Tag Archives: freelance

Negotiating Exposure for the freelance


This is Audrie Currie demonstrating a method of estimating the ideal kayak paddle length (you didn’t know there was such a thing as an ideal paddle length did you?) from a picture story of mine which appeared in an actual ink and paper Outdoors Magazine Special on boating and camping.

Although it is not the done thing for freelance writers and photographers to reveal how much they are paid for magazine work, I can reveal that I negotiated a fee close to $1000 for a spread of five photographs and 2000 words, which included a substantial amount for Audrie as model. We received two free copies of the magazine each as well.

This was at a time when such special interest magazines had a monthly, or total contributor budget of between $15,000 and $25,000, and sold around 8 to 10 thousand copies.

A far cry from what masquerades as magazine “publishing” today, where the dreaded words ‘payment for contributors’  is never mentioned in not so polite company, for fear of never working again.

Instead “creatives” (I think that refers to writers and photographers) submit work for the wondrous benefits of mythical “exposure” and the never to eventuate “promise of future work”, (to stroke their own vanity!) while models (they are lumped into either “creatives” or worse still “artists”), are beguiled by weasel words foremost amongst which are “it’ll be great for your folio”.

As a freelance writer, photographer and sometimes illustrator I do a yearly impromptu survey of as many magazines as possible, both newstand and online, and my research shows that of magazines of similar subject matter…outdoor recreation, boating camping, etc…(although in reality very few remain, and those which do are a mere shadow of their former glory)…none promote the need for freelance work, and those few who actually use freelance work pay in either magazine subscriptions, individual copies, or not at all.

This result seems to be typical stretching back at least ten years, and in some cases much longer.

No the era of the online magazine, especially of the vanity type, has arrived with a vengeance, and unfortunately for the majority of freelance writers and photographers, is set to stay.

And of course before this artless, directionless, poorly targeted and basically tacky shit is published at seemingly random intervals, every ‘creative’ involved has to supply a list to the publisher, of everyone who was remotely involved in the shoot, or the writing, including the pizza delivery guy, all their relatives and friends, and supposedly every person and their dog they have come into contact with, so that the “respectable publisher” can spam, bully and badger them into coughing up double the price of a newstand magazine for an ill conceived, poorly planned and hurriedly designed digital downloadwhich actually costs virtually nothing to produce.

Despite this their total sales range from less than ten for some, ( apparently no more than the writer, photographer and model and their mothers in many cases) and up to 500 or so for the better written, produced, marketed and advertised attempts.

Nevertheless, the freelance writer, photographer and model are expected to pay for their own copy.

You know the copy of the ‘magazine’ which is “great exposure for their work”!


©Copyright: Stephen Bennett, MMXVII

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blog unprofressional

It seems that any legitimate photographer, model, and even make up artist, cannot do, say, or post anything online without being labelled as ‘unprofessional’.
In fact it rolls trippingly off so many tongues and so often, akin to the use of it’s linguistic cousins, un-Oshtray-yun, and unna-Merican, that if it did once have some actual meaning, it has now lost all confrontational power: lost all devastational effect from the mouths of simple minded bullies: lost any semblance of insult to the meaningless murk of degraded words inhabited by ‘bugger’, ‘bum’, or ‘you silly, naughty person’
No, come to think of it, legitimate or not doesn’t matter,  as ‘unprofessional’ is the first go to accusation that fauxpros, pretenders, and other fraudsters are willing to make in public, even to each other, before rushing to their secret facebook hate groups to defame and vilify anyone who dares to say anything other than fatuous, sycophantic praise, albeit completely innocuous, about their ‘work’, their ‘passion’, their ‘art’.
Well if being unprofessional is what it is to expose, criticize, ridicule, unmask and satirize  the nonsense,the stupidity, the buffoonery, the con, the fraud, the honey trap, the manipulation, the exploitation and the abuse which epitomises the fauxpro photography ‘industry’ as it is today, and the manner in which it has called all decent photographers and photography as a whole into disrepute and total disorder, well I intend to remain one very active and extremely happy ‘unprofessional’.
I am even planning to describe myself as ‘UNPERFESHNAL TOG’ on my next order of business cards.

And besides they are always good for a laugh: if not for just their arrogance in thinking that they can somehow insult or bully their ‘competition’ into thinking that they are superior, not just to you but to everyone.

A serious case in point. It is but a few months since an amateur model I know well, posted on her facebook page that she would no longer consider shooting with ‘photographers’ unless they at least had an idea or theme for their shoot, and were willing at some stage to organize a time and location to work towards.

This attempt to rid herself of the constant annoyance of time wasters, pick up merchants, pretenders and wankers who think they have a right to monopolize the time of any girl who appears the least bit attractive, let alone announce herself as a model, resulted, to her astonishment for this quite reasonable, but possibly naive request, she was immediately bombarded with postings, messages and emails decrying her as extremely unprofessional, amongst other things to lewd to mention, and the subject of vilification and defamatory statements in multiple ‘photography groups’.

Those personally shredding her included complete strangers, and those who she had never even heard of; but unfortunately many were people she had previously regarded as more than mere photographers, or acquaintances, but as friends. She now will only model for legitimate photographers whom she not only knows very well, but trusts implicitly.

And who would blame her?

The most insulting and laughable example recently was an email from someone who was once genuine photographer, but whose apparent inability to adapt to the rapidly changing markets, as well as limited originality has turned him into a hack, basically living on the almost forgotten glory of a bygone career, who accused me of being unprofessional, not a real ‘professional photographer’ anyway because my phone number isn’t in the yellow pages (???), and that I was trying to  ‘live(vicariously) in the reflection of his professional standing”.

Why? I had simply agreed with an opinion he offered on a photography forum somewhere.

He seemed to have forgotten, or was blissfully unaware, or indeed had chosen to ignore, that it had been me, while editing a now long defunct print magazine, who had negotiated one of his first published photo essays, when he was merely a nerdy young lad with a shiny new camera, and stars in his eyes.

But it is apparently not the only the province of fauxpro photographers to drop the ‘unprofessional’ bomb.

I recently received an email from a photo agent, who I had sacked (fired, dismissed, given the heave-ho) many years ago due to his megalomaniac tendencies (why is it that so many photo agents seem to harbour latent megalomania, or is it part of the job description from the beginning?)
Yes, although it may sometimes appear to the contrary, you actually employ an agent to work for you, and your best interests.

This email extolled the virtues of a job which being an Australian photographer, living in Australia, was ‘right up my alley’ – no need to tell that this agent was resident overseas, and probably doesn’t know the difference between Austria and Australia.

This opportunity of a lifetime required me to:

  • -be in Esperance, W.A., the next day: from Sydney, (nearest airport to where I live) it is merely a 3,418 km trip, one way, and at my own expense…
  • -meet an unnamed middle eastern gentleman and his entourage, who in the agent’s words, was a ‘very, very, important celebrity’, that he (the agent) could vouch for, (a suspicion raising utterance in itself) and therefore would be ‘great exposure for my burgeoning career’…in typical weasel speak he actually said: great exposure for developing my ‘brand’…
  • -hire a car (luxury model of course), again at my own expense, and chauffeur said gentleman wherever in W.A. he wanted to go…
    photographically record all this gentleman’s travels and whims…
  • -surrender immediately at the end of the week, any and all of an undetermined number of photographs documenting the entire week’s activities, completely processed and edited, to the said gentleman’s entourage, including all rights and copyrights…
  • -keep this gentleman’s identity, and the purpose of his visit, secret not only during the trip, but for ever after…

Well so far so (ridiculously) good, until I inquired as how I would recognise this person I was supposed to meet, and yes, you guessed it, what remuneration I was to receive.

  • Then the ‘unprofessional’ word!
    Delivered curtly, and emphatically!
    How dare I suggest that to go to Esperance was too far based on such little detail!
  • I lived in Australia didn’t I, it can’t possibly be that far or that difficult to get to!
  • How dare I call myself a Professional! (well actually I don’t, only amateurs and pretenders call themselves ‘Professional’ Photographers)
  • Obviously I wasn’t serious about developing my career! (after 40 years in the freelance business?)
  • And I certainly wasn’t worthy of having an agent, let alone one with such a distinguished record as himself… (well I don’t have an agent, I don’t want an ‘agent’, and I did tell him in no uncertain terms to pull his head in, and bugger off many years ago)

Oh, and the remuneration for a week’s work as photographer / chauffeur,  including signing away all my rights to any and all photographs taken: (not even considering the unredeemable costs of transport across a continent, and hire of a luxury car) …

$AU 162.

No, not an hour, not a day, …


Well maybe it was a mistake to write about this after all…the ultimate unprofessionalism if you will, for I have a nagging feeling that in the distance I can just hear the rumble of thousands of ‘professional’ photographers’ feet, as they scramble to pack their gear, and clamour to board the plane which will fly them to this ‘awesome opportunity’ to not only gain some very welcome ‘exposure’, but which will also be ‘great for their folios’, and ‘develop their brands’.

How Do I Start Making Money as a Photographer?

following passion
Some guys and gals jus’ sittin’ around, following their passion

It happens at least once a week.

“I have been a photographer for a whole year now, and I think it’s time I turned pro. I have over 5000 photos on my hard drive: how do I start to make money from them?”

And then, wait for it…the ego driven amateur forever declaration: “I think most of them are really awesome!”

And no sooner is it posted somewhere on the internet, than the mug advice starts to flow, the majority of which falls into one camp or another:

From the utterly useless –

“Don’t take any notice of what anybody tells you, just follow your passion!”

To the completely ridiculous –

“Just keep taking as many photos as you can, of everything you see, and then before you know it, they will start selling!”

Well what kind of advice can you actually give apart from the bleedin’ obvious? Forget ideas of becoming a professional until you learn how to take a decent photograph, and then move on to learning how to take a saleable photograph, and keep practicing until you can do it time and time again, until at least six out of every ten photographs you take are potentially saleable?

OK, although it is completely arse about, and so amateur, rather than how a professional thinks, you could meticulously go through your five thousand photos, and pick the best to lodge with micro stock agencies. Experience says that after only one year as “a photographer”, out of 5000 pics, you will be lucky to find 50 which are in anyway good enough to be saleable, let alone “awesome”.

But fess up! Did you discard all of the over saturated sunsets, the pretty flowers, the snaps of little sis with her face smeared with chocolate at her birthday party, the long exposure water enveloped rocks, and the majority of featureless landscapes?

But go ahead and submit a couple of hundred of your best pics to not one, but a whole slew of micro stock agencies, or picture libraries as the more up market versions prefer to call themselves.

And you can bet London to a brick, that the 50 or so the agencies don’t reject, will be an entirely different 50 to the ones you favour.

You may sell a few in the first few months, but don’t put a deposit on the Ferrari just yet, or even on that luxury skateboard.

Statistics which are not so difficult to find if you know how to search for them, consistently show that photographers who have at least 10,000 , preferably more pictures lodged with libraries, can safely assume that for each of those, you may possibly earn $1 per year on average.

So 10,000 pics = $10,000 per annum earnings?…eee-z-eee murneeee!!!

Reality check! Any fewer, especially only a couple of hundred pictures on file as stock and you will may be just fortunate enough to sell one or a couple, maybe even a few, per year.

Well either way, hardly enough to pay the rent? But remember your cut (your royalty or commission) will only be roughly 0.22c in the dollar at today’s rates if you are in someway charmed….feeling like a professional yet?

So now that you have had at least a little dose of reality: did you actually have a look around those sites when you lodged your photos, to get a feel for the type of photo, the subject matter, the setting, the lighting, the colour schemes that they not only prefer, but the ones which are actually selling?
If not go back not only now, but several times a week and study what is actually in front of your eyes, and which so many look at, but few ever see.

In other words stop relying on luck, your “passion”, and your own perceived artistic genius, and start studying the market!

This is one of the main differences between a raw amateur, and a successful professional. While a mug will take photographs willy-nilly, to suit themselves,or on a whim, of subjects which interest them, in styles of setting, lighting, colour and composition which they consider being an artist with a camera, and then trying to find someone who will think highly enough of your artistic vision to shell out some money for them, this is a really sure fire way of wasting time and energy, and becoming penniless very quickly.

A professional on the other hand survives and thrives on the knowledge that he consistently supplies exactly what his chosen market wants and needs….no more and no less.

He studies each of his target markets, be they picture libraries, magazines, or individual clients for what the want, what they have accepted in the past, what they are looking for in the present.

He knows for instance that magazines of all persuasions do not want art, they do not want “I can do better than that”, they do not want cutting edge, or “out there”: but what they do want is more of exactly the same as they have been publishing for at least the last 12 months, and usually longer.

He also knows that his bride and groom for next weekend’s wedding, do not want anything different to the bride’s BFF’s wedding pictures from last June, tempered of course with what the bride’s parents want: nice pictures of their daughter, and all the guests in their best frocks and suits, and make sure Aunty Dorrie’s wart doesn’t dominate the picture too much.

This is possibly why wedding pictures are still plagued with lopsided horizons which came into accepted fashion in the 1980’s and are still far too evident, een amongst those who should know better, and why after five long years, wedding parties are still required to do the Toyota Leap in unison for that “special unique (?) image”.

So at least begin to think like the professional you aspire to be: study your market till it is second nature and then emulate it in every sense, especially technical aspects such as lighting, depth of field, lens choice, subject, colour use and composition. Once you have done that, and can do it, as stated earlier , at least 6 in every 10 “captures”, you can then start anticipating the trends, and changes as they happen, and more importantly establish your own style.

Then and only then: when, editors, picture curators or selectors, and clients say confidently: “that image is exactly what I was looking for, and I can tell you exactly who took that picture as well”, can you begin to consider yourself an established professional.


©Copyright: Stephen Bennett, MMXV
Except as permitted by the copyright law applicable to you, you may not reproduce or communicate any of the content on this website, including any photographs and files downloadable from this website, without the permission of the copyright owner.
The Australian Copyright Act allows certain uses of content on the internet without the copyright owner’s permission. This includes uses by educational institutions for educational purposes, and by Commonwealth and State government departments for government purposes, provided fair payment is made. For more information, see www.copyright.com.au and www.copyright.org.au.
We may change these terms of use from time to time. Check before re-using any content from this website.

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Mostly for models: http://thedefinitearticlephotographyandvideo.blogspot.com.au/

Mostly for Freelance Writers:

So You ant To Be A Professional ?

splash screen jpeg10 Ways to Stay in Business

Stephen Bennett has survived the rigours of being a freelance writer/photographer, both full and part time, for almost 40 years.

In that time I haves seen literally hundreds of wannabes, cowboys, faux-pros, scammers,

and Uncle Harry’s make a flurry, and then disappear into the murky depths.

I have found that rather than compete with them, it is far better to ignore them:-

while they may have an immediate effect on the industry, usually on prices, and a general lowering of accepted standards, they will soon disappear after discovering that their “business model”, if indeed they have one, is unsustainable, and what they thought would be a great way to fuel their “passion”, is actually damn hard work.

However they will undoubtedly be replaced by eager souls intent on providing the industry with their particular brand of untutored and cheap, tortured crap…however survival as a freelance creative business person is not to be won by joining them, but more by beating them.

By maintaining professional standards of technique, quality and pricing, and providing what you have found through experience and research, what the market wants, backed up by strong, well tested business acumen and procedure…beating them is a lot easier than first imagined.

What follows are all tried and true methods of doing business…they are all common procedures in the business world, and expected by fellow business people.

Deviate from them or indeed ignore them, preferring to lurch your freelance career along by laxity of business principles and adapting to what ever you feel fits at the time, is a sure way to telegraph that you are an amateur…you are not serious about your career or your business, but are merely playing at being a creative artist, and inviting the rest of the business community and your customers in general to regard you as ripe for being taken advantage of: and also perpetuating the myth in which all creative artists have long been regarded, that artistic endeavours are merely a hobby, and artists are too lost in mysticism, to notice that they are being ripped off.

So here are ten basic business principles, I think essential to

  • credibility and professionalism,
  • to put you on an equal footing with your fellow business people,
  • to procure and keep customers and clients,
  • and to put you way ahead of the faux-pros, and their petty foolish games.
  1. Know Our AbilitiesKnow your strengths, and weaknesses, and exploit them. Don’t accept jobs that are beyond you, your equipment or your time restraints… if you don’t know how to do something, or you have never done a similar assignment before, by all means learn how to do it and improve your skills base, but muddling through it for a paying customer is not the way to learn.

And of course, asking an online forum is no way to learn how to        do something new, but surely you already knew that.

As well as avoiding projects which are too big, or beyond your present knowledge, don’t reduce your normal quality and your reputation to chasing the “nickel and dime” jobs either, simply because money is short, or work is in a lean period…is it worth a couple of ready dollars to do work for someone who would probably value and appreciate a phone pic more….let the faux pros do the “work” which suits their abilities.

2 Know Your Value


and charge accordingly…work out your pricing based on your time, your equipment and its replacement value, your overheads, and your real costs of doing business. Factor in an amount for your knowledge, your reputation, your real talent, your experience and your quality: and then stick to it. Why do shoots like the guy down the road, or offer faddish techniques or products because your mate does it, or someone recommended it.

Do discounts, childishly designed coupons on your Facebook page, highly expensive, and creatively fiddly packages, actually entice the clients that you want …in other words are you wasting your time, talents and efforts playing at being in business, and trying to outdo those who will never have the wherewithal to be your competition?

  1. Beware the Bullshit Artists

There seems to be more absolutely useless guff published on internet forums, Facebook, in magazines and in blogs, and discussed amongst mates centred around the creative arts, especially in my field of photography and modelling, than any other area of expertise.

There also seem to be more scam artists, and more internet experts in these fields than any where else, and it is so pervasive that even professionals and usually more astute and knowledgeable practitioners often get caught up in the jargon, or fall for at least some of the nonsense.

It pays then to at least recognise some of the these buzzwords which seem to reoccur so often that they are easily overlooked:

  • good exposure,
  • great for your folio,
  • sure to lead to future work,
  • a really prestige opportunity

Experience soon shows that any offer that contains even one of these key buzzwords is basically a waste of time and effort.

  1. Get a Deposit

At the very least, a deposit will secure the job enough for you to begin preliminary work with a little assurance that you not wasting your time.

A non refundable deposit means that preliminary work may be eventually wasted but at least you have been paid for the time expended on it

And a deposit gives a customer a feeling that he has invested already, so he may as well go through with the rest.

However if a model or a portrait customer is only going through with the shoot because they don’t want to lose their deposit, you don’t achieve great work, simply because one member of the team does not want to be there, and final payment may become like extracting teeth.

  1. Get the Cash

A fundamental to good freelancing: you can’t survive on promises so make sure you get the money in your hot little hand, and although cheques are basically a thing of the past, there are so many more modern variations of “the cheque is in the mail”

  1. Don’t Work for Future Profits

Taking various forms such as a percentage of earnings, lots of future work and the all time favourite: “you will be looked on favourably”…empty promises don’t pay the bills.

There probably wont be any anyway, and how would you know about them anyway, because people who make empty promises don’t telegraph the fact that their windfalls actually paid off.

  1. Get an Advance in Full

for out of pocket expenses…at least you will be paid for your expenses, if payment for the work never eventuates. Paying for out of pocket expenses from profits from the previous work, simply means that if this job doesn’t pay, you have not only lost the money due for it, but you have lost some of your profits from the previous job as well.

  1. Document Everything


  • the definition and scope of the job,
  • payment terms and conditions,
  • usage licenses,
  • releases,
  • expectations,
  • changes,
  • requested changes,
  • proposals,
  • emails,
  • phone calls,
  • discussions…

that is what email is so handy: it is so easy to “forget” or “remember something differently” later on, especially if one party needs an advantage over the others involved

  1. Don’t Deliver Work Until Final Payment is Made

and the cash is in the bank: again a fundamental of good freelance business practice, and yet too often not followed…always ending in tears.

  1. Use a Contract

get everything in writing and keep changes up to date.

A gentlemen’s agreement: requires two things:

  • gentlemen
  • and an agreement10 Plus: Monitor Usage of Your Work

and take action if and when breaches occur.

The only way you can make sure that your work has been used for the purposes for which it has been licensed: and you might be amazed at the uses it may be put to, or where it may turn up by either forgetfulness, assumption or creative reading of licenses.

And that is not even taking into account theft, “fair use” and internet sharing, and the like.



©Copyright: Stephen Bennett, MMXIV
Except as permitted by the copyright law applicable to you, you may not reproduce or communicate any of the content on this website, including any  photographs  and files downloadable from this website, without the permission of the copyright owner.
The Australian Copyright Act allows certain uses of content on the internet without the copyright owner’s permission. This includes uses by educational institutions for educational purposes, and by Commonwealth and State government departments for government purposes, provided fair payment is made. For more information, see www.copyright.com.au and www.copyright.org.au.
We may change these terms of use from time to time. Check before re-using any content from this website.

Interesting Links:
My Photography Webpage
Facebook page for Professional Photographers and Models
The Definite Article Photography and Video on Facebook
My Pond 5 Page