I recently came across two job postings that say a lot about the state of the photography market today. And while the news is not altogether surprising, it still might stick in your craw a little bit.
The first listing, on Craigslist, was flagged by John Harrington. A New York PR firm had posted an ad online looking for a photographer to take pictures for a “High Profile Client.”
Full Credit and Future Work
The ad reads (italics ours):
Photographer Needed for High Profile Client (Indianapolis)
New York City based Public Relations Company is seeking a photographer for a small photo shoot with a well known professional tennis player. Great way to add photos to your portfolio and work with a great company. Photos will be used in a marketing campaign geared towards the US Open.
Although there isn’t any financial compensation for this project, full credit is given as well as an opportunity for future work with a magazine. We will work to create a great credit package for the right photographer!
Please email us for details ASAP, as this project would be taking place within the next few days.
John figures the PR account rep “billed $150 for the time necessary to create this craigslist ad,” and will “spend another few hours culling through the idiots that respond to this ad.”
Then, “the studio you have to rent will get paid, the car service that brings the pro athlete will get paid, the cell phone bill that the account exec has for all the calls related to the shoot will get paid,” and on and on.
Everyone but you, the creative talent making the project a reality.
Doing More with Less for Less
The second ad, a job posting for a photo editor at Time Inc. found by Paul Melcher, demonstrates that similar pressures exist on the editorial side.
Qualifications for the ideal job candidate at the world’s largest magazine publisher include (again, italics added):
- Excellent editorial judgment and eye, must generate story ideas and identify topics to cover, must react to news.
- Edit and build various online photo galleries, notably never-seen LIFE archival content and LIFE.com’s weekly feature: The Weeks Best Photos
- Oversee and perform the digital restoration of LIFE archival photos (basic retouching and color correction)
- Experience negotiating and managing usage rights and rates for digital, mobile and video content
- Assign, produce and direct original photo essays
- Liaise with Editorial, Legal, Sales and PR Teams in the execution of featured content packages
- Manage freelance staff
- Strong eye for young talent
- Must be creative in terms of doing more with less for less and must be ready and willing to do so
As Paul translates that last bullet point:
Must be capable of getting the best images for peanuts and not complain about it. Ever.
No Magic Bullet
In other words, in both commercial and editorial photography today, the squeeze is on. And don’t expect it to end when the economy improves.
Now, is there a magic-bullet answer to these challenges for today’s pro photographers? No, there isn’t.
But one thing I do know from reading and editing the contributions of Black Star Rising contributors is that the qualities that make for a successful photography career have evolved markedly over the past several years.
The photographers who make it today are more than picture-takers, more than artists even. They know how to brand themselves and market their businesses. They know how to communicate their value in no uncertain terms to clients and prospects. They are savvy negotiators.
They know a bad deal when they see one, too. And they have no qualms about walking away from it.
Remember that the next time a low-balling PR firm or publisher tries to hire you for little or nothing.