The Daily Edit – Where is the Cool: Laurent Laporte

Where is the Cool

“Good question. Let this pretentious magazine give you the answer.
This biannual printed magazine is available here (yes, they ship internationally)

Creator: Laurent Laporte

Heidi: You founded this project 10 years ago, looking back, what would you tell your younger self?
Laurent: You were absolutely right not to listen to people who try to demotivate you.

How has the content evolved as you’ve gone from a blog to Instagram, and finally print?
In a completely organic and instinctive way and by making mistakes that make you learn and understand how things work, more or less.

What notes need to be hit to be featured in Where is the Cool?
It is also very instinctive. It’s very contextual, each issue starts as a puzzle, and sometimes you know which pieces are a miss, sometimes you just find it without really looking after it.

How did your background in advertising inform your decision to make this magazine and not include ads?
99% of the time advertising is aesthetically disgraceful or not in line with the aesthetic of the magazine. I wanted to make something pure where nothing comes to break the attention of the reader. Also, we only talk about cool things and there are not so many cool brands today.

People say print is dead (I disagree) what are your thoughts on advertising being dead?
It depends on who is talking. I know that many people interested in fashion, love to buy fashion magazines and also to see the ads. It gives them today’s tone, and keeps them aware of what’s happening. On my side, I don’t even know how I can explain how much I found this lame.

The variety of subjects in each issue is very diverse. Is there a personal thread tying everything together, or a subtle theme for the viewers to enjoy finding for themselves?
It’s a personal project at the end, so I speak most of the time about very subjective opinions trying to make them in a very objective way.

So refreshing! A magazine with more photography than writing but still something to say and engage in cover to cover in 1 hour. Why 21 topics? (I read you cover 21 items an issue)
It was a model that worked well when I needed a reassuring structure of the puzzle. Now it’s more free.

What are the hardest parts of producing such a magazine that most people wouldn’t even think of?
Nothing is hard here, if you believe in it, it happens. Constraints make things happen. Will it work? You will know that later, as with every project. But in the end you made something and the that’s most important part.

How do people pitch in ideas?
I receive a lot of pitches every day from a lot of people who never bought the mag, so they don’t understand the editorial line behind it. It’s me pitching photographers with ideas most of the time.

I enjoyed your piece on Relax Watch, can you share how that piece came about?
I stumbled upon that interesting project about Rolex parody watches and I find it super interesting. It looks like another signal in my head about the saturation of luxury things. In a world that needs to step back, it’s very strange that people still want to stay in a world of ostentatious things that do not fit with the new ideals we should look for today.

Digi Tech based in Australia: $57k AUD

Whenever I get paid, i set aside some funds for tax, for super (national retirement), for business growth and the rest goes into the family pot.

I moved to Australia about half way through my career.

My work is, 40% fashion, 30% e-commerce, 10% video and 20% advertising. Majority of the brands are very well known locally and internationally. It’s not rare to be driving around or walking through the shops and see images I’ve worked on. I get the odd local start up brand, but those jobs are pretty rare now. My partner always gets a kick out of it, she loves hearing about what went into getting the shot and what was happening just outside of frame.

I work full time, average 4 days a week. If it’s a slow, I’ll take a weekend gig or two, but make an effort not to. I like enjoying my weekends.

I don’t have a lot of overhead. Once a year I will invest a little into my kit; i’ll buy equipment that people often forget to bring on set, or equipment that is frequently hired. I typically leave it in the car so it’s always available in an emergency. This has saved the day a number of times over the years and I’m sure has led to more work.

Otherwise, my expenses are just what ever the ATO allows me to claim as a deduction. I always put away at least 10% into my Super fund, sometimes more if i have had a good week/month.

More and more agencies and clients are paying super; i wouldn’t say it’s common yet, but it’s becoming more popular. No one really knows what you should or shouldn’t be doing, and no one can decide if it’s supposed to be paid as part of your day rate or on top of your rate. I think a union like they have in America or Britain would help a lot in standardizing these kinds of things.

In 2021 i worked about 100 days, and in 2022 i worked over 150 days.

I think the pandemic (and last few years) has had a huge impact on the industry. For a number of reasons, rates have increased: A good portion of the assistants in town have either left the country, left the industry or have started shooting themselves. The cost of living has gone up significantly in our city, we were able to be selective as to who we work for because everyone kept wanting to shoot here. Also, I’m hearing that new assistants are charging nearly as much, if not more than seasoned pros. So in order to make up for it, we’ve raised our rates accordingly.

I think this last one hurts the industry as a whole. Why would anyone hire an assistant with 1 or 2 years experience when they can pay an extra $50 or $100 and get someone with 7-10 years behind them? I think this is bad for the industry as a whole because they don’t get on set, they don’t get experience and it’s a struggle on big/busy days.

My average day is about 9 hours. More and more jobs are going into OT though, which I typically don’t mind, but 11-12 hour days get tiresome really fast.

My day rate is $600 for 10hour day, Overtime after 2 hours, double time after that. I don’t do half days anymore, it’s not worth it. I might give a small discount if it’s a good or long term client and their desperate, but never for new clients.

I don’t do a lot of seasonal jobs. It’s warm here most of the year so we can shoot outdoors almost any day, provided it’s not raining. Bring some sunblock and you’ll be fine.

My terms are strict 28 days and it’s generally respected, i either get paid within 24 hours or on the 28 day mark. People who take longer don’t tend to stay clients of mine for long.

Best job was a multi week shoot for a major Australian brand. It was very relaxed, full day rates, lunch catered every day etc… It was outside the city so i should have charged for travel as well, but i just ate it in exchange for the cash. It was during the pandemic while some parts of the country were shut down so I was just counting my lucky stars I had income.

I think i came out with just shy of $10K. I had a hard time getting paid because it was flagged with the ATO (Aus Tax Office), so it took a while to get the cash cleared but made my year.

Worst paying job was a job with a new client that came from out of town. I thought we had agreed on rates, but turns out our city uses industry terms differently then they do, so there was a bit of back and forth after they received my bill; In the end, I was left with essentially a 50% pay cut for an extra long days work.

I work on a little bit of Video. Some of my clients shoot video, and it’s becoming more and more common to be on set with a videographer as well as a stills crew. I still charge my usual rates, and my roles vary from just general hands on deck to data wrangler.

Even though i’m less experienced on video than i am on stills, i feel i bring value on set because i know how they like to operate, how the like to light, how they like to run their days etc… only thing i can’t do (yet) is operate the camera or focus pull.

I market myself via instagram. I try and shoot personal work, or just shoot when I’m out and about doing stuff. I feel like my creative vision is a good marketing tool, people have told me they’re hire me because of the way i see certain things. Otherwise, it’s just word of mouth.

Worst Advice: they have more money, take it and run.
This is the worst advice because I’ve found success doing the exact opposite. I prefer to leave that $50 or $100 on the table in exchange for building trust or not charge for a quick short favour; I think karma has taken good care of me.

Best Advice: say no.
Say no and stick to it.. It could be a low ball offer, being asked for a discount just this one time or doing something way outside your comfort zone. You might lose that job, you might lose that client, but everyone will respect you and you won’t have to deal with that anymore.

Stop thinking about other assistants as your competition, and think of them as your peers. Talk to reach other other, be kind to each other, ask questions, share your rates and how you would charge x or y. We don’t have a union but we can still work together.

If someone isn’t paying you on time, isn’t treating you well on set, is being disrespectful, stop working for them. There’s so much work out there, people are getting flown in from other cities because there is such a shortage of good, qualified help. Just say no.

Learn how to use your tools. The amount of times i have someone hand me a camera or laptop and say “make it do x” is just incredible. For a while, i was in different people’s phone book as “John Smith – Phase 1”. Knowing those little obscure tricks and features has rally helped me gain the client base i have now.

A Commercial Lifestyle Photographer: $64k (gross)

In the years leading up to the pandemic, my gross income ranged from $115,000 to $230,000. Keep in mind, that this number is after my reps took their 30% cut, so the actual gross was higher. I became a full-time photographer around 2011. In those initial years, when I was solely focused on photography and not supplementing with assisting work, I was pulling in roughly $70,000 to $85,000 gross and steadily built my way up.

After college, I spent about four years as an intern, film production assistant, and photography assistant. To support myself during that time, I also worked at a supermarket.

I don’t currently have an agent, but I do work with one on a case-by-case basis if a project that comes in is substantial enough to warrant their involvement. In the past, I’ve been signed by three different agencies. One was a boutique agency, another was more mid-range, and the third was a well-known and prestigious agency. Each of these experiences was incredibly different from one another.

A couple of years ago, I decided to part ways with my last rep, and since then, I’ve been on the lookout for a new one, but it’s been a bit of a challenge finding the right fit for both parties. I have to admit, ego aside, that it’s been surprising how tough it’s been for an established commercial photographer, with over a decade of profitability, to even secure a meeting or a response from many agents.

Approximately 90% of my income is generated through commercial lifestyle projects. Editorial assignments have generally come my way only about two to three times a year.

In terms of workload, I typically handle bidding anywhere from 25 to 40 commercial project requests annually. During a successful year, I manage to secure around 5 to 7 of these projects, although it’s worth noting that there are no guarantees any year.

Most projects involve three, but up to six or more photographers bidding for them. There can be additional challenges like budget and scheduling problems that might lead to the project being canceled or postponed indefinitely. Even if you and the agency’s creative teams are on the same page, the final decision typically rests with the client. This client is usually someone you haven’t spoken to, and they often aren’t focused on creativity; they’re on the business side of things and have the ultimate say because they’re footing the bill.

I mainly work with Fortune 500 companies. I’ve collaborated with big advertising agencies and shot over two dozen global and national ad campaigns and also directed several TV commercials. My clients range from top tech companies and big sneaker brands to car ads, alcohol, healthcare, tourism, and pharmaceuticals.

I initially started with smaller “cool” brands, which eventually led to bigger projects. I still try to take on creatively interesting projects each year, even if the budget is tight.

I don’t have any employees that are on payroll. I hire assistants and techs on a freelance basis as well as professional services such as my accountant etc.

I keep my expenses low to survive in lean times. However, living costs have gone up significantly in recent years, while job opportunities and rates have not. I have substantial expenses like self-employment taxes, photography insurance, and health insurance. On top of that, I’ve managed to pay off my student loans, which were quite significant.

I work from my home office, which I can deduct as a business expense. I own just the essential equipment I need for smaller personal and editorial projects so I can work on them on without needing to rent extra gear.

I’ve never had a great retirement plan, just been trying to save up as much as I can and put a bit into an IRA. But these last couple of years, work’s been slow, and it’s taken a toll on my savings. If I decided to retire right now, I could probably get by for about two years in a more budget-friendly city without needing to work.

I’m pretty much “working” in some way every single day. In peak years, I used to work on a commercial project roughly every other month. These gigs could vary from quick 2-3 day shoots to those massive weeks-long projects that involved jetting off to different countries. Typically, each project would come with a couple weeks of prepro work and another couple weeks for post-production.

These days, it seems like most of my time is eaten up by bidding on projects, marketing my work, and all the research and outreach that goes into it. I also try to set up test shoots every couple of months and work on personal projects whenever I can.

Before the pandemic hit, my income was somewhat stable. There were some tougher years, but overall, I felt like my career was steadily growing and building each year.

In 2020, I got lucky because the year started well, and I managed to weather the storm with some government help.

Then came 2021, which turned out to be the kind of year every photographer dreads. I didn’t land a single profitable job. I was bidding on some good and high-paying creative projects, but none of them went my way. I did a few smaller shoots and personal projects, but they barely made any profit. My income mostly came from licensing images, government subsidies, and selling off old cameras and equipment. It was a really tough and eye-opening experience.

In 2022, things improved somewhat, but it still felt like the twilight zone.

Now, in 2023, it’s been more of a mixed bag. I’m getting more inquiries than in the past couple of years, but not a lot of success. It’s been one of the most frustrating years in my career, for sure, and is looking to not be a great one financially.

Photography is my sole source of income. In the last couple of years, I’ve really made a big push to find more stable work within the industry. I have been searching and applying for jobs that come with benefits, like 401(k)s, health insurance, stuff like in-house production or photo directing/editing jobs for big companies. But it turns out, those positions are just as competitive and hard to get into as being a freelance photographer.

There isn’t really a standard for an average shoot because projects vary quite a bit. Typically, a commercial shoot involves a tech day, two to three shoot days, and perhaps a post-production day. The day rate usually falls in the range of $2,500 to $7,500, and then usage fees are added on top of that. The usage fees are typically based on geographic terms and the duration of use. All in, I would ideally hope to take home between $20 – 30k per project, but it varies greatly. The best shoots have been the ones where it feels like the creative team is all in, and the terms are fair for everyone. I’ve come to realize that a good pricing strategy involves having a lower day rate, but with a usage agreement that’s likely to get renewed after the initial period. It also motivates me as a photographer to create images that are unique to the brand and will likely be renewed and won’t be easily replaced by stock photos.

I pay my assistants whatever rate they ask for. I think the going rate for a first in LA / NYC is about $700 – 800 for a 10 hour day. I will always go to bat for my assistants, they are the hardest working and most important people on a job in my opinion and I want them to feel comfortable and well compensated for their work.

The worst shoots have been the ones where they insist on a full buyout. Lately, I’ve noticed a troubling trend where art buyers require all bidding photographers to accept a buyout or else they won’t even be considered for the job. It’s like being turned into a content-producing machine for a big corporation. They walk away with thousands and thousands of your images that can be used indefinitely. This isn’t a fair or ethical way to work with commissioned artists, and the more considerate art buyers are aware of this issue and don’t abide by it.

I do both motion directing and still photography. My projects vary – sometimes I’m both directing and taking photos, other times I’m focused on shooting b-roll videos for social media. Occasionally, I work as a photographer alongside a broadcast film team. I’d say that in the past few years, about 75 percent of my shoots have had some motion element involved.

My marketing strategy has gone through significant changes in recent years. I can still recall a time when sending a single email blast would result in a dozen job offers. Over the years, I’ve also sent out hundreds of promo materials and made many in-person portfolio visits. However, the landscape shifted during the shutdown, and to be completely honest, I’m not sure what’s effective anymore. I do believe having a social media presence is beneficial, but it shouldn’t be the sole focus. Most of the jobs I’ve secured in the past couple of years have come through word of mouth – someone I’ve worked with in the past recommending me to others.

The best advice I’ve ever received is to “make photos that only YOU can make.” There are literally billions of photographers out there, and photography is a highly mechanized process, so you see countless people trying to imitate others or reproduce what they’ve seen before. With the rise of AI, this imitation problem is getting worse. When someone hires you, they’re not looking for a copycat (hopefully!); they want your unique perspective. Regardless of the subject, make it something that resonates with your personal view of the world and it will connect with others.

As for the worst advice, I’d say it came from my younger, more naive self. When I was younger, I thought I understood the industry better than I actually did. I didn’t think long-term and, like many artists, my ego sometimes clouded my judgment, especially during hot streaks that I believed would last forever. Being overly confident is great for creativity and taking risks, but it might not be the best approach when it comes to the business side or navigating industry politics.

I’m also a clinically diagnosed neurodivergent individual. While I don’t use my disability as an excuse or ever share this with potential clients, it has added significant challenges to my career in various ways.

This piece of advice is for those in gatekeeping positions in the industry, such as art buyers, photo editors, and producers. Let’s remember that kindness and compassion are choices we can all make. The culture in our industry can be demanding, cutthroat, often quite cynical, and plagued with cronyism and nepotism. We’re all out here doing our best, hustling to survive in this late-capitalist world.

Yes, we photographers are incredibly privileged to make a living through our work, but it’s a career that many of us have put a lot of effort into. And at the end of the day, it is a job. So, let’s not make it feel like we have to beg and bend over backwards for opportunities to do what we love and what also we depend on to keep the lights on and our families fed.

Unfortunately, there are no unions or standardized practices to adhere to in this industry. That means the gatekeepers hold a lot of power and control.

Please don’t forget the human aspect of your roles. We often problem-solve the budget on your projects, contribute to your creative vision, get on last-minute calls, and reschedule our lives completely, all of this is without any sort of compensation. Sometimes, a simple email response or a courteous notification when a project doesn’t work out is all that’s required, instead of ghosting someone and keeping them in a state of anxiety.

As many have pointed out, while photographers can show solidarity, there will always be someone willing to work for less – that’s the nature of capitalism in a creative field. So, photographers, we also have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to shape the way the industry treats us and those who collaborate with us.

So please…be excellent to each other.

A Commercial People in Environments and Automotive photographer: $400,000 – $900,000 (net)

I shoot almost all commercial work. Net income is a murky number. I pay myself $26,000/year and my wife $35,000/year through payroll. $5,000/month goes to our 401k accounts which leaves almost no cash in the actual paychecks. At the end of the year, the corporation doubles that contribution to our 401k accounts. The corporation also pays all of our healthcare and disability insurance for me (you need to have this if you are the bread winner in your house). One of our vehicles is owned by the corporation and it and every related expense is paid by the corporation. Cell phones, internet, etc.—all corporate expenses. I can also distribute profit as I see fit which being incorporated (S Corp.) is not subject to several W-2 taxes. In addition, I run a very lean ship with very little overhead—my office is on my personal residence property and I have no employees. My recurring expenses are accounting/tax advice, payroll, insurance, odds & ends and not much more. I don’t really count equipment as an expense but more as an investment—all my equipment is rented out to my own productions and after a year it pays for itself and then from there on generates real revenue. When I upgrade, I can usually recoup 50-75% of the initial investment. So, if you ask the IRS, the business net number is a very small number. In reality, it’s probably about 90% of gross as benefitted by me.

Gross income ranges from $500,000 to $1,000,000. The last few years have been at the lower range. 2023 I have only shot 6 jobs and I currently sit at about $400,000 and I would expect to have another job or two shot by the end of the year.

Reps are so key once you get to a certain level unless you could possibly keep up on all that they and their staff do. They have a pulse on the entire industry that you as a single artist probably could not really keep up on. Sometimes bidding on a job can be 2-4 weeks of back and forth—how could you possibly stay on top of that while shooting another job? Who would want to indulge in that? Not me. Most of your jobs are acquired by your reputation but I have booked several jobs by someone just calling my agent and asking, “Who do you have that can handle this job for us?” I would say half my work it is lifestyle/people and half automotive.

My clients are pretty much all national/international Fortune 500.

My general business expenses are close to nill. Of course, when we shoot a job, there are a lot of expenses but it all gets covered by the client. You have to bill for everything and you quickly learn to make line items in the estimate for everything just like an attorney. Don’t ever just chalk something up as an expense of doing business when it belongs to a job. I bill for everything the moment I walk out of my house to the moment I walk back in.

As touched on above, my wife and I are employees of the corporation and we pay ourselves a fair wage according to the tasks that we do. There are calculators out there that will tell you what your fair wage is—the IRS will like that you did this. My wife is actually paid more than me because I only spend half my time at this corporation. We pretty much put all our “wages” into our 401k accounts and then the corporation matches it at the end of the year. I like investing so I have no problem managing and having our retirement grow tax free until a later day in retirement when I can start withdrawing it in a much lower tax bracket. If you don’t like investing, hire a fee-based CFP but don’t hire someone from one of the companies you see in a commercial—those guys are paid to push products that benefit someone else.

I suppose that I am always “working” but in recent years I would say that I am only on shoots for about 30-45 days a year.

I feel like that I am semi-retired as there seems to be less jobs out there than there were just five years ago and the number of shoot days for each job are much less. Or maybe I am just becoming irrelevant? I shoot 5-10 jobs a year. All my jobs used to be 2-4 weeks long and now I think they are mostly about a week long. Commercial photography is extremely competitive to begin with and with what I feel like are fewer jobs out there, it becomes even more competitive. My income used to touch the $1,000,000 mark every couple years but now I barely cross the $500,000 threshold.

Photography has been good to me because in my early days I did fairly well. I am entrepreneurial so I was able to take those earnings and expand. Out of my 4 possible income streams, photography has now ranked 3rd for that past 5 years or so. It is my favorite hobby for sure.

I pour my heart and soul into a shoot. We usually don’t bid on something that I will not be able to pour some passion into. I will spend some considerable days prepping for a job even if my fees are not designated to cover those prep days—I feel my overall fee is there for me to nurture the creative vision from start to finish regardless of X days for prep, X for tech, X for shoot, etc.). So, prep days can add up quickly then travel, tech scouting, more prep, fittings, shooting and then traveling home—a job with 5 shoot days can easily consume 2 weeks of my time. Shoot days are usually 12-18 hours from portal to portal. Take-home pay is always fair to current industry rates (I hope) and the expenses are basically coming out of another budget (I almost never deal with expenses as they are taken care of by the producer). I would say I usually take home $50,000-$100,000 per job. Licensing terms are erratic as some agencies are fine with licensing and others basically want perpetuity for one fee.

I pay assistants $800/10hr day plus OT. Travel, tech and prep days are billed the same.

We don’t really have a “worst-paying shoot” unless we put it upon ourselves. And that would be if I want the creative but the budget is not there because it is pro-bono or a good cause. Even on a pro-bono shoot, they are going to cover expenses—I am just donating my creative and right index finger. If it’s a regular job and they don’t have the budget, we politely let them know we can’t do it.

I would say half my income is video as we have some stills only jobs, some hybrid jobs and some video only jobs.

With marketing I don’t think there is a silver bullet to getting everyone. I can’t tell you that a certain ad or email is the job monster. It’s a consistent culmination of all your efforts that gets you noticed. Basically people need to know you exist in order to bid you on jobs. So, the usual suspects: advertising in industry pubs, email blasts, sources books (mostly online now), Instagram and entering award shows (but don’t enter photo shows—most ad people don’t know what PDN, Rangefinder, etc. is). We used to do a lot of printed promos but Covid pretty much squashed that since I think the majority of all agency people are still working from home. Whenever I am on a job, I take a poll from the creatives if they actually go into the agency and some have actually not been in since before Covid. Also, on your Zoom calls you can see they are almost all still at home.

Best advice is you have to be fanatical about what you do. You have to love the art to become successful (except for the guy that picks up a camera once and then becomes the jewel of NYC without even trying). If it becomes a job, then it shows you are just there putting in the hours. After 20 years, I love every minute of being on set and creating. Even when I am done with this as a career, I will still be out making images.

Worst advice is “you have to specialize in one subject”. Maybe I have misinterpreted that and am too literal but some people will tell you, you have to be The Taco Guy or the The Car Guy. I feel better advice is to define yourself with a style, way of composing, lighting or ? The subject doesn’t really matter. But when someone sees your work in the wild, they should be able to know it is you that shot it (or have a pretty good idea). When they look at your body of work on your website, it should look like one person’s work. It doesn’t have to be a concise collection of butt plugs for someone to be able to define you. There was a point where I never shot a car but now half my jobs are car jobs. People like the way I compose subjects in environments and said, “OK, now do it with this piece of sheet metal.”

The world is changing everyday and right now is a really scary time for commercial photographers. You have to keep up and continue to evolve. Look at artists like Nadav Kander or John Huet—their work is not the exact same as 20 years ago but you can see the evolution of the artist in their new work that keeps them relevant. Keep an open mind as technology changes. Remember when people freaked out when Photoshop and retouching became a thing? Remember when people freaked out when CGI came along? I am sure those took some jobs away from photographers but not a significant portion. And now AI? You just have to evaluate and see where things fit in with your workflow. Erik Almas just did what he does best of merging backgrounds with talent that he shoots later in a studio except this time he made the backgrounds with AI and it looks pretty great. Everyone is so mad and afraid of AI right now. I could be wrong, but I don’t think AI as tool on it’s own is going to take all the jobs. There’s a great meme out there that says don’t worry about AI because there is no way a client is going to be able to concisely describe what they want to a prompt.

The Art of the Personal Project: Al J. Thompson

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Al J. Thompson

NPR: The Picture Show

At the same time, gentrification can be both pervasive and personal.

Photographer Al J Thompson entwines these two ideas in his debut bookRemnants of an Exodus.

A pool of light on asphalt, the dangling Jordan’s of a boy on a tree limb, a police officer from the shoulders down, his right hand resting on his holstered gun. Thompson’s photos pose a truncated perspective of Spring Valley, N.Y., the New York City suburb where he came of age. The frames shy from literal views of change — Thompson intends to leave the big picture incomplete.

“This could be anywhere,” he says. The causes and effects of gentrification in cities across the country have spawned fierce debate in recent years about how to keep rising housing prices from driving out longtime residents.

Thompson considers gentrification to be “a term that relates to the undermining of a community by building new empires.”

It’s this visual tension — between the specifics of this neighborhood and the ubiquitous issue of displacement — that carries the viewer through Thompson’s work.

When Thompson migrated from Jamaica to the U.S. in 1996, he joined his mother in Spring Valley. The two were part of a largely Black community of Caribbean immigrants. The town park served as the meeting place for everything familiar. Jerk chicken sizzled during cookouts in July. Men played cricket on long weekends. And during many nights when floodlights illuminated the grass, Thompson and his friends ran through the park fields playing soccer.

Today, a development called Park View Condominiums overlooks that same space. The three-story housing complex is just one of the many long-litigated results of the area’s urban renewal push. Since 1990, Spring Valley’s Hispanic population has seen a sixfold increase and its number of ultra-Orthodox Jewish families has soared, shifting the demographics of what a community looks like. The proportion of Black residents has declined by 10% over the same time.

With this perspective, Remnants of an Exodus is as much a meditation on memory as it is an examination of place.

“By shooting this project, I’m also experiencing nostalgia,” Thompson says. “The sense of community, at least within the African diaspora, that’s been gone.”

Thompson also invites viewers to revisit their own recollections through his selective visual compositions. A quick pace of vague images allows the reader to project — a folded sign affixed to a chain link fence, the point where a willow’s limbs meet the ground, graceful fingers around an umbrella handle. Interspersed, direct portraiture brings pause. We spend time with the determined eye contact of a young girl with beaded braids and the knit brows of a woman set back in foliage.

“It’s very rhythmic,” Thompson says. “It’s almost like a musical.”

Just one explicit depiction of change interrupts this rhythm. In his only wide landscape, Thompson shows the viewer those new condos rising just beyond the fence that surrounds the park. In at least this frame, the past and present appear in harmony.

Maura Friedman is a visual journalist based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Instagram @maurafriedman.



To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

Digi Tech based in NYC: $148k

I’m a NY S-Corp and I’m the sole shareholder and only employee. I have a family and I’m the sole provider. My salary is based on the minimum we need to cover personal expenses and 2/5ths of our rent. We have health insurance through Obamacare so the less I payroll myself the higher the subsidy.

I have and will work on any kind of shoot, anywhere in the world. If the money is right, I’m there. As for my style of teching, I am adaptable and versatile with any situation or shoot able to be handled with grace and precision. I can be as hands-on or as hands-off as the photographer needs me to be. My main goal is to use all my skills to make it so the photographer has to only focus on taking the pictures. I work well with assistants and lighting directors to dial in the light and grade. I am a sounding board and problem solver for the photographer, and have many times been an art-director-whisperer if the photographer gets in a rut or the shoot goes off track.

⅓ of my income is rate and ⅔ is from equipment rentals. A small profit comes from reselling hard drives and charging for EQ transportation.

Photographers for whom I work are as varied as they come. Young and old, varied nationalities, male or female or non-binary. There are a few photographers I refuse to work with due to their personalities, but it’s a short list. Sometimes a photographer who is an agent of chaos is fun to work for! Flip that, and a perfectly nice person can be a miserable photographer to be on set with. I only have 1 legacy client I work for where I don’t rent my gear, but they make up for it in rate.

I don’t have any employees, but I hire techs to work with my equipment for my clients from time to time. I always slice them off a bit from the EQ fees, and pay as soon as the invoice is received.

I have a desk in our spare bedroom, store all my EQ at home and use my personal car to transport equipment. My overhead is equipment/rental insurance at about $3500/year, accountant for $2500/year, bookkeeper for $1200/year.

My main costs are upgrading equipment, but that has slowed down in the past year. I only own camera systems I shoot personal work with (No Sony, Canon or Fuji). I’m sticking with the M1 laptops until the M3 series come out next year, so that saved $10k.

I have a Roth IRA and a SEP IRA. I’m barely able to contribute to the Roth because my salary is so low. I can put 25% of my salary in the SEP so that was $15K in 2022 and $24k in 2023. I’ve got $78k in retirement, $10k in personal savings and about $2K in stocks.

I work 150-170 days a yearSteadily increased then took a hit from Covid. Now it’s the highest it’s been.

I think best paying job post-Covid was an 8 day job where the rate was $750 and $1K for EQ. Ended up taking home more than $14k after OT. Best single day job was about $3500 for the day. Rate was $800, EQ $1500 and camera rental was $1200.

Worst paying jobs post-Covid was $500/10, no EQ. It was for one of my favorite clients and it was a personal project so I gave them a deal. They prefaced the confirm saying I should bounce if a money job came in. Worst job of all-time was in 2015, a 21-hour editorial for $350. And, the pictures were terrible too!

I can media manage motion data but I do not bill myself as a DIT or Stills/Motion combo. Sometimes there’s extra money negotiated to manage motion data. Sometimes I volunteer to do it if the second AC or solo videographer is swamped.

I’m pretty much 100% word of mouth and referrals. It feels like, if you’re out there hustling for work, there’s a reason you’re not working.

I have a website I can direct people to that has tearsheets, lists of clients and owned equipment. That’s something I can send once someone reaches out. I don’t have a resume and if someone asks for a resume it’s kind of a red flag. I did an email blast when I first launched my website a few years ago but that drummed up zero business, and I haven’t done it since.

Best advice would probably be that being a full-time tech and not trying to shoot is a great career path. I have less stress and make more money than a lot of my contemporaries who are either trying to shoot or have been shooting for a few years. I don’t have to bust my ass to get clients and at the end of a shoot I never have to think about it again.

Worst advice, that comes to mind, is the importance of working for top-tier photographers. The system of working for a huge photographer as a stepping stone to a successful photography career doesn’t apply as much these days, unless you’re with the top of the top of the top.

For techs, my advice is, when starting out, take whatever comes your way as long as you feel okay about the money. Take non-EQ jobs to hone your skills. You never know who you’re going to meet on set who will recommend you, and help jump start a successful tech career. For photographers, my advice would be to listen to your tech and treat them as a kind of creative partner. Photographers focus so much on their own imagery and how they make pictures, never imagining how others approach creating images. Many don’t take into account that I evaluate, color grade and crop, literally, over a million of images a year, and I am a wealth of knowledge, tips, hacks, workflow improvements, technological advances, trends, culture and aesthetic values.

The Art of the Personal Project: Doug Menuez

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.


Today’s featured artist:   Doug Menuez

In a world that often moves at a breakneck pace, finding moments of stillness and introspection can be a challenge. However, filmmaker and artist Doug Menuez has managed to capture these moments in his latest documentary, “Because of You, I Am”. This film takes viewers into the world of taiko, the Japanese drum, through the eyes of two of its beloved pioneers while delving into the deeper philosophical aspects that underpin it.

“Because of You, I Am” follows the stories of PJ and Roy Hirabayashi, two Japanese American artists who found the taiko drum as their identity and voice fifty years ago. Executive Producer of the film, Pear Urushima, has been a long-time collaborator with Doug since they first met on a project for Apple. Pear, who is a marketing guru and also a taiko player, thought of Doug to tell this story knowing his deep passion and understanding of artistry, working in tandem with his ability to share stories of humanity and art.

Pear produced PJ and Roy’s website ( which celebrates their journey of taiko artistry, social activism and community building. From the start, this project was designed to be a multimedia production, requiring Doug to see the whole picture of the documentary film, stills, and publications while shooting. The entire crew worked together to merge all of these components, setting a captivating exploration of cultural exchange, mentorship, and the pursuit of artistic excellence.

“Because of You, I Am” offers a genuine glimpse into the rich tapestry of Japanese-American culture and history. Doug skillfully weaves together interviews, historical narratives, and breathtaking visuals, creating a compelling narrative that transports viewers to a world where intentionality reigns supreme.

Each element of the film serves a purpose and gives deliberate attention to each detail – from the choice of black-and-white cinematography to the carefully curated interviews. With these intentional decisions, Doug invites the audience to reflect on the power of simplicity and the beauty found in spaces left unfilled.

To see more of this project, click here


APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world.  She has been involved in the photography and illustration advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Pricing & Negotiating: Brand Narrative For Medical Equipment Client

By Bryan Sheffield, Wonderful Machine

Each month, we pick one of our recent estimates to write about in a Pricing & Negotiating article. Redacting the names of the photographer and client allows us to share valuable and educational information that would otherwise be confidential.

Concept: Brand Narrative & Architecture/Interior content of a Medical Equipment Manufacturer’s research, production, and treatment facility, featuring staff technicians, doctors, and patients.
Licensing: Exclusive Unlimited use in perpetuity of up to 30 images and up to 5 minutes of video.
Photographer/Director: Healthcare, Architecture, and Brand Narrative specialist.
Agency: None – client direct.
Client: Medical Equipment Manufacturing brand.


I recently helped a photographer/director build an estimate and negotiate a project for a client seeking brand narrative content of their doctors, technicians, and patients within their research, manufacturing, and treatment facility. Usually, this photographer/director creates their estimates on their own. However, they were busy with a multi-day project and reached out for help with the estimate and client conversations.

The client brief described the lifestyle content of their staff performing procedures within their modern research and treatment centers, as well as atmospheric interiors, and aerial content of the location exteriors and campus.

The final use of the images was described as client web and social placements as well as advertising within both consumer and trade publications. The client requested Exclusive Unlimited use of the final content. This all-encompassing license is something we see often with large corporations and their legal teams.

The shoot would be held at a client location about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from the photographer’s home. While there was a rough shot list presented, we suggested an advance location/tech scout to help flesh out the shot list with the client.

The client had let us know that they would be handling all location coordination, location styling, employee/staff talent, talent coordination, wardrobe/hair/makeup styling, and video editing. We then included a Client Provisions section within the Job Description to note who would handle these items.


The client didn’t have a prescribed shot list per se, but they had a general idea of what they wanted to capture. The client requested an estimate for a two-day shoot with “maybe 30 final images” and “3-5 minutes of video.” Based on the client and the intended content use, I initially advised the content licensing rate of $1,000/image and $5,500 for the video footage. Through subsequent conversations, we felt that the client might have a $60-70,000 project budget range and we placed the fees at $14,000/day. The photographer/director was comfortable with these fees as they were in line with previous projects they had done with similar clients.

This $28,000 fee would include 2 days of on-site content creation with use of up to 30 images and up to 5 minutes of video content. Our estimate included a line stating the cost of additional images to be $1,350/ea including up to 1 hour of retouching. I added $1,000 for the photographer to scout the location in advance of the shoot. In an attempt to be competitive and keep the bottom line lower (with the creative fees intact), we also included the photographer/director’s 4 travel days.


We added a Camera Operator at $1,600 per shoot day, and $750 per day for travel and tech scout days. The camera op would be traveling with the photographer, so 4 travel days were added. We also added a first assistant at $550/day including the tech scout. Additionally, we included a 2nd assistant on the shoot days to help with lighting and camera equipment management. We included a Digital Tech/Media Manager at $750/day. We also included a Production Coordinator to help with the local crew needs, schedule coordination, and meals. Both assistants, digital tech, and the production coordinator would be local hires. Moreover, these fees were consistent with previous rates the photographer had paid the crew on past productions in this location.


We included $4,600 for cameras, lighting, and grip rentals. The photographer would bring their cameras, lenses, and lighting. They also intended to rent continuous lighting, modifiers, stands, and sandbags from a local rental house. The photographer/director would act as drone op, and we thus added $575 per day for the photographer/director’s owned drone system. $750/day was added for the digital workstation rental. We also included $900 for hard drives to back up the still and video content created. We included $1350 for any misc. production supplies such as production book printing, equipment transport, hard drive shipping, etc.


We included $1,150 for anticipated Mileage, Tolls, and Parking for travel to and from the location over the two trips. Costs for 10 hotel stays for the photographer/director and their camera op were also included, as well as 14 per diems at $75/day for each photographer/director and camera operator.

Catering/Craft Service

We included $1,200 for Catering & Craft Services for the 6 crew and anticipated 2 clients on set, this equated to $75 per person per day.


We included $650 for insurance, and $750 for additional meals and any unforeseen expendables.

Post Production

We added $1000 for the photographer/director to perform a First Edit for Client Review and deliver roughs to the client. We also included retouching for the 30 images at $150 per hour. The client wanted the video content to be able to be edited via their internal creative team. Through conversation, the client requested the photographer/director set the color for all content, and we added $2,200 for this labor.


The photographer/director was awarded the project and they were very thankful for the help. I am told the production was a big success!

Follow our Consultants @wonderful_at_work.

Further Reading
Specialty: Brand Narrative Photography
Expert Advice: Pricing & Negotiating for Commercial Photographers
Expert Advice: How Important is a Photographer’s Location to Their Career?

Need help pricing or negotiating a project? Reach out!

The Daily Edit – Hard Pack Magazine: Zach Seely

Hark Pack Magazine

Editor and Founder: Zach Seely

Creative Direction and Design: SOON Services, Brendan Dunne, Ken Tokunaga

Fashion Director: Benoit Martinengo
Designer: Christian Sant

Heidi: What compelled you to start a niche print publication based around skiing?
Zach: There’s a simple reason for starting Hard Pack. I have a passion for skiing, images and words. In that sense, it sounded like a lot of fun.A more complex reason is because I was tired of the images and media around skiing. To me, how the media had represented the sport felt stuck and ossified in a particular mode. For all the variety of the sport, why had the image of skiing felt so undifferentiated? The majority of media around skiing falls into two camps. The first camp comes from the perspective of an elite hobbyist. It focuses on apres ski, expensive gear, resort reviews, and pricey hotels. The second camp comes from the perspective of a ski bum. It focuses on lots of powder, steep lines and probably some Grateful Dead vibes.
I have nothing against these two images, but they are not my experience of the sport. There was an opportunity to subvert those traditional images of skiing. The new image would be multi-dimensional, philosophical, and weird. It would embrace stories on architecture, fashion, design, poetry, fiction and criticism.I started Hard Pack to publish new voices whom you would not find in other ski and outdoor publications.

What makes this magazine different from endemic titles that have (may have) disappeared or gone exclusively digital?
Our title Hard Pack is both an homage to Powder which I grew up with but also a provocation. Hard pack snow, of course, refers to the type of snow no one celebrates but the majority of us ski on. We take that provocation as our editorial mandate to do things other titles wouldn’t do. So, of course, we will never publish resort reviews or rankings or a gear review. But we go beyond that. We want to develop a new lexicon for the sport. To do this, we prioritize photographers and writers outside of the ski industry. And by working with these types of creators we end up with stories not typically seen in a ski magazine. We also have a fashion component. Benoit Martinengo is our fashion director. And he leads the fashion editorials for each issue. By engaging with the sport through the lens of fashion, we are able to have a perspective on the rise of outdoor technical clothes in the fashion industry. Finally, we are a print-only publication. We invest a great amount of our resources in the print object. The creative directors, Ken Tokunaga and Brendan Dunne of SOON Services, design the magazine. Each layout is custom. We don’t have a set flatplan. We let the stories inform the design and vice versa. Each issue has multiple paper stocks and unique print inks. We want to create an object you want to hold onto.

How old were you when you first started sliding on snow?
Apparently my dad told my mom that if I can walk then I can ski. He put me on skis at the age of three and took me to Alta in Utah. Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons became my playground essentially. I was able to see the tram at Snowbird from my bedroom window.

In a few words, tell us what skiing is for you and how it has shaped you personally, and creatively…
I’m not super interested in over-romanticising the sport. Obviously, I’m obsessed with it, but it’s only one aspect of my life. Skiing is my favorite outdoor sport among many others like surfing and road cycling. Skiing is also an intellectual pursuit of mine. I’m always reading about it, seeking out poetry that mentions it, and finding cinema that references it. It’s a generous sport to think with. But it’s also an expensive hobby that is part of an industry that is complex and not always good to every stakeholder. That means I have some complicated feelings about the sport, as well.

How did launching Sandwich magazine inform this work, both creatively and through the nuts and bolts of business?
Sandwich magazine was a surprise. I was running a marketing team at a small food CPG company. We needed something to bring a bit of energy to a very crowded and challenging category. We had grown tired of producing food content for the algorithms. We were looking for content that was more in-depth and that mirrored our own passion. We had been big fans of Lucky Peach, the independent food magazine. We thought we could publish something similar. We ended up partnering with TCO out of London to bring it to life. We called it Sandwich. Its mandate is to publish overlooked aspects of food and culture. Each issue takes inspiration from the ingredients of a sandwich to talk about new stories. It blew up on social media. It did well at newsstands. Sold surprisingly well online. It became a viable independent magazine. From that I learned a lot about the magazine publishing world. It gave me great contacts with printers, distributors and retailers. Also, it gave me my first peek into the life of an editor.

How are you trying to make the objects of skiing photographically arresting? Silent Snowfall by Lara Giliberto is gorgeous.
Well, one thing we are trying to do is bring in new voices to the sport. Lara’s work in issue two is one such example. Lara does incredible still life work working often with M Le magazine du Monde out of Paris. She collaborated with set designer Camille Lichtenstern for this work. What they achieved with “Silent Snowfall” is particularly gorgeous. They took ski objects like avalanche shovels, ski wax, and boots and paired them with high-fashion objects. That type of lens meant we’d be able to see a ski boot like never before. The idea of shooting a ski boot upside down is very simple but never done and that’s what they did. It’s quite the statement but hard to pull off. It takes an outside eye to achieve that. In main ways, this story is our response to the season-preview gear reviews that typical magazines publish. We happen to prefer to showcase these objects not as functional objects but as objects of high design.

Matthew Hensen and his legacy were celebrated in the launch issue with the story “That Went Downhill Fast”. The project is beautifully photographed by Samuel Bradley and exquisitely styled by Benoit Martinengo. Tell me about the evolution of this project.

Well, Benoit is our fashion director and he knows Samuel Bradley. Samuel is one of the best fashion and editorial photographers around. Benoit approached Samuel about contributing, and Samuel was immediately interested. We had discussions about different stories. We ended up landing on something that Samuel could shoot in London. The inspiration came from Matthew Hensen, who was the first man to reach the North Pole. The historical photos of this explorer are stunning. It became a cool collaboration for Samuel and Benoit. Benoit had the challenge of recreating those looks with contemporary brands. They still had to feel modern though. What he achieved feels very timeless. That’s thanks to many of the brands like Roa Hiking and Lemaire. Samuel is able to fill the entire story with a sense of humor. That humor is a necessary component to this story. The skier, our model, has veered off course finding himself in the streets of London. Samuel has a great eye for capturing humor while creating stunning images. In the end, the story is one of my favorites we’ve ever created. It is a fun commentary on the entire streetwear meets gorpcore movement. It’s able to make a nice comment while remaining thoughtful, sophisticated and beautiful.

What are your hopes for this printed project?
I generally hope that we get to keep making them. I hope that enough people want to read and own them that it becomes a sustainable business. Very simple stuff, to be honest. It’s rare to put a print object out in the world in our era. It’s meaningful to connect with others who share a similar passion for the sport and for print. On the creative front I hope we continue to work with exciting photographers like Samuel and Lara. Doing editorial work is a labor of love, and it’s so meaningful to have photographers who want to work with you. And, finally, I hope we are making a meaningful change to the ski industry and the way it portrays itself. Even if the impact is small, we hope we are widening the scope of the sport. We hope to make it accessible to people who have never picked up a ski magazine before.

What surprised you the most, now that you’re well into your 3rd issue?
Honestly, what surprised me the most is that we got so many inbound requests from photographers and writers asking to contribute after only our first issue. It’s a small thing but the response from the photo community has been special.

Any advice for anyone who is launching a print magazine?
Reach out to the editors of your favorite magazines and take them out for coffee. I find that the community is all about support. I’ve received so much help from countless industry veterans to newcomers.

How can photographers get involved in the magazine?
Send us a note at

The Art of the Personal Project: Scott Lowden

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:   Scott Lowden

Dia de los Muertos is a beautiful amalgamation of indigenous Mesoamerican and Catholic traditions, creating a culturally rich and visually stunning celebration. My fascination led me to Patzcuaro, Tzintzuntzan, and Isla de Janitzio Mexico, where families gather at the gravesites of their loved ones, creating ofrendas (altars) with personal items, favorite foods and beverages of the departed. The above-ground burials are deeply rooted in the cultural and spiritual practices of the indigenous Purepecha people and add another element to the mystical scene.

The juxtaposition of marigolds and sugar skulls with Catholic icons and candles creates a visual poetry that speaks to the blending of these traditions. Iconic candlelit paths leading to hillside cemeteries, adorned with papel picado and the intoxicating aroma of copal incense, beckon the spirits to join the living in a celebration of life and death. Through my photographs, I strive to convey the profound connection between the Mayan reverence for the deceased and the Catholic rituals that permeate the island.

To see more of this project, click here


APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world.  She has been involved in the photography and illustration advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

The Daily Edit – Bikepacking: Nathan Khalsa


Photographer: Nathan Khalsa

Heidi: How did this project come about, were you published by Bikepacking before?
Nathan: The project was born out of how most of my work is born. I want to go do a thing, and I bring a camera along. Lucky for me, I was accompanied by two other photographers so the body of work was much more substantial. This was my first time contributing to Bikepacking. An editor that follows me on Instagram had reached out to me to ask if I’d like to do a little write-up to be featured. I thought it was an awesome opportunity because I love that publication, I didn’t even realize it would be paid until after I turned it in. I was just stoked for the opportunity. I haven’t had a consistent writing practice since college, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging, but I’m eager to keep looking for more opportunities to develop that side of my storytelling.

Did you keep a journal to remember all the details of the trip?
I do find great value in a journal, but I don’t typically find that it fits into my process, especially when I’m trying to shoot and be present. For this particular narrative, I feel the photos did a good job of being the journal. They go a long way to bring back feelings and memories. On my next bikepacking escapade, I would like to make an effort to keep a journal, because it is a great way to document the little details you may forget.

How difficult was the photo edit and how many rolls did you shoot?
Between the 3 of us over a 4-day trip, I think we shot 10 rolls. I shot 3 and a half. The editing was extremely difficult, but I always have a hard time editing down. Especially with 2 other photographers, it was difficult getting it down to the number Bikepacking specified, telling the story, and making sure we all had good representation. I feel like a lot of interesting moments were captured, some that unfortunately didn’t make it into the final article. I suppose that’s just the nature of the beast. 

I know you can ride a lot and manage work from the hearty numbers you posted for the Patagonia Global strava challenge and your 2020 bike tour. When you’re bikepacking, there’s always something to prep or clean up, how did you find time to create the images?
Good question. There is also the dichotomy of living the experience and being outside of it to photograph it. I think I have been doing it for a long time, so at this point, I am always looking for those interesting moments. I’ll drop anything I am doing if the light is hitting just right, or a composition jumps out at me. It also helped to have 2 friends who are also very familiar with the photographic process, so they are easy subjects.  An ill-advised but handy trick is to ride with one or no hands and shoot from the bike, which allows for some really cool and dynamic shots. That is something I got lots of practice with on my 2020 bike tour. Being relatively comfortable with the activity is also important. I am comfortable living off of a bike, and have a system down that works, so I don’t have the stress of “Where the hell am I going to put tonight’s dinner in one of these bags?” or “I thought I packed my pump…” Being prepared goes a long way so you can focus on not only shooting, but enjoying.

It’s not bikebacking until your pushing, a friend once said. Tell us about this photo.
This photo didn’t make it in the final edit, but is a pretty good visual on how hard we were working climbing up Mt. Constitution. The trails were at inclines that were not bikeable, so it turned into a 2 mile slog pushing heavy bikes up the mountain. Paddy and I were both worried about Hank as he was having some health issues feeling faint, especially at high output. Not having many options besides keep going up, we were hoping to find the top sooner or later. Hank has one of the best attitudes though. Always down for an adventure, and hardly said no to anything, he pushed through and was ok. When we got to the top, the road coming up had closed, so the ride down was a smooth, fast, car free descent at sunset back to camp. Worth every ounce of hard work.
Where does your love of film and photography come from?
Photography is such a strong form of communication for me. It’s a form of creative expression I clicked with at a young age, and what drives me to keep shooting is to capture emotions, memories, and the intangibles of experiences and places.
While I don’t solely shoot film, 2 things draw me to it, but I’ll skip the cliche part everybody already knows about it having a timelessness and nostalgia that is very appealing. For me, it’s mostly the simplicity. Not staring into the back of your camera over-analyzing every shot, not having 10,000 photos to sort at the end, not having the plethora of settings to concern yourself with, not missing the shot because your nose made the focus go to the bottom left of the frame because your nose touched the touch screen. As a tactile learner, I have a big appeal to analog. Modern digital cameras are incredible tools, but film is invaluable for finding each shot a little more precious, and spending less time with the camera and more time in the experience.
Who are your photo inspirations, if any….
Chris Burkard has been a big inspiration to me over the years. Not only his images, but his whole life ethos is noteworthy. And he does some epic bike rides. Another would be Jeff Johnson. I have looked up to him and his adventurous spirit for over a decade, and I love his collection of work from 180º South. One more recent would be Joe Greer. He has an incredible eye for light, composition, and timing. His genre isn’t something I find myself shooting often, but his style I find very appealing that I’d love to draw from.

Are you working on any personal projects?
No personal projects at the moment, but I am looking to make some lifestyle changes to make some more time for photography pursuits soon.

A Commercial Lifestyle, Fitness and Sports Photographer/Director based in LA: $181k (net)

My first actual biggish commercial job where I had a digital tech for the first time and a few assistants was in 2015.

2022: Gross $388,000, Tax (30%) $107,000, Agent (25%) $89,000, Take Home $181,000
2021: Gross $705,900, Tax (30%) $208,000, Agent (25%) $179,000, Take Home $309,900
2020: Gross $427,200, Tax (30%) $128,000, Agent (25%) $106,800, Take Home $307,600
2019: Gross $551,500, Tax (30%) $165,450, Agent (25%) $137,800, Take Home $248,250

Above, I listed out of my income for the past few years. It has my gross income from my fees. We set aside 30% for taxes. We never pay that whole amount for taxes, but it’s a good forced savings account. My Agent gets 25% of all fees.

My partner is in the creative industry but doesn’t work directly with me. We jointly own our S-Corp and bill our fees through the same company. We use a payroll company to pay ourselves $6,000 monthly to cover most of our personal expenses.

Our business expenses are around 10K per month. This accounts for general business expenses like insurance, online storage, and other essential things. It also accounts for those random months when we buy some new equipment, hard drives, send out promos, or do a test shoot.

Altogether, we want to make around 20K monthly ($240,000 per year) to live relatively carefree. That income would let me generally shoot any test shoot without worrying about the cost too much. We could go on a vacation or two, but nothing too lavish. We could buy some nice furniture for the house or something like that.

I know that sounds like a ton of money, and it definitely is, but running a photography business can be expensive. For instance, I’m writing this from my 2019 Macbook Pro on a laptop fan stand to help keep it cool. Work has been too slow for the past year for me to get a new computer comfortably. We spend money now only on what we have to, not want to.

I don’t own a studio or too much gear. Our expenses are general business expenses like insurance, online storage, and other essential things.

We put as many expenses on the business as possible. I always take photos while we’re out, so it’s easy to justify.

Photography is about 90% of my income. I do direct, but generally, we lump that into the shooting rate. I do my retouching sometimes for clients which we bill for.

My clients are Fortune 500 companies that span from sports, fitness, technology, and pharmaceutical. I like to say, if it’s got people in it, I’ll shoot it.

My partner and I have 401K, and we contribute each year. We don’t do individual stock buying or anything like that.

Shoot Days:
2022: 48
2021: 62
2020: 59
2019: 87

It has fluctuated a lot, as you can see. It felt like I hit a high point in 2021, and now I’m riding the rollercoaster downhill at the moment. A few of my big clients underwent some changes, and I’m no longer shooting with them. I felt a significant shift in the summer of 2022. That’s when I noticed a real slowdown. Personally, I don’t think it’s picked up to where it used to be. The economy scares hit the folks I usually work with. One big Fortune 200 company I’ve worked with a lot relicensed almost everything I’ve shot for them instead of creating new work. That has helped my bottom line this year and is a testament to not giving up usage rights for unlimited time. Of course, we do that on some jobs, but we obviously see the value in limiting that usage, so things like this can happen.

My partner works in the creative industry but not directly with me. They still bill through our company for their work. I’m the general breadwinner in the family at this moment.

It ranges all the time, as I’m sure everyone does. I’ll talk about those bigger jobs that require treatments and lots of prep time. So when those jobs come in, this is how it all breaks down time-wise and financially:

– We get approached about the project and have our first creative call with the client/agency.
– We bring on a production company to work on the bid with my agent while I work on the treatment.
– Before we submit, we align on the creative and production process we will take with the job. I don’t want to say we’ll shoot all with HMI’s, and production has a strobe package put into the budget. It’s important to tell your production company everything you plan to do creatively because that can affect the budget.
– We submit the budget and treatment, and sometimes we get to have a second call to review both, which is great.
– We get awarded the job and immediately start on casting, locations, and the rest of it.
– We’ll do in-person location scouting and sometimes in-person casting for talent.
– These jobs at this scale are generally at least 3-5 days.

Jobs at this scale financially are generally pretty great. Let’s take a job I did recently at this scale with the same prep work as stated above. It was for a Fortune 100 company. The shoot was four days. I worked on this project (including treatment) for around 15 days off and on.

Rate: $10,500.00 per day for four days
Tech Scout: $3,500
Pre-Production/Fitting: $1,500
Total Fees: $47,000

This license is strictly limited to the terms and conditions below, and governed by the Copyright laws of the United States, as specified in Title 17 of the United States Code:
Duration: 3 Years
Exclusivity: Exclusive
Region: Worldwide
Media: Unlimited Media
Photographer retains ownership and copyright.

I pay $750 for my first assistant, $650 for second and so on. My digital tech gets $750 for his rate and at least $1,500 for his equipment. Generally, it’s around $1,850-2K depending on what we need. These rates are for 10-hour days.

My best paying shoots over the years:

2019: $80,000 – This was an 11-day job in Spain for a Fortune 200 company. My fees would be over 100K when we won the job, but the company had to strike some shoot days for budget reasons.

2020: $61,000 – This was five shoot days with two tech scout days alongside motion for a Fortune 50 company. I shot with motion, but when they moved on, we set up our own lights and reshot other things.

2021: $75,000 – This was additional usage of a complete buyout of work I had done for a company that year. We shot the job with a one-year usage agreement for $53,000 in fees. The company returned to us later that year and requested to buy out the library of images for an unlimited time.

2022: $41,500 – This was for a sports/fitness company. It was a travel job with four shoot days.

Worst shoot:
There’s one I’m about to shoot tomorrow that’s pretty bad. It’s a one-day shoot with two years of unlimited usage for $2,000 that I spent three days creating a treatment for and have already been on two pre-production calls, and I’ll be leaving my house soon to go on a scout. The entire production of the shoot is $70,000.

But here’s the thing: the creative is good, and the work could lead to some much bigger players in the space. Of course, the company said that if this shoot goes well, they will be shooting a lot more, which we never really take as a solid offer.

If a job has great creative and could lead to more work in a sector, we jump on the opportunity. We never like to give away usage for that cheap, but sometimes, you have to play the long game in this industry. If they come back, we will not do the shoot again for 2K. We always bump our fees up higher because we’ve proved ourselves.

For personal projects, I shoot the video myself. It’s not a huge percentage of my income at this point. I’d like it to be higher, but currently, it’s primarily stills. All of my personal projects now have a motion component to them.

For marketing, there’s pre and post-COVID lol. Pre covid, I was creating books, newspaper promos, and things like that. In this new world, I make promo items for clients I know personally. I last did a newspaper promo a few years ago, but I send out other fun things to them that they like. It’s all branded with my logo and contains a lovely postcard of a favorite image of mine.

I haven’t seen anyone else do this, so I’m not going to dive too into specifics on what I’m sending and how I’m sending it. But mainly, I send something out a few times a year and make it very branded.

I’ve started sending out a newsletter, which has been fun. I’ll take meetings when I’m in different cities. I keep up with clients on Instagram.

My agent does most of the marketing. They send out newsletters all the time, and they take meetings constantly.

I don’t know about the worst advice, but I have heard of a way of running your business that I can’t entirely agree with. There are people out there who take a slice of the whole budget for themselves. By that, I mean they will tell their crew their rates are one thing, but they’ve actually budgeted more and will keep that difference. I run my business differently. I make decent money, and I love my crew and want them to thrive. I will always give them as much money as possible.

That said, if we do a shoot with a budget of 100K and come in at 95K, I will pad the final invoice to get closer to that 100K and keep that money for myself. If the client has already allocated that money, we’ll use it! Of course, I like the extra money, but it’s also suitable for the client. If we come in under, their bosses will think that’s what it will cost going forward. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

As for best advice, god, I could go on and on about what I think is essential, and I’m learning new ones every day. I have a personal mantra: “I’ve just begun.” That allows me grace when I don’t love a shoot that I did, or I make a financial mistake. I’m constantly learning and trying to grow.

If I were to give advice, it would be the following:
– Always be creating personal projects.
– Treat every job like your last (I still need help to follow this).
– Shoot what the client wants and then try to find the time to shoot it the way you see it.
– Treat your crew well, and they will treat you well. I’ve heard so many horror stories from my assistants about photographers who are such assholes. How these photographers keep working, I’ll never understand.
– Figure out how to manage your money and do a personal budget.
– Figure out how to manage your money and do a personal budget.

Something like that. As I said, I’m still learning every day, but those are important.

I feel incredibly grateful for where I am in my career. When you read these numbers, I wonder what life you think I have. You might assume I’m rolling in cash and must not have a care in the world. I’m a represented photographer who works with some huge companies. I must feel like I’ve made it.

By no means is any of that true. Life can throw a bunch of crazy things at you at once, which will drain all your savings, which has happened to us. We were fortunate to survive, but we’ve been financially struggling for at least a year. Work has slowed down, and mixed with things that have happened in our life, it’s been pretty stressful. I have multiple photographers muted on Instagram because I swear every time I saw their posts, they were working. I couldn’t take it anymore. I constantly feel like my work isn’t good enough and strive to create work like I see on my feed every day. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve peaked in my career and taken those good times for granted. When the money was rolling in, I became complacent and stopped pushing myself as hard as I could. I’ve lived with this stress for years. I constantly think, what if the work stops, what am I going to do.

I am so grateful for where I am in my life, which are two opposite sides of the coin. I’m grateful that I can make a career out of photography, and I’m grateful for being this stressed about work and finances. I know it may seem funny to be grateful about stress, but it’s pushed me so much harder with creating new work, updating my website, starting a newsletter, and being more active on Instagram. I need to work on handling stress better as a human, but I’m going to try to hold onto that fear of it all going away. As a photographer, I’ve always been extremely hungry and pushed myself. Now, however, I’m pushing so much harder!

From this rambling part, if I were to instill one thing in anyone who reads this – next time you’re getting paid to shoot photos – STOP…for just a moment. Look around. You might be on a big shoot with tons of people or a small one. YOU are making money from photography! How fucking cool is that! Still, to this day, it amazes me! I absolutely love every second of it. From being on sets with tons of people and pressure to perform, to shooting personal projects with just me and an assistant. I love every second of it and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

So just know, a photographer like me, who you might think had made it, is still just as hungry, full of self-doubt, ambitious, and passionate as when I started.

The Art of the Personal Project: John Grande

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  John Grande

My series is called Under The Table[top]. The idea resulted from a happy accident. I was shooting a down shot on a matte plexi surface with a light underneath. I was under the table adjusting the light and saw that the object I was photographing projected onto the surface. Not in a typical fashion, but with the contact points sharp and readable and the areas further away more blurred and abstract.

I brainstormed ideas and produced 9 images total. They ranged from a breakfast table to a snack table with drinks, whiskey and cigars, a wine bottle and a spilled glass, roses and a vase and a cutter, and probably my favorite; melted ice-pops.

My name is John Grande. I am a still-life and people shooter specializing based in NYC. When I’m not in my studio or at my workstation I’m cooking for my wife, adoring my big gray cat, fly fishing in the Catskills or watching silly cartoons.

To see more of this project, click here


APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world.  She has been involved in the photography and illustration advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

A Photo Assistant based in Northern California: $28,700 (net)

These numbers are mostly from assisting, but also includes some of the photography work I did.

Technically, 11 years as a photographer. 8 years as a photo assistant.

My income is Photo Assistant – 90%, Event Photography – 5%, Portrait – 3%, Food – 2% All of my clients are local. The pay range for assisting is anywhere from $350-600 depending on the type of shoot.

I don’t have a lot of overhead. Either I do work in my apartment, but I am mostly on location doing my own work though mostly assisting.

I have retirement accounts, but unfortunately, I’ve had to dip into them so I really don’t have much.

I really try to take on what I can within reason of course. I make sure to have boundaries so I don’t get burnout and try to stick to other obligations.

My income started off really low when I first started freelancing. 2019 was a good year and my goal for 2020 was to gain more income than the previous year. Of course, we know how that went. This year is kind of feeling more like when I first started. There’s a lot of uncertainty and not a lot of income coming in.

I’ve sort of taken on a temp job, which has been helpful when things are slow. And though there’s no income in it, I’ve been volunteering at a local organization when I can.

Most of the shoots I’m on average about 2 days. But they can range anywhere from 1 day to 8 days.

My best recent job was a 2 day shoot with talent and two different locations. This was for personal care products. We had 10 hour days, which included wardrobe and HMU. Licensing was only for social for 2 years, but later the client wanted to add for web to the existing license. The brands could only use the images for web as well as internal use. Take home after (including the addition to the license) was $19,400. This was in 2021.

I don’t shoot video, but this is something I want to start getting into.

I need to work on marketing. I’ve been focusing on building up my portfolio again as most of my work is kind of old. But I plan to reach out to potential clients about possible future work.

It’s okay to want to perceive yourself as not being on the same track as your peers. We all work at our own pace and deal with our own setbacks. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Do what works for you. Try to set aside those feelings. Keep your focus on your work and the work your peers are doing so that you can better yourself as a person and an artist.

A Commercial & Editorial Food Photographer based in Atlanta: $215,000 (net)

I do shoot food related subjects too (Chefs, Bartenders, Farmers, Makers, some liquid’s etc). I’ve been lucky enough to be able to really specialize and think it has helped with longevity.

I do have a presence on Wonderful Machine, but not a rep currently. I have had maybe 5 reps over the course of my career. Some good, some not so. Some international and some regional. I think if you have a good relationship with a good rep, then it’s a win/win, but if the relationship is unbalanced, then it will never work as well as it should.

My income is 80% Commercial Clients, 20% editorial clients and of that 80% about 75% is stills and 25% motion. I am structured as an S-Corp.

I have a range of clients from global brands to small independent businesses like mine. The majority of my clients are corporations, so don’t do a ton of agency work-maybe 20%. Occasionally I’ll get an agency project, but honestly prefer to work direct with client. There seems to be less stress and clearer flow of info. A lot of agencies i’ve worked with over the years seem unorganized and unrealistic with their expectations-especially when it comes to pricing. Even though I’m based in Atlanta I don’t do much, if any agency work here. It tends to be other markets for me. I do feel that generally Atlanta agencies don’t have the budgets NY/CHI/West Coast have, so find myself getting priced out of the Atlanta market to a certain extent. If I do work locally, I do feel there’s a lot of pressure to price myself competitively with the local market, but I feel my experience and knowledge are what clients should value and if I’m expected to price myself to be competitive with some of the local shooters, then I’m already feeling slightly under appreciated. I’m more than happy to work locally, but there has to be some compromise, at least as far as i’m concerned.

I have 1 permalance assistant, 1 part time book keeper and permalance producer as well as a plethora of freelancers on a job by job basis.

My biggest overheads by far are studio & payroll. Studio Mortgage is reasonable at $1700 p/m, but the studio sucks cashflow out of my account as soon as it hits. I buy all my equipment and research thoroughly to determine if I will get value for money from it. Just today, I dropped $4300 for another Canon R5C as I have a video project looming and want to shoot it all on 3 R5C’s. Props & surfaces are a huge investment to stay current and contemporary, so that takes at least $1K a month & if I am shooting a larger project i’ll invest in props that I know I’ll be able to reuse, so will often spend well over that in a given month if there’s a big project going on. Marketing is another cash drain. I am committed to At-Edge which feel gives me a presence in agencies I wouldn’t necessarily get a ton of success marketing to directly and find their speed dating reviews to be great and really beneficial. Thats around $800 per month. I was doing Agency Access at about $165 a month, but just stopped this as I wasn’t getting a lot of traction and have replaced this with a custom marketing plan from Wonderful Machine which is too early in the process to know if it works. Studio insurance that covers both property and liability is about $500 per month. I pay myself through payroll so thats another $8K per month and supplement this by paying through distributions. My car is also paid by the business, so thats another $800. I pay myself via payroll and top that up with distributions.

My retirement is a combination of IRA, 401K and investments.

It’s around 6 days per month of actual shooting, so about 70 days a year, but there is so much to do in pre pro for my shoots, I’m always seemingly busy. This year, I wanted to spend more time in studio, so set myself personal projects when I’m not working on commissions, which has been great to rediscover some of the hunger that maybe got a little lost over the previous 6 or so years.

My income has stayed about the same for the last 8 or 9 years. We all took a hit during covid, but even though my hospitality clients stopped everything, the grocery store clients were keeping me busy. I have enough experience with all aspects of food photography I could work by myself and do the food & prop styling during the first few months. As more of us became vaccinated it was easier to hire crew again and get back to normal service. I do infrequently rent my space to trusted friends, but so far, luckily haven’t had to supplement my income.

Honestly every shoot is different. These days I seem to be ‘work for hire’ almost as much as I work via estimates/licensing, but even so, my work for hire clients generally pay my standard day rate. Obviously I don’t get to negotiate any licensing fee’s for these. For the clients I do work with via estimates, again each one seems different. My biggest paying client is global and I work for a day rate to include unlimited use in perpetuity that is $10K a day. On these shoots, we usually shoot between 6-8 images per day. Its not a huge project though, normally 2-3 days 3 times a year.

Most of my shoots are from 8am-6pm on shoot days, so a 3 day shoot would likely also have a full prep day, travel if on location or with one of my OOT clients, post work (I do my processing, simple retouching & color). The bigger retouching/compositing is sent out of studio. So a 3 day shoot really is about 6-7 days of my time. My prep/travel/pre light rates are $1k per day flat rate and for each 10 shots I charge 10 hours @ $100p/h for retouching.

Generally I pay assistants $500 per day for commercial clients and $350 per day for editorial clients. My permalance assistant also often doubles up as Digi Tech, so will also pass on that line item to him, so he can make $1000 a day on big shoots.

My best paying shoot in the last 2 years has been a menu/web redesign for a global QSR chain. It was 12 days of shooting 8.00am-6.00pm, 2 sets of stills (me on one set and my old assistant on the other), 1 set of motion. Not a very organized agency to be honest and partly explains why I appreciate working direct with client. They couldn’t give me an approved shotlist until the Friday before the shoot began on the Monday. So we were winging it and changing what I had proposed as the shoot order. They also couldn’t supply the quantities of food we requested so had to keep getting one of the restaurants to supply extra food. This did not go down well and we were thrown under the bus several times during the shoot for ‘not being organized enough’. I am too old to be thrown under the bus, so I did not accept this and immediately pointed out all the things they failed on to their client. They also kept adding shots, or tried to. Not even sure if this agency and client still work together. Needless to say though, we didn’t have any further problems during this shoot. The shoot overall was about $200K and after my overheads and crew costs, I made about $50K but with all the extra work reorganizing schedules and late nights reworking production books it probably took about 4 weeks of my time all told. so although a pretty big invoice, a lot of it went out to crew.

Editorial is so poorly paid now that I will shoot if its a story I’m excited about. Generally paying about $600-$1K per day. On those though, they are usually really fun so the pay off is work I’d likely use in my book and relatively stress free days.

I was doing WFH for a small agency working on a national chain for $1500 a day as I really liked the people I worked with, but after a disagreement with their client, who basically told me how to light his shitty product I told them I was done with giving them an unbelievable rate and they’d have to go with my regular standard rate. Needless to say, I’ve never worked with them again.

For marketing I’ve tried most things over the years. I’ve done all the source books at one time or another. I’ve done face to face with At-Edge over the years both in person and virtual, I’ve done printed promo’s at regular frequencies, i’ve done sporadic promo’s, i’ve done very targeted custom lists and also done the old school cold calling. Generally though I find most of my work comes through referrals from past/present clients. About 60% of my work comes from clients i’ve been with for 10+ years, so maintaining those relationships is important. I’m no kiss-ass though, so don’t send gifts, or take them to dinner unless we already have a project to discuss. I always liked face to face meetings & without things like At-Edge its really hard to get face to face meetings these days from cold calls. Obviously having a stellar website with good SEO optimization is probably one of the best marketing tools that works for me. I actually stepped back from Instagram as I don’t think my typical clients would source their photographers through this medium.

Best Advice: I always say something that was instilled in me when I started assisting and that is ‘you are only as good as your last shoot’. Meaning I won’t be remembered by a client for what I shot 10 shoots ago, so I approach each shoot like its my first one with that client.

Worst Advice: We can fix it in post.
It’s made us lazy IMO, and although there is some need to retouch & fix, its usually because we don’t have either the product or time to get right on set. Back in the day when shooting film, we’d probably only shoot 2 or 3 shots a day, but now its in the region of 6-8 generally, so don’t always have the time to get it right first time. Also as I deal with food, almost every food item will be different to the last. As an example, if I’m shooting steak, we could have a really beautiful steak, perfectly seared, fat lines in all the right places and when its cut it could look horrible. In the past, we factored this into how many shots a day are achievable and have the time to find the perfect steak, but now with more shots expected and smaller budgets for everything, we don’t have the time or in many cases, enough product to ensure we get it in camera.

Honestly this is all subjective, but for starters don’t be a jack of all trades. Even though I have the experience to shoot, food style and prop style, I would only do this if it was totally unavoidable such as when covid hit. A great food stylist will almost certainly give you better results than doing it yourself. Same applies to prop styling. A great prop stylist will almost always go the extra mile for a thin glass if we’re shooting drinks. I remember saying to an emerging prop stylist that I don’t expect them to style and purchase from chain stores as I could do that. I think that was a light bulb moment for her and although I can’t be credited with her establishing herself, she took on board what I said and has become quite well known and when we get to work together, she often brings this up as good advice.

Also, test as much as you can. Its so easy to get complacent-i’ve been like that many times, so keep engaged and focussed. I offer my space to any of my assistants to use if theres no shoots and most don’t take me up on it. Some do-which has always been great to see.

The biggest advice I have though, especially to those trying to take it to the next level is to really understand your market. Price yourself appropriately. Ask questions of your client. Before you even submit an estimate ask the client what their budget is. You might be surprised. If you low ball its really hard for you to get rates you probably could get. It hurts everyone. Some clients take that and use it against the entire community. Also, If you low ball and mess up, it doesn’t leave much in the pot for someone like me to reshoot. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve been asked to reshoot a project only to find out there is no budget because it was all spent on the first go. I know that doesn’t help nail the job first time, but it at least provides a bar for everyone to be more or less competitive with each other.

I honestly don’t know how we got to be shooting more than 8 shots a day, but again, it happens. Don’t be desperate and offer more than you can comfortably offer with the quality the client expects. I got offered a project last year through a huge agency and they wanted 16 shots in a day with video for 2 of them and they said this was standard. Not in my studio it isn’t. It’s less than 30 mins per shot with set changes and is impossible to do with any lasting quality. Once I broke it down like that they said I could bid it as a 2 day shoot. Needless to say I didn’t get that project & honestly didn’t want it, but at the very least I bid it as it should have been bid. I know they said it was too expensive, but in my mind it’s their loss. A slightly better budget would have proved beneficial for everyone. No-one wants to work 16 shots a day especially food stylists. It’s really demanding on them and I personally have their backs and know with almost certainty what it should take.

I have a saying I use as a mantra: ‘You can have cheap & you can have good, but you can’t have them both’.

A Beauty (commercial, still life, models) + Travel (editorial, fine art) photographer: Roughly $15k (net) down from $350k in 2019

Most of my income was from the beauty industry in NY. Everything disappeared last year and I’m focusing on travel + travel writing now.

Up until last year: Commercial beauty 90%; Travel 10%. Clients included L’Oreal.

Now travel / editorial 100%. Clients are small editorial + gallery.

I have retirement savings and max out my SEP IRA each year.

Work days when I travel are vague because I’m not shooting every day.

I was bringing in $400k in the years right before Covid, but as of early last year, everything disappeared.

When I started shooting travel assignments, I began writing the stories as well. This really clicked for me creatively and the editors who knew me responded very well to it.

My previous beauty shoots: 1-2 days per month, 8-10 hours. Pre-covid $7k/day + roughly $10k retouching per shoot day. Licensing was all usage (digital, POS) except advertising.

Post covid, rates were slashed in half and the amount of work by a small fraction. Then everything disappeared.

Travel editorials: usually 1-2 weeks, $5K for images + story. 1-2 assignments per year.

Best recent shoots:
1. Retouching-only gig for Mac Cosmetics (APAC), about $10k for 10 images.
2. Travel Assignment in Bora Bora – $5k but everything was sponsored so zero expenses. I ended up getting 3 editorial stories + two fine art print sales ($4k) from that one trip.

Worst recent shoot:
God help me. It was an editorial cover story for The Explorers Club in NY. I did a trip to Vanuatu independently and the editor had seen some of the images and a story I wrote in another magazine and asked if I could do one for their magazine The Explorers Journal. It was of course for free but I thought it would be a great opportunity. I wrote a new story from scratch and gave her the best images. No response. I followed up again and again as she said it would be for the forthcoming issue. No response. After all that work I had done for free, she ghosted me. I was furious. She finally reappeared 6 months later and said it would be a cover story in the next issue and that she’d love to meet me and bring me to the club to get to know everyone. Great! She took the images and story, and never responded to a thing after that. Just appalling. I know I’m not alone in saying this but the level of ghosting and unresponsiveness in our industry has reached an unbelievable high.

I started learning video editing during covid and discovered I quite liked it. I’m just doing small projects with my iphone to practice and build a reel but maybe it’ll turn into something more.

I’ve tried everything for marketing from Agency Access (doesn’t work) to posting more on social media (doesn’t work) to networking events (doesn’t work). The only thing that has ever worked is pure word of mouth. When I let go of trying, things happen.

Best advice: when the creative director of Random House forced me against my will to write some travel blog posts for a Fodors rebrand. That turned into one of my biggest creative successes.

Worst advice: it’s ALWAYS something I never asked for and is always along the lines of “you just have to put yourself out there and demand to be seen”.

I share the frustration that ghosting and unresponsiveness has reached an all time high in this industry. My #1 client pre covid hadn’t paid me for 9 months yet I was still working nearly 7 days a week for them. The one in charge would post selfies all day long but “not have time” to deal with AP. I feel that the entire industry right now is a dumpster fire, everything is changing but no one knows what it’s changing into. The old trajectories don’t exist anymore and neither do the destinations. I feel like it’s time, at least for me personally, to take a step back and let the industry figure its shit out. We can blame it on social media, we can blame it on Gen Z’s taking the helm and not knowing how communication works, we can blame it on companies not willing to commit or invest in quality work, and we can blame it on magazines disappearing. But the unresponsiveness from people is what kills me. And I know I’m not alone.

Educating Clients On Paying For Professional Photography

My rate structure explains what kind of usage is included and not included and it’s sent to them the minute they reach out to me, so they know. If they question the usage, I blame the government lol. I tell clients that by law, a photographer always owns the rights to the photos and that the client is paying to use them. The more uses, the more eyeballs, the higher the licensing fee. And they sometimes retort with “But so-and-so doesn’t charge me like that, I just get everything in the day rate…” And I reply “I know it’s confusing because every photographer creates the rate structure that works best for them.” I have heard that in markets outside of NYC/LA, photogs don’t always charge for licensing, so I think it’s a less challenging convo here in NYC. But the firmer I am on my policies/boundaries, the better my clients have gotten. It can be scary to say no to money, but I find it’s an energetic thing: say no to clients that question my business practices and my rates and yes to other prosperous people that value my worth.
– @reganwoodphoto

About 10 years ago, I got, from John Keatley, one of the best advices about pricing: it’s easier to change your clientele than a client’s mind about prices. If a client doesn’t understand usage, cost of doing business and production, I respectfully tell them we’re likely not a good match for their job.
– @pedrontheworld

It needs to be one of the first topics to discuss with the client. Like right in the reply email at first contact. I have long advocated for a rate sheet approach that clearly lays out your fees and license policies in a PDF as a sort of “take it or leave it“ situation. It shows potential clients that you are confident in your skills and pricing and leaves less room for haggling. Of course, this doesn’t work for all jobs, but it covers me for 80 to 90% of what I shoot. I imagine most photographers with the exception of purely agency repped advertising photographers could probably benefit from a similar approach.
– @apalmanac

This is a helpful resource:
– @post_photography

I find that even big companies in big cities still don’t understand licensing, prices. Or they do but they want it cheap and easy. Sometimes it’s better to walk away from a big name to prevent a headache. Stick to companies and clients who care!
– @karinnagylfphe

I fired clients several times early in my career. If you’re not a nepo baby you have to start at the bottom. Eventually my business was not able to afford working for certain clients so they had to go. Low-budget clients won’t suddenly come up with a pile of cash so fire them (kindly) ASAP. It’s just business and they’d do the same to us.
– @giuliosciorio

enjoying music personally on Spotify, but that doesn’t mean you can download it and use it on your YouTube video.
– @frenchlyphotography

When I get to that point, I explain what needs to be explained and then follow it with “sorry for all of that legalese, but this is how my industry operates. The bottom line is I’m making you images, and you have the license to use them how we discussed.” Works 9/10 of the time.
– @dave_pluimer

The Association of Photographers have a calculator for commercial photography. I have a gentle letter that links to the calculator explaining why commercial photography has usage limits and different pricing from personal photos.
– @really_rielle this article is a good start for the folk in the states
– @mauro_palmieri_photographer

I’m hearing a lot of ppl say just leave the client if they don’t understand. No. It’s so important to educate your clients even if you don’t want them. It’s all of our jobs to hold an industry standard and explain usage.
– @angela_peterman

This is a valid topic with a simple (and not so simple) answer. Simple: if you want your clients to pay more, illustrate and validate your value. Clients don’t just pay more because you’re telling them your services cost more, per se. Tell them WHY your services cost more (Experience? Special skill set? Ability to herd cats while still delivering A+ work?) What is it that makes you worth more? Not so simple answer: outside of big (or at least bigger) budget clients accustomed to 5 to 6 figure shoots, the creative fee + licensing model is antiquated and a huge stretch for most. Love it or hate it, it’s true. That doesn’t mean, however that you can’t still incorporate usage and time parameters into your fees. Simplify it for the client. Make it easy. Give them a lump “creative fee” that incorporates the your time and shooting skill/experience, specific deliverables, as well as usage and time parameters on the deliverables. This has been a common approach for me for the majority of my clients over the years and it is more effective, easier to understand and nearly always nets me more $$$ in the end. Ultimately, small market clients aren’t going to pay big market rates nor are they going to acquiesce to big market pricing strategy/mentality. You could educate and pontificate on your value till you’re blue in the face, but eventually you’ll realize that small market clients have a tolerance ceiling for what they’re willing to pay. And if you want to make more money, you’ll need to dial in larger market clients.
– @adambarkerphotography

I always give the example of doing a photo shoot for a small mom-and-pop coffee shop versus doing a photo shoot for Starbucks. Both shoots would have the same creative day rate and resulting photos would still be of coffee, people, places. Then, that gives me the opportunity to talk to them about usage and scale. They get it every time.

The Art of the Personal Project: Margaret Lampert

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Margaret Lampert

The Art of Growing Up

My documentary short, The Art of Growing Up, was inspired by a conversation I had with a mother of three about how one speaks to young children about all the craziness of the world we inhabit; how to make sense of so many things that are completely and utterly senseless. She said that, of course, these conversations are excruciating but so necessary, and that it was in these children she found hope for the future.

Since every advertising project includes a motion component, as photographers we must all demonstrate our ability to direct. Rather than showcase this skill through work made for clients I decided the most powerful way to make my case was to concept and direct an original piece.  As a lifestyle photographer I have always tried to set my work apart by capturing moments that feel completely authentic rather than performances conjured up only because a camera is present. As my goal was to show how my still work translates to motion, I decided I wanted to tell a story that was as authentic and honest as my still pictures.

I first presented my idea to a team I had worked with previously: creative director Andrea Diaz-Vaughn and producer Sarah Clough. They were both immediately enthusiastic about the project and collaborated with me on every detail related to bringing this idea to life including sharing family, friends, countless hours, and most of all their expertise in concepting, scripting and storytelling. Their passion for the project and guidance in the development and execution of the piece made it all possible. After seeing my DP Aurora Brachman’s short film ‘Joychild’ I knew she was the perfect fit both in terms of sensibility and her extensive experience working with kids and teens. Editors Jeff Ledell and AJ Serrano wove it all together so artfully with the perfect combination of voices, b roll & music. Our team was small but mighty and I am so proud of what we’ve created.


To see more of this project, click here


APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world.  She has been involved in the photography and illustration advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram