nothing (unless your ambition is to be asked to work for free again). What's next? If I remember correctly you conduct lighting workshops and I assume you partly make your living that way. What if your competitors started to offer free workshops hoping that the exposure would lead to other work? Then free weddings, etc. This is a 'race to the bottom' - a viscious cycle of undercutting the competition until there is nothing left for anyone.

And while working for free, you inevitably have to make compromises - using amateur models, free locations (no travel), hair and make up stylists who are just starting out, etc. So you produce work which is below the standard you are capable of, and you starve the ancillary industries which you rely on at the same time (including the photo equipment manufacturers).

The quality of magazines is dropping and not surprisingly the readers are buying less. Magazines are already completely outdated when it comes to news items - the internet is so much faster and cheaper - but magazines still have 2 things going for them over the internet - you can take a magazine to the beach or the bath, and secondly the image quality of a well printed magazine is outstanding compared to the average computer screen. So it seems to me that there is still a place for magazines with great image quality ('Victor' is a good example) and fashion is one field which could really benefit from greater IQ. I expect that the ones who resist the race to the bottom and produce excellence will be more likely to survive.

Next time someone is asked to work for free I would just remind them that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Let your competition spend a week sweating over a job that pays nothing, and use that time to find a paying client instead.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2009, 04:52:44 AM by foto-z » Logged

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Frank Doorhof
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« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2009, 07:11:45 AM »
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Trust me, I always show them what's possible and I always deliver something that I'm proud of, and sometimes that means I have to invest in it.
The ammount I invest is up to myself, what's the publication worth for me.

I have to add that I don't do a lot of stuff for magazines because I find the market very unattractive at the moment and I have a different market aim.

We can as pros offcourse say, let's all join hands and we don't do anything without being paid for it.
But I think 99% of the pros will be bankrupt within a few months because there are a million GWCs out there wanting to work for free just by seeing their name in a magazine.
And as you can see on many fora, some GWCs are shooting very pro images.

I also don't like it, don't get me wrong, I would love to get paid for every job I do, but reality is that we do some for free, some for a big discount and some for the normal fee.
But the revenue I get in total including getting my name into places I would normally not go is higher than if I would only bill my normal fee.

I was always learned that sometimes you have to be flexible to get a better position you have now.
And again I also think it's wrong that magazines don't pay, heck it's a sinn.
But it's reality and you can go with it and get your money via the advertising or the status of the magazine or you can decline the job and go fishing and not get the call again.

And let's be straight, if vogue calls to shoot the cover for costs only I would do it.
If the local political party calls me to shoot their portraits against costs I would not do it.


One thing I have to add.
I'm asked a lot by local photography clubs to do seminars and they always ask me what the costs are.
Normally I will do the seminars for free if they pay the gas and let me sell our DVDs and workshops.
In the end I always go home with a lot less DVDs and a good ammount of the people there signing up for workshops.
Seeing back some seminars have made me more than 10 times the ammount I would normally charge for a seminar.

I do think however that you still have to make sure you are the best in what you do for the client. That way they know what you can do and are more willing to pay the next time.
If you can't pull off a job because there is no pay and you have to invest too much it's better to not do it than to deliver mediocre work.

In a perfect world however
« Last Edit: August 19, 2009, 07:17:11 AM by Frank Doorhof » Logged
amsp
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« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2009, 08:03:11 AM »
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I get these stupid requests to work for free from fashion magazines on a weekly basis, it's gotten to a point where I don't even bother replying telling them to go troll modelmayhem or something. It's pathetic really. Here's one from today...

-------------------------------------------------

"Hey XXXXXXX!
Hope all is well
I am taking care of the fashion section of one of the popular XXXXXX publications , XXXXXXXX Magazine . I am interested to see more of your available works .
The theme we want to have is more edgy , sexy but highend fashion . its for the fall issue .
Do you have any unpublished editorial that you can show me ?
There is a possibility of a celebrity shoot with the chosen photographer for the commissioned editorial.

I do not have so much time on that so let me know asap"

-------------------------------------------------

Oooooh, the "possibility" of a celebrity you say? LMFAO  

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TMARK
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« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2009, 08:46:59 AM »
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Quote from: amsp
I get these stupid requests to work for free from fashion magazines on a weekly basis, it's gotten to a point where I don't even bother replying telling them to go troll modelmayhem or something. It's pathetic really. Here's one from today...

-------------------------------------------------

"Hey XXXXXXX!
Hope all is well
I am taking care of the fashion section of one of the popular XXXXXX publications , XXXXXXXX Magazine . I am interested to see more of your available works .
The theme we want to have is more edgy , sexy but highend fashion . its for the fall issue .
Do you have any unpublished editorial that you can show me ?
There is a possibility of a celebrity shoot with the chosen photographer for the commissioned editorial.

I do not have so much time on that so let me know asap"

-------------------------------------------------

Oooooh, the "possibility" of a celebrity you say? LMFAO  

They can suck it.  They want stock, not a shoot.  Doing a shoot for low/no money with a letter of intent, a real production budget, and Ford girls is one thing, asking for free stock is retarded, even if there is the dangling prospect of a "celeb".  

I hope mags like that get flushed.  
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« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2009, 08:49:23 AM »
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As much as I agree that there is a race to the bottom - which is the same in many industries, by the way -, that's not a reason to become protective. As Frank pointed out, there are plenty of GWCs out there willing to do (almost) pro-level work for free. Some trades have the "luxury" of protectionism from trade unions*, which causes artificial inflation of prices. We've all seen where that leads to: outsourcing.

Photographers don't have trade unions protecting their bottom line, so they have to do it themselves. Since a common agreement against working for free is unfeasible, one has to get revenue elsewhere. Frank, Michael, Joe McNally, Alain Briot et al all do peripheral work in the form of workshops, which I assume is to make ends meet. Adapt or perish.

* Not that I agree unions are good. In fact they hurt the members in the medium-long run, but that's an entirely separate debate.
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Dustbak
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« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2009, 09:00:07 AM »
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Quote from: Frank Doorhof
And let's be straight, if vogue calls to shoot the cover for costs only I would do it.
If the local political party calls me to shoot their portraits against costs I would not do it.


That is one part where we differ. I would do it the other way around. A local political party would mean photographing real people which I rather do for free than the Vogue cover, which I would never do for free! Call me stupid but I have principles, a magazine that wants to be 'big' should take care of the people that work for it.

I never work for free unless there is another good incentive. Meeting interesting people and shooting their portraits is one of my favorites, at least that is something I have fun in doing.

There is no competing against GWC's (not on price anyway) unless you want to become one yourself.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2009, 09:03:42 AM by Dustbak » Logged
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