A reader asked me about those cutting edge fashion magazines that require photographers to cover their own expenses and if I really think the magazine is too poor to pay for it themselves. I’m going to need a little help from my readers who’ve worked at one of these magazines (on the inside) to get the straight dope, but I’d say like many things in this industry, it’s the way it’s always been done so people just keep doing it that way. These magazines serve as sourcebooks for the fashion industry so I can see why the competition is so cutthroat and why photographers would shoot something for a loss, the potential upside of landing a major fashion advertising campaign can make you loco. It’s not unlike taking out an ad or spending money on marketing, so as long as it’s an effective way to reach potential clients then it’s worth it.

I also wanted to address the question of photography contests which, I’ll just say right now to make it perfectly clear, all photo editors and art buyers use contests to find photographers and in many ways they’re better then the paid advertising in sourcebooks because you can’t just buy an ad to get in, you have to be selected, so that means the junk is usually weeded out. Plus, I always made the magazine pay for the books so it’s no skin off my back to have one hanging around to flip through once and awhile.

What really pisses people off is they’re not fair. Well, they’re not supposed to be fair. They’re supposed to reflect the taste of whomever is on the judging panel and the point of view of the publication that created it. Also, I think the entry fees bother people (PDN 30 doesn’t have an entry fee FYI) because sometimes it seems like a dummy tax where first time entrants with no hope of getting selected make these things profitable or maybe photographers who don’t fit with the judges aesthetic submit every year but never get selected. You simply can’t do this without an entry fee otherwise everyone and their uncle would submit and it also keeps the dart throwing to a minimum forcing photographers to make a decision and choose their best work and not make the judges do the edit for them.

I use American Photography (here) and SPD (here) to get inspired and see who’s hot and when we’re stuck we usually thumb through them to discover a new approach or a new way of thinking about the assignment we have to make “hey, we don’t have to send Chris Buck to Kansas for several weeks to dig up all the characters in this story, instead let’s get this guy here in American Photography to build a miniature set and make all these funny scenes the writer describes.”

Lastly, I use PDN to find people I’ve never heard of, because well, they always seem to publish people I’ve never heard of. Sure, I think they’re biased in some areas but it’s a magazine and like any good magazine it’s a reflection of the people working there not a reflection of what they think other people will think about them. They also have real pressures from Publishers, Circulation Directors and CFO’s to keep everything running smoothly. I think you will find that publishing 30 new photographers every year that appeal to both mainstream buyers and all your photographer readers is more difficult than it sounds.

Update from inside a small cutting edge fashion magazine:

“While we do generally try to offer some money to our photographers to cover expenses, we have an incredibly minuscule operating budget; I’ve turned in issues where our total photography budget turns out to be less than the usual photo budget per page of larger magazines. This is, in fact, a matter of necessity; we just don’t have that much money to work with so there’s not much room to accommodate huge production costs. Usually our photographers do end up shooting at some cost to themselves, even though we cover film, assistants, food, and the rest as best as we can.

I’d say that the reasons for doing so are two-fold: First, as you said, it’s like taking an ad out for yourself. We’ve taken a chance on young photographers who have then gone on to win top awards for us. They’ve ended up shooting at much larger magazines and for huge advertising
clients. But that doesn’t explain the fact the we continue to draw on those same photographers who are making it and don’t “need” us anymore.

There’s a second aspect, at least to our magazine, that usually accounts for the willingness of photographers to shoot for free. What I generally offer to photographers that I trust is an opportunity to work out somewhat off the wall, non-traditional ideas that might not fit into a more mainstream editorial project. We can serve as a playground for great concepts, adventurous fashion and still-life, and cutting-edge photography. While the downside is that some of the chances I’ve taken end up tanking, the potential rewards–non-monetary as they might be–are pretty great. In other words: no gray background fashion stories.”

Recommended Posts


  1. Rob, I LOVE THAT USE ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS. I have been wanting to chime in on the issue of magazines feeling compelled to ask photographers to work for NOTHING or at a loss for a long time. Let me just first of all say that its fundamentally WRONG to ask talented photographers to work at a loss.
    Its not the Photo Editors fault at what has been happening for the most part. Although some of them and you KNOW who you are….. enable it. I have been blessed to work with very strong photo editors, MC Marden, Casey Tierney, Kim Hubbard, Don Kinsella, Jane Clark and yes you Rob to name a few. These and others people were seasoned editors who provided a credence to protect the photographers, but recently I have been seeing “Yes” people being put into these PE positions.

    I was the first contract photographer at your previous magazine years ago along with Rob Howard who is extremely talented and equally wonderful guy. Our photo editor was wonderful, but the bean counters at the top were let’s just say ruthless. Although I was treated very well, I could see what was happening to young and very talented shooters. My photo editors did everything in there powers to stop the ridiculous requests put on these people.

    Ultimately I blame the photographers for allowing them to be taking advantage of. You are the artist and you are talented and please do not allow yourself to be used, and that’s what happening……….next!

  2. i love that andy anderson wrote ‘use’ instead of ‘you’ when he wrote “I love that use ask the hard questions.”

  3. In the fashion editorial world, the climate is as Rob said it is – you publish fashion editorials as a form of exposure and self-promotion. Not so much for income. Plus there is a coolness factor depending on where you’re publishing. Shooting an 8 page fashion editorial and shooting a single shot are very different things, and there are only so many slots to go around each month. Add to that the pressure of styling to please advertisers and finding great stylists that are aren’t overbooked already. Yeah, we should get paid more, but it ain’t happening anytime soon.

    That said, I still wonder why there is so much detestable crap being published in fashion magazines. I mean, 8 pages on a grey seamless for *self-promotion*? wtf? If you ain’t doing it for the pay, do it how you want!

  4. One thing that shouldn’t be forgotten is that some people see their photography as contributing to a cultural dialog. That visual dialog takes place on the pages of magazines that don’t have enough money to pay photographers but do allow a creative team complete control over the images.

    I don’t see it as advertising for myself. When I shoot landscapes, the medium is the gallery wall. When I shoot fashion, the medium is the magazine page.

    The irony is that this approach is the best way to commercial success.

  5. This industry that we are so blessed to be a part of is a very insecure one. Some art buyers, or PE will not even look at you until you have won an award. And one of the ways the “we” become “VALIDATED” is to be included in these shows. Although we should not look as it as a validation,……..it is. Award shows are wonderful for photographers. PDN, Lucie, Communication Arts, SPD, Art Directors Club and Graphis are the ones that come to mind as being instrumental in helping young and old photographers along in a positive way. I speak from experience.

    Sometimes working quietly and unheralded is not enough to be competitive. Young and new PE’s don’t know everyone and these are ways for them to become familiar with you and your work. Some I’m lucky enough to win and some I have missed the mark HORRIBLY. I would encourage the new, established and aspiring photographers to participate in these wonderful venues. For selfish reasons I love looking at your work and you ALL inspire me!

  6. If there are other people to convince in the decision to hire someone then contests can provide valuable ammunition. It’s not always that we need another form of validation. Sometimes I’ll do a little politicking when these things come out and a photographer I’ve wanted to use for something big has won something and go show it to the Creative Director and Editor with a “we should hire this person they’re reallying doing strong work these days” comment.

  7. Yes, a LOT of those smaller fashion magazines do not have money — although if you ask, most are willing to try to at least cover your expenses, that has been my experience. Without naming names, I can say that a few of the bigger fashion magazines in NY DO have the money but still get away without paying, which I think is outrageous — they just tell photographers that the pay is in “tears” — that can be translated in various different ways! I won’t work with those magazines out of principle.

    The thing is that editorial is what keeps you pushing yourself as a fashion photographer, it’s where you can play, where you can breathe. Advertising and lookbooks are generally not as creative, and you have to do something to keep your creativity alive and to make clients want to book you. I have found a nice balance at 50% editorial (and about 50% of that well paying, 50% for free/at cost) and 50% ad jobs. Often, after a particularly dry advertising job, my team and I have decided to shoot a “free” editorial the next day just to get the creative juices flowing again and feel good again about our jobs. I am really happy to have that outlet.

    Honestly, if the at cost editorial jobs paid more, I’d probably have to answer to more CDs and PEs and ADs, and then the projects would become more like the ad jobs that they balance out.

  8. I think this trend is not just with fashion mags, but more magazines in general.

    I got a phone call from a friend ” Hey so I just got hired for a 8 page spread with blah. And they are not paying me anything. The best part aobut it is they want me to make composites and none of my work reflects that. I said yes, but now I am thinking to pass, but what if they never called me again?!?!”

    My answer, ” what if they never called you again for an assignment that does not represent what you would like to do?”

    More and more magazines are using this practice.

    Now what’s the difference between US Weekly and Rolling Stone.
    Both Obama and Britney features do not contain original content. All content is from the wire or pap’s agencies!!

  9. I recently entered a contest for the first time, a series in what I imagine is a lesser-entered category (stock), just to start getting in the habit of entering… and imagine my surprise that it placed! (okay, it’s PDN’s upcoming annual, and, ok, I’m really excited.
    So I’m thinking that aiming for off the beaten path categories (stock, maybe personal, or probably promotional?) is a good way to get noticed. I’m really excited to use this as a promotional tool. But I also attended the (amazing) ASMP’s How to Survive In Today’s Market thingy in SF last night (hosted by Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease), and while it was really inspiring, it also reminded me that, while hopefully I can use this as a tool to push forward a bit, I still need to be thinking past that NOW, and positioning myself for more and better opportunities in the future. I also can’t just expect photo editors to look through the magazine and call me up – I need to send them stuff that echoes those images and the win, so that they see it multiple times and I get stuck in their brains. Without being annoying. Or something.
    It really drove home how marketing is an eternal process (they said that we should all be consistently marketing until we retire, and then market that we’re retiring – and the audience gave a kind of sad chuckle at the thought of being able to retire), and how even the most successful photographers are constantly pushing to stay that way.
    I really love assignment work, and I hope to “break in” to the editorial market… but, man, sometimes it seems so overwhelming that there is so much competition and ego-crushing in the fight just to get the opportunity to shoot (since it’s not a big moneymaker) to THEN hopefully get noticed by those who CAN pay us.
    I still love it though.

    PS I finally got a chance to listen to the interview with Clay and Leslie d’A-B, and it was also a great inspiration (esp. as I was giving my website an edit while listening). And, Rob, love the gnarly surfer-dude accent – are you from Santa Cruz? : )
    No wonder you gotta leave NYC.
    And THEN on the way home from SF, I stopped at In N Out and read the new PDN while eating my burger, and saw the interview with you there – the stuff about trying to emulate a NY style is scary, but I’m happy to hear there are a few people in the business (or, one at least) who think that’s a broken system.
    Sorry for rambling.

  10. @4
    “That said, I still wonder why there is so much detestable crap being published in fashion magazines. I mean, 8 pages on a grey seamless for *self-promotion*? wtf? If you ain’t doing it for the pay, do it how you want!”

    Unfortunately, this is the best way to sell clothes and thus get your editorial published. I am totally bored with gray background editorials too (hello US Vogue?) but almost every week some magazine calls wanting one. It’s also easier and cheaper for photographers starting out to shoot — you don’t have to wrangle a location and lighting setups can stay the same if you want to be really lazy about it. Plus, showrooms are happy, they can use the images in their press packets and lookbooks.

    I agree there is a lot of crap in fashion magazines, but everyone has a different taste… Plus, fashion is of course a huge game of who knows who, which means totally wack stuff gets published sometimes. But that’s ok.

  11. Kristiina, I know what you are saying, but the paradox I see is that if it is being done for self-promotion rather than money, why is it being shot to pander to the magazine and the advertisers? Wouldn’t that damage the photographer’s image rather than help it? That’s the kind of work I would consider strictly mercenary and therefore would have to be high pay, no credit.

    Besides, catalog work belongs in a catalog, not the back of a fashion magazine…but it appears the powers that be don’t give a crap what I think!

  12. @12

    I agree with you Christopher, but sometimes people are so interested in just getting started and getting tearsheets that they will do whatever, you know? While it isn’t smart necessarily, I can understand it. I think it happens because to get better showrooms to lend to you you need to be published, so to be published you have to pander to the magazine before you have a name, so you have to do what they want, etc etc. If you don’t have a strong head on your shoulders I can see how it would be easy to get sucked into that cycle.

    But anyway, it seems there are lots of photographers who LIKE gray backgrounds — I guess we are just not 2 of them! ;)

    One last note — that type of work is a great way to score high paying but not very smart ad clients who need to see you do gray background crap before they will hire you to do more of it. Ugh!

  13. Total F*ckwits. They are setting up a precedent
    They deserve to loose a shed load of money with their total understanding of how business works and how the world really works. Rich kids giving away their parents money in vain.
    The world would be much better off if they gave their money to charity instead.

  14. Kristina you bring up a very good point and I think we all agree, but as a business model its truly wrong on so many levels for photographers to “FUND” magazines editorial projects.

  15. Andy how are we funding the projects? I don’t pay anything out of my pocket to do an editorial, except to buy lunch for my team. I get locations for free, shoot digital, etc etc. No cost. Agreed it would be nice to get paid but it’s not always possible. And w/ payment comes less creative freedom sometimes.

    Unfortunately lots of these magazines have no business model. Most of the “publishers” need to take a night class in business — they are totally clueless. No wonder fashion magazines are always closing or loosing money or never generating any as they are run in such a haphazard fashion. It constantly shocks me how so many people involved in “business” know next to nothing about it!

  16. I have been on both sides of the fence.

    Some magazines really have no money and others do and are just plain ol’ cheap-n’-greedy. I’m not naming names, but I’m sure anyone in the scene knows magazines that fit into these categories.

    When working on the “other side” I always would be up front that we had no money, but offer creative freedom. Other magazines I have worked with would commission a shoot, change the concept of the shoot (can you do it with X advertiser, such as a car or a furniture company or whatever) and then when the images came back as a blah, uninspired looking shoot with some car or furniture thrown in, the publishers would kill the story.

    Other magazines I have worked on literally pay nothing but say “we love the idea – shoot enough for 8-12 pages” and the work would come back and it would be the most phenomenal, inspired pictures I have ever seen. Photographers got ad campaigns directly from the work they did for this magazine. DIRECTLY.

    Personally I think it’s better to be up front that you’re not going to pay rather than offer some money and then just stiff the photographer, as some magazines are known to do.

  17. I can tell you I have had several instances where magazines have asked ME to absorb expenses. I have simply said NO!

    If you shoot something for no fee you are in essence “FUNDING” the shoot! Another area where this happening and very expensive is in digital processing fees. Last month PDN published an article about a magazine that is giving an additional 100.00 a day for processing digital files. Can anyone tell me that is enough money to sit in front of a computer to process 9000 images? They are doing it because they can get away with it!

  18. ummmmmmmm…I like gray backgrounds…and white too.

  19. Here’s my take on photography contests.
    It’s going to be a long one folks….

    I think they can be an effective way of getting your name out there but only if you’re lucky enough to appeal to the prevailing aesthetics of the judges.
    But if you’re a young or new photographer with a limited marketing budget I really feel it’s better spent on your new shoot.

    Most of the photographers and images that see winning these awards fall into very particular categories. I don’t see too many chances being taken. So what if you don’t fall into these categories? And they seem, at least to me, to be:

    1. Photojournalism stories on dangerous and/or emotionally charged communities.
    2. Heavily manipulated and composted advertising and editorial.
    3. Flatly lit, emotionally stale suburban malaise with a touch of surrealism.
    4. Geometrically composed shots of everyday objects
    5. American life shot with a old film camera, light leaks a plus, random body parts and old leaves.
    6. Horizontal landscapes.
    7. Fashion that quirky for quirky’s sake.

    Might sound a bit bitter but in each of these categories there are images and photographers that I like and some that I love.

    However, more often than not, photographers I love, and I’m biased towards fashion photographer’s, are not photographer’s that are either picked or take part in these contests. Photographers like Amber Gray, Sarah Silver, Miles Aldridge, Greg Kadel, Guy Bourdin, Patrizio di Renzo as well as a lot of the majors like Steve Klein, Mert & Marcus, Inez & Vinoodh.

    Did they become successful with the aid of contests? If these contest received submissions from these photographers, without knowing who they were, would they vote for them?

    “Don’t try to win awards”, a quote by Paul Arden, a hero of mine. From the book “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.” A book every person working in advertising should read.

    I think that if you feel that you photograph outside what you see today in advertising maybe you should be excited. You’re doing what everyone else isn’t. Not always a sign of genius but neither is doing what everyone else is doing.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

  20. @18 – who is processing 9,000 images — that is crazy!!! i know what you mean re low digital processing rates but basically you have to take stuff or leave it or change your workflow. if the job is not interesting or you don’t think it will help your book and it doesn’t pay, don’t do it. if it will be helpful but doesn’t pay perhaps the workflow needs to change. shoot less (i keep to a fairly strict 40-50 frames per look) and then edit the raw files down to selects. then you only have to edit 1 image of each look that you have selected for the story. i can not imagine processing every image from a shoot. but this is how i always work…

    sometimes you have to spend money to make money. of course it is your right to say no and i totally understand the principle involved, but it’s just another business choice we all have to make. of course it also involves your other income streams, etc.

  21. everyone should read the article that was published about digital processing fees in last months PDN. You will be ASTOUNDED! Its a joke!

  22. @ 20

    Sarah Silver started her career out by winning Surface Avant Guardian contest. In many articles that she’s been mentioned in, she has always credited this to a big starting point.

  23. Oh and Mert&Marcus, Miles Aldridge, they’re all involved with American Photography too. Don’t think they really need the exposure at this point, but none the less, they are in there.

  24. @23….talking about a magazine that is cheap…..they make a lot of money with the AG issue and don’t even pay the photographers that are picked as AGs the expenses….i’d like to know how much they charge x AD each page.

  25. When I see the owner of a magazine driving a new Porsche I have a hard time convincing myself to shoot for “credit” but whats worse is my mortgage company won’t let me pay for the house by giving them credit either.

    The only kind of credit I accept is Visa, AMEX and Mastercard

  26. @23
    I’ll admit that I’ve actually been impressed with the diversity of the Avant Guardian photographers.
    Although in recent years I feel like nominated artists are picked because they appeal specifically to the Surface audience.
    I’m sure every photographer I mentioned as won industry awards.
    My major point is that these awards can make a photographer but if a photographer is passed on by these awards it doesn’t mean they can’t succeed.
    I’ve just noticed with fellow professionals, assistants & interns that the contests are becoming more and more regarded and trusted as the last word in good (esp commercial) photography.

    If you have the cash and the time I say enter away. But if you never get the call or email that you the next “Top 30” it doesn’t mean your aren’t or can’t be.

  27. If they can pay the editors, they should pay the photographers.

    Almost all of these magazines have a ton of ads. Where is all that money going?

  28. May I ask why does shooting editorial have to be about business? Sure, photography sometimes has to be about business but sometimes don’t you just want to shoot because you have something to say?

  29. Does anyone think these magazines ask the printer for the same kind of deal? or the Postal Service? Like a lot of photographers I know sometimes I donate my time and work to charities and non-profits. But a profitable businesses should pay you fairly when you work for them, whether you’re the janitor, the printer or the photographer who just shot an eight-page fashion spread.

  30. Quoting John McD:

    “Does anyone think these magazines ask the printer for the same kind of deal? or the Postal Service?”

    Oh my God, I’d love to be in on THAT conference call! I’m imagining the deafening silence on the other end of the phone, after the magazine Editor pleads his poverty case to the Postal Service. And I’m imagining the laughter from the printer guys, as they try to cover the telephone receiver. But, uh, those guys are in business.

    Just remember, when they say “We just don’t have it in the budget”, well, somebody somewhere created that budget. A human being that should be well aware of what things cost. (But, if he knows he can get it done for a fraction, ie desperate photographers, why wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t you?). He knows the printer won’t do it, he knows the postal service won’t do it, but he’s not so sure about Johnny Art School.

    Having said that, (and even though it’s true), you guys can complain til you’re blue in the face — til the cows come home — and none of this will ever change. It’s simply supply and demand, and desperation to get a credit line and/or a tearsheet. In New York alone, let’s just guess at the overabundance of photographers.

    The vast majority of this practice, it seems to me, happens in the fashion sector. So at least we’ve gotten it narrowed down to that one area. But again, this is many times where Johnny Art School would push his mother in front of a crosstown bus in order to get a credit line.

    And has it gotten so bad that just the credit line alone would make it worth it? IOW, some kid would actually pay out of his own pocket to shoot on grey/white seamless — something totally out of his own style — in order to simply get a 12-point credit line? “Anything, anything — just give me something with my name on it. My name is more important than even my pictures!”

    But this will never change. Ever. As long as there are art schools, and as long as “The Runway” continues. So just accept it. Leave the fashion business to fend for themselves.

    As far as my comment the other day about awards, just make sure the awards that you’re entering have something to do with your style. IOW, fat chance that a music photographer is going to be published in the CA Photo Annual. For that, stick to advertising, still life, or landscapes. Yes, the CA Annual has the power to generate some buzz.

    What I’d like to see is a new set of Awards called the Robbies, or the Joergies.

  31. @30 — thank you andrew!!!
    ps i heart your work. very nice!

  32. @31 — “Does anyone think these magazines ask the printer for the same kind of deal? ”

    they do! and they get it. i could write you a LONG list of magazines that exist in large part thanks to free printing. working for one on sunday (they are paying me, not the printer though).

  33. It does seem to be ensconced in the fashion industry. Most other magazines at least pay some editorial fees.

    Let’s see… beautiful models and the ‘hip-cool-bling’ factor….

    Nawww… that couldn’t account for any of it.

  34. The financial success of a magazine should determine how much they pay right? And you should be able to gauge a magazine’s success based on the circulation or readership, right? Who knows the math for all of this?

    Let’s say, for a magazine with a circulation of 30,000+, can someone provide an example of a budget for a 8-10 page fashion editorial? What is “low-budget”? What is “typical”?

    And for a magazine with a circulation of less than 30,000?

  35. So what about the people who work for us? Is it ever OK to have someone assist you for no pay so they can get experience or be able to say “I assisted ____ ______”? I can imagine people being willing to work on that basis(just like the photographers who are willing to work for a photo credit) but that doesn’t mean I should take advantage of that willingness just because I can. I’ve never been a photo assistant but I’ve worked at a lot of other hard, low-paying jobs. I can’t imagine not paying someone who works hard for me.

  36. @37 – I don’t think so. I always pay my assistants, and well. I never assisted anyone and I never interned, and I expect anyone working for me to work hard and do their best and get a paycheck in return. I hate all the ads I see for fashion photographers that I know are making bank asking for interns for “school credit.” Ugh!

    And no, I can not stop posting on this thread. ;)

  37. @30 asks ‘why does shooting editorial have to be about business?’. Well, it doesn’t so long as you aren’t running one. Maybe you have enough surplus income to not need funding, but that is a rare occurrence if you are trying to live off your photography because there are too many desperate people chasing too little paying work. Without funding, how are you going to shoot anything at all?

    Do you want your work used because it’s good work or because it’s free?

  38. when your doing these editorials for non paying magazines you are doing your self promotion plain and simple. I would be shooting the same thing for myself as a test but because it is going to be published in a cool magazine the quality of the production goes up. You will get a much better model. Hair and makeup will not flake out on you and the biggest advantage is that the fashion stylist will get the coveted “pull letter” so they will be able to pull a nice cohesive story with good designers and no janky filler clothes.
    So the way I look at it is that they are actually letting me shoot at a level that is hard to achieve without them.
    So bring on the unpaid editorial that I have more creative control over and those complaining can sit on their asses waiting for the phone to ring and while your waiting there I’ll be showing the new editorials I have to advertisers while your still waiting to get some new editorial for your book.

    If you want to hear the otherside I know Michael Williams has become disillusioned with the whole free editorial system and has voiced his displeasure in this article.

  39. @39 Right on Tony.

    @ Rob I think the next interview with an art buyer should be how they view low ballers. Would make good contrast.

  40. Andrew: I always have something to say, but I need the financial freedom to say it, rather than mop floors or answer phones all day. ;)

  41. Hello, I’ve been reading this blog for sometime and there are of course some interesting articles, but overall it gives a bad feeling. I’m starting out and have no idea how much to charge and you people don’t say anything. Is it a big mastery or you don’t want to tell people if you’re getting paid too low? I understand it depends many factors but still… In the other article for low, medium and high photographers there is no indication of prices. Break it down for people like me. At least on average, so I know my grounds.


  42. My experience with contests has been positive. When I first got into Communication Arts in the early nineties, I had a spread from my Over Florida book featured. I picked up a great client from that exposure.

    Fourteen years later, an image I shot for that “new” client, got into the CA annual. A client that I had shot for every year since 1991.

    This thread is a mix between the comments about editorial and about contests.

    My experience with CA and Graphis Photo has made it very worth while.

    Low-pay editorial is one thing – no pay editorial another. I’ve shot personal projects and had magazines publish them and that was worthwhile because I believed in the work and the message. The page rate barely covered the helicopter fllght time, but the spreads were worth it, because for me, it was about the message and how important the story was. Working with great Picture Editors and Art Directors to drive home a photo essay that I felt needed to be told makes it worthwhile.

    It is not always about the money. Sometimes, it is about what you know is important. I always take care of the money and fund personal projects from my stock and assignment work.

    The personal work is what defines you as a photographer (IMO) and who you are as a person. (again, IMO)

  43. By the way Surface magazine is 125,000-circulation publication, but i am sure that for the AG issue it’s at least 3 times that, and they do not pay a penny for the chosen Avant Guardian expenses…..is it worthy?I went to the party in NYC and there were so many ppl that nobody could see or meet any of the photographers and it was lauder then a club.
    Then they chose 13 photographers instead of 10(one of my friend is one of them)and each one got one or 2 spread in there.
    They got no exposure at all, no interview in Picture magazines nothing at all, if the level was so low why they chose 13 photographers?

  44. @40 — timd is right. i think the point a lot of you are missing is that this how the fashion world works — not really any of the other genres of photo. i understand that it seems insane to everyone working in other fields, but we’re not lowballing anyone, trust me. it’s how our industry works. i would never take a “free” job doing product stuff, or portraiture, but for fashion 100% if it’s a great magazine. no one is suggesting the rest of you shoot free/at cost editorials unless you work in fashion.

    @46 – surface can be a prob for people who want to get into certain other bigger ny fashion magazines. it has launched several careers, but it definitely closes doors while opening them at the same time.

  45. It’s been mentioned in here several times that the over abundance of desperate photographers is possibly the worst in the fashion genre. It reminded me of the PDN income survey last year. Of course it’s probably not a very statistically accurate survey, buy fashion photographers had, by far, the lowest income of all the categories of photographers that were surveyed. Coincidence? Probably not. Maybe I just don’t get it, but what is the statement that so many mention here that they are trying to make with fashion photography? And why would they be willing to do it for free, for a magazine that makes a profit? I can only imagine a few things important enough that I would do the photography for free, and it doesn’t include fashion. Starving people, atrocities? Possibly. And, why do so many you photographers so desperately want to be fashion photographers?

    Maybe it’s my anti-establishment personality that’s made me stay away from fashion photography, but if this discussion and the salary survey is any indication, it’s been a smart move. I know that the few at the top are raking it in, but the rest seem to be so desperately seeking editorial publication that they’re willing to not only do it for free, but pay some of the expenses out of pocket. Sounds like the career path of musicians only the possible payout is probably a lot less.

    And as far as contests go, someone above put it nicely. While winning them won’t hurt, and is generally a good thing (I know I wouldn’t pass up being published in a good awards annual), it’s not the end all be all. There are so many ways to make a living as a photographer, and the sector served by the big awards issues is fairly small, and has way to many photographers trying to serve it. There are a lot of companies, and agencies out there, that don’t use the photo annuals to pick there photographers, and probably couldn’t care less who wins them.

  46. @49 Kevin, it’s a highly personal thing. Given the huge variety of styles and approaches within fashion photography, I doubt you could find two fashion shooters that would give you the same answer. All I can say is that it certainly isn’t about clothes for me and many others.

  47. @49.
    Wow Kevin. That’s some vitriol!

    You are just not understanding the business of fashion. You don’t like fashion — fine. I actually think it’s one of the few places in the photo industry you could go crazy with being “anti establishment” – but whatever. Fashion isn’t for everyone.

    That said, if you don’t understand something, you shouldn’t go around being rude to people that actually understand their business. I actually make a lot of money as a fashion photographer. I support my entire family, have a large property in Manhattan that I purchased myself when I was 27, my own studio in Manhattan that I own, etc. I do all of this thanks to success in fashion. A great part of my success has come from landing big money ad jobs directly from doing NON PAYING EDITORIALS. But like I said before, I don’t do non-pay eds for the magazines I *know* are making $. Those magazines are actually not that well regarded in high fashion anyway, to be honest.

    The part of your post that I least understand is this:

    “I can only imagine a few things important enough that I would do the photography for free, and it doesn’t include fashion”

    I mean, if you are a photographer and you love what you do, don’t you do your own projects for free for yourself all the time? Shouldn’t we ALL? I have so many ideas that I want to do and not anywhere enough time to do them all — I am grateful for a chance to be able to get a production going and pull letters and have a place to publish all the ideas and concepts that I want to get out. If you are not excited about photography and ready to go out and do it every day, why are you a photographer, Kevin?

  48. Quoting Kristiina,

    “But like I said before, I don’t do non-pay eds for the magazines I *know* are making $. ”

    In the end, if it’s really just you and the magazine using each other to get something — you get exposure, and the magazine gets free photography — then why would you differentiate between magazines that make money and magazines that supposedly don’t make money? At the end of the day, isn’t it only about you getting exposure, so why should it matter? Why concern yourself whether they’re driving 7-series BMWs or not?

    Not being argumentative, just honestly curious.

  49. @52
    I guess photographers that make money are not concern with the BMWs stuff, the ones that have to pay shoots with their credit cards and get in debt are the one that would like to have at least their expenses(+assistants) paid, if the magazines makes money.
    A fee for a contest is at the most 200$, a fashion shoot in studio with props, equipment and lighting and messenger and assistant and lunch and digital backs or film and scanning and retouching and everything else is at least 3Gs…….little expensive to get exposure….and you can’t ask favors to friends and studios and lab and retouchers all the times.

  50. @53 It does not have to cost anywhere near that much.

  51. How much then Chris, give me an idea for 8 pages spread in studio shot with a Phase or leaf and retouching?

  52. @52 — I don’t work for free for magazines that make money for the same reason that I don’t hire interns — I think it’s wrong to have money and not pay people for their work, it’s just the principle of the thing. I’m at a point in my career where I don’t really need to do free editorial, but I do it because I want to and I love what I do and I want to produce work every day. But I’m not going to work for people that I think are users and bad business people, you know? It’s not cool. ;)

  53. I have no idea how much it costs to shoot with a digi back because I have no use for them. If you were shooting an editorial for a smaller magazine, it would not be the weapon of choice. I just shot 8 pages in color on location, and my total cost was about $300 for film and processing. I got paid plenty more than that.

  54. @53 and 54 — whoa! 3gs? seriously, when i shoot editorials that don’t pay, they cost MAX $500, but usually they cost… $0. i don’t need an assistant (in the rare case i do my husband does the job), i own my own gear, do my own retouching, get free locations, stylists do their own pickups or showrooms messenger stuff over on their own dime (this is generally what happens, sending thank you notes after shoots really helps!). lunch costs like $80 to feed a whole crew usually, breakfast the same. if i have paid for some messengers that can be around $200. sometimes a small location fee, gas, or something like that.

    if you are spending 3Gs that is a bad business plan.

  55. Ok then:
    Studio:400$? for a shoe box and i am not talking Milk or Splashlight or Pier
    Lighting: 300$ 3Profoto 2400 and let’s say an octagon
    Film: let’s say 100$ for 20rolls of print medium format
    Processing: 300$
    Print: 150$ 8 shots 8×10 decent
    Scanning: 300$ for 8 shots
    Retouching: 400$ if you have a friend that does 4 you cheap
    This is not including messengers and lunch and any extra, i mean you can’t work for these cool magazines and turn a beautiful idea into crap because you don’t have enough money for retouching or scanning or props.
    Not everybody owns a studio or lighting.
    If you shoot on location it’s a different story, but you have to rent some kind Truck where the models can change outfit.
    I agree with Kristiina when she says that “I don’t work for free for magazines that make money for the same reason that I don’t hire interns”, i mean i am not talking to charge a small magazine just starting but magazines like Flaunt and Surface make a lot of money in advertising and don’t pay a penny.
    In the it’s your choice, it’s not right but that’s the way this business is, if you want the exposure you have to pay.

  56. @59. Sure, to make money to have to spend money. It is very true.

    I think some of these costs could be mitigated, though — I feel like a lot of money is going through a sieve here. I don’t think it’s necessary to make prints when sending to magazines, you could wipe that cost — mags all want digi files. I would get a small business loan and invest in a good light pack, strip bank, octabank, grid spot, snood, etc (whatever you need) — renting just wastes your $. Ditto that loan and get a scanner if you shoot film. No more scanning costs (but now you sit at home bored in front of the scanner — get more reading done!). If you shoot digi, buy your rig and stop renting – it will pay itself back in a few months. Is the assistant really necessary? Also, retouching is something that eats up a lot of $ and we could all do ourselves (unless it’s a super complex job) with some education. Learn more about that and get rid of that cost too.

    As for the studio, that is a hard cost to get rid of. But I have found you can get a LOT of cool locations for free with a little smooth talking. It’s pretty shocking actually! And if anyone has some amazing project they are dying to shoot and they just can not afford a studio, write to me offlist and we can discuss using mine on an off day.

  57. The prints are for scanning, scanning at home with an epson scanner is not like a professional drum scan and you lose a lot of color depth especially if the output is a very well printed magazine. Also the retouching and color correction(CMYK balance) is very important, i mean like i said before if there’s a lot of skin to retouch it can take forever.
    If you are shooting in digital it could be more expensive(leaf, phase and computers and tech guy if you don’t know how to use it). The point is to have a perfect shoot, it’s your exposure and you want to look as good as possible.
    The assistant i think is necessary especially if the “client” is in studio with you, you don’t wanna talk about make up and hair and make changes while you are rigging a light or moving stuff around….looks bad and in that business is all about looking good.The problem is these small trendy magazines wants top stuff and since they are not paying they have no problems killing a shoot that they don’t consider great. PPL that run these magazines they all act like they are celebrities for example there’s a fashion director at Flaunt that thinks is Karl Lagerfeld.
    It’s sad but this is the reality.
    It can be done cheaply and still looks great and elegant but you have to know your shit and ask for favors.
    Anyway Kristiina i have a lots of respect for you.
    This is a great blog

  58. There are scanning options between Epson and drum scanning! Kristiina covered it pretty well – a lot of these expenses are really luxuries. The way I shoot, a lot of them are just plain unnecessary.

  59. Yes you are right, can rent a good scanner at Beth Schiffer or other places like that.If you are a good retoucher you can do it yourself, and if you know how to print you can print it yourself. I feel that every photographer should know how to print, use a scanner, do digital retouching and be able to operate Phase or Leaf scanners, but not everybody knows how to do it.
    So maybe 1200$ instead of 3Gs.

  60. Mark I understand that you can’t always ask for favors but you can when you are bringing in paying jobs. I have shot at some of the bigger studios because they know that I will bring them paying business and for them to give you a studio that isn’t booked with a couple packs and heads is no skin off their back and are usually happy to do it. I think the most I have personally paid for a studio and lighting for a free assignment was $400 for a large daylight cyc studio.

    As for equipment I have no complaints from using my Canon 5d, I rent a whole digi package on commercial assignments but have plenty of images from the 5d in my book.

    If its coming out of my pocket I have a cap of about 1G for a shoot and its not really hard to stay under.

    And Christopher if you are shooting fashion it is always about the clothes, remember your paying clients are looking at your photos and they are selling clothes and they will notice what clothing you have in your book, is it low end or high, whats your taste level, does the story make sense together how is the fabric lying on the model. If its not about the clothing then its not about fashion its about cool photos of people in clothes.
    They might not be your favorites but look at the editorial of Steven Meisel and Testino the clothing is always flawless and the photo is great. A lot of people take great photos but the clothes look like crap those don’t get called back.

  61. Agreed about knowing how to scan, retouch, and print. I used to rent the Imacon at Beth Schiffer before I bought my Nikon scanner. It is a pain sometimes to have to do it yourself, but really, much of it is passive: I can develop b/w film while watching a movie or drinking a beer, a 4000dpi scan can take an hour, etc. Luckily, my style doesn’t require extensive retouching, which would drive me crazy.

  62. @64 Tim, what I meant was that fashion photography, as opposed to product photography of clothing, is about much more than the clothes. This may be more apparent in fashion advertisements than editorials, though, where people may tend to feel more of an obligation to show than the clothes to get published versus creating a brand image.

  63. At the root of all of this is the fact that there are some people that know how to work cheap when necessary, and then there are those who just don’t. Some of it has to do with education and background, some of it boils down to just plain old creativity. Those that have the resources and know how to pull off a good looking product under these constraints are the ones that can play that game. Some simply won’t be able to without hurting their business.

    It’s not about cutting corners, or going cheap on the labor. Nor is it always about spending hours upon hours of unpaid personal time. Time is money and should always factor that into the equation. The universal truth of business.. the triangle of “good” “fast” and “cheap” always applies, so you pick the two that you can control, and adapt the shoot concept to pick up the slack in the third. Knowing when to work this way, and knowing when to demand money is what will separate the credit line beggars from the survivors.

  64. A couple thoughts.

    1. Magazines that offer bad deals to photographers and treat them badly and don’t use their images well can’t attract talent. On my last job I walked into a situation with a ton of pissed off photographers that I had to reestablish positive relationships with by loosening the expenses up, clearing out all the red tape and lobbying for bigger photos and more pages. I honestly think if there’s no return on investment people quickly figure it out and don’t return calls.

    2. Workbook, Le Book, Blackbook, Modern Postcard… all make millions of dollars off photographers with hardly a complaint so why is this scenario different? Why not skip the ad or the mailer and invest in an editorial shoot.

    Bottom line IMO you have to trust that the photo editor is getting you the best deal they can. Magazine owners will try and screw everyone if they can.

  65. @Rob – your #2 point is exactly the argument someone told me that got me over the initial shock of the freebie editorial.

  66. @Rob Your #2 point is really good. I’m just at my third year in business (March 25th!) so my in experience is gonna show here.

    “Bottom line IMO you have to trust that the photo editor is getting you the best deal they can. Magazine owners will try and screw everyone if they can.”

    We’re both based in AZ I believe. What mags here have Photo Ed’s? Also do you mean that photographers partner up with photo editors to do editorial shoots as promotion?

    The idea of doing an editorial shoot in the place of a mailer really interests me.

    I really get what others on this post like Kristiina are saying now and that to me means that shoot for the good mag’s as self promotion that simply don’t have the budget because they don’t have the budget, but don’t shoot gratis for mags that have the money but are not willing to pay photographers.

    Kristiina, Rob is this correct?

    Most Ed clients in AZ want you to shoot for free because they simply don’t want to pay and thats where my bad attitude comes in about shooting for free.

  67. @ #68 Boss Man:

    I think it depends on what you shoot, and who your clients are. Maybe with fashion, with NYC being such a newstand/magazine town, you could support the argument that a freebie editorial job might pay off better than a Modern Postcard.

    But if advertising or other styles, a well-targeted card, sent right to the desk of your targeted AD, might be more efficient than just hoping that the AD had a subscription to the magazine you were freebieing for.

    In the future, my prediction is that all the magazine owners will get wind of the Surface/Nylon approach, and they’ll stop paying for photography altogether. And then, after that, they’ll actually start charging photographers a Space Rate to shoot and get placement in their magazine. I mean, on some level, what’s the real difference between shooting for no fee, and eating the expenses, and actually writing a check to the magazine for that juicy valuable placement and exposure. In the future, every job will become an Advertorial.

    You laugh. Now.

    And to Kristiina, what’s your line in the sand between “magazines that make money” and “magazines that don’t”. Do you research their Tax Returns, and come up with a figure that divides the two types of magazines? What’s that number?

    And when you shoot for free, aren’t you behaving in the exact same way that you complain about the “unpaid interns”? You’re providing your service to a for-profit company, for absolutely no fee, but then you act all Mother Teresa about anyone taking advantage of interns? Interns need experience (and exposure) too. I hear your argument on some level, but on another level, it collapses completely.

  68. @70
    Exactly! and congrats to your 3rd year! Many more!

  69. @71
    Very interesting! Hey Rob, maybe that is what our friend “OUTwest” is wanting, or praying for! Hope he does not see this! LOL!!

  70. I’m saying there has to be a visible return on investment like the sourcebooks and mailing lists and other things photographers use but I’m also saying it doesn’t work when there’s no upside because photographers stop working for you. The fashion industry has these mutually beneficial relationships that seem to work. It would never work for the rest of editorial and now there are websites where things like this can be discussed. Maybe people should add information about contracts and pay scale to mediaphonebook.com. Could be useful.

    Oh, yeah trust me our friend OUTwest told me he wanted to own all the images from photoshoots. I blew his budget instead.

  71. Wow, people are really getting their panties in a bunch over this one! Let’s all try to be nice to each other here, ok? Sheesh.

    @70 – Yes, for fashion photography. You seem to shoot only portraiture, and I can’t pretend to know anything about that field. I’ve got fashion blinders on. Honestly, it sounds really weird and fishy to me for any other genre of photography to want free work. But if it’s a really good magazine and you know they don’t have the budget and you know it will help you, go for it.

    @71 – Dude, chill. I don’t freaking think I am Mother Theresa. Hiring interns is not cool for me, but that’s just my opinion, for my business. An intern would be totally bored in my studio. I work 12-15 hours a day, mostly sitting at a computer or on the phone. It is not glamorous or very interesting. An intern would be sad. And I’m sure they would hate my music choices.

    To answer your stuff about how do I know the magazines #s, etc — the answer is easy — my friends run them. I know the editors really really well. I DO do my research (see note re computer work). Most of the magazines I do at-cost shoots for (not free, I am being paid for expenses generally) don’t even have advertisements, so it’s pretty obvious that they are not “for profit.” And did you know that lots of ads that are in fashion magazines are GIVEN to companies to increase the magazines’ fashion profile? Like, Gucci, Prada — send us ad copy — you get a free ad! So smaller mags aren’t even making ad $ even though they have ads.

  72. As far as I know, the first of the modern, well-distributed, non-paying fashionable magazines started in Paris in the mid eighties (That era is a bit hazy for me, so please excuse my lack of precision). All the available money went into fabulous printing and production costs, and not to the photographers. Many photographers and artists participated because these publications were not going to be intimidated by then-powerhouse French Vogue. The mags were non-profits by any definition. Many who worked at these publications went on to huge careers, and they influenced a generation of magazine people. Above all, that era set in motion a fairly simple formula: the magazine will publish only great work in a perfect context (excellent printing, graphics, and paper stock) and contributing photographers will shoot for free and pay for, in part or in whole, expenses. This business plan had nothing to do with money; it was a labor of love.

    I have worked for many of these magazines; the best ones still run on the same principle. Some magazine owners have taken advantage of the situation, but the art directors and photo editors and editors never seem to profit much from the situation. Like the photographers, they get their cash from other, advertising-related, projects: the money comes later, from advertisers interested in hiring the people who produce fabulous images.

    If you love to make photographs and someone is willing to help you execute your ideas, beautifully print your photographs and then distribute the resulting images to the world, it’s just plain crazy to refuse because the owner can not, or will not, pay for lunch. My shoots are generally expensive to produce — at least a few grand per story — but I have no problem taking care of my expenses. I balk at paying certain expenses that are not mine, or hesitate if we are going to go over 5 or 6K (I am not going to pay to rent a sound stage if we can’t deal away the rental fees, and I am not going to pay for shipping an obscure accessory 4000 miles because an editor wants it on a shoot) but I will sometimes spend whatever it takes. These self-financed shoots are the very best career investments I have ever made, and continue to make. They not only generate advertising $$$, but, more importantly, they improve my work.

    There are no excuses in a self-financed magazine shoot. They force you to make your best photographs. I say, try one. Pick a magazine. Pitch ’em a story you’re dying to create. Shoot it. Pay for it. If you did your job, you won’t regret it.

  73. @61
    “PPL that run these magazines they all act like they are celebrities for example there’s a fashion director at Flaunt that thinks is Karl Lagerfeld.
    It’s sad but this is the reality.”

    don’t let it be! honestly, it’s true there are so many grody people in the industry but really you do NOT have to work with them. there are so many great people you can easily avoid the icky ones. any clients that you feel you need to have an assistant or anything extra around just to impress are not worth it IMO.

    anyway if you are shooting a free editorial the client won’t be there so you don’t need the assistant! or get someone on your team to help you if you need help — one of my makeup artists always helps out as my “reflector bitch” when we shoot editorials. we all help each other. ;)

    “If you are shooting in digital it could be more expensive(leaf, phase and computers and tech guy if you don’t know how to use it).”

    i know this isn’t about you since you shoot film, but people need to learn how to use their equipment!!!!!!!!!! i mean, come on.

    fyi nikon super coolscan 9000 is a great scanner, comparable to drum scans and does up to 120mm. it’s pretty affordable. polaroid makes a good 4×5 scanner if you need that.

  74. @76 “…And did you know that lots of ads that are in fashion magazines are GIVEN to companies to increase the magazines’ fashion profile?…”

    A few years back, an office assistant at a magazine accidentally CC’d me on a private email conversation between the editor and an advertiser they were offering free space to.

    It made for a very surprising, educational read, and certainly took some of the gloss out of that rag.

  75. Kristiina@51, I don’t have a problem with fashion. I don’t like to shoot it, and I don’t understand the desperation to be any kind of photographer in particular, if it requires me subsidizing someone else’s business. Personally I feel the “anti establishment” sentiment in fashion photography is the establishment. And like I said in my post @49 “maybe I just don’t get it…” The comments that followed helped, but I think I still don’t get it. Christopher Bush’s comments @50 said what I feel when looking at much of the Surface type fashion photography. It really doesn’t seem to be about the clothes. And if it’s not about the clothes why is it called “fashion photography”?

    I do photography almost every day, and I love what I shoot. The stuff I shoot, but am not hired to do is, of course, self financed, but it’s not helping someone else to make money, except in the rare instance that it’s a non-profit I really believe in donating to. I understand the thinking that publication in a high end mag would provide PR value, but there are so many fashion publications, that many seem that they couldn’t possibly provide much PR value.

    Obviously you’re very successful in the fashion end of photography, and that’s great. I think where you are is where so many desperately want to be, and will do almost anything to try to get there. Of course for every 100 fashion photographers out there, how many have a shot a reaching your level of success? It seems the odds are pretty darn low.

    And hopefully I wasn’t “bitterly abusive” (definition of vitriol) in my first post. It wasn’t meant that way.

  76. @80. Hi Kevin. What I meant by “anti establishment” in fashion is not the certain f-it style that some people have, but rather the fact that fashion is so freaking open you can really do whatever the hell you want. I shoot fashion because I have complete artistic license. Whatever crazy idea pops in my head I can pitch to a client and they will generally pay for it, if not, I shoot it as one of these free editorials we have been discussing and I get to see it in print. I think that is pretty great. I don’t have to answer to anyone but me (doing editorials). It is cool.

    In the US market it is still mostly about the clothes. Not so much in Europe — there you can get away with super blurry photos, dark images, smudges of clothes. I don’t know why that is still called fashion photography, but it is. I guess because it is still vaguely selling something. Sometimes I do feel like certain fashion images stray too far into art — when you can no longer see garments, etc. But that is a whole other discussion.

    As far as your comment about how many people have chances at reaching success, I would say all of them, at least those with a good eye. My advice would be:

    – take a business class. or 2. or 3.
    – make every shoot better than it has to be.
    – work harder than you have to.
    – be nice.
    – find a great group of other nice people — make a few good teams and stick to them.
    – send thank you notes.

  77. How many fine art photographers are there that don’t go out of pocket on their work, how many documentary photographers get hired to shoot major ad campaigns and how many advertising photographers are brought in to concept a shoot from the early stages rather than being hired to shoot an AD’s comp?

    Not many.

  78. Rob-
    Getting the information out there is key and certainly why your blog is a runaway bestseller. Many photo editors do go to bat for photographers with the bad contracts and expense regulations. I remember MJ had a maximum of 15% you could leave a waiter or waitress. I loved getting my check where they had removed $29.30 for overpaying three different waiters. I’m hoping that you got rid of that “rule” and since you never hired me while you were there…..

    Seriously, information being the key, it is a great idea to post more real world stuff over at MediaPhoneBook:

    new categories
    Pay to Play – Good
    Pay to Pay – Bad
    Photo Editors that Drank the Kool Aid
    Photo Editors that Spit in the Wind

  79. The exploitation argument here is a no brainer really. Tomorrow I’m travelling to London to shoot my own stuff, as usual, and hopefully I will not spend more that the equivalent of $85 on travel and food and I couldn’t give a fig if anyone likes what I do or not.

  80. Wow, this thread is a very entertaining read, to say the least.

    I am going backwards – -started out shooting a lot of commerce, and now am trying to shoot some editorial to expand my client base and have some more fun. My shoots for myself/tests have always cost next to nothing (maybe $100?), but am now going to Paris next month to shoot, so this one will be more costly I guess. But still, some of the most talked about images in my book have been shot for free. (model, stylists, hair&make up, locations free…) like the airport ones on my site (on the “I’m Gone” link.)
    Also whenever I am shooting a 1/2 day and I know the model is booked for a while day, I make some advance calls to get stylist/makeup/whatever there so we can make use of the afternoon and hopefully pull off something great with the free model time.
    Hopefully I’ll be able to keep shooting on the cheap while pushing my editorial stuff.

  81. Oops, meant to write:
    Also whenever I am shooting a 1/2 day and I know the model is booked for a WHOLE day

  82. We’re rapidly entering a situation where its going to be more profitable to teach star-struck newbies than actually go out and shoot.

    Huge pool of desperate ‘photographers’ (trust fund kids and weekend warriors) who know no better. They’re taking advice from all these self-appointed industry experts and throwing their money at them too.

    Its “pop idol” for photographers.

    Sad…..very sad


  83. @83 Hey Russell, agree. I remember when MJ would send me to the Arctic Circle and expect receipts……….genius!!!

  84. Editorial assignments is a wonderful marquee for all of our work. I have been lucky enough to have some great ones. Let’s face it great art directors, creative directors, art buyers, and photo editors ALL look at and read well designed and art directed magazines. We would all be foolish to think of anything less.

    If an photo editor is going to offer you a wonderful shoot in some amazing place or allow you to shoot your story idea, BUT cannot pay your regular day rate we would STILL all jump on the chance.

    Where it gets weird is when magazines expect you to fund the the shoot. That means no fees, allowing invoices to stay unpaid for 120 days, etc. That is the real crux of this whole issue IMO!

  85. @ andy #89:


    no one is denying that we all love editorial. it is the very best. to get on a plane, with a bag over your shoulder, and be assigned to meet some kook in some outlying town — now that is living, at least in my book.

    yet, with the best also comes some of the worst. at least from a business perspective. i remember being a young photographer, and joining asmp, and going to those business seminars, and trying to learn to “do things the right way”, rather than “the desperate photographer way”. you’d go there, and you’d learn tons of great information, and then you’d come back, and then be slapped in the face with the editorial business model, which is, basically, “how long can you shoot editorial before you go broke”.

    you’d learn in these seminars to “always get an advance”, and then, you’d try that one on the picture editor, and you’d get that deafening silence. “well, we usually pay in sixty days”.

    my position on editorial is that you’ve got to just close your eyes, not think about any of the business issues, open your mouth, and prepare to swallow. that’s the only way to feel good about the business side of editorial.

    what’s always hidden in the editorial equation, also, is the sentence that’s in fine print, “well, there will always be that big ad job that’ll justify me shooting this editorial job”. but what about all of those guys that ONLY do editorial, and have no interest or desire in advertising? what do they do?

    that’s why this low-fee or no-fee editorial gets under my skin so much. that’s why the whole “kristiina with no fee” feels so much like peeing in the pool, soiling it for other photographers. (or maybe this is just jesus’ way of thinning out the herd? sooner or later, the weaker ones will always die off?)

    yes, of course, we all love editorial. but it just seems they’ve squeezed every last ounce out of the business incentive, (unless you’re chasing Britney).

  86. About working for free: I am always impressed at how many people I know of in NYC who seem to be the cool ones, shooting cool jobs, at the parties, etc. And they have no money, do not own their apartment (or any property for that matter) and they are in their late 30s, 40s, or older. And looking for a roommate.

    I mean jesus, when is it time to start making a living? What happens when you want to retire and have not a cent saved??
    (I guess this is why I started backwards, commerce first, then editorial if I can find the time…)
    I’m serious, people in this industry must get older and start getting scared about what happens when the jobs start drying up and their bank account has cobwebs only.

  87. @90
    thanks for your shout back, let me clarify myself. I’m not sure how much editorial work you take part in. Myself I have done a ton, and with some of the best magaines in the business. I might add also with some of the best photo editors. With that said unless you are on contract, there is not a magazine out there that can afford to send you on 3 week trip to Tanzania and pay all your expenses and your full fee! Not one! Its unfair and frankly stupid to ask or demand a photo editor to your full fee!
    Its not going to happen, I cut my teeth on editorial and what ASMP ask of its members is great, but its a guide.

    No fee is for the desperate or uneducated! Hope this clears things for you @90!

    PS sorry if this has any misspelled words, I’m on my iPhone and I could not contain myself!!

  88. Ron checked out your site, nice work but you do have a broad scope of what “client” means from your client list. If you shot for Bluefly and they run a photo in Vogue, Vogue is not your client. Just trying to save you some embarrassment in the future.

  89. Thanks “timd.” Shot front of the book for Vogue some time ago.

  90. @90 I assisted fashion photographers for a while and i can tell you that “Big magazines” will send you on a trip to Tanzania, flying 1st class and best hotels etc.
    This was 10 years ago, i am not sure if things have changed since i don’t assist or shoot fashion anymore.

  91. @95
    no they have not, my point was paying your “full fee” that really is the only thing that is negeotiable. Expenses are just that..expenses!

  92. Ok Andy i got it, i was talking about photographers that are under contract with a magazine, my mistake.

  93. I don’t think there’s been a discussion about the photography business in the last fifteen years that doesn’t revolve around the idea that certain photographers who are willing to work for less than a fair fee (whatever that is) somehow ruin things for others. I personally don’t think that this is the case for a number of reasons, but really, the whole argument is beside the point. The competitive landscape is what it is. This is a great profession, and consequently there is a large surplus of people who are dying to get into the game and are willing to do anything they can for a chance.

    I don’t think it’s useful or necessary for any of us to deride each other’s business judgment. There are as many different paths to success as there are different photographers. We all have different opportunities, needs and aspirations. The marketplace really does take care of those who engage in unwise business practices, but it’s way beyond me (or any of us, I think) to define what constitutes an unwise practice for someone else.

    Personally, my hat’s off to kristiina and others like her who find a way to do photography that they love and build a successful business at the same time.

  94. How could I not go for 99?

    It was about 1994 I think when Deborah Needleman and David Armario were at MJ – Deborah called up with a three week canoe trip across the sub-arctic, boreal forset into Hudson’s bay near Churchill, Manitoba: “We can’t really pay your fee for the entire three weeks but if you want to think about it like a vacation you could take your girlfriend – and we’ll let you keep some really cool gear” – I’m still using the Northface mountail light jacket and pants, the tundra and pelican cases, the LLBean duckboots, the Northface sleeping bag; I can still get the wetsuit on – it’s just a little snug in the tummy!

    But I should go back and see what the fee was; I’m sure it was at least 4K and they paid for every polaroid, every sheet of film, every c-print. The real story is that as with every economic transaction, it’s got to be mutually beneficial or it wouldn’t happen. If a photographer accepts a non-paying assignment or an assignment that they have to pay the expenses even, we all know that it’s not so much about desperation as it is about the passion for making images and getting the attention for having made them. Maybe we should just call these pay to play magazines “perpetrators of crimes of passion.”

  95. This link really has nothing to do with this topic that we’re on, (or does it)?

    Anyway, I was a huge Chip Simons fan when I was a kid, and he was kicking ass all over the Editorial Landscape, everywhere you turned. I loved his inventiveness, and his humor.

    A link below, on his luck turning bad. Also, make sure and read the BIO link too, it’s somewhat long but make it all the way to the bottom, where things sorta hang a left. Amazingly honest writing. Not sure I’d have the courage to put that on my site. Lots of commentary on the editorial business, and the impact of leaving NYC.

    Anyway, I wish him, (and his family), the best.


  96. I assisted a fairly big fashion portrait shooter several years ago. He would spare no expense on non paying shoots. We did one three day location shoot. Huge crew. Three assistants. Motorhome. 100-150 rolls of 120 shot each day. The images made the next issue, which happened to be the last issue. A few of the images form that shoot are still on his website. He probably spent $10,000 on it. It seemed to pay off when shortly thereafter he was shooting a huge ad campaign in Miami.

    The flip side is when a magazine has you shoot for free. Or say they will pay photographers and never do. And then you see their shiny new ferrari on the internets….


  97. Client#9@101, re: Chip Simon link, thanks beyond.
    RK@100,quote” Maybe we should just call these pay to play magazines “perpetrators of crimes of passion.”
    Maybe we should call them Crack dealers……………

  98. Great advise, I am so glad I found you site. Thanks for the info.

  99. @100
    Exactly………………….finally some clarity!

  100. @90 — hey “business man” — do you read or just react? no one is telling an editorial photographer to shoot for free. JUST FASHION. it is built into the business model. god, how many times are we going to go in circles here?

    ps going to asmp was your first mistake. no wonder you are so pissy!

  101. y i k e s

  102. I think this is all very interesting . I have worked for free lots of times and I’m embarassed to tell anyone out side of the photog world that I have.

    Most people who have careeres and or jobs or a business are in it to make a profit, a living ???

    I understand personal work and funding that. I understand the freedom of editorial or fashion ,when working for free. I understand the self promotion side of working for magazines for free and getting what amounts to personal work published.

    The funny thing is when i did that stuff ,the free or self funded work. I had dealines ,people up my _ss wanting things a certain way.Bottom line it was a job a responsibility my name was on the work. I wasn’t out there to play I am serious about my job and work hard to get it!!

    But when I showed my stuff to real people not photogs they always look at me like man your happen’n . Wow you must do really well . I can’t bring myself to say “well ya know I flew to LA rented cars, hotels, paid for my own food ect, all for the chance somebody will see this and give me a real paying job”

    Don’t get me wrong it has worked out but much more often not.

    My point to all of this is ,be honest ,if you had a choice to be paid what your worth or do something for self promotion what would you choose??

  103. @108
    I chose to get paid what I am worth, and bought a house with it. I only test when it won’t cost too much. (I have found plenty of things to shoot for the portfolio which are nearly free…)
    I really can not justify living without making $$, investing in my future, etc. So, I am not always shooting exactly what I want in the way I’d like to, but hey, this is commerce, not art class. But having said that, I do shoot some pretty nice things for commerce, and much of it is portfolio-worthy.

  104. It’s gotten so bad that even the photographers are catching on to this business approach: Here’s a photographer who’s charging the assistants for the privilege of assisting him.


    Will magazines soon charge photographers for the right to be seen in their magazines?

  105. It’s happening in non-fashion magazines, too. Twice in the past couple of weeks I pitched a story to editors who responded with “Sure, yeah, we’d love to use the pictures; it’d be great publicity for you, but we can’t pay.” One magazine started to tell me how the rag’s a few thousand dollars in debt with every issue, and then the editor in chief got very nasty with me when I said I couldn’t afford to give my work away. I’m still getting emails from him…

  106. @Kristiina: besides spamming this page with adverts to your site though the link on your name (haven’t had the curiosity to give you some traffic as I dislike this type of publicity) I really don’t see the point in you going on and on about your frustations. Sure, you are mighty proud with the money you gained as you directly said that. In the end you sound just lonely and frustrated like you have some unacomplished goals in life. I feel sorry for you, but please, make less noise. The people have been nice, they have expressed their oppinions and they have let you do the same. Now stop it or go rant on your own blog.

  107. […] the news industry continues to tank, dwindling fees have caused many to wonder when journalism (and photography) will become a pay-to-play game. Huffington Post has put another nail in the coffin of the notion […]

  108. Throughout history, those who would con others out of their labor have told the same silly lies.

    If all photographers suddenly started refusing to work for these thieves, the budgets would magically appear out of thin air overnight.

    Thieves and morons; always a perfect match.

    When someone starts out by telling me how giving them something free of charge will be good for my portfolio, I sprinkle them thoroughly with colorful language and leave.

Comments are closed for this article!