Saturday, February 21, 2009

A diversion of sorts

This blob (terminology stolen from David Burnett ;) was intended to be purely about the biz... I was only to write about my experiences as a young emerging photographer. Not my personal life. Today, however, is such a momentous occasion, that I have to let my personal life creep in. Today, I turn 30. What a scary thought! And, while everyone keeps telling me it's just a number, it does seem slightly more significant than that.

Why is 30 such a milestone? Because, I think, it's a checkpoint. We all remember having thoughts as kids, "where will I be when I'm older." At the time, "older" was anyone over 30, you know those people Bob Dylan said not to trust. It seemed so distant then. And, while I certainly don't feel like it has been ten years since I was 20, it does seem like ages ago. So, I guess, turning 30, is a chance to reexamine our lives and see if they measure up to our childhood dreams. Well, here goes...

At age 12, I wanted to be an Astronaut. I planned to one day marry Lea Thompson (Back to the Future, SpaceCamp), I hoped to save the world with my superb computer hacking skills (ala War Games), I wanted to be a worldwide karate champion, and of course to become a great explorer, like Lewis and Clark. All the while, I loved taking pictures of anything and everything, and playing with my Dad's Nikon F2. But that was just a hobby.

On the surface, it would seem, I have utterly failed at achieving my goals. But, let's take a closer look. OK, so I'm no astronaut. But, the draw at the time was to do something exciting and active and not have a desk job. I think I've achieved that. And, while I'm not married to Lea Thompson, settling down and having a family is very important to me. OK, so I haven't hacked into NORAD, but technology has always fascinated me. And, even though I'm not pursuing a career in computer science, I do love the toys I get to play with in my job. Alright, alright. I'm not a great explorer and I'm not quite Bruce Lee. But, traveling the world, discovering the unknown, and being physically active are still all very important to me. Wait there was another thing right?

Oh yeah, the taking pictures bit. For as long as I can remember I've been fascinated with photography. But, I never really thought I could make a career out of it. Then, about a year and a half ago, I decided to take leap of faith. I quit my job, started assisting and started getting published. I'm not exactly the likes of my photographic idols. But, I am making a living doing what I love. So, maybe at 30, I'm not so far off from where I wanted to be afterall.

Friday, February 13, 2009

You are seller; they are buyer

"If the agency provides its own contract, I cross everything out that is duplicated in my agreement, only letting stand things that are not covered in my agreement. As the photographer, you are the seller; they are the buyer. The idea that they should dictate the terms by which you run your business is ridiculous. However, so many photographers have given in to this practice that it has set a terrible precedent. Don't perpetuate this practice by allowing it." --Ira Gostin

As an emerging photographer and an experienced assistant, I still struggle with pricing, standing up for myself, and asking for what's fair. But, imagine walking into Kmart and saying "I don't really want to pay $40 for these pants; I only have $15... Oh, and if you could gift wrap that for me at no extra cost, that would be swell."

It's a hard lesson to learn, especially for those of us early in our careers. We're so eager to land a job that we're willing to work for pennies. But, as we get more experienced and realize that those pennies don't go very far, we start to curse the next round of newbies doing the same thing.

We should ask ourselves if doing the job for less than the more experienced photographer means the client will accept crummy pictures. I don't think so. If they expect a high quality result, they should pay for it, no matter how many years the photographer has under his belt. We should also ask ourselves how we'll feel in ten years when we see that image that we gave away still being used by some company, that paid us nothing to make it.