As a professional photographer one of my most powerful tools is neither my camera nor my lights, not my computer nor my software. It is my ability to say, ‘No,’ to a bad deal.
Earlier this week I walked out of a ridiculous meeting with an online fashion retailer without even finishing the drink I’d just ordered. Going in I knew that there isn’t much money in fashion, especially in Vancouver, so I was prepared to offer a rate at the lower end of my scale. We chatted for a bit, covering the kinds of images they wanted, my experience and connections but when I put my numbers on the table, they shifted in their seats a little, looked at each other, then at me and asked:
“Does that include the studio rental for 14 hours?” No.
“Does that include two agency models?” No.
“Does that include hair & makeup?” No, this is for me and my equipment. If you want me to produce the shoot as well, it will cost more.
“We were hoping to get everything for under a thousand dollars.”
I didn’t need to hear any more so I smiled, shook their hands and moved on to my next meeting. No amount of talk was going to convince them of anything. It is a tired and irksome attitude of many fashionistas that they are doing me some kind of favour by allowing me to work my ass off for their benefit with little or no compensation.
They will probably try and convince some student that this will be great for their portfolio, and good luck to them. My advice to young photographers today is to be deadly honest with themselves about what they are getting out of a business arrangement like that. Is a fashion catalog image really going to add to your portfolio? Will this really be a good experience for you? Do you hold the fantastical hope that this company will take off and take you with it?
Don’t bet on it.
Your photography is only as valuable as what you are willing to sell it for. Hints at future work are empty. Always ask in concrete terms, “What’s in it for me?” and say, “No,” to bad deals.