Here I am - where are you?

 
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bruchi
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Joined: 10 Mar 2006
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Location: Puerto Rico

PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:23 pm    Post subject: Here I am - where are you? Reply with quote

Here we have a small market that about as far the beginning of the 21st century was very lucrative to photographers, specially from the sixties to the eighties, the latter when I was still assisting, had I been born a decade or 2 earlier!

My original "15" minutes where when at an event the creative in the local advertising arena, Puerto Rico, the one that I respect the most was asked who was the top photographer here and he said without hesitation that he had to name 3 guys and of course I was one of those 3.

I got a second "15" minutes , lucky me! Just found out that a year ago one of my stock images, one I do not own as it was "work for hire" (I got paid well for it) made the cover of "Time".

Advertising has pretty much been the only game in town for photography and one I enjoyed quite so, like to think that I got pretty good at it too. I been out of the photo thing full time for a number of years, can't tell you how much I miss being a photographer, hearing and feeling the mirror travel and whirl of my RZ!

Most of my shooting this days is done with a 22 LR rifle at the gun range on Saturdays...

I do a photo job here and there when it comes around, still had a studio until a month ago as my brother rented gear and a studio to TV - Film production companies. I been keeping the place running as he has had some serious health issues for some time now. Just moved to a cheaper space and there's no room for a shooting area so I'll rent now when I need.

The good news is that my bother is finally getting back on his feet!

Photography here is dead, the one created by 'working photographers" and I cringe at the possible reality that it is as well directed to that end elsewhere, I would love to hear from others on how it is on other places but the one thing I learned in my 30 years at this is that we photographers hate the idea on sharing that information!

I'll go first, this is how it went here:

About what, 2+ decades ago computers came into the graphic world like gangbusters?

Ad agencies here saw computers and all of that shinny digital stuff as a tool to hire just out of college kids with computer skills, salaries for graphic artists in agencies then some $30-40+ grand per year, life then was cheap if compared to let's say NY or LA, went to as little to a third of that and so too for copywriters, etc. along the way - agencies love that.

Why is it going to be different when it comes to photography to our clients?

The real revenue in our "print" world comes from ad placement, as long as pages are sold content goes out of the window.

Pride is gone to those that use photography, at least here, the young ones are clueless and the ones with some time under their belts make no waves hoping they are kept around long enough to reach their retirement benefits.

What is it about computers and the new digital world we cannot live without now?

When "comps" where drawn by hand it obliged those in the agency to THINK about the ad, do overs and oodles of options took time, they had to know "what to draw" first, IMO that was a creative benefit for them and big time for us as a "sketch" gave everyone, including us photographers room for interpretation, we contributed creatively in the turning of that "sketch" into a great photograph and in a nutshell that was our once coveted product.

We sold quite well our style, technical agility, education, resources, chemistry with others, oddness, etc. What came out of all of that mixture is now easily "imitated" at the comfort and cost savings of a computer screen.

Client sees picture on comp, client wants such picture in ad!

Now inexperienced overworked agency creatives don't draw, instead they look for "cool" stock images on line to base the comp on that too often for my taste end up used in the ad, if not they just shoot something themselves which becomes the agency's property to sell, a lot of ad photography here is based on what the agency creative can shoot and enhance digitally.

Clients see a photo on the ad and they lock on that photo killing our room for contributing to the ad those instances we are hired, photography homogenization!

Stock is still the big killing machine, it is gonna be less expensive somewhere online and worst, it frees a lot of time for everyone on the agency, no casting to approve, wardrobe, props, locations, no shooting day/s, no editing of images and so on, that is where all that work went, the simple stuff, the bread and butter work as product shots and such are now shot in the agency by some creative that knows how to read a camera manual and make the image "passable" in Photoshop.

Don't get me wrong, I am still not crazy about digital capture even as that is all I been doing for about a decade now but I do like Photoshop.

So many a print ad now is created without the need for anyone in the ad agency having to leave his comfortable seat, seen pics shot with a point and shoot digicam by someone working not as a photographer on a TV Commercial production that end in the hands of a creative after the agency pays a few hundred dollars for it and used on entire campaigns featuring 50 foot wide billboards.

All local ad agencies now have a high end digital camera and a room with a couple of lamps and a table plus a number of Photoshop savvy creatives that will include shooting pictures in their duties, also directing commercials, the last local film director, a quite good one I saw working on a TV production was there working as a "grip" while the agency folks took turns directing the spot, add to this then the clients that think themselves or a nephew a pro photographer, etc....

Prosumer video cameras, editing suites, plotters to print in-house banners, POP's and even billboards have been for some time now part of the ad agency's arsenal as costs of this and operational skills have come down, so has the bar on image quality, spend $7 grand on a plotter, then paper, ink, hire some kid to run it and all of the sudden the boring somewhat out of focus image on 2 dozen huge billboards looks just fine and more and then they recommended to the client that a pro photographer was not needed, they had that covered and they must save face!

Agencies want to keep as much of the revenue in their bank account and I don't blame them as they are next in line when their clients see the light, or lack of it, do the math and start to hire kids to produce their own advertising in-house.

Of course there are still "jobs" that require the talent, resources, experience, whatever, from someone at the top of the photography food chain but those are quite far in between here, as I see it the bulk, the working photography "middle class" is pretty much gone here and we have now a handful of experienced "pros" still hanging on without work to speak of and a flood of uneducated wannabe's that buy a camera at Costco, give the work for free in the hope of jumping directly into the "pro" position dreaming it is still like it was 20 years ago.

If they only knew better!

Remember my original "15" minutes, the one of me being one of the top 3 shooters here?

Me? I am still a photographer, without work but I am too damned stubborn to give up.

The other 2 guys?

One runs a company that tracks vehicle fleets, he hates it passionately.

The other guy, the biggest earner in my generation now runs his own hot dog cart.
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Ashley
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds very familiar Franklin.

I gave up on the Ad agencies over here, about 5 or 6 years ago - after having worked solely for them, for nearly 20 years.
Times change I guess and nothing lasts forever - so you either find new cheese or you starve to death, hemming & hawing, and mulling over how it once was.

Worth reading: Who Moved My Cheese?

By the way, I don't have all the answers - but I would say you have got this bit right:
bruchi wrote:

Agencies want to keep as much of the revenue in their bank account and I don't blame them as they are next in line when their clients see the light, or lack of it, do the math and start to hire kids to produce their own advertising in-house.

Of course there are still "jobs" that require the talent, resources, experience, whatever, from someone at the top of the photography food chain but those are quite far in between here, as I see it the bulk, the working photography "middle class" is pretty much gone here and we have now a handful of experienced "pros" still hanging on without work to speak of and a flood of uneducated wannabe's that buy a camera at Costco, give the work for free in the hope of jumping directly into the "pro" position dreaming it is still like it was 20 years ago.

That's the current situation & problem - so now you need focus on the solution & answers - as oppose to dwelling on it.

The way forward may lie in your own words here:
bruchi wrote:
...when their clients see the light..

So may be you just need to think a little bit differently now.
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Ashley

Ashley Morrison
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http://www.ashleymorrison.com
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bruchi
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Joined: 10 Mar 2006
Posts: 46
Location: Puerto Rico

PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are solutions but this is a very, very small market, we are talking about an island with a population of around 4 million people, then clients here tend to "marry" suppliers and it is incredibly hard to make inroads into the few non advertising photo clients around, add to that the fact that those photographers working for those few clients guard them like a lioness protects his cubs.

Back when there was work I had prospective clients tell me after many attempts to get work from them, folks I had worked in the past when they where at other agencies that I was wasting my time as the art buyer had someone else's number already on speed dial and it was simpler for them to just call the same guy over and over.

I understood this as the case was the same for me on other agencies. Once while hanging at the one agency that I did all of their photography one of the accounting girls was passing out to the employees their new medical plan cards and I asked her for mine, she started to look for it as she saw me there almost every day.

Add to this a local situatio, some years ago the biggest ad agency hired a creative director from Spain to give a restart to the agency's creative pulse and he turned the agency into a production company in Uruguay, they did a great campaign for a car company and every agency then wanted to go south to shoot commercial spots, a lot of still photography also went there. Perhaps this is not so much just a local thing, a buddy tells me that 50% of the TV ads run in Spain are shot in Argentina!

Now local suppliers where at some fault here, they where used to making lots of money making little effort and a "passable" product, the folks south where used to living in a very competitive market, they where more experienced so they gave clients more options and a better product, some production houses here where just a fax machine and a laptop in the apartment of someone that knew how to talk very well but was quite clueless so everyone down the line charged outrageous fees for very poor work.

I once did a job for a major beer company, I was being paid very well as it was for the Hispanic market, all media in the US and I guess the wardrobe girl found out I was getting a big check! We met the client Monday, shot that following Wednesday and she gave me an invoice for 6 days of work? All the clothes, slll $3 grand to clothe 3 talents where purchased, no rentals to return and on the quite long invoices she had "my stuff" highlighted as there was stuff there she bought for another project... Then there where the ones written on generic slips by her, like $350 for a crappy shirt made by a young unknown local designer, This was the "norm" for many here and it killed us.

One of the guys I assisted and one of the few still getting some work used to do a lot of food photography including all the stuff for the fast food joints, he saw the light way before anyone else and started to contact the fast food guys directly offering them first a list of standard fees. He eventually managed to get long term contracts with them and for a while was still busy while everyone else was hurting but that is ebbing as well.

What else? I tried record companies at one point, even shot a handful of music videos but I got tired of being hired as a Director of Photography by the girlfriend/brother, etc. of one of the band members, they got the credit for directing the thing while I ended up doing the actual work.

There are still a couple of retail clients that do some work locally, they been working with the same photographers for decades so pretty much you have to wait until one of this guys retires or dies and then it is gonna be a fight that someone with an "inside" will win.

Modeling agencies, same deal, they use some young kid that knows how to retouch skin and that his dad is a surgeon so he shoots the stuff for pennies, magazines, same deal. I did get offered a job at a large magazine conglomerate here when work was still flowing in and I told them they could not afford me, that was a mistake, a $60 grand a year job now as a photographer would be quite welcomed! Of course they hired someone else that probably chained himself to the building and is not going anywhere.

The way I see it I have to move elsewhere and hopefully I'll be able to do this sooner rather than later but knowing how it really is out there would be of great help, I know, those that are still working hate the idea of someone else landing in their backyard but I am not asking for your client lists.

So guys, share your experiences, the sooner we KNOW how it is everywhere the sooner we could wake up from dreaming of the old days and maybe we start to make some lemonade.
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Ashley
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bruchi wrote:

.. but knowing how it really is out there would be of great help, I know, those that are still working hate the idea of someone else landing in their backyard but I am not asking for your client lists.

So guys, share your experiences, the sooner we KNOW how it is everywhere the sooner we could wake up from dreaming of the old days and maybe we start to make some lemonade.


Was in the Apple store today and bumped into an old friend.
He is a CD at one of the leading Ad agencies here, who I hadn't seen in years.
We talked about old times and how things had changed - and he told me he is now down to a 3 day week.

Then he mentioned I could buy one of the other leading ad agencies, who have been around now since the 80's, for 1 today.
Yes, 1 and it would be yours - to commission as much photography as you want.
But you may need to find some clients first, who are prepared to pay for an Ad agency to handle their marketing, before putting in your offer.

If it's of interest - and you fancy living on a smaller island that is cold & wet for most of the year - email me and I'll past you on their details.

On another note: boy was the Apple store busy or what !!
Appointments every 10 minutes and they are fully booked out.
I want to be an Apple Genius Wink
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Ashley

Ashley Morrison
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http://www.ashleymorrison.com
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K.C.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 5:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's not about computers, they have empowered us as much as you feel they defeated us. It's about lack of discrimination in the consumers eye and greed.

What's surprising to me is how many threads I've seen like this in the last few months. I diversified years ago to offset the lack of work.

I still pursue photography and feel I'm doing some of my best work, but for far less than it used to be worth.

Just picked up a new client and they were very impressed at how much better my work was then the kid they were using. I didn't take what I should have to the bank, but it sure felt good to hear that.
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Ashley
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

K.C. wrote:
It's not about computers, they have empowered us as much as you feel they defeated us. It's about ...

.. producing & providing images that other people will want to use.
Images that they are prepared to pay for the use of.

It's about finding a way forward.
It's about thinking differently.
It's about bring more to the table.
It's about using what you have to provide the very best that you can.
It's about finding new markets.
It's about not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.

Quote:
"There is no man living that can not do more than he thinks he can." - Henry Ford.


I believe there is a greater need today for good images than there has ever been - and there are now more new ways than ever, in which those images can be use. Our job is to simply produce & provide those images for the World to see.

So with the aid of computers & the internet, the opportunity to succeed today, are greater than they have ever been - but it may mean you need to change your thinking, about how things work and what you have to do, to succeed.
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Ashley

Ashley Morrison
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http://www.ashleymorrison.com
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K.C.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
So with the aid of computers & the internet, the opportunity to succeed today, are greater than they have ever been


I just swapped a few emails with two of the top celebrity/magazine shooters in L.A. who are good friends.

12 years in the business and they've had great success. They said now they spend every waking moment that they're not shooting do promos, blogging, buying old and new clients lunch, basically promoting the hell out of themselves to get enough work.

I rented a studio last week from one of the top food shooters in L.A. He has 6 people working for him non-stop doing promo work just to pay the rent and cover costs. Business is the worst it's been since he started 15 years ago.

Your optimism is wonderful Ashley. But it's not always enough.
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Ashley
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

K.C. wrote:
Your optimism is wonderful Ashley. But it's not always enough.

Would totally agree KC.
I'm just saying there's no point in living in the past and going on about it - because that's not going to help you in any way.

Quote:
2003 www.franklinmiranda.com


By the way, the phones stopped ringing here around 2003 - so I've had to find new markets and other ways to do business.
It meant changing my thinking about how it all works - and even how I charge.

I know Leslie strongly disapproves of my current charging suggestions - but it didn't come about through choice nor because I didn't know any better.
It came about as a result of the changes in our industry - because getting a foot in the door and being given the opportunity in the first place, is often the key these days.

Lots of guys out there are quoting very low numbers - and most are not worrying to much about usage - which therefore makes it hard to compete.
Especially if what you're offering doesn't appear to be any different i.e. on paper when quoting - before the images are produced.

So it's about trying to find ways around that - which means, like your friends, I spend a considerable amount of time these days promoting & marketing - as well as, looking for new opportunities to show clients what else we can provide them with, besides what they have asked for.
But of course, there is no point in doing that, unless you stay in full control of your costs & control the Usage Rights to your images too.

So I believe one needs to think 'outside of the box' a lot more these days - and not just look upon the next request for images as being a Job.
Look beyond the Job - because remember - all you are really doing, is producing & providing images for others to use.
So produce images that they will 'want to use' - rather than images that they can use, if they want to.

To me, that's what it's all about these days - because times have changed, so you need to change too.
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Ashley

Ashley Morrison
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bruchi
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Around my first 5 years as a photographer here I was pretty much the only one that made the rounds around the agencies twice a year to show new portfolios, the guys that already had their phone numbers on speed dial at the agencies did not even had need for them anymore as this is a very small place and everyone knew everyone, most "new" photographers where ex-assistants making the move up and knew the clients.

The next 5 years or so I would print some promo piece twice a year and mailed it to keep folks interested, tried to find a rep in NY with only 2 responses asking to keep them in my mailing list and to continue sending them stuff, I did, I sent my books, nothing.

By then promoting myself here was useless, I was getting plenty of work and all those "big jobs" I coveted, I had "gotten" there and all of the sudden there's was no work, billings went from one day to the next to 30% of what I was getting and that did not cover the bills, savings went out of the window and so on.

I did start to make the dreaded cold calls to try and "reactivate" some work, no one had any work and no time to do lunch or see anyone as agencies where desperate trying to create "new business", mailers did nothing. things got a bit better for a couple of years, landed a client from Miami that hired me to do content, that dreaded "work for hire" for her stock portal on Getty but then even that dried up when she found that everything, not just the photography was a third of the cost in Argentina. I think that things did not work out for her, perhaps her investors pushed her out? I still get a quarterly diminutive check for the dozen images that belong to me that are on the catalog but she is nowhere to be found!

So agencies here now rely heavily on stock, then on stuff their creatives can shoot themselves, the other stuff is shot in Uruguay which means "free travel" for the clients to a location where everything costs less, there are more options, crews work harder and they get utterly pampered.

I tried many times along my career to cultivate some direct clients but those here that use photography outside the ad agencies are quite few and too many just don't pay their bills as they know that the amount owed is too small to justify hiring a lawyer to take to the local courts which is a nightmare in itself, more so "small court claims" so after some time I just gave up on that.

Very little work is left to be shot here, then you have all of your wannabee photographers shooting for peanuts and a handful of stubborn old shooters as myself that cannot let go.

I will be doing a mailer soon, any more suggestions are welcomed!
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K.C.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 7:00 am    Post subject: British Photographic Council Industry Survey of Photography Reply with quote

Pretty much looking like the same story in the UK.

"Although the advent of digital has been fantastic, the flood-gates have been opened for all the 'johnny come saturdays' who don't undertake any training to become professional photographers overnight.'" These and other revealing quotations were gathered during a recent survey by The British Photographic Council of almost 1700 UK-based photographers. The results provide an interesting if gloomy snapshot of what it's like to earn a living behind the camera in that country."

http://www.british-photographic-council.org/survey/2010
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