If an Ad Agency wants to sponsor your vacations, would you do it. You travel where ever you want, shoot what ever you want and they buy the images off of you when you get back. Plus pick up some expenses. Or do you tell them you don't mix work and pleasure?
We have one life to live. One shot to see the world and experience all the crazy stuff that’s out there to experience. If you can get someone to pick up the bill and allow you to see the world and eat great food and meet interesting people and you can take photos along the way… Ok. What’s the question again?
For me there are three value levels I assess when going up for a job. The monetary value. The creative value. The experience value.
Photograph 48 employee headshots in the breakroom of a corporate location in the suburbs? Monetary value.
Photograph an up and coming talented musician with no budget but freedom to shoot anything and everything I want? Creative value.
Travel to new places, see new things, and have the bill paid by someone else? Experience value.
The tight rope you have to walk is balancing a mix of these kinds of jobs. You need enough money coming in to pay your bills and feed your family and keep your gear working and take care of expenses.
You need some creative jobs coming in to keep your mind sharp and to keep from getting burned out.
You need to have some fun in life and see the world. Sometimes you don’t make enough money to pay for daily life and an opportunity comes up every now and then that will allow you to go out and see the world and help take care of the expense of doing that.
The BIG goal is to have a constant stream of jobs coming in that hit all of these things at once. You get paid to shoot creative pictures around the world. That’s the big dream. That’s the romance that drew many of us to this profession. Those are the jobs that we see other photographers get and we are filled with jealousy because they found the path to get those jobs.
I’m Zack. I take pictures. I love my family. I want to see the world and I want my family to see the world as well. I want to take photos I’m proud to show. I want to share what I do with others. I want them to take part of it as well. I deal with family stuff when I’m at work. I deal with work stuff when I’m at home. It’s all a mix. It’s all wrapped up together. This is my life. You want to send me to another part of the world and take pictures? Can I hustle my ass off enough to bring my wife and/or kids along too? I’ll make that happen if I can. I’ll do family stuff and work stuff and mix it all together.
Because I’ve got one life to live and then I’m gone. I better get in as much as I can while I can. I better do enough paying gigs to so I can actually make this happen. I’ve got to keep it balanced.
Zack, you've mentioned that you're using a Mac Mini as your primary machine for editing. Have you edited any video with it, and if so, does it run smoothly? Thanks!
I haven’t pushed a ton of video through it yet but I’ve done a few small projects and it works pretty well. Here’s the thing I think about… three years ago a machine had X amount of RAM and processing power and we were pushing video and big files and all that through a “powerful” computer. My little Mac Mini has more power and RAM than machines I was using 3, 4, or 5 years ago.
It’s a good solution for me right now. I “might” be interested in the new tower / cylinder / thing that’s coming out to replace the Mac Pro but for now the Mini is just fine. I remember editing video on a G3 with a 450 MHz processor and something silly like 512 of RAM. Yes, I was only editing SD footage but it got the job done. My Macbook Air screams in comparison… and yes, I’ve edited a bit of video on the Air. I sure wouldn’t use an Air as my main editing machine though but it can do the job in a pinch or when you’re on the road and need to get something done quickly.
In my undergrad business class we are talking about salary negotiations. For a run-of-the-mill business job, it is apparently advantageous to always make the first offer (due to the theory of "anchoring" to a reference point). I think you usually give a quote as the first offer, but I know at least once you priced yourself out by under-bidding. Given the choice, do you prefer to give a quote or hear the budget range the client is working with?
I could go back and forth on this. There have been a number of discussions on this blog about pricing and going with a quote or asking for a budget first.
Sometimes I do one or the other. Sometimes it’s a gut reaction. Sometimes it’s based on the initial conversation I’ve had with someone. You get that “feeling” that you need to put a bid together first and then see where it goes from there. Sometimes you “feel” you need to ask about their budget before you go further.
Small company calls. They are asking for a ton of work. They’ve not done this kind of thing before. They most likely are going to experience sticker shock when your bid shows up. Ask what sort of budget they are working with to see if they are anywhere in the ballpark of what it will cost to do the job at hand.
Big company calls. They hire photographers on a regular basis. They are experienced in knowing what they want and the conversation shows this. You “feel” comfortable putting a bid together and submitting it without asking about budget first.
There’s no specific science to it. If you are green as grass and you have not navigated these waters much you will most likely be asking for the budget most of the time so you know what parameters you are going to be working with. As you get more experienced your approach to each bidding process is handled differently based on past experience and gut reactions.
Some clients are hesitant to state a budget. Some tell you without even asking. Some say $5,000 when they really have $10,000. There’s no specific science to what they are going to say nor what you are going to say. Photography and other creative services are such a unique beast that every job and every quote is tailored to the specifics at hand.
One thing I avoid doing is giving a quote over the phone or within the first few emails with a client. I ask a lot of questions about the job at hand and then I do research on who they are, figure out how I can best serve them, figure out how I can do so at a good price that is fair to them and to me. Etc. Etc. Then I follow up with a written estimate.
Sometimes you’ll be asked to give a ballpark figure right away. I try to avoid doing that. When I do I give a pretty large range.
"Based on my initial thoughts about your project, we could be talking anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 for this. Let me get back to my studio and get a formal estimate to you. I’ll probably have a few more questions about the project once I think about it some more. I’ll follow up with you later today/tomorrow and I’ll get that estimate to you."
Note that the extra time isn’t so you can sit around and find ways to inflate that estimate. You aren’t mining for gold. You need to put an honest bid together so the job is produced to the best it can be.
Shooting one executive portrait indoors is one thing. Shooting the entire board of directors outdoors at noon is a different job. You’re showing up at the same place to do, basically, the same thing but the indoor job only requires your normal gear and maybe one assistant. The outdoor job requires you to rent some gear and have three assistants maybe. Now you have to plan and budget for rentals, picking up and returning said rentals, hiring two extra assistants. Maybe adding hair and makeup because you’ll need someone on hand to deal with oily skin when shooting outdoors in the afternoon. Suddenly $2k or more just got added to the job. You need some time to think through all the variables before that estimate gets put together.
Anywho. Long winded answer.
Will you go back to doing the critiques with Meg at some point? Struggling to find where I should focus to improve, it's either friends saying my work is perfect or cyberwarriors questioning corner sharpness and my mom's weight...
Critiques are going to be a regular feature of the new site / project I’m launching sometime in November.
Find me at Photo Plus later this month to learn more about it before it launches. :)
Just saw a photographer bragging on his facebook that he got the cover of a magazine. I looked it up and they exist purely based on submissions from photographers. They don't pay, and worse, they make you pay to have the issue that you shot for! It's not a cheap magazine either. They claim it's to save the environment. How do you feel about this. I'm angry that anyone is stupid enough to fall for this and think it makes all photographers look bad. I hate these "magazines"!
Look. It is what it is. Let it go. Stop watching other photographers. Keep your head down and get to work.
Magazines, for decades, have been using free to cheap photography. On the flip side, it’s very expensive to run a magazine. Look how many are going web only or are closing shop all together.
Photographers look bad by doing a number of things. They also look great doing a number of things. You can tit for tat this crap all day long.
Don’t worry about them. Keep your head down. Do great work. Find your market. Keep your expenses as low as you can. Hold this career with an open hand because it will come and it will go.
Have you ever had to deal with a superstitious client? I recently was asked to do a couple of indoor headshots, the weird part began when she noticed I was going to use a reflective umbrella. According to her if you ever open an umbrella indoors it's bad luck. Proceeded to use a softbox(I know, I know, should have used it to start off with) and I get "no! no! that looks too much like an umbrella". Thankfully her home had white walls and a low ceiling, that bouncing it worked out great.
As a professional, you smile, say ok, and figure it out like you did. At least you have an awesome story to tell people later.
"What’s been your strangest shoot?"
"Well, there was the superstitious lady that wouldn’t let me use my gear."
I once had a subject who was OCD and they got freaked out by my studio that was in a 100 year old building. They thought it was crawling with germs and they couldn’t do the shoot there. I rescheduled the shoot for a location of their choosing.
I am not asking you to create a review however, i am interested to knkow that if you are given a choice to pick either Nokia Lumia 1020 or iPhone 5s, which one you will choose for yourself based on camera performance?
Based solely on camera performance, the Lumia 1020 is really quite good. Understand though I haven’t shot with a 5s yet. The 1020 has a better camera than my iPhone 5 though. It’s sharper, has better color saturation, and is a better performer in low light. The video it shoots isn’t too shabby either.
The achilles heel of the 1020 though is the Windows OS. Yes, I don’t like windows and all that so I’m biased. But there aren’t that many great apps in the Windows app store. Developers are making great apps for iOS and Android. Windows has yet to attract good developers. If the 1020 was on the Android platform I’d almost think about switching to it. That’s saying a lot coming from an Apple fan boy like me. I think Windows OS is going to be the next Zune for them. Microsoft’s downfall is that they follow far more than they lead so they are always going to be behind. See also Black Berry.
Full disclosure - Nokia sent me a 1020 to evaluate. I’m not paid by them to review it or anything like that and I don’t intend on reviewing it in a proper manner.
The phone and the camera? Great. The OS? Sucks.
There. There’s my review. :)
PS - Can its 41 MP stand up to the Phase? Hahahahahaha! Hahahahaha! Um. No. :)
Dear Zack,I get to shoot ~ 1700 individual portraits for my daughter’s school. I need some logistical and sales advice. I want to maximize orders using pre-sales certificates but I don’t know how to manage connecting the kid to the order on this scale. Practice and common knowledge says I will get much less sales with online fulfillment. However, that is the only way I can figure out how to manage this number of portraits and insure quality delivery. How would you do this?
Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve never had to do that nor do I want to.
This is one of those situations where I’d have this stuff figured out before I got the job. Know what I mean? I’m all for flying by the seat of your pants on some things but this is going to be a logistical nightmare if you don’t get it figured out and you may very well put a lot of work into this for little return.
Sorry I can’t help more.
Hey Zack, I just got insurance on my gear through Hill & Usher (Traveller's) and I want to know what's the proper way to price my gear as far as replacement value for lights and camera? Some gear I bought are used and I got a good deal on it and some are old. Thanks.
I typically check prices on used gear through KEH. They have pretty good industry standard prices on used gear. I would list the value of if you had to replace it today. Just because you got a good deal on something doesn’t mean you can get that good deal again. If you have a $1k lens stolen you need $1k to replace it. Maybe you happened to pick it up from a friend for $700 but you can’t do that again.
I tried searching for this but didn't see anything, so sorry if someone has already asked. How do you feel about having more than one photo from the same shoot in your portfolio. I did a shoot recently with different locations but the same outfit. Is it acceptable to have the best photos from each location in my portfolio, along with all my other shoots?
Typically you want to avoid having the same person in their twice. Sometimes I’ll put the same person in and show them together. Sometimes I like to show a studio shot and then a location shot. I think of it more like a tiny series of images that relate to each other.
Sometimes you shouldn’t. If you have 15 photos in a gallery and they are of 7 people then you probably need to diversify that gallery a bit more.
With the person wearing the same outfit you are running on the thin line between showing how diverse you are as a photographer and how repetitive you are as a photographer. If it’s just one instance in your portfolio, and they are running together, that might be fine. If you keep doing it over and over and over and they are randomly spaced then it’s an issue and you’re just being repetitive.