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Author Topic: Architectural Photography--How to get paid?  (Read 13783 times)
willconnor
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« on: March 04, 2011, 08:49:13 PM »
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I've made a living with landscape photography for the last 17 yrs.  Times have been tough the last few (big news!) and I am hoping to diversify with AP work.  My first "job" has been our newly constructed house, of modest size and cost, but designed by a nationally known architect.  Despite being very raw and at the low end of the learning curve on artificial lighting, I've put together a couple of dozen images which the architect "loves."

We never discussed price beforehand because I'm unproven in AP and I wanted to show him what I could do.  It turns out he's thinking that he would get use of the images gratis, and that I would be happy just be published in the national architecture magazine he has lined up as well as his upcoming monograph.  I've since told him I don't work for publicity only, that I don't care about vanity projects, and that if he wants the use of the images that we'll have to negotiate payment in Real American $$'s.

Now I know times are hard for everyone in the building industry, including nationally known architects who charge $300/hr. But I also know, good images are the lifeblood of an architects marketing.  The only way the vast
majority of people will ever see his work will be through the photography of his work.  That's how I found him and hired him-- when I saw photos in his book in a bookstore.

So maybe he was just hoping to get a freebie, and will come to his senses and offer fair compensation.  But I wonder, are the stresses of the economy making this kind of thinking more prevalent in the AP market?

A couple of pictures below:

Thanks,

Will Connor

http://willconnor.com


« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 06:05:55 PM by willconnor » Logged
Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2011, 09:20:12 PM »
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This is BS. There is nothing more common about such behavior in the current economy. There have always been cheapskate architects who thought they were doing you a favor by letting you work your a__ off for some good images. If he is indeed a "nationally known architect", he didn't get there using freebee images. Over the years he has paid serious $ for images to get in national publications. Unless the magazines had it shot, in which case he would be paying serious use fees to use the stock photography for his design competitions, his website, proposals, brochures etc. There is no cheap way to get good photographs.

I have been fortunate in that I never shot anything on speck even when I was getting started, but I was already pretty well known in my area as an art photographer. However I remember one architect early on who, pleading poverty, talked me down on the price. He was famous and well connected with the national magazines so I fell for it. He showed up at the shoot with a brand new BMW with the temporary dealer plates still on it. Yeah he was really broke. I think he bought it that morning. I ate it on that one but that project was published nationally a few times and the stock fees helped make up for it. Additionally this led to 5 years of assignment work for that magazine all over the western US. And it worked out in the long run with that client. Continuing our partnership over the next 25 years, I charged that architect premium prices and together we were published nationally dozens of times.

You made a mistake by not being clear up front. You could have said something like "if you like the results and want to use them, they will be X$ for such and such a use". That way you got your foot in the door with an opportunity to build your portfolio, but would get compensated too if the images were successful and used.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2011, 09:31:50 PM by Kirk Gittings » Logged

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Kirk

Kirk Gittings
Architecture and Landscape Photography
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LIGHT+SPACE+STRUCTURE (blog)
D_Clear
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« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2011, 09:54:26 PM »
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Will I have to say I agree with Kirk ,you've either never developed much business acumen in those 17 years, or you left it at the door when you took on this particular 'job'.

Regardless of the state of the economy for Architects these days, there is no-one to blame but yourself for not covering-off the potential eventuality after you 'showed him what you could do'.

I suggest you maximize the assets you have, work the files to their best and then publish the heck out of them, leverage them into more and paying opportunities.

DC

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LKaven
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« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2011, 09:59:47 PM »
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So you paid good money to acquire or commission his design and have it built, and now the architect thinks you owe him a favor?  That's precious.  Tell him to build you a fountain, and offer him $100, but tell him that it will attract a lot of favorable notice for him, and could lead to getting actual paying work for him.

Then again, once in a while, doing a job on spec does lead to things.  In spite of Kirk's feelings, it does seem his one lowball job turned into a good thing.  
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haefnerphoto
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« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2011, 10:36:44 PM »
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Will, That's a really nice house!!  My take is that you should have had an understanding before asking for compensation but also don't forget you're his client so he might be in a position that's uncomfortable for him too.  Perhaps he "loves" the pictures because his client shot them, quite honestly there are just kind of okay.  Residential architects are crying the blues these days, some are having a real tough time, some are busy but not creating the kind of revenue that they were just a few years ago.  Anyways, keep shooting your house as you spend more time there, it's a work of art!  Use those images to showcase your talents to other clients.  Jim
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tcphoto1
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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2011, 09:34:58 AM »
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I think that you have the correct perspective, it is not sufficient compensation to merely get published. The Architect is in business to make money and the published work will message his ego and perhaps attract more paid work. I have never experienced a paid job that was generated from a freebie but I'm sure that someone has.
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JoeKitchen
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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2011, 10:22:09 AM »
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Although I totally agree with the idea that you should not ever give your work away for free, I have to agree with Jim in that he may be in a odd position since you are not only a client but a photographer too.  He may have wanted to have it shot by an AP, but can not since he does not want to offend you (being a client), and at the same time is not really thrilled with your images.  From a composition stand point, they are nice, but the interior image lacks luster when it comes to lighting.  

I would recommend that you concentrate on exterior images and talk fees with him on those.  And then maybe suggest that he bring in a specialist to shoot the interiors.  And as long as you are there for the shooting, it could be a great learning experience for you to watch someone who knows lighting.  That or make the investment in some hot lights and start fooling around with them around the house.  Being that you live there, you will see much more than another photographer coming just for the day, and when you get to the point where the lighting is spot on, maybe talking about licensing for your interior images will go better.

From a business stand point, did you discuss the project with him or just shoot the images and show them to him?  Remember, photography is really a service industry and making sure that you supply good service is key.  In general architects want to know that you are taking their point of view into mind when creating the image.  When planning a shoot, I usually talk extensively with the client about what they feel is important to them, how they want it accented, their end use, publishing and etc.  This goes a long way in convincing the prospect that your fees are worth it.  Now with this project, it is a little different since you live there, but sitting down with the architect and talking this over could help convince him that the images you create will be worth the investment. 
« Last Edit: March 05, 2011, 12:49:16 PM by JoeKitchen » Logged

Joe Kitchen
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"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
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willconnor
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« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2011, 02:06:53 PM »
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Thanks all, for your thoughtful replies.  I can see why you might think the architect is in an awkward position, but I think he's actually really happy with the pictures.  As I've emailed them to him over the past couple of weeks the responses have been:  "Fabulous pics Will,"  "Awesome!"  "Amazing!!!"  "Super elegant!" and my favorite: "Yummy!"  Knowing him pretty well, I think if he were not satisfied, his responses would have been more muted.
I think money is tight, his overhead is huge, and he tries to be cheap if he thinks he can get away with it.

That being said, I appreciate the honest criticism and agree these could be better.  I have no knowledge or experience with artificial lighting, so have had to wing it with what is designed into the house and the nice northern ambient daylight from large windows. I think the interior lighting in some of these is rough and a little dead and could use some skillfully applied additional lighting.  Though these are pretty accurate to the reality--for whatever that's worth! I think I would prefer a more understated approach to lighting interiors, so I'd like to learn subtle technique.  Hoping to take a workshop with Nick Merrick this summer.

If anyone would like to see more of these and be inclined to offer any brief critique or suggestions, I'd be grateful.  I could post a few more pics on the forum or email a web gallery.

Thanks,

Will

http://willconnor.com
 
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Chris_Brown
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« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2011, 02:21:59 PM »
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When I've been hired to photograph new buildings and facilities, I offer two methods of billing:

  • Photograph the entire project at no initial cost to anyone. Let the architect/developer/client select images and pay based on usage. Reserve all rights so you can license the images to any other interested party or magazine.
  • Photograph the entire project as hired by the client, getting paid an initial fee which is applied to the usage of the photos. In this case, the client gets exclusive usage rights for their company for a predetermined amount of time. Reserve all rights so you can license the images to any other interested party or magazine.

However, in your case, only the first method of business applies. Evaluate your market and draw up usage rates for each image. If the architect balks, negotiate your prices based on usage.
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fredjeang
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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2011, 05:28:16 PM »
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Will, That's a really nice house!!  My take is that you should have had an understanding before asking for compensation but also don't forget you're his client so he might be in a position that's uncomfortable for him too.  Perhaps he "loves" the pictures because his client shot them, quite honestly there are just kind of okay.  Residential architects are crying the blues these days, some are having a real tough time, some are busy but not creating the kind of revenue that they were just a few years ago.  Anyways, keep shooting your house as you spend more time there, it's a work of art!  Use those images to showcase your talents to other clients.  Jim
But James, the sad thing, at least here, is that even big names, with state supports, political influence and big projects and money are using (not kidding) the guy in the agency who's week-end passion is arquitecture, with the results you can imagine.
in this latitude of Europe, it really lacks education more than any other thing. The money's there, the mentality is not.
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2011, 06:11:09 PM »
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it really lacks education more than any other thing. The money's there, the mentality is not.

For better or worse the job of educating clients falls on us. Who else is going to do it?

When I started in 1978, architects here were pretty uninformed and were very hesitant to spend real money on AP. I had to show them the value.
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Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
Architecture and Landscape Photography
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fredjeang
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« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2011, 06:25:29 PM »
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For better or worse the job of educating clients falls on us. Who else is going to do it?

When I started in 1978, architects here were pretty uninformed and were very hesitant to spend real money on AP. I had to show them the value.
Totally agree.
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bpreid
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« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2011, 04:03:27 AM »
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Sorry, that post seemed a bit rude on reflection.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 09:59:01 AM by bpreid » Logged
Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2011, 10:05:31 AM »
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Looking at this as a registered architect, rather than a photographer, I probably wouldn't want to pay for the shots you show and, brutally, might not want them at all unless they were the only available record. The vibe I get from these slighty awkward, stilted images is that you haven't really come to like the building or see it as a home. It needs lighter, brighter images.

Maybe you are a bit dissapointed with it, which is sometimes they way just after finishing a project, but that would be a shame as it looks like it could be a cool house to live in.

I think the images need some work too-they would especially benefit from some additional accent lighting. But the bones of good images are there and from what I can see some additional post work solve most of the issues. The guy obviously has a good eye and feel for shooting architecture. But frankly its irrelevant what you or I think of the images. The architect "loves" them, wants to use them and thinks he can get them in a national magazine. In which case he should be willing to pay some use fees. That is the only real issue here. If they are good enough to use. They are good enough to pay for.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 10:10:24 AM by Kirk Gittings » Logged

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Kirk

Kirk Gittings
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willconnor
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« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2011, 06:04:50 PM »
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The comments/criticisms have been appreciated--even the brutal ones! With my landscapes also, I commonly start off too dark, and don't realize it until the first test prints.  I worked some on the previously posted interior.

Another architect, a partner at one of the top firms here in Nashville that does big commercial and modern projects, saw the pictures a while back, via my contractor, and solicited me for work--as unbelievable as that may seem.  I told him I'm not ready yet to do interiors.  Hopefully, by then, I might have some idea how to price this kind of work which seems to be a labyrinth of negotiation and uncertainty.
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haefnerphoto
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« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2011, 07:28:18 PM »
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The comments/criticisms have been appreciated--even the brutal ones! With my landscapes also, I commonly start off too dark, and don't realize it until the first test prints.  I worked some on the previously posted interior.

Another architect, a partner at one of the top firms here in Nashville that does big commercial and modern projects, saw the pictures a while back, via my contractor, and solicited me for work--as unbelievable as that may seem.  I told him I'm not ready yet to do interiors.  Hopefully, by then, I might have some idea how to price this kind of work which seems to be a labyrinth of negotiation and uncertainty.

Will, Much, much better!!  Here's a tip to get around a lot of interior lighting, purchase Photomatix and make wide brackets of each shot.  Blend the images together using the exposure fusion mode (H&S adjust), not tonemapping, and you'll end up with something much like what you see with your eyes.  Quite often that's all you'll need, if something is really dark I'll fill it in or if the light just really is boring I'll bring strobes in thru windows from outside which somewhat replicates natural light.  Don't show work that isn't finished either. Attached are some examples of working this way (Photomatix).  Jim
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fredjeang
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« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2011, 05:44:50 AM »
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Will, Jim is right, much better and his advices are constructives as always.

I never do that in those sections but I had a little free time and I think it could be helpfull.
Without your permission I took your pic and quickly corrected it.

Please, for the people who would find that inapropriate, I just try to be helpull and to show a possible interpretation using PS. I find it more usefull for the poster that the harsh criticisms even if justified.

It took me 15min to correct the image so there is a lot that can be done on the pp stage. I beleive a reasonably trained retoucher would take 30mn on the original tiff to clean completly this image with precision.

Yes, it should be done as much as possible in the shooting.

I don't pretend here that my interpretation is correct, there are infinite ways according to each one tastes and aims.

The issues where strong magenta and green casts, red and green reflections on metal, different light source dominances everywhere, sensor dust etc...

I used basically the brush with masks and color corrected 4 layers.

I apologyze to the arquitecture gurus (it's not my imagery) if they find that a bad correction (specially now that the greenish external roof is a bit out of context but didn't have more time), it's not the purpose, but I think it shows something that Will might be interested to see.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 06:35:44 AM by fredjeang » Logged
Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2011, 11:13:02 AM »
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Fred I was about to do the same edit this morning, but you beat me to it. It is fairly simple to clean up the color in post unless it is extreme.

But should you? Or how much? I would say that there is a difference between the needs/wants of designers vs. the consumer architectural market (shelter magazines, builder brochures etc.). The edit you offer IME would be preferred by design professionals because the colors are more correct and the clean modernist design is emphasized. But on the consumer side of the market warmth is oftentimes more desirable because of the emotions it evokes. Another viable edit therefore would be to maintain the warmth of the original while getting rid of the red cast on the interior and the green cast on the exterior.
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Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2011, 11:17:18 AM »
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Will, Much, much better!!  Here's a tip to get around a lot of interior lighting, purchase Photomatix and make wide brackets of each shot.  Blend the images together using the exposure fusion mode (H&S adjust), not tonemapping, and you'll end up with something much like what you see with your eyes.  Quite often that's all you'll need, if something is really dark I'll fill it in or if the light just really is boring I'll bring strobes in thru windows from outside which somewhat replicates natural light.  Don't show work that isn't finished either. Attached are some examples of working this way (Photomatix).  Jim

Damn Jim, next time I'm in Detroit you are going to have to give me a lesson in Photomatix. You sure get a better result than I do. I have gone over to making the best image I can in PMX and then putting that in a layer over the best image I have processed for the midtones. I then Blend in the PMX layer where appropriate. This gives me more believeable midtones-where HDR oftentimes looks the wankiest.
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Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
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LIGHT+SPACE+STRUCTURE (blog)
haefnerphoto
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« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2011, 11:26:18 AM »
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Damn Jim, next time I'm in Detroit you are going to have to give me a lesson in Photomatix. You sure get a better result than I do. I have gone over to making the best image I can in PMX and then putting that in a layer over the best image I have processed for the midtones. I then Blend in the PMX layer where appropriate. This gives me more believeable midtones-where HDR oftentimes looks the wankiest.

Kirk, Please give me a call when you're in town!  I use Photomatix all the time, make sure you're using the latest version, it works better than ever.  My workflow isn't complicated, shoot a bracket so that your highlight detail is normally exposed and your shadow detail is bright, combine all the images in Photomatix using the Exposure Fusion mode (with H&S adjust selected), play with the sliders a bit and process.  It's a very good base to start the balance of your imaging on.  Jim
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