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A Bad Deal

This is not a $10 Photo

I recently passed on job that was such a bad deal, I had to share. Below is the job description and my thoughts on it.

Hi Lincoln,

Thank you for the fast response! Below is the run down for the job.

We’ll be putting together a list of (roughly) 60 venues (restaurants, bars, concert spaces) that we’ll want to have shot. I will contact each of the venues and set up an appointment time, as well as a point of reference for you to go and photograph the venues.

WOW!!! 60 locations to shoot! A good architectural photograph takes 30 to 45 minutes to set up a shoot (though I’ve been known to spend hours on a single shot). Add on set up, break down, and travel time, and you’re looking at a full day of work just to shoot two locations. Hope it pays enough to justify passing on other jobs for 30 days. ;)

We’ll want 4-5 interior shots of each space, just to give us a few options (we work with Photomatix Pro so three different exposures per shot would be ideal). In the past, our photographers have used just the natural light that the restaurant normally has set up when they are open, like mood lighting, candles, etc., no strobes or extra lights, and then the photographer shoots in that interior space. They shoot without assistants. They shoot just before the restaurant opens or just after they close so they can avoid people in the space.

Now hold on a sec… do you want high-quality photography that captures the spirit of the space? Shots that make will make people want to go to the restaurant, bar, or concert space? Shots that are in-focus, properly exposed, and tack-sharp? If so, I will need to shoot the way that I think it is best, which almost always means that I bring my own lighting, a skilled assistant, and a trained stylist. Also, if you don’t want people in your shots, then I will only be able to shoot two locations a day. One from 7am to 9am and one from 3am to 5am (those hours sound brutal).

There would be no need for you to do any post-production on the pictures. I will edit the images in terms of color correction and cropping etc. So we would take that off of your plate. Just shooting and uploading. We would just have to work out how we would upload the raw files from you (in the past we’ve used Box.com and Dropbox.com).

You don’t hire me to push a button. You hire me for my technical knowledge and creative skills. Monkeys push buttons. I’m a photographer, damnit.

So for that job as described, we can offer $50 per venue and a total of $3,000 for the complete project.

*gasp* (it gets worse)

And as in all past projects such as this, we need ownership of the photos. We are a content distributer and need to be able to utilize the photos on any platform as we move into in the future. We can’t enter into deals in which we would need to go back to the photographer or any other vendor with further licensing requests. We also may want to compile all photos from every city into some sort of anthology in the future. Finally, we work with partners editorially sometimes and can’t go back to the photographer anytime we need to enter into a content partnership. We’ve worked on this basis in multiple cities and haven’t paid a premium for this type of license and unfortunately can’t start now.

So, for $50 a location, $10 a photo, you basically want unlimited, unrestricted use of my intellectual property? Intellectual property that you can do whatever you want with now and into the future…ANNNNNND you want to pass on the photos to 3rd parties without compensation to me??!?! For $10 a photo??!?!?!?!?

However, that said, we can give you a limited license to show the work in your portfolio and sell to venues to make extra money from the work. But we don’t want you selling the photos to places like BLAHBLAH (a main competitor) in the future, the limited license would allow you to sell the photos back to the venue themselves. So that’s our situation with rights and ownership.

Gee thanks, but since you’re handling the post production, I won’t have access to the final retouched versions of the images. So, I will have to retouch the shots myself (which takes a half day of work for a day of shooting) if I want to use them for my portfolio or attempt to relicense the work to the venues. Who knows, maybe the venues will pay for the shots with with beer and pretzels!?

As I said, I’m really excited about your work and I hope we can work something out. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about the project.

I don’t believe you are really excited about my work. If you knew anything about what I do, you would know that I care way to much to shoot these spaces in the way you are suggesting and for so little compensation.

It boggles my mind that they would look at my work and ask me to shoot like this. What is even more frustrating is that there will be some photographer out there who will do this job. Even as a pay-your-dues, portfolio-builder, need-experience kind of gig, this job is ridiculously low-paying and devalues the photo industry as a whole. This is microstock pay for custom exclusive work. This is a bad deal.

Maybe I could have negotiated the price up, but the starting point was so low from where I would need it to be, it just wasn’t worth my time. I passed on this job and you should, too.

10 Responses to “A Bad Deal”

  1. Mau Orozco says:

    Unreal. I see similar “opportunities” come up frequently now. Long time ago I briefly worked in post production for a company that shot hotels to create virtual tours and they offered a similar deal (probably not as bad) and they had people lined up to do the photography.

    Of course the post production department would frequently have to save the day when the crappy images came in. Unbelievable they had the audacity to make this offer after looking at your level of work.

  2. Wow. It sounds like a horrible deal. Thanks for sharing this it was informative to see what you thought…and it taught us “newer” photographers to say no to bad deals.

  3. KW says:

    Holy smokes! I feel like even using my iPhone would cost more money to just produce a shot-unedited.
    Having the pleasure of working next you and your methods, this is very insulting. As I am sure they will get what they want from someone, Where do you go from here?
    Thanks for sharing this bit of insight. As a new photographer, all of your posts are very informative, a little scary, and extremely valuable.
    K

  4. Mary Anderson says:

    Lincoln, wise move! Having worked with Philip for 13 years, I know how incredulous this job is. You’re exactly right, they want a button pusher who takes no pride in the quality of their work or building a reputation or portfolio. Good shooting takes lots of time…and whatever lighting is necessary to make that shot magical. Unfortunately their shots will look as good as $10 per.

  5. Hi everyone! Thanks for all the supportive comments. I’ve always felt that transparency is the best way to elevate the industry. A lot has change from the film days, but you should still be able to make a living as a photographer. Shooting jobs like this is sure way to lose money.

  6. It is truly stunning that people compliment one’s work without any true understanding, interest or respect of its nature. That being said, turning away jobs can be difficult for people starting out in their careers – I’m glad you’ve posted your experience as a warning to them.

  7. Kindred spirit says:

    I got the same pitch a year ago from Urban Daddy. What a joke. I like how they want you to do the cold calling too.

    They never launched in my city so maybe they haven’t found someone dumb enough to take it.

  8. Hello, just curious what your response was. When I get these kinds of “offers” I’m always incredulous and never know how to respond. A simple “no thank you”? A short explanation of why I’m turning the job down? Something inside me always wants to tell them “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

    • Sorry to reply so late, been busy with real work for real pay ;) I was kind of rude to the guy who contacted me. I told him I don’t work this way and it was kind of insulting. Not my best response, but it really wasn’t worth it to me. It’s really hard to make cheap clients into anything but that. I’ve had other inquiries like this come in and I’ve just said I’m booked.

  9. Adrian Tan says:

    Sounds like a job for real estate photographers. A quick 3 exposure for HDR, 5 image job can be done within 20mins. It’s actually worth it for them because they get anything between $150-250 for 20-30 images.

    Although the licencing is just a dead ripoff!

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