Saturday, June 30, 2007

Shit Happens

Maryann has left a comment on my blog telling of her woes of being burglared. She lost her kit, a videocamera that did not belong to her and cash. She was not insured. That is very hard.

I think a lot of us think about the cost of doing a shoot, but do not consider the cost of doing business. I have had comments from one or two people that my rates are high, but I know that if I do not charge a certain amount, I may get that particular job done, but I will be out of business in the long run. So I will charge what it cost to run a business. If photographers do not run a business, they will not remain photographers for long. Most of my clients will bargain with me for a small discount but understand that I have to earn a living too.

Let me just say that from the start, I have had insurance on my studio and have an alarm system in place. This has added to the cost of running my business but it has given me a peace of mind. I also insure my assistants against injury because their work is physical.

That being said, shit does happen. Even without a major event like a robbery, in the last two months lightning took out my alarm system, the mirror of my 5D dropped out and it was just out of warranty, the head of my printer died and I had to replace it, and the car I drive around in all day for shoots had to have the entire air-conditioning redone. And after seven years in the studio, I am getting it repainted. All the repair and maintenance takes money. It feels like I am bleeding money right now.

But I am also doing some of my best photography ever. This is my personal work, my dance photography and fashion test shoots. And with the photography happening, I will continue with photography even if my whole studio burns down and I have to start from scratch again. That is all I want to do. That is how much I love being a photographer. It is important that you shoot for yourself somehow. If it is just a job to you, if it gets to difficult, you will move on and find an easier way to make money. If you started with photography for the love of it, you have to find ways to keep falling in love with it.

So, you have to be realistic in your charges. I encourage people not to go for quantity. Go for quality work, even if it is boring work. Go for work that takes a speciality and make sure you are the specialist. If you have a knack for shooting products but prefer to shoot cats, be a specialist product photographer and shoot cats for the love of it. For those of you who have not seen John Clang's exhibition at the Substation, go see it. It is very challenging, it very conceptual and so much more flat than his commercial work. But he is so good at his commercial work he can very well put whatever he wants on display. I shoot people well, I charge a premium for it so that I have the time and money to shoot dancers. I am not such a businessman that I am rolling in money, but I am enough of a businessman to make sure that my office and staff pays for itself. And whether it is paid work or personal work, I take pride in my work. If I accept money for a job, and it is a job I do not normally like to do, I will still go all out to do the best job I can. I never hold back and think that I am getting paid less for this job and I should put in less of an effort. I do pro bono work for arts groups and charitable organisations and I will only do the work if I can do excellent work.

What am I saying? Do your calculations and find out how much it is to run your business. Charge enough money to run your business, not just pay for individual shoots. The deal between you and your client is that they will pay you for professional work, and you will have to work and slave to ensure you surpass your client's expectations. Keep a balance and find time to shoot for yourself; to fall in love with photography again.

All in all, it is pretty much common sense. I hope this helps Maryann. Best of luck in your career.


e.goh said...

have been visiting/lurking for quite a bit and have not said anything before largely because your posts are insightful and pretty well thought-out and anything i have to add would be quite redundant.

and while i am nowhere close to where you are on your photography journey, what you said struck a chord. i guess one of the things i've been unhappy about lately is that i'm not shooting for myself. it is time to change that and i really do need to rediscover that joy when i get to take the photographs that i want to.

as i feel i'm fast approaching some kind of crossroads, it's comforting to know that someone else has been there, done that and is happy to share their experiences. :)

Heng said...

Well, that is why I am sharing my journey on Pond Musings. Being a photographer is much more than what camera to buy and what lens to use. Good luck on your journey too.

tubbykat said...

thank you very much for your very sensible reply, it really helped sort out my thinking. running a business is indeed not easy but i am not about to give it up yet :) the passion to shoot is still there, i guess that keeps me going. trying to make clients go for quality rather than quantity can be quite challenging as most of my clients are mothers and they seem to be more prudent with their spending :S thanks again heng for sharing your views, really appreciate it!

Heng said...

Hi Maryann. It is not easy for any of us nowadays. But it is good to share what we know. How else can we all expect to grow. Keep on going.