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Tag Archives: successful
Why Does It cost so much? –or– Why don’t I own it?
Filed under, “If I had a nickel for every time I heard this….”
Knowledge & Power
The education of commercial art buyers at the client direct level is awash in a sea of misinformation and self-appointed know-it-alls. Some days I see the advantage of having a personal firing squad.
Professional Photography costs X dollars because commercial licensing of intellectual property is a component of the service we sell. Referring specifically to professional photography, we don’t make widgets. We don’t sell real estate. We don’t collect data and mine it for you. We do work on commission, we work at creating intellectual property in the form of visuals and it’s the intellectual property rights built into each and every photograph we build that provides us the ability to make a living wage. Licensing the use of intellectual property for your business or personal needs is part of our business model.
If one works in a situation where someone else carries the weight for you, (benefits, salary, retirement, etc.) then the idea of artists’ intellectual property rights may indeed be a mystery. Add in the costs of doing business, the need to make a reasonable profit and our pricing structure and you have our business model just about summed up.
It’s painful when we negotiate and end up not only having been denied our licensing rights, but maddening when those rights aren’t even acknowledged. It’s not a gift or an entitlement. It’s a right. Artists own their creative works unless they sign them away. It’s the creative-art-patent.
Product vs. Expression
We do not create products. We create the expression of an idea. It’s custom designed to fit your needs and desires. If you’re willing to pay for it you can own our intellectual property rights by an outright purchase and transfer of our copyright. Not recommended of course due to the expense, but it ‘s available. I’ve sold it a few times in my career.
If you’re unable or unwilling to purchase our intellectual work outright then we’ll come to an agreement that let’s you license the portions you need and we’ll keep the rest. We’re then free (through our ingenuity and efforts) to look for other opportunities and revenue streams. Again, this is our business model.
When you purchase a home you are purchasing the property rights to that home and land. When you buy a DVD you own the physical disk but not its’ content. You’ve licensed the content for a specific use. Period. That intellectual property is the property of the creating party….movie studio or independent filmmaker.
I lose projects because ownership issues (my rights) drive costs past what seem like arbitrarily low budgets. Education about this issue is important to both sides so a mutually beneficial understanding is developed.
I’m not inflexible in my pricing either. I’ve adjusted with the state of the economy but it isn’t enough; a request for a quote came in: ten business professional headshots, retouched and ready to post online. The shoot was to be on location about 13 miles from my studio. I normally charge $600.00 a shot for volume jobs like this. But I wanted to see where the bottom was so I came in at the ridiculously low price of $95.00 a shot. I was crazy to let this quote out of my office but I needed to see where bottom was. But in fact I was too high! Some other knucklehead (dumber than me) low-balled the crap out of it after I already low-balled the crap out of it. That’s four low balls! And it wasn’t enough.
Now where’s that firing squad?
And Yet There’s More
But it’s also something much more. More profound. More disturbing than at any other time in my career.
It’s the inability of individuals and businesses to accept that bargaining for these rights (or even the effort to understand and grasp the concept of ownership, licensing, copyright and associated costs) makes us crazy. Ready. Aim….
It costs more than you realize, or want to spend, or have been told is your budget to spend because it’s convenient not to think about what it takes to engage a professional who trades in the photographic arts.
The copyright law that protects every creative’s intellectual property rights includes photographers. And movie studios. And authors. And songwriters. And poets. And comedy acts. And TV shows. And professional sports leagues. We’re in good company and we aim to stay put.
So please listen when we tell you the proper way to license or purchase our intellectual property. It protects you from unauthorized use. If you use protected work that has been registered it gets expensive in a hurry.
But you know that right?
Let’s Work Together
You don’t think I’m going to press my advantage if I catch you? Most likely I will. It’s about respect and acknowledgement of what our rights and protections are. Rights and protections we fight to keep in spite of what our government of the United States of Business tries to do. Daily. You have rights and protections that you want honored and enforced, company trademarks, patents and the like.
It’s a two-way street and today’s economic environment is no excuse for fostering an attitude that belittles the process, diminishes the relationship and adds to everyone’s stress level.
Thanks for reading.
I thought I’d offer something different in this post…one of my presentations about additive and subtractive color theories, 3-click color correction and a few odds and ends about printing a digital file.
There are more of these at my slideshare site.
I hope you find it useful.
Well it took long enough didn’t it? Chapter 2 of my time lapse saga at The Huntington was published a few weeks ago. The feedback from my client, friends and colleagues has been 100% positive.
I’m grateful for the response and of course was hoping for exactly that but one never knows…
The months I spent becoming familiar with the material I recorded, (stills, video and sound) sourcing out music for the soundtrack, learning Adobe Premiere and the principle3s of strong editing have all been worth the effort.
I will write again about the 7 things I have learned that make up a time lapse narrative film.
I recommend a small popcorn as this is 4:21 in length.
Until the my next post…enjoy the show.
I’ve been wanting to address the issues of failure, freedom and success for quite some time now. And the day has finally arrived. An SECP is compelled to learn new skills, take on new challenges and generally embrace the idea that learning and risk taking are inextricably intertwined and never cease. For example I seek out in-person and online events where I get to speak, teach and potentially sell products of my own making or that of partner companies. I attempt to do this in an honest, straightforward and humorous way. I spend many hours preparing materials and information and practicing the delivery of said materials and presentations.
The reason I do this: I’m dyslexic and was labeled slow in grammar school. I had tremendous difficulty comprehending what was being said and taught. My seat was moved to the front of the class. I was spoken to in a loud voice because it was clear I had a “hearing” problem. It was hard for me to endure teaching methods that did not work. Feeling humiliated added to the stress and frustration. An older brother however took great joy in teasing me about being a retard. (the acceptable word used back then) Ouch!
Thinking about my dyslexia and those school experiences moved me to see what I could do with the art, science and profession of teaching. I imagined my students (and anyone listening to me for that matter) as being dyslexic. This made me concentrate on the variety of ways information can be packaged and delivered. I strived to ensure my processes are clear, straightforward and broken down into easily digestible bits. This took years of practice, reading class critiques from students and administrators alike and professional development courses. A lot of work.
Does this take away from my time as a commercial photographer? You bet. Did I develop a new skill set, polish existing skills and insight into myself as a professional artist? Check that.
I love the process of being my own person. I’ll take on most challenges, go virtually anywhere to gain new information, knowledge and experiences that I then feed back into my business administration, marketing and sales roles. Similar to how I plow profits back into new equipment and training, teaching informs several aspects of my business and has enabled me to become an education/speaking expert in a particular market segment.
This constant searching for new ideas and experiences helps to keep me fresh and topical.
What are you doing? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.
The best comment will win a signed copy of my book!
The butter and eggs portion of my business is the corporate headshot. To date I’ve done over a thousand. Location. Studio. I’ll go anywhere clients request. Period. It’s called service. With a smile. And a decent price tag. For both parties. I want to share with you one of my trade secrets: the interview rap. The interview rap works well when I’m doing one or two people per assignment. When I’m doing five plus a day, my rap is done on-the-fly. The energy level I must bring during the bigger sessions contributes to its’ success. When it’s only one or two people per assignment it’s a bit different.
Here’s what I do: I call the subjects and spend time getting to know them. And they me. I offer congratulations on their new hire or promotion (or whatever the reason is for them needing a headshot). I ask if they’ve been photographed professionally, how they felt, how the photographs turned out (in their opinion only), would they like to do something different this time? The way they answer drives my rap…funny…informational…topical…personal, etc. If there is an ease to their answers, no detectable strain in their voice I come back to them with a jokes, recent movies I’ve seen or food I’ve eaten mixed in with my answers. The tone and length of their responses inform me as to what type of personality I’m beginning to engage. And vice-versa. In my world both sides of the photographic session have to be authentic as much as possible. I’ve been doing this too long to play games, I’m determined to do a successful and professional job that fills my clients needs every time I pull the trigger.
In essence I want my subjects to know me and I them. I strive to create a relaxed, engaging and informational photographic experience and it begins with the interview rap and moves forward clothing ideas, haircut (at least a week in advance), booking date, length of session, what we will accomplish and a delivery date.
So may I ask…what’s your rap?
Thanks for reading.
Embrace the opportunity to shoot, shoot, shoot. Whatever the subject: street, people, landscape, animals, water, buildings, etc. Just shoot baby!
Look for the light, composition and moments. Be open to possibilities, get out of your own way and EXPERIMENT. Experiment with lens choices, exposure modes, aperture settings, shutter speeds, hand held vs. tripod, move the camera during exposure. Lower the camera. Raise the camera. Try shooting without looking through the viewfinder. Use auto focus instead of manual. Or vice-versa. Be joyful in the process of creation. You just may create something you weren’t expecting, a FABULOUS photograph! Filled with emotional impact, a great story, or a profound moment. You won’t know unless you try and you can’t predict the outcome. That’s part of the excitement is it not?
I’m a pro. Have been for years. I approach my personal work as discussed above because this approach in turn informs my professional work in that I’m reasonably assured when I’m on assignment of what can be achieved through controlled experimentation. Freehand personal experimentation informs controlled client experimentation. Every time.
For example. The image above was made during a class field trip where I encouraged my students to do exactly what I’ve been proselytizing. I didn’t look through the viewfinder, had the lens on auto focus and hand held the camera just above the ground as I kept pace with this these goslings. I had no idea what I was going to get but I knew that by doing this I was bound to get something reasonable because I’ve been experimenting with this for awhile. Here’s an example of a similar approach last December in Lake Tahoe, CA:
I’m not a fowl photographer by any means. The subjects of both these photographs is a coincidence. But the process is not. The process is what made me lower the camera and trust my instincts. Obie Wan is correct. Trust the Force.
Here’s another experiment:
Driving home from Palm Desert, I decided to pull off Highway 10 and endeavor to find a few photo ops. Winds are frequently a factor in this area so I was hoping to find a subject easily affected by wind. Seeing this grove of small trees buffeted by the wind, I decided to photograph the movement while contrasting several still components within the composition. I’m not saying that this is an award-worthy image. But it’s worth noting the value contained within: how subject movement can be photographed when other elements are not moving. The lesson here can be applied to other forms of subject movement: water sports, auto racing and the like.
Speaking of movement, time to bounce.
See ya! Comments welcomed.
As my ten month time-lapse project begins to wind down, I’m satisfied with the way I’ve honored the contributions of the fine people who’ve been working at The Huntington on the rejuvenation of the Asian Garden. These workers do strenuous manual labor: digging, mulching, watering, planting, etc., in all kinds of weather and always starting first thing in the morning. Six days a week.
And as far as I’ve witnessed, they do it with pride, professionalism and camaraderie. I like hanging out with these guys because they are know a lot about gardening, are friendly and support what I’m doing with multiple cameras, sometimes set in places they have to work around to avoid jostling. I really appreciate their efforts on my behalf.
My gift to them are the portraits I’ve been making periodically. I made these yesterday. The lead image for this post was taken at 8am and the one below was made at 3pm.
This morning I handed out seven envelopes with these two prints inside. There were surprised and grateful. We shared a few laughs at how they appeared at both ends of a typical day for them: fresh in the morning and a bit bedraggled at the end. This is a rare experience for them and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to honor them this way.
Thanks for reading.
I am a professional photographer. I work for money. (usually) I need to get the word out. In as many ways as possible. Often. Thumbtack.com is one of the myriad ways I get the word out on a frequent and consistent basis. I have opted to pay a monthly subscription fee for job leads. It is reasonably priced and will pay for itself for a year with just one commission. For me it’s worth the investment. In my business. In my career. In my marketing partner.
Here is my listing on Thumbtack: I offer portrait, architectural, event and time-lapse photography products and services. Everyone has a story to tell and we’ll have a few laughs in the process. Expert photo restoration and printing services also available. I build photographs, I don’t take pictures.
When you’re self-employed, use all available resources that enhance your brand and services.
Good luck and good business to all of us!
…improvement is the goal. It seems to me that all the coaching, selling, negotiating and business tips, (mine included) that we dispense with great abandon are usually about achieving success. I think that what we really should be doing is giving advice on how to improve on whatever shoot, negotiation, sales call, etc. we engaged in previously as the preferred and less threatening method for developing a path to success. For me, this process has been going on for years.
Improving oneself leads to success, growth, power, clarity and confidence. The goal is improvement. Success will follow. Guaranteed. Gradual, steady, persistent and consistent improvement leads to success. The equation is that simple. I think a lot of people wrongly believe that success is paramount and that they have been lead down this garden path by the cottage industry of life and business coaches prowling around online, in workshops and seminars. They’ve been putting the cart before the horse, generated huge profits for themselves and have saddled up customers to take their advice. I wonder what the success rate is for these do-gooders?
I’m all for your success but I think about it differently. I take the gloss off the sales pitches, solutions and the like. My philosophy about what makes a successful photograph (small steps made correctly) carries over to my idea about how my daily routines and processes can help move me in the direction of success by enabling me to improve slightly every day. Think about what this approach means? 5-7 days of slight improvement times 4 weeks time 12 months. That’s a lot of success!!!! Put you in the previous paragraph and see how it feels.
Even the inevitable setbacks won’t negate a years worth of incremental improvement. Too slow you say? I say enjoy the ride and along the way have a cup of joe and smell the roses, spend time with family or whatever it is you want and need to do as your reward for the incremental improvements and inevitable successes that form the heart of your career.
© Michael e. Stern. All rights reserved. Please respect the rights of professional artists the world over. Thank you. Licensing questions? Please call Michael at: 1-818-422-0696
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