“Regardless of the economy, we always reach out to the best photographer for the job. Over the years I’ve found that there isn’t a shooter out there who won’t do everything in their power to work within the budgets I have.”

–Kellie Bingman, Art Buying Supervisor, McKinney

via Stone Thrower.

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  1. Almost all of the photo editors interviewed have a common theme of price and budget.

    KRISTI DRAGO-PRICE “new talent is always exciting to find and they maybe more willing to come in under budget to create a steady relationship”

    ERICA BECKMAN “The fact that the restricted economic climate might be giving more opportunities for young blood is really encouraging for our industry”

    ANDRÉS CORTÉS “Over the years I’ve found that there isn’t a shooter out there who won’t do everything in their power to work within the budgets I have”

    There is virtually no editorial client that pays enough to create a sustainable business plan and yet they still use new photographers to force prices even lower. Is it not time to make a stand and just say NO! ? The idea of taking jobs that pay little in order to establish yourself is now a myth. These people have no loyalty and as soon as they find someone cheaper who’ll do the job as well then you get dumped – it’s a stupid race to the bottom and there will never be established photographers, just a permanent turnover of burnt out young people straight out of college.

    Here’s an excellent viral that show how ridicolous this is getting!

    • @Chris George,

      “as soon as they find someone cheaper who’ll do the job as well…”

      Which is why you should focus on taking the best pictures, or at least better pictures than those ‘young people straight out of college.’ There is no substitute for quality – you can’t fake a good photo, especially when shoot conditions are less than ideal.

      If you happen to find yourself in a race to the bottom, maybe you should run towards something else.

      • @Mason, I have no intention of working for editorial unless the job is interesting, good for my portfolio and covers my costs but this is unlikely isn’t it?
        But its quite obvious that within this field ‘good enough is good enough’ you are under the misapprehension that you are more likely to get paid properly for the job if your work is more creative. However if you read these comments carefully you will see the primary consideration is price and if your work is adequate for their needs and you are very cheap you will get the work. Take a look at most magazines especially here in the UK – it’s not really about creativity or stunning photography as most editorial features are turning into advertorials anyway!
        The need to get your work seen within magazines becomes less compelling everyday. There seems to be only a handful of magazines that are left that publish great photography.
        Why don’t you publish your website address – why do you wish to remain anonymous?

      • @Mason,
        There is a substitute for quality, its called price. The cheap photographer will be hailed as “the new style” and laurels will be given to his “vision” and others will mimic his cheap style until he then charges too much, then the next low ball lou will take the reigns, all thanks to soulless drones afraid of getting fired and the desperate photographers who want to be invited to the cool kids party.

        • @Blue,

          So what you’re saying is, there’s no substitute for quality?

          • @Mason,
            Sarcastically, yes. It’s just that the ratio of people who know and will pay for quality is very very very small.

  2. If this is a question and answer series, what’s the question?

    • @Bruce DeBoer, Good point!
      I think the only question is – in which circumstances would you consider using a photographer who is not within your normal stable of photographers? Perhaps not suprisinlgy the conclusive response appears to be when I can find someone cheaper!
      So all those desperate young photographers need to do is drop their trousers! Which is what is happening anyway?

    • @Bruce DeBoer, The quest was:

      With budgets tightening, is now the time to stick to your regular photographers, or are you reaching out to new talent?

  3. So Chris, what I hear you saying is that clients are concerned with price above all? Perhaps some are but as a blanket statement, I don’t think that’s accurate. It simply hasn’t been my experience. My experience is that most clients try to find the best person for the job, it’s up to me to prove that I am the best they can find all things considered. That’s my take but I also don’t think Loyalty v. New Talent is a question.

  4. When your fresh out of college and have a limited amount of work to show, what option do you have but to come in under budget? Nobody wants to be the cheap guy on the block but if my price is the same as a 20 year veteran with the same style, what other tool do I have at my disposal but price?

    • @Boston Photographer, “When your fresh out of college and have a limited amount of work to show, what option do you have but to come in under budget? ”

      Try doing some self assigned projects to show your work. Your portfolio shouldn’t consist of only assigned work.

  5. Anyone who is passionate about what they are doing isn’t going to require a big pay check for the work. They are doing what they love so they will take what compensation is offered.

    Some might confuse this with just working for cheap/free. Totally different things. If you don’t like the work that will come from the job and isn’t something you care deeply about then you can just pass because they aren’t able to meet you estimate for the job.

    That is how I see it at least.
    Some work for the check, some work for the image.

  6. I completely sympathise with Boston Photographer but is there any point in trying to become a photographer within this field if you are going to make a loss for ever? – there will not be any magical moment when you become established and life will become easier based on how the market is working at the moment. You will get used and used again and spat out by the corporates who cannot run these mags at a profit because they lack creativity and cannot run efficient business models. (see other posts by APE on this subject)
    Certainly most editorial jobs barely cover costs when you take most things into consideration. Better to devote time, resources and money into areas of photography that do pay enough and get a decent portfolio together in your spare time? At least you get to keep copyright (which increasingly clients want to keep) do the work you want to do and have a chance of been able to charge your work out to people that are prepared to pay for quality.
    Simon Roberts grappled with this question and also Simon Norfolk http://tinyurl.com/9hqzzw.
    At Bruce DeBoer – certainly your work has to be adequate enough for their requirements but yes increasingly the primary consideration is price (well it is in the UK anyway) There is no loyalty with corporates they are all psychopathic http://tinyurl.com/lujkzw
    The people within them might be good but they are forced to act in ways which mean they will not maintain loyalty.

  7. I love this video example from Chris George:

    “Here’s an excellent viral that show how ridicolous this is getting!

    And in response to: “…is there any point in trying to become a photographer within this field if you are going to make a loss for ever?”

    I agree that the kind of price battle illustrated in that video is bad for everyone. Your bid is your bid and it shouldn’t be changed just because the client says they got a better bid or the laughable “We’ll get you next time”.

    I just don’t see how someone with no experience to speak of can give a bid that is as high as a veteran. If they know what their costs are what their bills are and what the value of having the image is, why would they push for what the market can bare until they have a few more notches on their belt if they are covering their CODB and can still keep their bid under.

    • @Boston Photographer, the veterans are just as scared at losing their existing clients as the young photographers are as desperate of trying to make new clients. The mags play them off against one another. Virtually no photographer makes a profit or for that matter breaks even doing editorial. This has spilled over into advertising where the same rates or lower rates are been imposed.
      I cannot see it getting better, the market is super saturated with photographers by both the number of young graduates and also digital making it increasingly easier to make well exposed, sharp and technically perfect photos.
      There will always be a market for the super shooters who make big bucks but to get into this space will mainly require deploying huge amounts of capital and years of non paid work.

  8. I dont think that these touches the most important question. I can go down with my own day rate but really the most important thing in editorial is if I have the necessary budget for the expenses.
    For my personal work I sometimes scout for locations for weeks. But can I really do that for editorials too? Maybe you have to pay me a locationscout if you want the same quality of work. OR other possibility: if you just have a couple of bucks: give me total freedom and I will come up with something thats in the budget. But that seems to be harder and harder to do for mags as well – to give me freedom – theres just to many people involved nowadays. Not only the differnt people in the magazine itself but the pulicists, sponsers etc.

    I really think magazine people have to come up with something better then the cynic statements like the one of Kellie Bingman

    • @doktor, This does indeed touch the most important question. Effectively who creates the magazines? From my perspective increasingly it appears that the advertisers who are pulling the strings. As mentioned earlier most editorial features are like advertorials anyway! Which means less creativity, less people buying the mags and falling circulation figures, which leads to even smaller budgets for in-depth reporting and stunning photography. It’s a downward spiral.
      My wife used to buy Marie Claire every month but about ten years ago she stopped as the stories became recycled garbage. She’s not bought a single copy in many years. I used to look forward to buying a quality newspaper such as the Observer every weekend. Now I don’t bother as it’s so many sections of complete and utter garbage. The only one I’d consider reading is the Music Monthly and quite frankly the quality of that section has gone down in the last six months.

  9. You all have painted a clear picture of hard times for photographers. The market can self correct. If there are too many photographers, then many aren’t going to make any money and they’ll be forced to quit. As magazines fail, then perhaps other venues will emerge. They may not be revenue producing for a long time, but eventually they will have to produce revenue. Eventually, a new balance will be struck.

    The way I see it, the market seems quite interested in consuming vast amounts of “low quality” or “variable quality” user generated content (Tweets, Facebook albums, blogs, YouTube videos, etc). We are inundated with visual and text data and trying to find ways to get more (Kindle, RSS, etc.). All this makes me wonder if the new balance will not favor professionals. It all depends if consumers get bored enough or hungry enough for something more.

    • I see it this way: I would really like to see the magazines who sell and print garbage and have no better business plan then to save on contributer expenses go broke the sooner the better. I dont want to help them sustain their crap any cynic business by giving them a better deal. And I would like to see the magazines who have a perspective and integrity and a vison succeed – that HAS to include paying a fair amount of money to their photographers (if you cant do that: buy stock photography or close your business). And yes the magazines who da pay fair do still exist and yes theres even some independent magazines with a vison who pay me well.

  10. My take on these statements:

    KRISTI DRAGO-PRICE “new talent is always exciting to find and they maybe more willing to come in under budget to create a steady relationship”

    ARTIE TRANSLATES as “Where ‘more willing’ = doesn’t know the value of their work and/or how to charge so we can have them cheap”

    ERICA BECKMAN “The fact that the restricted economic climate might be giving more opportunities for young blood is really encouraging for our industry”

    ARTIE TRANSLATES as “We’ve slashed our photography budgets so much a pro would be insulted so we pick students and those fresh out of college looking for money to buy their next meal”

    ANDRÉS CORTÉS “Over the years I’ve found that there isn’t a shooter out there who won’t do everything in their power to work within the budgets I have”

    ARTIE TRANSLATES “I think I’ll have my next statement served with the self-importance on the side please. Mr/Ms Cortes has never contacted Artie else their 100% record would be lying in tatters.

    Great post AP. This is just more words from the industry luvvies trying to screw insecure photographers into bending over.

  11. Call me a cynic, but I don’t think there’s any such thing as “loyalty” in the business world today — certainly not in the larger and/or corporate business sectors. Those businesses have not gotten where they are by being “nice” or “loyal”; those businesses have gotten where there are, and have remained in business today, by stepping over those beneath them (i.e., anyone with less power, less pull, less money, fewer resources, fewer choices, etc.). Those businesses have succeeded by using people and spitting them out — whether it’s freelance photographers, or their own employees.

    And let’s face it: there are A LOT of really good, talented photographers out there (there are also some truly great ones, and some not-s0-great ones too). Seriously though, there are a lot of us out there working who could all complete the same assignment for a client — and deliver perfectly fine images…maybe even great images. (Not all assignments lend themselves to creating ‘great’ images though — let’s face that too.) So how does the client choose? PRICE.

    And does anyone really believe that these clients –that these businesses– are going to choose the high bid, or even the middle range bid, for some other [artistic/esoteric/ethical] reason if they’re confident that even the lowest priced bid is going to be able to deliver adequate imagery for their needs…?

    I am in no way saying that I aim to be the lowest bidder in order to get a gig (in most cases you have no way of knowing what other photogs are bidding anyway! or what the client’s budget is…). I’m just saying I no longer have any illusions about what most clients are after: and that’s the best (i.e., lowest) cost to them to get the job done.

    I’m sure there are exceptions — of course there are. I’m sure Anna Wintour, for example, gets to make choices based on factors other than price/cost. But how many of us who are trying to make a living as photographers are shooting for clients like Anna Wintour…? A handful. Maybe. The rest of us are shooting for clients who make choices based on price/cost.

    And some of us are starting to get pretty hungry…

  12. True, these are all good points , but the reality and fact remains, no matter how wrong it may be, that people shop on price more often than not. Unless EVERY photographer banded together to try and standardize the industry, what would you pheasibly suggest be done? I have never had a client say to me “wow, your prices are so great” theres always a negotiation, and it sucks, and i hate it, but whats the alternative? hold your ground and not work? and please spare me the “hold out for a better client or job” becasue the reality of it is when your sitting at home with no work and wondering when that client is going to come along, you start thinking about how smart this really is….or isnt.

  13. Sad post…
    I have been a working ad photog. in NYC for 27 years.
    I have seen many changes, good and bad.
    I have seen many people come and go.

    Getting great clients and getting paid is all about relationships. If your relationships are with low level ADs, editors or art buyers,why bother?
    ( You know the ones who never pay). You need to look higher up the food chain.
    You will only last 3-5 years as a cheap photographer and so will they. So who cares? Let them find someone else to work for peanuts. No one respects cheap (like the clients, yourself). When they have money they will go to a “good” photographer anyway.

    Bottom line, make great images, give them what they want and don’t sell yourself down the river. They do come back, I’m proof of this. I have people who still give me work after 20 years because they know what I do and they TRUST me. If they love you and your work and your to expensive for that job, they will come back later with a different job. You will then be “allowed ” to do your thing”.
    Clients need to stand out too, (every “Walmart” is the same experience. So is a cheap photographer).

    Hope this helps,

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