There’s No Shortage of Great Photography

- - Getting Hired

There’s so much great photography out there and sure, if the budget and pages are unlimited and you only answer to god then you can go about your merry way picking from the vast variety of photographers but, under a given set of circumstances where you want a specific genre and someone versed in a particular subject matter and then you throw in any number of limitations with budget, pages, location, time frame and then add to the mix the tastes of your editor, creative director, publisher, owner and the reader… well, the group to choose from can become very small. Sometimes there’s only one who fits the bill.

For many photographers it’s about finding that group of photo editors and art buyers who love your work and enjoy working with you and know you’re a perfect match for the assignments they have to make.

There Are 27 Comments On This Article.

  1. Rob – SOOOOOOO true on all accounts! While I’ve got a wishlist of established, A-list, bigtime shooters I can’t wait to tap for a project (and have been lucky enough to work with a precious few of them already), I’ve also been fortunate to work with some very talented photographers who are working on their “name.”

    And what I find is that it always comes down to hiring the perfect shooter for the pile of constraints put on each and every shoot – we always find that one!

    (good thing, too – since we work under a policy of never using stock…)

  2. Brilliant Stoner,
    “(good thing, too – since we work under a policy of never using stock…)”

    So if a great photographer is only represented by a stock photo agency, you will never know he or she exist? This is just as dumb as saying “I will never shop at Wal Mart”. Sometimes what you need exist in a stock agency.

  3. What a refreshing thing to read and all so true.
    If one thinks about the competition and how many photographers there are out there, it is hard to get the gumption to break into the business.
    I put down my welding gear and paintbrushes after 20 years in the artworld to focus on photography. To supplement my art sales, I used my craft skills from making furniture to fixing motorcycles, so working with clients is nothing new to me. I am focused on my personal projects — still carrying over the mind set of an artist-but more then happy to shoot to please a client with the same passion I put into my personal work. So far the few jobs I have picked up have led to repeat work.
    If one is a creative there has to be a way to make it work. Lots of photography is needed.
    Trick seems to be making sure the people who need you to do the work can find you..

  4. Jason B. –

    I have been learning that after tilting a while in the world of stock that I need to let the assignment world know that I exist. I have been comfortable shooting both stock and assignments, but a number of my stock shooter friends can’t imagine going back to the the assignment world.

    So even if a publication or agency has used my photo in the past it is true that they do not know that I exist.

  5. Catherine Karnow

    Dear Photo Editor,

    There is almost always something interesting to read on this site; and it is great to hear the point of view of the Photo Editor. I can only hope that other photo editors read these missives.

    I am chagrined, though hardly surprised, to see grammatical mistakes and spelling errors. The above entry is full of run-on sentences, for example. And “it’s” when you dont mean “it is.” And “fit’s” when I am sure you dont mean “fit is.” It is laughable.

    It is depressing that people dont know how to write anymore; that people have no clue as to what is good grammar. Writing will never be strong and persuasive when it is full of errors. It is hard for me to take any thought or idea seriously when it is written badly. And not just badly, but wrongly.


  6. Catherine,

    We all make mistakes. Like you, for example…correcting APE’s use of “it’s” when He is in fact using it correctly…. in that sentence…..”For many photographers it’s(IT IS) about finding that group of photo editors and art…..” why would that be a possessive(its)????? that’s proper apostrophe use all the way baby!!!!!

    take it easy…..

  7. Hey Rob,

    Again, a great post. The more content that is available, the more choices creatives have.
    As an artist, that can be a good or bad thing depending on where you stand. Having a personal style to my work is more important than ever. It’s truly become what my business thrives on.

    In my film days, I used to do a lot of commodity type work. Now, much of the screw up factor is gone because of the whole digital thing. It made me completely change my direction to more vision based work and I’ve never looked back. No more shots with big checks or microphones, Giddy up!


  8. Continue to research, learn, and understand the market in which you choose to operate. Perhaps develop a niche that further enables you to focus marketing to a target audience. Continually build and expand an audience for your work. We live in a world of instant world-wide communication. There is a market out there for practically anything, it’s just finding your audience. Forget about all the doom and gloom predictions regarding the photography business. This is the best time ever to be a professional photographer, make use of all the tools atound you!

  9. Funny that there is so much content available yet the bottleneck of the publishing world is still very small, and rightly so. I have been blessed to have all of my sales find me, while I work on getting my stuff together. Great blog Rob, I look forward to reading more.

  10. Smith+Fritzy

    Well said for insisting photographers find their niche. For example, when I need architectural photos in a land of active/sports photographers, its slim pickin’s. If only a few other photographers would come out of the woodwork, show me some architectural shoots they’ve done, it would open up a new world for me as far as selection goes. As it is, I only have an amount of guys I can count on one hand to do this. Having people travel into the area is just too costly these days for our smaller budgets. So if I could give some advice along with yours, I would encourage any photographer to balls up and go to your local publications and just show what you can do. It’s been nearly a year since that’s happened where I’m at now and its more than welcome to meet new talent.

  11. @2: Not at all, Jason – if a great photographer is represented by a stock agency, I’ll tap him/her to shoot something original for me.

    Or, in other instances, I may just want to run a photo feature of the photographer’s body of work (and an accompanying story on him/her) and ask the stock agency to work with me on a promotional level – but I don’t consider that a “stock” situation.

    My overall point is that, for my magazine, there’s never a reason to use stock images and we’ll always tap the shooter for original work – I haven’t found a photographer yet who doesn’t like that way of doing things.

    Plus, I come from a long career in advertising where stock photography was the bane of an Art Director’s existence. Using stock always, ALWAYS meant that I had to settle for something less than I originally envisioned.

    And while I can’t say as much for Wal-Mart, I’m happy to report that I haven’t and will never patronize Starbucks (which I think is a much harder thing to do here in San Francisco).

  12. the problem is that for most photographers it comes down to having a second job to support themselves because this business simply can not support most photographers on a financial level, even the great ones.. I have done wonderful work for photo editors who have NEVER hired me again….I’ve met photo editors who have waited literally YEARS to give me an assignment… and when they do, its a $500 a day rate…
    It’s hard to run a photo business doing $500 jobs when my camera bag is worth 7k…

    It seems to me that doing good work doesn’t seem to truly matter to photo editors…
    ahhhh, but I love what i do right?

  13. @13….if it sucks so much go do something else…one less person to compete against…..but seriously, it’s not that bad…bill it right…you can make plenty more than $500 on a job….editorial at this point is a broken system. We are never going to unify together to fix it. You want to survive in editorial then you have to learn to manipulate the system….and you have to hustle….and personally, I am not looking to work solely in editorial for my entire career(I’m only a year and half in so far, not in a major market but, my entire client list is nat’l pubs). it’s a stepping stone to ad work.

    Digital is the one saving grace in editorial…at least for me….Do it smart/negotiate that budget and turn that $500 dayrate into $1500-1800 in fees by billing for digital and lighting packages you own. More money in your pocket instead of going to the lab and rental company….

    not saying it doesn’t suck sometimes but overall it ain’t bad it sure beats sitting in a cubicle from 9-5 w/ no windows. I have tons of free time, i can pick up and go whenever i want and, I make money doing something I would be doing in my spare time anyway. Am i rich? no. am i comfortable? you bet.

    sorry but, i am always looking forward. what’s next? how am i going to get there? sitting around bitching ain’t gonna get me there. work it or change.

    also, do you know how many people are doing good work? There are tons. We(you/I) are not that special…you want to stay alive in this industry then find a void or a door that you can nudge your foot in and exploit it. I don’t necessarily mean in terms of the actual pictures you make…it could be where you’re located, how you market yourself, who you assisted for, someone you know who knows somebody, etc….

    my photos are decent but, i’m not staying in business b/c i’m the next martin schoeller or leibovitz. I stay busy b/c I filled the void. I’m located in a city that gets a decent amount of media coverage but, doesn’t have a lot of people shooting editorial b/c other photogs here are rather unsophisticated business-wise and are so focused on the local market which is crap imho. I could have stayed in new york and fought every other dood there but, i made a conscious decision to move here b/c i knew it would be the right climate.

    other than that I agree w/ what Rob said in the original post….I’ve been more than taken care of by a few good p.e.’s

    excuse the rant.

  14. #13. I agree. Burnout is a reality when you’re busting your hump for chump change. Being a full time pro photographer is hard work. I’m in the process of revamping my website, getting my ass in gear to promote myself more, get out to shoot more, hone my skills and learn new ones. It’s an ongoing process.

    I think this post is interesting because the process works both ways. Many photogs, I think, put up a website then sit back and wait for the phone call(s). They don’t do much research into where their work and style fit best and then contact those specific people for work.

    I read a quote from someone recently that we are no longer in competition with amateur photographers, we’re in competition with everyone who has a camera. To make it without having to also be a bartender or landscaper or electrical engineer, you can’t be waiting by the phone.

    #11. Also true. I’ve talked to other publishers who are happy to know I’m here in Idaho so they don’t have the extra expense of sending someone here to shoot a story. And, it’s not just here, but the region that I can cover, all easy travel. Local knowledge can be as important, if not more so, as the photography.

  15. This is such an interesting conversation for me at this precise moment. I am in Sydney, Australia and I can say quite unequivocally that the level of competition for jobs here is immense.

    Everyone that has a camera is the competition in such a small local market and we do have some of the best shooters in the world here.

    So in the editorial area as a freelancer, well it is nigh impossible at this time with the world economic down turn. Having a unique style in a market like this is not necessarily helpful and while diversity doesn’t make you a name it can make you a living.

    I, like others are trying to extend my reach into overseas markets and I am becoming an avid joiner of blogs, social networking sites and phenomenon such as LS. These are the only facilities that I can see would be an avenue for getting myself known enough to work locally and sell globally.

    And of course I must send out 30 thousand emails a year. But I pose this question to APE and the others, how often would you actually contact a photographer for a job, given that their style was what fitted the brief, without having had either some personal contact with that photographer or receiving a recommendation from a trusted source?

    If I live here in Sydney and made say a particular niche in something unique here, would you even without knowing me personally ever go- yes I remember such and such a website. I think I will ring her and give her this really plum job, even though I know nothing about her but her pictures.

    Smith & Fritzy, no-ones walked in your door with a book for over a year? I am in the wrong strand of photography then thats for sure….

  16. @16: “…a particular niche in something unique here, would you even without knowing me personally ever go- yes I remember such and such a website. I think I will ring her and give her this really plum job, even though I know nothing about her but her pictures.”

    Lisa, I’ve done exactly this many, many times – it’s how we find new talent to work with. Matter of fact, I’ve used this very blog and Rob’s resources to find a photographer for a covershoot – that’s about as plum as I can muster. Never worked with the shooter before, didn’t know him at all and called him simply on Rob’s cue and looking at the guy’s website. The shoot went well and I’m pleased with the results. And it’s a COVER, for chrissakes…

    The work is out there. The budgets are a completely different world from, say, 10 years ago, but that’s the world we’re living in right now and we work with anywhere from 6-8 photographers each issue who end up being repeat vendors.

  17. @ Stoner… I am so sorry. I didn’t realized that your magazine was looking for soft porn. Obviously, that explains your hatred of stock agencies since that is NOT their business model.

    As your website clearly states, you look for poor innocent girls to pose half naked in front of cars so that red neck garage operators can have a hard on while fixing a V8 engines

    I thought this site was about photography, not about sex calendars.

  18. @18: WHOA, there Jason! Guess you checked out the website, huh? I’m also guessing that you must own a stock agency or rely on stock for your living or something. So sorry for peeing in your Mueslix.

    This thread is about photographers finding a niche for themselves and a buyer who recognizes that. If your niche is stock, so be it – there’s a stock agency out there for you. If you’re a stock agency, there are shooters who make images you can sell. See how easy that is?

    You’re entitled to your opinions about, well, everything. But just to set you straight: I certainly don’t harbor a hatred of stock agencies, the girls we work with are neither poor or innocent –they ARE half-naked, though, thank God. It’s not practical or safe to work on any kind of engine with a hard-on, so that’s why we actually DON’T produce sex calendars. Y’know, just to set you straight.

    If you want to get together to discuss this further so’s not to hijack this post, just give me a call at the office: 415-621-2477. I would absolutely love to meet you in person.

  19. anon-a-delic

    @5: dont=don’t. Sorry you set yourself up on that one. Take a lude, it’s a photoblog.

  20. Chad, “It’s hard to run a photo business doing $500 jobs when my camera bag is worth 7k…”
    Sorry to break it to you, but when your camera bag is only 7k, you are not running a very serious business or does not appear as if you are willing to risk enough to go after the hi-dollar jobs. A tile setter or roofer has more invested in their business than that. Photogs that risk as much as a normal business owner ($100,000+) should not be accepting $500 /day jobs – you would be running a constant deficit. For those willing to take the plunge, there is plenty of money to be made in photography. That being said, don’t expect editorial to get you there. Treat editorial work strictly as portfolio development and artistic expression.

  21. anonimouse

    “I read a quote from someone recently that we are no longer in competition with amateur photographers, we’re in competition with everyone who has a camera. To make it without having to also be a bartender or landscaper or electrical engineer, you can’t be waiting by the phone.”

    No, it just means they’re a shitty photographer if their kid sister with a digital camera is serious competition.

    This comment thread demonstrates a lot of the common personal failings of many photographers – who then turn around and blame others. Work is not that hard to get if you’re good and know how to run a proper business. Oh, and are not crazy jerks.

  22. Oswald Bates

    For Catherine……..
    Mistakes are the portals of discovery. — James Joyce

    “I want to take picture” sure worked for Bill Burke…………

  23. @ #13…holy shit…your camera bag is worth 7k? *looks over at my “Books-A-Million” bag with most of my gear in it…and a Crown Royal bag with my camera body nestled inside*

    Flop sweat appears…

    What was that URL for that $299 Photo editor school again?

  24. I just found your blog, and I’m glad to read this entry. I haven’t worked very seriously yet at finding editors and buyers because I’m pretty highly specialized, and I’ve been uncertain as to whether that’s an advantage or a disadvantage.

    It’s a bit intimidating looking at such a long list and divining which might be interested in the kind of work I do. I think I’ll jump back in and give a more serious try.

    – CJN

  25. It’s “don’t.”

    I am chagrined, though hardly surprised, to see grammatical mistakes and spelling errors. The above entry is full of run-on sentences, for example. And “it’s” when you dont mean “it is.” And “fit’s” when I am sure you dont mean “fit is.” It is laughable.
    It is depressing that people dont know how to write anymore;