A Photo Editor working for a print and digital media brand with national circulation: 63k (salary)

I have 15+ years experience in the photo industry. I used to work as a freelance photographer but have not done so in several years.

I work approximately 260 days a year. We receive PTO and holidays. I’ll say though that for all my vacation time last year, there were really only 1-2 days where I didn’t actually work at least half the day.

The salary has risen slowly with consistent, but small, merit raises every year plus a couple of promotions. I feel like my salary is still low, especially in comparison with male peers in similar positions. But it’s hard to say, as we’re in a Southeastern city and cost of living here is lower than NYC or LA.

I have a 401k that the company matches up to 4-5%. I can’t remember–the amount changes every time our brand is bought and sold so it’s hard to keep up.

I work for an editorial brand that covers lifestyle, food, etc. We hire photographers for a variety of shoots like travel, food, homes, celebrity, etc. We have a roster of freelancers that we work with regularly and are always looking for more. I look at Diversify Photo, Color Positive, Indigenous Photograph, Wonderful Machine, and various email promos I get from agencies.

Travel is hardest to hire for. You’ve got to be good at food, outdoors, interiors, portraits, etc. It’s hard to find shooters who do it all well, quickly and reliably.

Saddens me to say but I wouldn’t recommend anyone pursue a career in print media at this time, especially for photo. IME, the photo departments are first to get slashed when cuts come around. We’re all operating with fewer and fewer people, yet the workload keeps increasing (hello print AND digital).

The toes you step on today could be attached to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow. Be kind. and treat people with respect – my grandmother (but I think it’s great career advice for creatives).

An email intro with link to your work is great, just make it clear that you know the brand. We get lots of emails from people who’ve clearly never read our magazine.

Instagram works great too. The main thing for me is that expectations regarding response need to be reasonable. Should anyone really feel entitled to a response on an unsolicited email or phone call?

The truth is: I try very hard to respond to everyone. I get it because I’ve been on the other side. But we get so many emails and messages. Some are borderline harassment! If you only knew the kinds of phone calls and emails your photo editor/producer/art director was getting. Unsolicited messages have to fall to the bottom of the to-do list, which unfortunately, is bottom-less. We just don’t have the bandwidth.

That being said, if I contact you first then I promise that I won’t ghost you. If I do, roast me. It’s rude and unprofessional. I’ve had to have uncomfortable conversations due to last minute changes but so far, everyone I’ve worked with has been gracious and understanding.

I lean on Instagram and magazines pretty heavy to find photographers. I do my best to pay attention to photo awards, photo websites, and blogs (like A Photo Editor).

Be easy to work with.
Be kind.
Respond in a timely manner to emails. It’s so important. If you’re consistently slow to respond or hard to reach, we’re can’t keep reaching out to you.

If you’re rude, you’re gonna lose out on gigs. People won’t want to work with you. Be nice to people. It is not hard.

And please talk to us! If you need something or have ideas, speak up. My favorite photographers to work with are the ones who call me up and talk to me like a friend. They know how to collaborate. They’re always looking for solutions instead of complaining or telling me why something can’t be done. This is how you earn our trust.

A Commercial Lifestyle photographer in his 30s: 2023 (YTD) Net: 550k, Income 425k 

Photo has basically been my whole life. Fell in love with photography in high school, assisted during and out of college. Started to get little assignments for the local rags, like $50 (in 2009) to shoot an entree at a restaurant for the regional paper, but I’d pretend I was shooting it for the New Yorker. Would embellish, ask the chef for a portrait even though I didn’t need it, just to build my portfolio. The paper would run the photo of the burger but I’d walk away with 5-10 new images for my book. Hustled a ton. Always sending emails of new work, always going to NYC for meetings. 

That approach lead me into a solid run of editorial work starting in 2009. Unwittingly/unknowingly, the style I was shooting in lent itself to commercial work. I got picked up by a rep in 2011 at 23, purely bewildered as to how I would fit into advertising. It was equal courtship and we talked for about a year before official signing. Looking back through those emails, I was so green. Not only in production experience but also communication. Many folks think getting picked up by a rep is just on the merit of your work, but it’s also about how you conduct your business, and how you communicate with clients on calls and emails. You are your own creative arm, but also communications and PR and admin and financial arms too. If your work is bad, if you can’t communicate well, if you’re careless with finances… these are all things a rep cares about. 

My work has slowly shifted from 90% editorial 10% commercial to 5% editorial 95% commercial. I miss the assignments and feel like it’s the absolute best training for commercial work. Nowadays with less editorial work going around, it’s a rougher transition from personal projects right into commercial. Editorial is boot camp, in the best way. You often have little time, not a huge budget, but you need to make something amazing. There is a growing gap between experience and expectation on commercial shoots. I have heard of photographers that literally can’t hit focus more than 10% of the time on their first commercial shoot or can’t run a crew or handle the time pressures. Just because your personal IG feed is cool doesn’t guarantee a smooth commercial shoot;  editorial used to vet and smooth that gap out.

I haven’t spent any money on marketing since Covid; I generally believe your time and money should go into your work and your work should be your marketing. That said, in person meetings are incredibly powerful and the only marketing I would consider. IG as a platform is trash but it’s free, the reach is huge, and I focus my time there in comprehensively sharing work. Lastly, I hate math and numbers and honestly thinking about money, so I have a CPA as well as a bookkeeper, but I do my own books that she looks over, because I like to stay tight to the numbers. Also I don’t want to have a Rihanna situation. When I hit my 30s, living in the States, my focus shifted away from trying to get cool clout-y fashion-y design-y assignments and towards just being able to fund my retirement, donate a good chunk each year to causes I believe in, and cross the finish line without debt. Sorry, Dazed. So I fully fund my SEP IRA each year, live within my means, and stack acorns. 
 
I don’t have a dream client or a number I want to hit for the year. My forever goal is life balance and happiness and to sustain a solid, long, consistent career.  Photo is fickle and challenging and all of the things, but it has given me a really incredible life, shown me the world, and I have domain over my time and schedule. I am grateful for that, and I keep the sentiment at the forefront of my mind. I keep negativity far, far away from me. Longevity and relevance are my biggest career goals. I often have 5-10 year old images in my treatments alongside work from a month ago. There are definitely clients looking to chase visual trends but there are also clients who need to use the images beyond the season and I look to meet them there.

Having an ego is dangerous. I begin each year expecting nothing work-wise and build up from there. Keep the hustle going. You can’t control much in this industry (jobs coming in or not, types of shoots that hit your inbox), but you can control how much you apply yourself and your mental state, which often informs the quality of your photography. My main mantra is ‘own your shit’. Don’t make excuses. Make every shoot count. If you’re shooting and are not interested in the photos you’re making, figure out why and change it on the spot. Don’t waste your time or your clients money making work you don’t like, or not being 100% dialed 100% of the time. Commercial shoots are like a one-time circus performance that has no rehearsals so pre-production prep and a focus on the details are huge. 

It’s pointless to gripe, complain, or expend energy on being negative. Similarly, don’t compare yourself to others, and be supportive of your peers. Share contacts, give advice, be excited for folks in this industry when they make amazing work or get the job you were both bidding on. It’s not all about you, and they deserved it and worked hard for it. Photographers are awarded jobs because of the whole package: their work, their treatments, their communication, their experience… what they bring to the table overall. Speaking of treatments, I put a shit-ton of work into them. It’s the document the whole client and agency team will see, and it’s super helpful for non-visual people (like a CMO) to read your writing because they might not get the photos but they get the words. And they weren’t on the creative call this is your one shot. Treatments are highly personal; I have spent hundreds of hours on mine over the years and words are easy to lift, so it’s the one thing I don’t share. 

If I had advice for aspiring/emerging photographers it’s to avoid spending too much time online/proverbially in the comments. Instead, sharpen your eye and develop your visual voice and personal sense of taste. This is especially important as IG is a continual echo chamber of work viewed on a tiny phone that begins to bleed together. It’s hard to get hired for anything remarkable until your photos can only look like they came from you. Look at every author, every musician, it’s the same way. 

As I’ve worked my way into bigger shoots, I’ve learned that I can shine if I am a very dedicated collaborative partner through the whole preproduction process right through the shoot. 95% of what I focus on is everything peripheral to the act of taking photos, 5% is holding a camera and taking photos. The 95% is meeting deadlines, being dialed and prepared for calls, giving 1000% attention in casting and locations, organizing, assembling, communicating and setting up the crew for success, being a calm communicative air traffic control on set. 

Photo assistants are the most important members in my crew. When there are no margins in the schedule on some of the late stage capitalism commercial photoshoots I’m on, where everything has to run as tight as a Beyonce concert, I absolutely need a dialed team of assistants. A good 1st/gaffer can direct a whole crew and pre-set the next shot, which frees me up to think/work in the present, so I’m trying to get them between $800-1000/day for shoot days pending complexity. That rate cascades down the rest of the crew. Assistants are some of the hardest workers on set and deserve every dollar. 

I follow a strict Monday to Friday 9-5(ish) schedule, unless I’m shooting or scouting, I don’t do email or even post work to IG on weekends. Computer gets turned off. I have told many a producer to stop emailing the agency on a weekend because then the agency emails back and it becomes a 24/7 work-a-thon to the bottom and we all end up on Lipitor in our 30s. Everyone’s life is more important than their work. Thanks for reading :) 

A Music packaging/music publicity, commercial, fine art and portrait photographer who is Nashville based: $66k (net)

I work as a photographer in the music industry (album packaging, publicity) as well as a 1st/2nd assistant in the tv/film industry.

My income is 60% tv/film assisting 40% key photographer in music industry.

My clients are Indy and major label for music. Top tier Hollywood studios for tv/film (Disney, Marvel, AMC, FX, Sony, Netflix, Hulu, etc).

Overhead is business insurance, online website costs and file delivery fees. (About $200/month).

For retirement I have long term stock market investments.

In 2022 I worked about 80 days (much less in 23 due to writers/actors strikes). 2020 was nearly wiped due to pandemic. 21 and 22 showed increase in tv/film travel productions (added 3-4 new clients/producers)
2023 has been at a near standstill for tv/film due to the strikes.

As a photographer I’ve shot a lot more bigger music related jobs for Indy and major labels but with smaller budgets.

For a recent music publicity shoot:
1 day shoot with two location and studio shots. One assistant. Budget was $4,500 with allowances for digital billboards and up to 5 magazine cover licenses. All glam/wardrobe and day-of expenses were handled through label. After my assistant ($500),I made $4,000.00. Included multiple phone meetings and concept discussions. Shot, edited and delivered high res files within 10 days.

For tv/film assist jobs:
Average 4-6 days, including two travel days, one/two prelight days, 1-2 shoot days. Based on 10 hours but it’ss usually 12-17 hour pre-light and shoot days. My assist rate in tv/film is $750/10 (1st) and $650/10 for 2nd assist.

Best shoot was ad campaign for Jack Daniels. Included 2 half day travels, 2 shoot days. After expenses (digital tech and assistant, plus producer), I took home about $22,000.

Worst was probably a $1,000 publicity shoot for a well known musician. They (management) ended up licensing out 3 billboards and at least 5 magazine covers without additional fees to me.

I shoot video, but very little on purpose. Other than a few music videos I’ve done some recording session video footage for a few artists while also shooting stills.

My best marketing is reputation and acknowledgment/credit from other projects. Tags and mentions on social media is huge.

Best and worst advice: say yes to everything and shoot more than expected.

Know your worth. Be willing to work for less if it’s a project you want to be associated with. Be willing to walk away from a job that you don’t want to be associated with (no matter the budget). Your reputation is everything.

The Art of the Personal Project: Andy Anderson

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:   Andy Anderson

 

Andy Anderson Taps Into Cuba’s Diverse Visual Canvas for a Personal Fashion Project

Andy Anderson believes that to have true success as a photographer, it requires you to be obsessed with the art form and for Andy, staying curious. It’s this fervor for the craft that fuels his creativity and a deep appreciation for collaboration that brings his visions to life. Recently, Andy created a personal project focusing on fashion photography, a genre he has explored over the past year.

Not commissioned by a client, this personal journey was to expand his portfolio and test his ability to art direct a fashion shoot. The shoot was a celebration of craft, an opportunity to grow as an artist and in the end, the images prove that Andy’s philosophy and talent meld together to create beautiful imagery.

Andy says that his choice to travel to Cuba comes from visiting the country for the past 30 years and learning about the country’s rich diversity of people, architecture, and clothing. All of these things offer the perfect palette for his creative vision. The visual diversity of Cuba provided an ideal canvas for the shoot and Andy’s deep love for the country only fueled his enthusiasm for the project.

When asked what the best part of this shoot was, Andy unequivocally responded with “the crew.” The significance of a solid crew was amplified by the unique challenges of working in a closed society like Cuba. Not only did the local crew help to facilitate the logistics of the shoot, but they also helped navigate complexities like obtaining locally sourced clothing for the fashion project. This wasn’t just about dressing the models; it was about embracing the authentic Cuban style by using clothing that was sourced within the country, some of which were vintage and celebrated the rich history of Cuba. The expertise and professionalism of the crew were vital in ensuring that every aspect of the shoot, from location scouting to art direction, was executed flawlessly. Andy Anderson described them as the most professional crew he had ever worked with, and their dedication to the project was a testament to their commitment to making this personal shoot a success.

During the nine-day shoot, Andy and his team scouted a variety of locations, from sandy beaches to private homes, bustling streets, and boxing gyms. Each location was carefully chosen to showcase the distinct beauty and culture of Cuba. Havana, with its captivating scenery and frozen-in-time charm, proved to be a visual treasure trove and enhanced the allure of the images. Working with local talent added authenticity to the shoot, as the models were local to the area and represented the community visually and culturally.

Andy’s approach to the project was fluid and open-minded. He began with a rough idea but allowed the creative process to evolve organically and collaboration and experimentation were key. This project inspires us and is a reminder that curiosity and creativity and instrumental in evolving your work. We’re excited to share the still imagery work with you now and keep an eye out for the 16mm film Andy and his DP Cavin Brothers shot on location in the coming months.

Local Cuban Crew:

Executive Producer – Josue Lopez Lozano

Producer – Daniela de Mello

Stylist – Narciso Martinez

Hair and Make Up Artist – Jennifer González Vigo 

Model – Melanie Wilma

Model – Lea Vall

To see more of this project, click here

Instagram

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

Marketing methods from photographers in my salary survey

Here’s a selection of marketing methods from photographers I’ve surveyed. Head over to instagram for more discussion: https://www.instagram.com/p/C0PNiUiu18K

I am strictly word of mouth.

My philosophy in general has been “throw enough shit at the wall and some of it is bound to stick.

At the end of the day, I’ve found the most success with in-person events (trade shows, speaking panels, etc) where I can get face time with the right people.

I have better luck with Instagram and LinkedIn.

I mainly market on Instagram, LinkedIn and my website.

Putting time and effort into a strong and visually appealing website has done more for my business than anything else.

My biggest effort goes into SEO where I rank number one in google for several key terms in my target markets.

I find most of my work comes through referrals from past/present clients.

Word of mouth and Cold emails.

I’m a huge fan of trying to meet as many people as you can in person.

word of mouth.

I think that creating coherent bodies of personal work, then submitting them for features in prominent online magazines is pretty much the best marketing you can do.

Instagram is of course the necessary evil and undoubtedly the most important marketing tool for a photographer

Instagram, Google, Facebook and word of mouth are my highest returning markets.

I would prefer to invest energy into LinkedIn being a B2B business this gets the right eyeballs on my work.

I rely on social, website and word of mouth

I really built my brand heavily thru instagram. Everything else has been word of mouth

I have an Instagram, which is meh, and I go out and approach people, or cold call people, which is better.

Word of mouth is my best marketing. I make sure that I do my best to please any client, but or small as they might tell someone else about me. I also do a lot of emails to photographers, agents and producers.

Just posting candidly on Instagram. Haven’t sent personal marketing out besides what my agency shares.

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.

to be completely honest, I’m not sure what’s effective anymore.

I invested a lot in my network in the beginning, reconnecting with old contacts, posting a lot on social media, and cold emailing/newsletters.

Other then maintaining a current website and posting on Instagram, we have not marketed in the traditional sense for years.

Typically word of mouth and when people who hire us change jobs is how we pick up new clients.

Most effective out of that is Linkedin

Only marketing is keeping up with Instagram posts.

Email is my gold for marketing all of my business buckets

Wonderful Machine – every once in a while someone reaches out who finds me there.

I’ve been on Found, BLVD, Wonderful Machine, Luupe, and PhotoPolitic. The only one that has gotten me any interaction was Wonderful Machine where I at least got to put in two bids for large projects.

doing in-person meetings in all major cities 4 times a year.

Since I was never chasing giant commercial clients, most of my marketing focused on building personal relationships with people within my market.

I’ve had great success by shooting and sharing ambitious personal projects that were picked up by local and national press.

SEO is ever

A male Digi Tech based on the West Coast of Canada: 95 – 110k (net) CAD

I’m a Sole Proprietor and looking into incorporating, but held off to maximize my income on paper in the interest of getting a mortgage (In Canada, for sole proprietors, most banks take your previous two years income, average it and multiply by 5 to determine the mortgage amount you are eligible for). I recently did and will likely be incorporating at the start of the coming year

90% is digi tech work, 10% is photography. I occasionally shoot editorially and sometimes get the opportunity to shoot for small brands or small/pick up portions of a larger commercial shoot. I worked 4 years prior as a Photo Assistant.

80% of jobs are for clothing brands based on the West Coast of Canada that sell internationally.

I own a lot of digital tech gear, but not as much as a lot of other techs I know. Most of my shoots are on location and “medium budget” shoots, usually a tripod mounted tech station, a fleet of ipads, maybe a cart and monitor. I own and maintain enough to service clients needs for these shoots and rent anything that I won’t be able to get on set regularly or pay itself off efficiently.

I don’t have a studio or office space, but I do have a home office. My personal vehicle is insured for business use and is a great gear hauler. Small costs like new tether cables, hard drives, memory cards, digi accessories, etc. are the most frequent. I usually spend 10K~ per year on digital tech gear.

I’ve only recently got to a point where I can comfortably contribute to an RRSP, I aim to put 10% of earnings per year into it, hoping to increase that and create a more solid plan in the coming years.

100 average digi tech days a year and 10~ as a photographer.

To be very honest, I got lucky with the timing of Covid. In the previous years, I had invested a lot of time and money into tech gear and transitioning from primarily an assistant to a digi tech. Early 2020, I had paid off most of my current gear and found clients that hired me semi-consistently – if it had of been a year earlier, I would have been in a much more precarious position. When work picked back up again, I was busier than ever with digi tech work as creating space by providing screens and alternate ways to collaborate was more necessary. The clients that were busiest and have continued to be my most frequent were primarily clothing brands with most of the campaigns targeting online sales.

Most shoot days are on location, usually right on 10hrs, some more with travel time to locations. Roughly 60% of my bookings are 1-2 day shoots, while the other 40% are 3-5 days. Most shoots have two photo assists on our crew, sometimes three, sometimes just one. We rarely have video, sometimes incorporating a day or two of it into a multi-day shoot, but more often than not, purely photography.

My digital tech rate is $750CAD/10hr, except for some clients I have worked with since I started teching, the lowest being $650CAD/10hr which will raise at year end. I aim to raise my rates every year or two to account for inflation and for the most part, clients are receptive to the increase. My basic digi tech gear kit starts at $550CAD/day for a tripod mounted laptop setup and increases with additional add ons (ipads, cart, monitor, battery power, etc). As an average, gear rental usually amounts to roughly $650CAD/day. Most photographers I work with use their own camera(s).

I sometimes have the opportunity to hire photo assistants for photographers I work with frequently, if so $550CAD/10hr or higher depending on the budget or the assistant.

There hasn’t been much variation in my pay as a digital tech. On the rare occasion I tech for a commercial job from the US that is shooting in Canada, it can be more lucrative where rates are the same number, but in USD ($750/10hr CAD becomes $750/10hr USD or higher). Most of the time production will come to me with a rate they have already budgeted for. Those shoots usually require a lot more digi gear, but that doesn’t make much a difference to my take home pay as I’m usually renting that extra gear to supplement my modestly sized tech kit.

Nothing stands out as the worst paying, but everything low paying for me has been associated with editorial work. Whether it is teching or assisting for a photographer friend with a small budget or shooting my own editorial, I have taken budget cuts to make something creatively satisfying happen for myself, a friend or to try and distribute a slim to non-existent budget evenly between a small crew.

As a digital tech, almost all of my work has been word of mouth. Consistently trying to meet new contacts and being a reliable, friendly person to work with has done well for me.

Best Advice – be friendly, helpful and support the people you work with! No one wants to work with a jerk. Be aware of the varying reasons you might be a part of a crew and try to excel at those. Support your talented friends and help them make connections that will help them grow in the industry. We’ve all got different stories and are all trying to make this work. Also, most things on Jake Stangel’s instagram are great advice!

Check your ego with your crew – not just digi techs and photo assists, the whole crew. We’re all here to help you do this job in the best possible way if we’re given the space to. Be direct and honest, but there’s no need for unnecessary shade to be thrown.

A Visuals Editor in NYC: $120k

I work at a mid-sized NYC-based news outlet with a national distributed staff. Most of us work remotely.

My company offers 100% match on our retirement fund up to 5% of your base salary and the money vests immediately so it’s yours, even if you leave the company. I also have about $30k in a Roth IRA from my freelance days. Getting a retirement account with a company contribution was a big factor in me taking a staff job. I didn’t see a way to save enough for retirement as a freelancer.

I work about 315 days a year. We get 6 weeks of PTO (including sick days) + company holidays. It’s very difficult to take time off without falling behind on work but my manager and company try really hard to encourage everyone to use all their PTO.

I’ve aggressively negotiated to raise my salary more than 20% over the past few years at my current company. I love to see colleagues at other outlets being paid more than me because it gives me a data point to bring back to my managers to ask for more. Rising tides lift all boats. My income was no where close to what it is now when I was a freelancer living off maxed out credit cards and taking out loans to cover basic living expenses.

I still do a little freelancing on the side that brings in $5-30k/year depending on the year.

We pay photographers $500/day + $250/day for travel + meals and expenses. If days are longer than 8 hours, we will pay extra. We’ve paid as much as a triple day rate for a super long day. I try really hard to be humane to our people by proactively communicating what I can do (like booking their travel expenses on my corporate credit card if the expenses are a burden) and reminding people to invoice as soon as they file (we don’t require people wait for stories to publish before they invoice).

Photo editing is a really gratifying job if you love it, but it’s very different from being a photographer. I think a lot of photographers consider photo editing to be just a plan b photo job but if you got into photo because you want to be outside in the world, ask yourself if you’d really be happy with a corporate desk job being stuck behind a computer and in meetings all day. There’s a LOT of office politics to navigate and the work is really difficult. You have to look at a very high volume of really distressing content and there’s a lot of pressure being responsible for the wellbeing and safety of the freelancers you hire. But if you love telling stories in pictures and love supporting photographers and coaching people to create something special it might be a really good job for you.

Whether you decide it’s the right fit for you or not, be generous because everything in this industry is about relationships. The more you’re willing to give of yourself to others, the more others will want to return the favor when you are in need. For photo editing specifically, good relationships will get you in the door but you also need good relationships to be effective in the job. So much of setting photographers up for success comes down to photo editors having good personal relationships with reporters and word editors and colleagues across the newsroom so we can get the information and resources you need (soon enough) to do your best work.

Best Advice: The best professional opportunities of my career have been totally unexpected but they came about because I was headed in a particular direction. Work hard in the direction that feels right to you but be open to pivoting when something unexpectedly wonderful comes up along the way.

I also heard Bill Cramer say at an NPPA conference years ago that you are not entitled to make a living doing what you love. It’s so true. If you’re able to making a living doing what you love you need to consider yourself immensely privileged (as I do). My immigrant ancestors didn’t have that luxury and most workers in America don’t either. I think photography (news photography especially) is very important to society but passion is not enough for success if the market conditions are not right. I don’t know any photojournalists anymore who make a living 100% from editorial. So you have to take a cold hard look at yourself and your situation and if it’s not working, something needs to change. I see a lot of very miserable (mostly older white male) photographers who lament that the industry isn’t what it once was, walking around with a chip on their shoulders as though in a ruthless capitalist industry, they should be entitled to more than they currently have. The photographers I see who are happiest are the ones who have embraced learning new skills and reinventing themselves, subsidizing their editorial work with other sources of income. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these tend to be people whose identities were excluded in the “good old days”.

Worst: I was raised to believe that working hard and following your passion is enough and that it’s crass to pursue money. That’s not true. I got into a lot of debt working very hard for many years doing work I was very passionate about without valuing money sufficiently. I wish I had learned earlier in my career that money buys you choices. Not making or having enough money can trap you in bad, sometimes dangerous, relationships and work situations. The easiest way to save enough for retirement without being a super high earner is to leverage compound interest by starting to save and invest a little bit of money as early as you possibly can. If you’re in your 20s, start now. Max out your Roth IRA if you can. And invest as much as you can so your money can start earning interest, and your interest can earn interest.

I prefer photographers reach out to me by email or in person at conferences or gatherings but I also know it’s hard out there and I don’t think it’s fair or reasonable for editors to expect photographers to cater to each of our individual communication preferences. However you reach out, please remember that I am a human and be kind. It feels gross to be approached in a transactional or extractive way. I really encourage you to find ways to connect with editors beyond “I’m a photographer and I want you to hire me”. I like to get to know photographers as people because a lot of my hiring decisions are about more than just what your pictures look like. I’m looking to know what you are passionate about and how you would handle different situations. And I’m always looking for people I can trust to be kind and sensitive to the people I send you out to photograph so I need to see that energy from you in our interactions as well.

I find photographer anywhere and everywhere. Women photograph, diversify photo, indigenous photograph, instagram, other publications, portfolio reviews, word of mouth, at conferences and festivals.

Working in photo and journalism can brainwash us into a scarcity mindset but there are a lot of flourishing industries with higher pay, more job security, and more room for growth. If you absolutely love what you do and are finding a way to make it work, that’s a beautiful thing. But if you’re not, know that you’re not a failure. You’re a victim of a collapsing industry. And there’s no shame in closing the door on one chapter and moving onto another chapter of your career. There are many ways besides photo or journalism to contribute meaningfully to this world.

The Daily Edit – Trails Magazine

 
Trails Magazine
Editor-in-Chief: Ryan Wichelns

Cover Photographer: Sarah Attar

Heidi: Now that you’re 4 issues in and poised for 8, what has been your biggest creative challenge as a team?
Ryan: We’re definitely continuously trying to innovate. I feel like a lot of corporate magazines can get a little bit stagnant. It’s more difficult for them to switch things up. I like the fact that we can take advantage of our size and nimbleness to try new things and deliver new things to our readers. So I’m definitely trying to encourage new ideas from our contributors. 

Your team is fully remote across four time zones, with a distributed workforce what are some of the benefits and challenges?
Yeah, it’s easily the most geographically diverse team I’ve ever worked on. Our photo editor is on Alaska time, I’m on Pacific time, our managing editor is on Mountain time, our designer on Central, and our marketing director on the East. Scheduling obviously has its challenges but I like that we all get out to experience different places and different mountain ranges. We all have a little bit of geographic “expertise” I think. I grew up back East and used to think the big magazines had a little bit of a Rocky Mountain bias. Having our team spread out makes it harder to focus too hard on one spot.

You were funded via Kickstarter initially, what are your plans to keep the presses humming? (I enjoyed your ASMR of the printing press)
Our Kickstarter definitely got the ball moving and funded Issue 1, but every issue since then has been funded by our subscribers. Advertising is a very small part of our business, so we really rely on our subscribers and readers to keep the ship afloat.

How would define the editorial and photo direction of the magazine?
That’s an interesting question. I try not to pigeonhole our content too much, but I do think we try to put an emphasis on bigger, more research-intensive, more immersive, and frankly more important stories. Longform stuff. So much of journalism these days is quick-hit: Listicles, short reads, etc. We’re trying to fill the magazine with the kind of journalism that takes real work.  

You’ve spent your career as an outdoor journalist, so why start your own magazine?
I loved Backpacker. It was the first magazine I ever read as a kid—It was really important to me. Before Backpacker shut down, starting a magazine frankly wasn’t on my radar at all. But once they shut it down, it felt obvious. The backpacking community really didn’t have anything else and it felt like an important hole to fill. After a long time behind the scenes, I felt pretty confident that there was a way to do it better, so here we are.

What words of advice do you have for others considering independent journalism?
Trust your readers. If you make a product for them and make it something that’s easy to like (good content, quality, etc.) they will read it. Print isn’t dead, it’s only that cheap, mass-produced brands of print not thriving. Readers are willing to support good print.

Can you share the backstory for this cover image?
We made our way up and over McGee Pass in early September, on day two of our five-day backpacking trip through California’s High Sierra. On our way up to 11,895 feet, the lingering late-summer snowfields and still-thawing lakes were evidence of the record-breaking winter prior. I appreciated the rhythm and pace of moving among the mountains, allowing for quiet and continuous observation of the landscape, of the lines and the light and the colors, a moving meditation with each step.
 How did you get connected with Trails Magazine?
Sarah: I came across Trails Mag when it first emerged and was immediately intrigued and keen to submit work. I’ve always loved independent, photo-focused, magazines and was excited to see another pop onto the scene. Seeing my work printed is incredibly special, especially amongst some lovely storytelling and other incredible work. I try to engage with it in that way as much as I can, whether that’s through print sales, publications, or my own personal photo cards, it’s so special to bring the digital world into a tangible space. It’s also been a really fun way to build community in the outdoor photo industry. I started submitting some favorite images to Trails Mag and had one featured as a “Vantage Point” in the issue prior, and was incredibly excited and grateful to hear that this photo landed the Issue 4 cover.

How has nature and being human-powered shaped your photography?
Sarah: Photography and movement in nature have evolved symbiotically together in my life. They feel totally interwoven and inform each other constantly. It was over 10 years ago that I ran my first marathon and brought a disposable camera along with me to document it, one exposure for every mile. It was when I was training full-time and living in Mammoth Lakes, CA that I really started to develop my photographic style. I would spend miles running, observing the light, the mountains, the colors, the trails, and then return to these places to photograph them. This felt like a very intimate study and experience of the land. These two very natural and effortless ways of engaging continually inform and inspire the other. A lot of my initial work during this time was very landscape-focused, and that’s still one of my favorite areas to work in. Since diving into photography full-time, it has naturally evolved into documenting people moving through these landscapes. I love photographing people in their element, finding their flow, working hard, and going after their goals in these big beautiful spaces; capturing human-powered movement in the places that move us, while physically exploring the earth and our connection to it. Photography and movement in nature are the ways that I find most presence. They both turn my attention to the world around me. And I’d say a majority of my favorite images have involved some form of time and movement getting out into the mountains.

How can photographers get involved?
Anyone interested in contributing can find out more at trailsmag.net/contribute.
Subscribers can just go to trailsmag.net
Images for the blog post:  Lauren Danilek

 

The Art of the Personal Project: Annabelle Breakey

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:  Annabelle Breakey

This is a body of work that focuses on a world that we all secretly have, but don’t really talk about: Guilty Pleasures. Guilt oftentimes is deeply intertwined with our relationship with food. Those tantalizing, excessive, and undoubtedly indulgent yummy experiences that we all pine for – to gorge, swig, smoke, stuff, dip, indulge, just over your fill. This work is not to be a guilt trip; It’s meant to be a guilty pleasure and to be enjoyed and explored with your own sense of wanting and to have a giggle over your own experiences. No judgement, all fun.

The reason why the subject is so appealing is that 38 percent of Americans confess they’re at least a little ashamed of their guilty pleasures, with 39 percent admitting to lying about them and 22 percent hiding one from their partner.

Whether the food is expensive, like indulging in a Tomahawk steak and bottle of red wine, by yourself, or excessive such as ordering way too much Chinese takeout and reading trashy novels in bed while eating by yourself, the goal of this work is to have a playful poke at our inner selves. We’ve all wanted what’s in the pictures to some degree.

Through this project, I want to free viewers to enjoy their own culinary guilty pleasures. In other words, go there and not be shy, within reason. We’re all human. Your love for food should be a sign of self-care, not weakness. Sometimes we just need a little fun with our relationship with food and not feel bad about it. Live a little.

To see more of this project, click here

Instagram

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: Trade Show Photos For Healthcare Client

By Andrew Souders, Wonderful Machine

Concept: Multi-day photo shoot of a branded trade show booth with accompanying product photography
Licensing: Unlimited use of up to 110 images in perpetuity
Photographer: Brand Narrative, Still Life/Product Specialist
Agency: Mid-size US-based branding & design agency with multiple international offices
Client: Mid-sized Global Diagnostic Healthcare Product Manufacturer

Summary

I recently helped a photographer build an estimate for a West Coast-based healthcare product manufacturer. The brief described capturing the brand’s large, high-end trade show/product display booth during an event at a convention center in the southwestern US. The images needed to showcase the branded booth design and the products it featured. It also included a shot list of individual products on white in a studio set-up at the same venue. The creative plan was for single-day coverage of the booth during the event and an additional 2 days of product photography in an on-site studio. The final use of the images would be for web and print ads as well as collateral purposes, including the client’s website, social media, and marketing/publicity for other industry events.

After reviewing the creative brief and a few revisions to the estimate based on feedback from the agency the client was working with, we landed on a budget to provide up to 110 images over 3 shoot days. This was comprised of 20 final selects of the booth at the trade show and up to 90 images of an anticipated 18 individual products, which would include multiple angles and close-up details of each.

We included a note that the client would be responsible for location coordination at the venue, providing, transporting, and styling for all of the products (some of the products were noted as quite large, and would require extra attention and coordination when moving and preparing them for photographing). Also, the client would be responsible for providing meals for the crew during shoot days.

Fees

We initially suggested Unlimited use for up to 2 years. The client returned requesting to see pricing for a “full buyout.” We tend to avoid this term because it is vague and can mean different things to different people. After clarifying with the client, we landed a license for Unlimited use in perpetuity for up to 110 selected images. I estimated $27k would be an agreeable combined creative/licensing fee for 3 shoot days and the intended use. In this scenario, the size of the client and the amount of content put upward pressure on the fee. However, the niche market of this brand and the smaller audience it would appeal to applied downward pressure. You can read our guide about our lists of vertical markets and more about what vertical markets are in this article.

Air travel would be required for the photographer to reach the venue. We budgeted for the photographer to travel to the location for 1 day to photograph the trade show booth. Then return a few days later after the client had time to transport and prep the products in a separate room at the venue for the 2 days of product shots. Since this would require 2 trips to and from the venue city, I included 4 travel days at $750 each. Aside from that, I added 2 days for the photographer’s pre-production and prep time at $1000 each.

Crew

Since there was a need for a large amount of imagery over the 2 product shoot days, we included a budget for a local producer to aid in coordination. We also included a secondary stills photographer during the days that the product photography occurred. Our aim would be to run 2 individual sets to cover as much product content as possible over the 2 shoot days available for this part of the job.

We added a first assistant for all 3 shoot days at $550/day. They would help with lighting and camera equipment management during the trade show as well as the product days. We also budgeted 2 days for a second assistant at $450/day to act as an extra set of hands on the product shoot days. In addition to the assistants, we budgeted for 2 digital techs (1 for each set). They would handle file management, cleanup, and adjustments during the product shoot portion.

Equipment

The photographer would be able to provide some of their own gear and we included a $6750 budget for the appropriate cameras, lighting, and grip equipment to accommodate the larger products that would need to be photographed, taking into consideration the anticipated 2 sets that would be running during the product shoot as well. I added a $4000 budget for both digital techs’ workstations for 2 days and $220 for portable hard drives and media backups.

Travel

The photographer planned to fly to and from the shoot location. Thus, I included $435 for flights and baggage and $1150 for 5 nights at a hotel. We also included $100 a day for car rentals/transportation and $75 per diem for the photographer. All other crew were intended to be hired locally and wouldn’t need a travel budget.

Miscellaneous

We decided to absorb the insurance costs for the shoot. This included $450 for miscellaneous expenses like production supplies, parking, extra meals, etc.

Post Production

The photographer would include a basic initial edit of the content for the client’s review and to make selections. We then included $7750 to cover up to 30 minutes on each selection for basic processing and file cleanup. We also included product background knockouts and delivery of the final assets to the client.

Results

The estimate was quickly approved, and the photographer was awarded the project. The photographer let us know that he was able to get an additional budget approved to include a DP/filmmaker colleague of his on the shoot. They would provide the client with some motion content of the trade show booth and products as well.

Follow our Consultants @wonderful_at_work.

An Action/Adventure Sports and Lifestyle photographer with 2 years experience based in Auckland, New Zealand: $NZ 20,879.49

My income is Action/adventure sports-70%, Video (growing)- 10%, Commercial-10%, Editorial-5%, Licensing/stock sales-5%

My clients are NZ based companies, Small/medium businesses and medium to large events companies but I’m looking to expand to the US market.

Major costs (NZD): $600/ year to for website hosting/platform, $175/ month for business insurance, $85/ month for an accountant, $100/ month for networking groups.

My retirement is a mixture of past life teaching retirement funds that are building passively with no new contributions and a personal stock portfolio, but no direct plan related to the photography business yet.

In 2022, I worked 92 days.

My first year I operated at a loss of nearly $5,000 NZD. I was only working $2-500 jobs with the occasional licensing deal and stock image sales, and had A LOT of startup costs (nearly $35,000 worth). So year 1 was difficult because I needed to accept a lot of those lower paying jobs to prove myself in the industry and build my portfolio. I was constantly pitching for jobs, and turned away because I didn’t have enough experience and I didn’t know how to price myself correctly, or near the market average.

By year 2, I had a much better portfolio, and was able to start charging the industry average rate, if not better. I had less expenses, earned more, and profited nearly $20,000. I was able to live primarily on small drawings from the business income.

I am a former teacher, so I have used a lot of my contacts in the industry and my own teaching experience to help gain some work from schools (rebuilding websites, new photo libraries etc). This has helped pad my bank account during the transition phase to full time photography and during the slow or shoulder seasons between adventure sports seasons.

I would also substitute teach 1 day a week when I needed it, and that would cover my bare minimum costs (food and gas). I still maintain my teaching license in year 2 of the business, but plan to phase that out soon.

Average adventure sports event shoot (editorial style):
It’s never just a ‘day rate’ for shooting adventure sports. There is always a pre production day/days, packing and planning gear. Event days can be 1 hour of travel or more (sometimes flying the day before). Average event is 6 hours and then post processing is faster for me then most. I can shoot an average of 5,000 photos per event, and cull and deliver a few hundred final edited images in a half a day. For editorial style events, I always keep licensing terms limited to ‘promotion of the event’ on social media or websites, and make extra money off of separate licensing deals with sponsors who want to use the image for something else. I charge out for travel and editing time and my gear on top of daily rate, so take home pay usually is pretty high. Probably take home an average of $1300 NZD per event shoot, but that usually covers 2 to 2 1/2 days of work.

My best shoot so far was 4 days worked for a large events company, shooting their “hero marketing images.” Had to deliver 5-10 images each of the 4 days within 3-4 of the event each day, and then 100+ overall final shots. Each day was about 6 hours on course, 3 hours editing post event day. So 9 hour days each day. I maintained copyright, images could only be used in event company portfolio in all promotions (digital and print) to promote the event. Sponsors of the event could only use the images to promote sponsorship, anything else would be separate negotiation per image. Travel covered between locations all 4 days, and back home (~$600). $30 for meals each day. $1490+ tax daily rate (included editing and admin time because I wanted to win the job). Overall pay $6,500 + tax, take home pay about $5,000.

lowest paying job was $150 +tax for 4 hour event photography. 2 of those jobs back to back earned me $300 for the day, but after expenses and taxes, maybe walked away with $200. Photos were to be used to promote the event on social media and company website. Sponsor had access to them as well, but only for event promotion.

I have started offering photo/video packages for small to medium businesses looking for higher quality imagery. The video work makes up maybe 5-10% of my work at the moment, but steadily growing.

I have chosen to mainly only shoot RAW clips as add-ons for businesses that want them. I have tried going for bigger projects, but normally have the help of a video production agency to assist in the planning and execution of shots.

I mainly market on Instagram, LinkedIn and my website. A lot of my potential customer base are athletes from races that want to buy photos of themselves and post it to social media, or they are small to medium businesses or agencies that live off of the LinkedIn atmosphere.

I chose to put thousands of hours into learning how to code and properly design my website, so that the experience was engaging, and many types of visitors to my site would engage. I built a portal for athletes to buy their photos, stock photos and prints to be sold, and for people with potential project ideas to contact me if they wanted.

Putting time and effort into a strong and visually appealing website has done more for my business than anything else.

Best advice. Do less. When things feel like they are getting hard and you have tried everything…just take a step back and do less. It is almost like the law of opposites will bring you what you were looking for the entire time…you just need to give it time and space and it will work out the way you originally intended.

Worst advice. Don’t bother fighting for your images.

Challenge yourself to speak up. Challenge yourself to become seen, find creative ways to get people’s attention. If you want something bad enough, then go after it and keep going after it.

Realise that in this digital age, your photos STILL have enormous value. Don’t ever let companies try to tell you they can’t pay you a certain amount for your images because they are ‘just using them for social media.”” For a lot of companies, digital is their ONLY way to market nowadays…so your photos mean a lot more to them then you might realise.

Make sure that you do your research on what your photos could potentially be worth. Learning about licensing is KEY to being able to stand up for what you and your photos are worth…so don’t underestimate that.

The Daily Edit – Patagonia Fall 23 Journal Cover: Brian Kelley



Brain Kelley
Gathering Growth

Heidi: The weather was both perfect and unforgettable for snowshoeing up nearly 5,000 vertical feet during a storm with a 4×5 camera and gear (45 lbs) on your back. What was going through your mind during the ascent?  
Brian: When I’m on a mission like the one going up the White Mountains with a specific goal in mind I sort of go into tunnel vision.  I just keep pushing even when I feel tired.  I’m used to hiking great distances with the heavy pack on but adding snow shoes, freezing temps and 3 feet of snow definitely pushed my limits.

Photos by Alex Turner.

Describe the setting and conditions that night.
We camped at 11,000 ft in -4 degree weather.
Getting to the summit in the dark during the storm was a really strange feeling… pushed to my physical limits I just wanted to crawl into a sleeping bag and crash but we had to set up camp and try to get some food into my system.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get my extra down layers on fast enough and the cold started to get to me and my body was shutting down.  But in those situations, you can’t just give up or think you’re going to wake up in a warm cozy bed.  Luckily Forrest has so much experience in these situations and got the tent set up quickly and started melting snow to fill Nalgenes with hot water to stick inside my bag, I was grateful that as a Patagonia ambassador and pro snowboarder, these conditions were familiar to him.  I felt so sick that night that I couldn’t even put food down. I went to bed that night not sure if I’d have the strength or desire to wake up at dawn to get the shot.  Luckily the -20 bag did the trick and I was able to get enough rest and core temp back to start feeling strong enough to go back out.  I definitely questioned whether any photograph is worth putting myself at that type of risk, especially since I have a family.
Forrest Shearer and the cover tree, a Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) in California’s Sierra Nevada.

Loading film in those conditions must have been a challenge, how many images did you manage to get of the majestic, twisted bristlecone?
Going into missions like this with film, I usually pre-load film in the car.  I had five film holders so ten shots total, not a lot but I felt confident. The big worry is condensation and snow getting to the film. I remember the night before shooting the tree just leaving my bag out in the elements… 20k worth of gear just chilled in a -4 snow storm shout out to Shimoda bags!  But while shooting the tree I was fumbling around on snowshoes trying to figure out angles and felt like snow was just going everywhere. Also, the storm kept going in and out during the shot.  Honestly, when I sent the film out to get developed I just thought to myself I hope at least one comes out.

What have trees taught you over the years and what other projects have grown out of your work for Gathering Growth?
 When I first started to photograph trees I was just chasing “Champion Trees” nominated as the largest of their species.  When I would go to these trees I tried to not treat them as a tourist destination or some sort of mark on a checklist.  Trees have taught me a lot about patience and respect.  In order to pay them respect and make a great image that represents the hundreds or even thousands of years they have been alive you have to spend time with them and see how the light interacts throughout the day.  After two years of photographing champion trees I started the Gathering Growth Foundation as a way to expand upon the archive and document more trees and old-growth forests, and to try to educate people about the important role trees play in our everyday lives.  I’m currently working towards Gathering Growths’ first book. The oldest and largest trees of NY state.

Photo assignments often offer new experiences, what did this present to you? 
This assignment with Patagonia put me into a world that was so foreign to me.  I had never been snowboarding or split boarding before but I knew I wanted to see these trees in the dead of winter, a time that most would never venture to see them or roads are closed down. Overall the assignment pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me a stronger more confident human.

What draws you to conservation work? 
My biggest motivation to work in the conservation world is to allow the future to know what we used to have.  I think we can save a lot and plant new trees but there’s something so depressing about knowing that wildland fires, invasive insects, and intense storms are wiping out some of our oldest and largest trees.  Some 2000-year-old trees might be irreplaceable or might not be seen in the future.

A female Picture Editor and Book Shop Owner in the UK outside of London: £40k (net)

I am self employed.

My clients are mostly editorial, online and print.

No retirement, the biggest worry of my life!

I work 3 days a week roughly (I have two young children).

Over the last few yeas my day rate has definitely gone up but because of maternity leave, covid, and having left London I have not been able to work as much. Now I have more childcare but work has definitely dried up. Never been so quiet If I’m honest and I’m trying different routes as I feel picture editing is more and more thought of as a luxury, not as something that is necessary.

I have an online bookshop. They are all picture books so I definitely use it as a kind of portfolio.

Work hard and be kind to people ;) Make sure that you are always on the side of the photographer, have their back.

I like to be approached by Email or Insta.

I find photographers on Insta, Arles, exhibitions, books, magazines, word of mouth. But mainly Insta.

To anyone wishing to get into my line of work I would say be a jack of all trades, I have had to learn how to design articles! Also learn basic photography skills, photo shop and In-design. Find your own style and stick to it. Learn how to master image research. Learn about AI. Be open to everything and fear nothing.

A Food Stylist based in Phoenix, AZ who is repped: $92,695 (net)

I specialize in technically challenging projects for TV and print.

My income is 70% commercial photography, 20% commercial video, 10% random. Mostly corporate clients who are based in Phoenix AZ.

I have 2 food styling assistants I hire, when needed for projects but otherwise very little overhead.

IRA & mutual funds make-up my retirement funds. This is something I need to plan out better.

I get about 72-90 days on-set or billed as day-rate a year roughly.

Over the last few years my income has increased steadily, even thru the pandemic surprisingly.

As a food Stylist I start a job with 1-2 hours worth of meetings with the client & photographer or video team. Then a few hours on pre-production working on shotlist and grocery lists. Then one-day for prep-work that includes grocery shopping and prepping any food. And lastly the day/s on-set working as a food stylist.

I charge $1000 for prep day/s and $1000 for day/s on-set as a food stylist. I also charge a small ($50-$100) kit fee + cost of groceries (I generally do not mark these up), + cost of assistant, if used. So on a 1 day shoot I make about $2050 apx.

I pay assistants 500-550 per day.

Recently I worked a 12-hour over-night shoot for a rate of $1500. I struggled to find resources to guide me on estimating this rate for the client. I wanted to give the client a good-fair price that had some industry guidlines but found none that apply to me as a food stylist.

Here is how I ended up calculating my rate for myself (I did not share my math with Client):
$1000 day rate (10hrs)
$300 over-time (2 hrs @ $150)
$200 over-night fee (kind of made this up)

I made the mistake of giving a repeat client a big discount on my day-rate. I was charging $1000 a day to all other clients, but this one client I gave a $750 day rate. I still work with this client and have steadily been raising my day-rate by $50 each year.

I don’t do any marketing but could use some tips tho.

Best Advice: Know your value and stick to it. It’s hard to put a $ on your time. I highly recommend taking the time to research your market and find a $ that you are content with. Then STICK with that number. As a freelancer you need to consider all of your life expenses when figuring out your day rate.

The Art of the Personal Project: Rob Gregory

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:  Rob Gregory

I began photography in the mid 90’s as a freshman in high school. I was signing up for classes when my older brother, who was full of older-brotherly wisdom and advice, pulled me aside and said, “Hey! I know you need an art credit. You should take Photography. It’s an easy A.” Funny how one person’s passing grade can become another’s life-long passion.

 

Back then I was rolling my own film, developing it by hand and enlarging it in the dark room. For years, I shot black and white exclusively. Even later, when I moved into digital photography, and began my career, I still gravitated towards high contrast, dark, moody images.

One day, a few years into my career, a creative director was reviewing my portfolio and said something that ended up having a huge impact on my work. He said, “Man, I absolutely love this stuff. I just wish our clients would go for something like this.” I asked what his clients typically liked, and he explained that they tended to go for bright images with lots of color.

I mulled over what he said and knew I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone. I went back to my studio and started exploring a world full of light and color — and I absolutely fell in love with it.

This project is an example of work that fully embraces this bright world I have come to love. I used LED lighting with full RGB capabilities to create unique color combinations that complimented the wardrobe choices. In recent years, I’ve found myself shooting with continuous lights more often than strobes because I love the versatility they provide. They allow me to control color temperature and RGB with the touch of a button.

This project wasn’t all smooth sailing though. I often say that my job is mainly problem solving, and this was no exception. The biggest issue I ran into was that the camera port on my main camera had apparently become loose and my tethering cable wouldn’t hold a connection to my computer. I spent HOURS working on it the day before the shoot before finally giving up and moving over to my backup camera: my trusty old Nikon D800. So, for all the gear snobs out there, this project was shot with a DSLR and lens that were both purchased back in 2012.

No matter what challenges may arise, I believe that having a clear vision for the work you want to create is the most important aspect of photography. When you have that North Star, it’s easier to roll with the punches and adjust without losing your cool or direction for the shoot. When you know where you’re going, nothing can stand in your way.

Credits:

Wardrobe/Prop: Madeline Telford

HMUA: Viki Moon

Models: Eric Ntrakwa, Hailey Wilkins

To see more of this project, click here

Instagram

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 female Digital Capture Tech & Retoucher in Minneapolis: 2022: $200k (net), $242k (gross)

40% of my business income comes from renting equipment to productions (so in 2022 is was around $74,000).

In 2022 I had 3 months off on maternity leave.

80% of my days are for on set retouching, 10% working as a capture tech, 10% hourly rate retoucher.

Majority of my work is for a local Fortune 500 corporation which shoots 90% of their packaging and editorial content in town. On average I have around 4-5 smaller local clients which tend to have smaller projects or just retouching needs.

I have a home office so there is no need to rent space to store equipment. General overhead is fairly low but I do like to stay up to date on equipment so frequently update and replace gear. I spend and average of $24,000 on computers/monitors/accessories (think capture cables/hard drives/dongles/cases). Other expenses come from multiple seats of necessary software (~3,500/year) insurance (~1,000/year) and expenses for being a S-corp (~1,200/year). My partner covers health insurance so I’m lucky I don’t have that expense because I’m sure it’d be a lot.

For retirement I contribute to a SIMPLE plan with a 3% match from my business.

I worked 149 days in 2022 (31 jobs). 98 days so far as of 8/9/2023(21 jobs).

I also provide long term backup and file storage for a fee and charge a flat hourly rate for file retrieval if it becomes necessary.

Larger productions include sitting on on pre-pro calls to understand the scope of the project about a week in advance. Prep days I’ll drop gear and setup all the EQ. Most of my jobs require 2 workstations as well as one on set retoucher station. Make sure all crops/decks/sessions are set-up and ready to go for the shoot day. Once on set I work with the photographer to make sure filenames and crops are correct. Often I’ll do that while also retouching the files in real time for the client to approve. Normally the turn-around time is the Friday of the job so it’s important to stay on top of their needs and to make sure the photographer is being supported also.

Best jobs for me are multi-week packaging productions for our local major corporation. With equipment these jobs can average $10,000 per week.

I am pretty selective about which projects I’ll take on. My rate is mostly non-negotiable but some jobs do need more time than the client is willing to offer so there are times that I’ll have to squeeze in extra work after hours and overnight. I always bill an overtime rate but the physical toll can be a lot (12+ hours retouching for multiple days is hard).

When I first started out I made an effort to really get to know all the producers working in my market. Worked well to get into the last minute/small jobs other digi tech’s didn’t want to take and allowed me to get to know a lot of the photographers in town.

Be kind to everybody on set. You never know what role that person may step into later on in their career. Make it a point to know everything but don’t feel like you need be a know it all (that’s nuanced…. but important). Don’t gatekeep tips or tools that would help out fellow crew members. I think that the first and last points are the most important. It’s a team sport and we all need to be here for each other!

We are in in this together. I’ve found that the more collaborative a set is the better the deliverables look in the end.

The Daily Edit – Justin Bastien

  

Justin Bastien Photographer and Director

Heidi: You seem to balance work and your outdoor adventure life well. What was the biggest
surprises within that balance?
Justin: Balancing work and everything else you love in life is always a challenge, especially if you are
a curious person who likes to learn, explore, and try new things. Luckily, I really enjoy my
work, and it often takes me to incredible places around the world, meeting the most
interesting people from all walks of life. I have always tried to live a passion-based life,
following my interests and trying to align those interests with my work. The great thing about
photography and filmmaking is that it’s really endless in terms of where you can go with it.
What started out as a happy accident working with Patagonia years ago with my little 35mm
Yashica T4 point-and-shoot camera has really turned into an adventure of a lifetime. I never
would have imagined that I would get to go to every continent on Earth, explore remote
places where humans have never set foot, and take in all that beauty. The best part is actually
sharing the experiences through photography and films with others, hopefully inspiring people
and maybe making a small difference in the world in the process.
The biggest surprise to me has been that you actually can live a passion-based life. It’s
certainly not an easy path. It might look glamorous on Instagram, but trust me, it is not. It’s a
ton of work, filled with complete uncertainty at every turn and a huge learning curve with
endless ups and downs, but it’s so worth it. I couldn’t live any other way.

How did you get your start, or what was your biggest break?
I would say my start in photography was my biggest break. I was climbing almost full-time and
doing a wide variety of part-time jobs—geology, construction, web design, guiding, etc.—to
fund the next climbing trip. It was all about getting back out there to climb and see new
places. Work was just a means to an end. Along the way, I was fortunate enough to meet the
Photo Editor at Patagonia, Jane Sievert. She asked me to shoot photos on my climbing and
surfing trips. It was super low-key with no expectations. I would shoot these pretty bad
photos, and she would kindly review them, give me some encouraging feedback, and tell me
to keep shooting and working on certain things. Over time, she found a few photographs that
met her needs. It was a wonderful process, and I had no idea how lucky I was at the time and
how it would change my life. I am so grateful to her and Patagonia for leading me down this
incredible path.
From there, it was a long, slow road. I wasn’t a professional photographer yet and had to work
really hard to figure out how to shoot better images and also learn about the business side of
things—all of which is a never-ending process. One thing led to another, and I started getting
some interesting jobs outside of the work with Patagonia: commercial and editorial photo
shoots, and working as a specialty operator on TV commercials, TV shows, and films. The work
was really wide in scope, with a lot of travel, which was a lot of fun. I generally got hired for
strange jobs that required special skills, such as climbing, diving, shooting in remote locations, or where they needed someone who could take on a lot of different roles, such as directing, DPing, shooting still photographs, and VR.

During your career, how many hats have you worn to get to your level? 
I feel like I have worn every hat along the way, in one form or another, and continue to do so
to this day. I like to be involved in every aspect of the production and understand how it all
works. From technical capture and workflow to the business side of things, and most
importantly, the creative process. The more you know about each aspect of the process, the
better informed your decisions will be. I started out working by myself out of a backpack in
remote locations, so I had to know how to do everything. It’s still like that on small jobs, but as
they scale up in size, I step back—way back.
On the big shoots, we have so many talented people who are really good at their specific
roles. Every person on set really elevates the quality of the work to the next level. At that
point, it’s better to focus on the big picture and bring the vision to life. That usually means I am
just focusing on directing and shooting.

Do you shoot a range of big and small jobs?
Yes, I work on a variety of projects, from solo shoots to large-scale commercial productions with extensive crews, elaborate sets, and all kinds of equipment. I enjoy the opportunity to work across this broad spectrum of production scales. On smaller projects, where it is just me and the subject, the experience is rewarding because it allows me to form a genuine bond with the subject, discover their true selves, and capture those raw, authentic moments. On the other end of the scale, large projects are exhilarating because I’m surrounded by a ton of exceptional resources and talented individuals who collectively enhance the final product. It’s incredibly satisfying to dream up concepts in the pre-production phase of the project and then see them magically come to life. Stepping onto a set and seeing a large, skilled crew in action, all dedicated to realizing the initial vision is always an awe-inspiring moment.

I value both working styles for the distinct benefits they offer. Each approach enriches my skills and informs my practice in the other context. Sometimes, going light and fast while with minimal gear, relying on my instincts, and capturing a fleeting moment is the right call. Yet, even when I have access to an array of equipment, such as lighting trucks, multiple camera units, and cranes, the true essence of my job is to capture the perfect shot. In contrast, working solo allows me to slow down, delve deeper into the craft, and prepare to capture that perfect moment.

This past spring was a prime example. I was out filming some climbing and snowboarding in the backcountry for a few days. We were camping in the snow, lugging around heavy camera equipment, trying to keep batteries warm, all while trying to find a great angle on this rock wall 3,000 feet across the snow-covered valley. It was filmmaking stripped down to the bare essentials. Immediately following that, I headed into directing a big commercial shoot for Chevy that was going to launch the Major League Baseball season. Suddenly, I found myself on a set buzzing with 125 crew members, complete with stunts, performance drivers, and two camera units with incredible DPs leading each unit—a stark contrast to the huge packs we carried in the backcountry shoot a few days ago.

For location shoots, how are you tracking weather, and do you have two treatments you prep? 
Absolutely, our primary challenge was attempting to shoot a spring/summer-themed commercial amidst an ‘atmospheric river,’ a massive rainstorm that became one of the most intense to hit California in decades. This is when our adaptability and problem-solving skills truly came into play. Thankfully, I was part of a team where everyone was not only good at what they did but also collaborated well under pressure.

We encountered a significant setback when mudslides rendered one of our key locations inaccessible. The spot was set in a picturesque valley encircled by mountains—a pivotal scene for the commercial that we had to get. During our lunch break, I had a stunt driver take me in a four-wheel-drive vehicle to survey the damage. The roads were covered in deep mud, and it was immediately obvious that we weren’t going to make it up there. However, we’re in the business of making the impossible possible. We found a ranch hand with a tractor who helped us clear a path so that a pared-down crew could make it up the road. We skipped lunch and pushed our way up the hill. In the meantime, we dispatched the second unit and assistant director to find an alternative location and worked tirelessly to clear the mud. We trimmed the crew down from 125 to only the most essential personnel, who, along with a single Art Director from the agency, barely squeezed into two 4×4 trucks. Time was tight, and we had a lot to accomplish, I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the epic lighting conditions I knew we were going to get around dusk. Luck was on our side that day, and we managed to capture some fantastic footage.

However, our luck didn’t hold the next day. The forecast warned of relentless rain throughout the day. Our location scout was on it, providing hourly weather updates, yet we had to brace ourselves for the possibility of filming in heavy rain.

That’s exactly the scenario we faced on our last day, where the boards called for a sunny homecoming scene with a BBQ, and instead, we had a river falling from the sky. We put the cast under the front porch of the house to keep them dry, lit the scene to make it look like a sunny, summer day, and constructed a 60-foot plastic tunnel for the truck to drive through to the set. We planned to use VFX to replace the background plates and simulate reflections on the body of the truck.

We adapted, hustled, and made the most of the challenging conditions. The dedication of every crew member, going the extra mile during the five-day shoot, was crucial to our success. Viewing the final broadcast spot you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was shot in a big downpour. And that is the magic of filmmaking!
https://vimeo.com/845713502

Who were your inspirations and mentors then and now?
I would say I am most inspired by the natural world and storytelling. I love how every place
and every person has such an interesting, unique story to be told. You can truly find art and
magic everywhere you look in the world. I think it’s a matter of finding that inspiration all
around you.
My biggest mentor has been my mom, who was a Special Education Teacher for 35 years
and a multidisciplinary artist. She was always working on different projects from painting and
Ikebana to quilting and interior design. She really encouraged me to be creative, brave, and
free. As I mentioned earlier, Jane Sievert at Patagonia set me on this wonderful path. My
good friend Ken Merfeld, a photography instructor from the Art Center College of Design, is a
passionate artist with a wicked eye that constantly pushes me to challenge myself as an artist
and take my work to the next level. I am so grateful for all these people and many more who
have been such an important part of this never-ending journey.

A 27 year old female Product, Lifestyle, Editorial, Commercial, Fashion, Events, Runway, Backstage, Street Style, E-commerce Photographer: 10k (net)

In 2022 my business was run as sole proprietorship and before expenses I made just under 40K (USD). However after expenses I only profited 10K and then roughly 30% of that was taxed. I ran/run my business under the 30/30/30/10 rule. Where I pay myself 30%, put 30% back into my business checking for bills/expenses to keep my business running, saved 30% for taxes and then put away 10% into business savings to cover myself for unforeseen expenses such as equipment failure.

My gross income has been steadily increasing year after year but could range anywhere from 10k-40k depending on the market. When I first started I only made 10k total and after taxes maybe profited $40 total. This was while working freelance (sole proprietor) AND as an in house photographer (W2) for a jewelry designer in Austin. Then in 2021 I became fully freelance and made 30k but only profited maybe 5K after expenses, and then $1,500 after taxes. In 2022 I was still structured as sole proprietor and made just under 40k but knew I needed to restructure into an LLC because the amount I was having to pay in taxes was becoming mind blowing.

Currently my business is structured as an LLC with an s-corp exemption. Which has been said that it should provide me way more tax benefits and save me money yearly; however I am not sure if it is beneficial yet. To be real and put this into perspective, as someone who lives in a less creative state, especially in the south, where I have to beg clients to pay me on time, makes under 40k a year and went from having to pay $300 for my CPA to now having to pay 2k in order to even file my taxes as an LLC I am not sure if it is worth it. But I guess that is the price of not having to ever work under someone else or be an employee of a company that spends their life to help their boss live a luxurious life.

I do everything myself like a psycho control freak. Literally everything; business wise, marketing, photography, creative and art direction, set styling, networking, financially, legally, website design, pricing sheets. You name it I am a one stop shop.

80% of my income comes from product photography, and then 3/4 of the 80 would be the fusion of products + models in the form of lifestyle/editorial/ecommerce; while the other 1/4 comes from just product photography in the sense of flatlays/ecommerce/shot in nature or at a venue/rental space/studio. The other 20% comes from random creative direction gigs and then events or videography. When I first started 90% of my income came from weddings/events/family/kids/senior pictures while the remaining 10% was fashion or product related.

The majority of my clients are local small-medium businesses with the exception of random fortune500 jobs in NY, Paris and LA. Typically the companies I work with are small in the sense of employees but structurally they pump out a lot of product and are on the rise into becoming big companies. I like to call myself the photographer who has an extensive collection of working with companies before they blow up.

I do not have any employees but occasionally I hire assistants when I am doing a bigger jobs or when companies hire me as both a photographer and creative director.

My overhead includes equipment upkeep/replacement/rentals/new equipment (anywhere from 5-15k), paying myself a barley livable income (20k ish and that is living modestly), taxes + paying a CPA (1-4k), then spending any extra income on doing creative shoots to build my portfolio or paying assistants (1-2k ish).

To be honest at this moment I am just trying to keep my head up after having to survive covid and then now entering a recession, which honestly may turn into a depression. I think most people under 30 are really struggling with what is going on in our country and older generations are not understanding that most of us will never even be able to afford to buy a home let alone really afford groceries. We are stuck between selling our souls to the corporate world or roughing it as freelance artists; and the worst part is that both options are not ideal when the cost of living at the moment is unbearable.

Ideally I will open a roth IRA for retirement and invest but that is going to take more time and energy having to research and teach myself how to do so and as someone who does literally everything by herself this is one thing that unfortunately will have to be on the back burner a little longer.

The hard thing with photography or being an artist/creative, is that jobs are very seasonal. Especially in Texas. Most freelance business’ or people I know, are either stupid busy where we work 7 days a week, 10-12 hour days, for months at a time or we are sitting at home twiddling our fingers staring at the wall wondering when the next job is going to come in. Especially in the south where life is generally more slow paced and laid back and not as highly creative or providing as much opportunity as other cities or states.

My income the last few year has steadily increased but with the current state of our economy I am fearful that there is going to be a huge collapse in income for all creative people. I am at the point where I either need to physically move out of Texas or mess around and start a movement for all photographers/artists/creatives to join in on the writers strike and stop providing services until the non creatives understand how imperative our work is. To me it is baffling to see photographers take images for companies, have to beg to either be paid/justify our prices, and be the ones struggling to pay rent or buy groceries-and yet somehow these companies are thriving. Can you imagine any company trying to run an business or sell a product without the use of imagery or videography or any of the creative services that make photoshoots possible?? It would be impossible yet we are still highly undervalued and underpaid.

I think there is a lot of time wasted in full day shoots and bigger productions so typically I hustle to keep my shoots under 4 hours at a time because I do not like wasting time. Typically I charge my client $150 per hour and this includes the photography services during the shoot, pre shoot consultations, mood board creation, and pre shoot preparation such as renting lighting equipment or booking studios/venues. Then I charge a per photo editing rate that ranges between $10-$50 per image and this compensates for the amount of editing and forces the clients to be mindful in their image selection. This price also includes the time spent post shoot sorting/proofing/uploading and exporting into an online gallery. Lastly I charge for commercial usage if the client intends to use the images outside of organic usage. All of my clients receive organic usage (simple insta and tiktok post-no ads, and website use) for 12 months; and if they want to use images commercially they have to pay either a per photo per month price or I offer a one time package price that includes usage of all images selected for editing to have commercial usage for 1 year. This is also dependent on the size of the company. For example most of the small business I work with only do 1-2 photoshoots a year so they are not using or needing new imagery very often. Then it increases as the business size increases and their intended usage increases.

My best paying shoot was not the shoot I made the most money on but the best experience. A company hired me to fly to LA 2 times during the summer and only shoot for 2 days, 4 hours each. They respected my hourly rates and even paid for my flights/accommodations while I was there. I think I roughly made 3k between both jobs and got to take home 1k for 2 1/2 days of work.

One of the worst paying shoots was with a small business who threatened to sue me because I would not release the images until they paid their invoice in full. They also wanted me to do creative direction, photography, and videography for a 6 hour shoot; receive 35 images, 96 videos and have commercial usage of all for 1 year. When I got sick with covid and had to reschedule the shoot they also tried to force me to pay for the airbnb they booked, even though I found a suitable photographer/viable options to keep the shoot going. Mind you the pay was only $2,300 for all of that.

My highest paying job was $5,600 for a fortune 500 company and while it was the coolest because I got to travel to France for a week, it was one of the worst experiences ever due to the guy that hired me for the job (not affiliated with the fortune 500 company or the media company they hired). The guy who hired me and the team told me I would make $5,600 for roughly 5 days of work (essentially following rich people around France and taking pictures of them experiencing the spoils of France) and that I would only need to take pictures and would not have to edit any images post trip. However he waited until we flew to Paris to bamboozle us and inform us that each team member would have to do photo and video, as well as edit the images; but would not compensate us for the extra work. He also told us that food would be entirely covered and then waited until we were there to tell us not all meals would be covered. Mind you it was an incredible experience to be in France but not worth the pay when the days ended up being from 7am-10pm at night and then having to deal with traveling for a week with a misogynistic egotistical male.

When I shot weddings and needed a second shooter I paid them $500 for 4-6 hours and then let them present their images to the bride/groom as their own business, in their own editing style. I did not use their imagery as my own work and viewed it as a way to help other photographers advance/get practice in their own career without having someone above them steal their work and pass it off as their own or underpay them/force them to adapt to my editing style.

When I moved into more product/fashion work I would pay assistants $100-$200 for roughly 2-5 hours of work during a shoot day. Their roles consist of helping with lighting, prop retrieval, checking in on hair and makeup or aid in helping finish those roles, using a timer and schedule to help keep me on time when shooting, backdrop set up, behind the scenes iphone videography etc.

Video makes up 10% of my income. I honestly hate video but people love BTS content or short clips to use for reels/tiktok so I often throw that into my services to make extra easy income. Most of the work I get is through word of mouth or through unpaid social media posts on insta and tiktok. I will be honest I am lazy when it comes to marketing but am a firm believer the best form of attracting clients is through word of mouth. It creates loyal relationships.

To be completely honest, being a female in this industry I have not received much worthy advice from anyone. It has shown to be very exclusive and secretive, and “I had to struggle so you will have to as well.”

The best advice I would give would be that in order to be successful or profitable, you need to differentiate yourself as a business owner and learn how to turn off the inner sensitive artist. I used to get so offended over my work and this caused me to undervalue myself and allow people to run over me and underpay as well as over work me.

The worst advice I have received was an old white man told me “keep your day job” and I did the exact opposite and am forever thankful that I did not listen to him.

You also will need to become more strict, obedient and consistent in standing up for yourself because most clients in this industry will try to take advantage of you. Especially if they see real talent, but undisciplined talent. Also remember that there are always going to be people who are far less talented than you but have more confidence and audacity and that is why they are more successful. The phrase fake it till you make it is real and talent doesn’t necessarily mean you will be successful. You have to be savvy and think as much technically, if not more than you do creatively.

This is also a highly dominated field for males and the best advice for women I can give is building a strong network between the girls, gays and theys and really focus on making meaningful connections with not only important people but more so the nobodies who grind as hard as you because; you never know who will become more powerful or influential later on. I have noticed the majority of the time when I help others out in an authentic organic way because I genuinely want to help others, people are more willing to pay it back tenfold and at the end of the day the way to advance further up career wise is getting to know the assistants, lighting crew, and anyone who is key in making photoshoots happen but may not be influential in any manner. Yet.

Become comfortable being uncomfortable and hearing no. Coming from someone who knew nothing about the industry besides watching America’s Next Top Model/Devil Wears Prada growing up, who knew nothing about running a business, who knew absolutely no one in the industry, who had no one to look up to or get help from; do not let anyone tell you you cannot do it. Also have more audacity in general. Most of the biggest moves of my career have been from being crazy and just throwing myself out there and not caring of looking stupid or being told no.