Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Words To Live By

"When the gong gets weird, the weird turn pro..."

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson first committed that phrase to print many moons ago. Though he was talking about the profession of journalism, these words of wisdom seem equally applicable to the professional photographic industry. And the going has been pretty weird around these parts for some time now... slow times for most of us... increasing attempts at rights-grabs from publications trying to capitalize on our fears, self-doubt, fragile egos, insecurities, and the ever-pressing need to keep eating... advertisers demanding buy-outs of copyright for no additional compensation and a hungry mass of colleagues either uneducated in the business practices that were long ago established by organizations like ASMP, APA and other trade groups or willing to toss them aside in hopes of landing an assignment to keep the bills paid.

It's quite a pickle we all find ourselves in these days. Do we knuckle under and give in to the demands in hopes that we keep on working, cut our fees in hopes that the low bidder wins the assignment?

The only wisdom I can dispense on the matter is this: There is absolutely no value in being known as the cheapest guy on the block. While a low-pricing strategy will, in some circumstances, win you an extra assignment or two... in the long run, you will end up working harder for less, you will find yourself displeased with the end results because you've been forced into cutting corners production value-wise, and worst of all, you will end up pigeonholed as the guy that works for cheap. Next time that client calls for an assignment, don't ever count on getting a better fee because you did it for less the first time out. Is that how you want client's to remember you?

Sure, times are tough for everyone these days. It makes a little sense to attempt to work with art buyers, cutting expense items where it's possible to do so without compromising the quality of your work. I encourage you to make sure you're not the only one involved in the project that has to make those cuts. There are several options available to us when it come to negotiating fees, use licenses, etc. If you're forced out of necessity and a need to pay the mortgage to cut your fee, try to limit the licensing period or media inclusions in exchange, try to get a substantial deposit prior to commencing production on the project or an agreement for payment immediately upon delivery, try to get commitments for future projects... you get my drift here... tit for tat. Otherwise, it's the photographers that end up being the chumps.

You must act like a pro, even when times get weird, if you want to be taken seriously when this economic shitstorm eventually passes. Get thee over to the ASMP website when you have some downtime and scroll through the free, printable papers on business practices for the professional photographer. You can find them here. You'll find lots of helpful info regarding business practices, negotiating, copyright registration, self-promotion, digital workflow, keywording & meta-data, legal issues, forms, etc. You owe it to yourself to spend a little time either re-reviewing some of this information, if for no other reason, to remind yourself that you have chosen a profession... it's a business and as a business, has it's own sets of practices, legalities, etc, unique to that profession. Those of you relatively new to the business of professional photography... I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to make yourself familiar with this information.

Over at the APA website, there is also a wealth of information on these matters found here.

So... when YOUR going gets weird... make sure you deal with it like a pro!

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