they don’t even know what they want, and they’re not even willing to pay for it

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People want everything now, they wanted it two days ago, and they don’t even know what they want, and they’re not even willing to pay for it, that’s what’s happening more often than not!

So I came to the conclusion, middle of last year, I said, “you know what, I’m done chasing, I’m done panicking, I’m moving to a place that’s right for me and my community, for people that understand my work, and I want to inspire people to get out and freakin go see what’s out there.”

Danny Zapalac, via Too Much Chocolate.

There Are 13 Comments On This Article.

  1. Yep, that about sums up the business-talk I’m used to often hearing as well. We want all the rights, we’re not sure what we’re gonna use the photos for and how little can we pay for that?
    I’m trying to do my part to educate clients and to market myself to clients that understand. Just call me “Sisyphus” or “Charlie Brown”, I suppose, because it’s certainly an uphill battle and seems like the football is getting pulled out from me regularly.

  2. That sums up the business talk with most clients, yes. But not only in photography. It’s a sign of the times: the economic situation is further degrading; digital cameras are cheap and people think they can do the job simply because they have the “right” equipment.

    Funniest story that happened to me. During a paid shoot, a client asked numerous questions about the equipment that I use. Further discussion reveals he wants to buy a camera and bring the job in-house. Typical. What is funnier is that I was doing the job on a Canon 300D and his graphic designers had bought a Canon 5D, which he said ‘is not good enough: we don’t get the right pictures’. We ended up swapping cameras, to my greatest delight (not that I think equipment matters so much but it’s a better, more expensive, camera). I came back weeks later to do another job – which they had failed to do in-house. The client would not believe it had nothing to do with the camera, all with the photographer…

    Education, education, education!

  3. Agreed. There’s no fun in shooting a job and finding out the client response is, “I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but now I know what I don’t want. Sorry, no money for the reshoot.” I took the loss and said no additional fee? No reshoot. Who wants clients like that? Yes, let’s stop chasing and start inspiring. Count me in.

  4. Exactly what David said. I began as a graphic designer before photography and it was the same situation. The advent of desktop publishing created the “I can do the logo myself” attitude, very similar to digital cameras these days. Some things never change but I do believe part of my job is to educate and show them why working with a professional yields, well, um, professional results for their product or company.

  5. All so true and unfortunate and it seems to be the norm from small editorial to mega agencies.

    I’ve also been shocked to hear the big names I’ve bid against in the last year who are now accepting these conditions. Big name shooters who will follow a job right down the rabbit hole no matter how low the budget gets as long as they’re not actually loosing money…

  6. It is the most frustrating thing in the world to get clients who want the world for free, have champagne taste and beer budgets and want you to sign away the rights to your work. I have been considering moving to a place where they are educated about usage; large markets like Los Angeles, New York and the like. But it’s a catch 22 because those markets are so saturated already. I think the answer is to educate. Thanks for this post because it can be a challenge at times and it’s good to know there are others that face the same challenges I do.

  7. Danny is a legand of a guy and a photographer.
    He is so very true. It is amazing the ways photographers are meant to bend and flex these days.

  8. One of the most popular and purchased photographs from one of my exhibitions is one taken with a plastic $20 Holga. At one exhibition I overheard a couple talking about the image. The woman said “wow, she must have a really good camera”. I had to do everything possible to keep my mouth shut. And doesn’t that one comment sum it all up?

    So the question is, how do we educate the public to understand that an expensive camera does not necessarily make a great photograph?

  9. Received from a client recently:

    “According to our new directives, we are looking for full rights to photos in perpetuity to quote the legal folks. Not interested in renewing images because unless they are management committee level, they are mostly used for press or internal purposes and don’t need the high degree of professional photography. The subject matter experts change so frequently that we can’t justify the cost and many photographers have no issues with full rights.”

    Another case of “good enough” will do.

    IMO, licensing these days only applies to the world of high dollar ad jobs or stock images that the artist sells on his own. Mid-tier clients and their legal departments are not interested in the subject of licensing.

  10. It’s interesting that many of the recent “success” stories revolve around self-funded projects. The somewhat implied message to agencies and companies is that you can afford to turn down work you don’t find of interest. Make no mistake, there are some great quotes in that interview, some great ideas, and I largely follow the same views of Danny Zapalac.

    I saw something similar happen in video just over a decade ago. The way to get a project idea to generate commercial interest was to fund as much as possible on your own. The implied message was that you didn’t need the funds from the broadcaster/publisher, but that you would be willing to share any profits from a project you already completed (or near completion).

    Maybe that sounds cynical, but think about it a bit. When clients and agencies think a photographer is desperate, or needs the income from a project, then they have the upper hand in the bargaining. It goes back to the one great bargaining tool all of us can use, the ability to say no and turn down work.

  11. First, what is the big deal? Doing a personal project is nothing new in the world of photography. It’s been going on for a looooong time. This may be a personal revelation for the interviewer/interviewee (which is wonderful), but personal projects are common behavior in the photography world.

    With regard to the current market:
    If the client doesn’t perceive any difference in response to media/adverts with “good enough” imagery why would they feel the need to change? This is business. Would you buy bananas @ $4./lb if you could get them @ $.59/lb?

    The boarding industry has a history of being a “bro” market. Today’s expectations of free content probably hasn’t helped any.

    Photographers are willing to work (gratis) to validate that hole in their soul – that IS the market today – it’s been that way for awhile. Editorial fashion has mostly paid little to nada. Even the rates of pay for those media companies that do (or did) pay were low in the heyday of media. The rates have not come anywhere close to keeping up with the cost of living index/inflation. In the year 2000 many publications were still paying the same dollar figures as in 1984. What I believe has now changed is the middle class of the photography industry has dried up (both editorial & commercial), and every Johnny come lately with a DSLR has a need to be a pho-to-grapher. A need for validation. The market is completely saturated with images/image makers. Supply & demand dictates a negative return.

    Much of the imagery today is using the same techniques, plug-ins, actions, etc. Images today often bear similar resemblance. Homogenization. If the public/client associates the good enough/free/flikr supply with the supply coming from those trying to license at real world rates, who bears the burden to learn and change?

    Wherever you go, there you are. Moving to some new place (geographically) may not create the change needed. People move to LA or NYC all the time expecting some magical transformation. More often the result is moving their lack of contentment to another location.

    • Donnar Party

      @Bob, this is 100% the real deal.

      Reality is this: the only way to make a living as a shooter is to pursue clients that value high quality photos. There has to be a value proposition for the client. If the client’s taste trends more towards a huge logo, a small picture, and a cluttered horder-house like layout, there is nothing you can do to show the value proposition of pro photos.

  12. It’s interesting that many of the recent “success” stories revolve around self-funded projects. The somewhat implied message to agencies and companies is that you can afford to turn down work you don’t find of interest