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Career Flatline...

Am I the only one that feels this way?

I just really believe that I am going nowhere fast with photographic work…not even paid work… but work I really just want to get seen…

Any ideas on how to administer CPR to a photographic career on which it looks like the life support is failing?

Help please…I think its just about to flatline…

by lisa hogben at 2013-05-18 10:28:41 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Lisa, it’s not you. The industry has changed. You I am sure are as vibrant as ever. It’s the industry that is different. If you were nearer and I had a couple of hours I could give you some ideas, which, of course, would be be as good as what you would pay for them. But I can only say this – be creative in thinking of how you sell your skills.

You can no longer rely only on editorial assignment or on image sales. You’ve got to look at NGOs, foundation grants, educational institutions, governmental projects, and lots more. YOU have a lot of good experience and you just need to sell it to the right people.

Oh, and wear tight jeans! (That’s an inside joke between Lisa and me, not a sexist remark).

by Neal Jackson | 18 May 2013 23:05 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
All I can offer is what I have been doing for many years: Get a day job. Use it to pay the bills, and to fund your photo projects that you do for passion. Do them in the evenings, over weekends, on vacation. You will be much happier and less stressed, you don’t need to take every crappy little job that comes along, and you can let things develop as they will.


by BignoseTW | 20 May 2013 02:05 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
I don’t have much positive to say on the subject because I feel the same way.

Perhaps you and Neal Jackson could skype or something over beers and coffee figure this thing out. He’s associated with a prestigious photo agency and knows how the men and women of that agency think and do business.

Only other thing I could suggest is to catch a workshop. They can be terrific. Good luck, lisa – I always enjoy seeing your work.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 21 May 2013 01:05 | Spring Lake, Michigan, United States | | Report spam→
The prestigious photo agency struggles every month like everything else in photography. As talented as those folks are, “the life” is hard because the demand for photojournalism is way down. That’s just the way things are these days….

by Neal Jackson | 21 May 2013 21:05 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Lisa, I hear you, feel you. I got a clue from a soon to be former managing director at Neal’s prestigious agency: the value of our work is in the act of creation. In other words, distribution and assignments are not so viable these days. We also ‘sell’ something but not photos. That prestigious agency sells “integrity”. But more important, maybe its time to revisit the ongoing positive words of DAH at Burn, lead article, “Payback”, http://www.burnmagazine.org/ Good luck, stay positive! We are all in this together…

by MACLELLAN | 22 May 2013 12:05 | Windsor ON, Canada | | Report spam→
These days without a strong online portfolio its quite hard to grow fast.

by seol | 23 May 2013 10:05 | NY, India | | Report spam→
No question. Things suck. I’m still figuring out how deal with the world as it now is.

I’ve been looking at ways to change how I think about things, and have been researching a book I’m planning to write (which will have a strong visual component) and I’m talking to people about developing a documentary project for television. I’ve been looking around for a possible teaching job, as well. So I’m both thinking bigger, and in some ways smaller (doing a little product work, shooting events, local stories) than I used to. It certainly seems to be the case that the old mix of Newspaper, occasional Magazine, Stock, and Art is not going to work the way it used to. But things move on, and you’ve got to move with them, what choice have you got?

I always try to remember a few things, as I struggle with how to make a living (and my situation is not nearly as tough as some folks I know) and do the work I want to do;

1. I have skills, I do know how to do things that others don’t do as well as I do.

2. I’ve learned things, I’ve traveled and seen things that I understand better than others who haven’t been.

3. I know I can tell people things I think they need to know. and

4. That I can make a difference.

The only question is how. It’s a tough question, and I’m not exactly rolling in cash these days, but it can be answered, and I’m going to keep trying.

Hang in there, Lisa.

by John Louis Lassen Perry | 23 May 2013 14:05 (ed. May 23 2013) | Liberty Corner, New Jersey, United States | | Report spam→
They are expensive but Agency access have help lot of photogs to boost their career.

by Yves Choquette | 23 May 2013 23:05 | Montreal, Canada, Canada | | Report spam→
Here are a couple things that may offer food for thought


by John Brown | 26 May 2013 08:05 | | Report spam→
And another link The death of the professional photographer on @VizScienceLab blog #Photography #Industry #Employment #Jobs http://bit.ly/Z82Bsd

by John Brown | 26 May 2013 09:05 | | Report spam→
hmmm….. jr

by John Robinson | 26 May 2013 14:05 | Pietermaritzburg, South Africa | | Report spam→
On the ASMP National site on linkedin, there is a lively discussion going on about Agency Access, with members both for an against. Seems to be much discussion these days on how to best use such organizations for marketing. The linkedin discussion is interesting, if nothing else, for showing the variety of ways people see these problems at the moment.

by John Louis Lassen Perry | 26 May 2013 18:05 (ed. May 26 2013) | Liberty Corner, New Jersey, United States | | Report spam→
The part that Is not all clear for me is why? The creation of the tablets appears that was a good idea to make profitable media enterprises. Or no? The great majority of the media still use professional services of photography, or no? I think would be really helpful know the reasons of why the business changed. In my country, most of journalism sucks but for internal reasons, all is stained with an ideological fight between government media and the opposition media, and we are not at the same technological levels that in other parts, so we are in rare bubble. By now. But I have a lot of interest to understand the reasons of the so talked changes in the industry. Knowing that maybe we can generate creative ideas to solve the problems

by Hernan Zenteno | 26 May 2013 23:05 (ed. May 27 2013) | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
First things first——I make my living from photo-journalism—-the stock market, the ponies and a few other sources contribute as well but it really might be 98 % PJ at the least that pays the bills and other work, the 2% in the balance—-

Don’t be fooled, Media, and therefore photography is a business and people make a living from it——There are many idioms that apply and can give insight to how to crack your nut at the end of every month—-It’s not what you spend but what you save, Cash Flow is King!, Buy low, sell High, find a penny, save a penny, Perception is Reality, Sell the Sizzle, not the Steak—-whatever you want to make it—-but the true end of the road (wink) is that it DOES actually start with “YOU,”—-it’s your name on the photo credit or the byline and your name on the check when it comes.

I see where Neal is coming from when he tells Lisa, it’s not her—-it’s true, it isn’t her or anyone else because the market does not care and it doesn’t care in media, farming, banking, law enforcement, auto repair or food and beverage—-it isn’t her, but the market isn’t going to those that are not delivering what the market first needs and wants, but they are settling for what they can get and if it isn’t you in the smallest denominator, it isn’t going to be you in the largest denominator.

I would be curious to see what NJ says in regard to the four factors most looked at in photo buying——Exclusiveness, Reliability, Accessibility and Cost—-No real media outlet is going to pay for exclusive rights for a photo that is marginally accurate, especially if they have to wait for you. Editors have a list of 30 PJ’s they can call and for that particular job they are looking at and they might have 3 that can do it and deliver—-they focus on the 3 names and not the other 27 that can’t do it——you simply have to increase your position over the total 30 shooters to get the job—-again it’s not what you aren’t but what you are…Spell out what you can do in CAPITAL LETTERS while everyone else is saying what they can’t do in lower case.

Do you have a niche or a skill—-you are the frog guy, the beetle girl, the marine mammal dude, the mistress of solar energy, the sports shooter with sweat dripping off your images, or the angst of tragedy in every shot—-? You can speak urdu, punjabi and that one Indian dialect The Guardian needs, or you know the line the rally car will take on the hairpin turn and when the zebra will give up at the waterhole to the chasing Lions—-when Phelps will take a breath or if Castro will tear up in that last speech—-everyone says can’t, focus on can and back it up with whatever it takes.

I think at this point, we should draw a heavy line between the PJ’s that can jump on a job at any moment and those that are unable to so this——the full time PJ, aside from other assignments, can just go because it what he does—-there are any conflagration that follow because they have office jobs, family obligations or whatever else—-I think its a huge mis-representation when shooters say there is no work when most likely the jobs they seek hit the floor because they have prior obligations out of the field

It does not matter what you aren’t doing only what you are doing——are you saying yes every time an editor calls, are you getting assignments in on time all the time (<<<personal struggle on this one) are you delivering more than what the client has asked for—? are you adding to the story from an angle no one thought of but you discovered from being on scene? and more importantly, are you willing to go anywhere at any time no matter what—?

I think it should be noted that what I detail above is not a 3 or 6 month solution, but 3 to 4 years of work before you get to anything you can say is working——passion for what you want to do will get you through it because the numbers will not work out to even close to what you have to put up with—veterans will see a faster change according to what they choose to do but you can’t stray away from basic business sense—-if they aren’t buying your oranges, sacks of flour or pickles, you gotta change it up, because buying more of the same oranges, flour and pickles isn’t going to solve the issue


Please start off right away with the oranges and pickle jokes—-I am sure it’s going to be very creative—-


by David Bro | 27 May 2013 01:05 | Orange County-Los Angeles, United States | | Report spam→
Hey folks… this is fine advice from all of you… thanks so much for just motivating me again…the truth is I can go anywhere anytime, work to impossible deadlines, bring home the outstanding pics and write about it as well…plus I am also shooting and cutting video on the fly as well…

I have an obvious niche in working extraordinarily closely with Aboriginal people (and I will put in a link to my blog) BUT and the big but here is I live in a country where its major city has not one but TWO photographic festivals at the moment and just about everyone is a photographer.

Now for instance I just went and shot a job in Melbourne. It cost me $260 in expenses (to get there and get around I was as usual couch surfing) the maximum editorial fee i could get was $250… so by doing the job I actually lost money.

I appear to not be employable as anything but a $20 an hour cleaner and I have these unique sets of skills and contacts…. I have worked for NGO’s and charities and they seem to think that even though many of them are paid that I should ALWAYS donate my services for free…

I owe my photographic printer Cameron Neville, $1400 from and exhibition I had last April and I am in massive debt aside from that…

This is my reality…I am not getting any younger and I just really want to know what I am doing wrong?

Anyway have a read of this maybe I am too outspoken?


by lisa hogben | 27 May 2013 05:05 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Lisa—-Don’t think about what you are doing wrong——its just not what media is buying right now—-Think about doing local stories that pay a third, or a quarter of what the others pay but do two or three in one day——maybe boring an not what you want to do, but think about the ratio of cleaning to longer projects that do not pay and put yourself in for 3 regular assignments that pay——

You have to think of this as a business—-you can’t buy product for 260 and sell it for 180—-it’s better to split the 180 you don’t have and go to the beach for 90 even though there is no return.

As your accountant I would tell you this—→Lisa——get as many local freelance jobs as you can, shoot on the side for yourself as you do it and compile an archive with travel and business themes, get into an agency and shoot what is not local news but more international for them—when you have a compelling idea for content on your niche, schedule it so that you can shoot it for every income revenue you have even though you are not going to get the entire amount from one source—-so you go on the aboriginal shoot, freelance pays you 65 for the local travel angle, submit to the agency with a story package on where ever it is you are going—-also shoot for the agency travel and nature themes like HOT, SAND, DESERTED BEACH, SUN, CLOUDS, BARREN LANDSCAPE, MOON OVER THE BILLABONG, PEOPLE ON THE DOCK, LONG VIEW DOWN LONELY DIRT ROAD,(sunrise, sunset, night view), and then nature, LIZARD ON A ROCK, RABBIT, KANGAROO, COW, HORSE, etc… along with business—-barbed wire suppliers, Volvo trucks on the road, skin divers on a boat—day and night shots,etc…—-Then shoot character shots of locals close up for your Australian Faces book you are doing and won’t publish for 3 years—and all the while you are doing your Aboriginal story that no one will buy but now you can sell for not so much because you have the other things going on——

So you are seeing that no one is going to by your “Moon over Road” shot and you are right—-you have to build up a field of photos in an archive or online so over the years if anyone wants niche shots from you part of the world, they have the fat choice to pick from——its not days on months, but years before you see a yield from this effort and in the meantime, its you in the trenches everyday but at least you are doing something.

You have to make the photos work for you——an Aboriginal portrait could be newsy for his/her life situation in a NEWs category, it could be travelish, it could be business for the product you show he/she is using or it could be cultural and funny featuring an unlikely juxtaposition of what a t-shirt says and what he/she will actually do (maybe for an election in another country he will never vote in like the netherlands——but the dutch could use that photo it illustrate the unlikeliness of that candidate).

To me, with your experience, it’s not what you are doing wrong but what you simply are not doing——-What is better, an assignment from Time once a year for 850 dollars or local freelance at 45 to 65 an assignment with one to 3 a day all year long——? Depends on how much you like cleaning—-



by David Bro | 27 May 2013 06:05 | Orange County-Los Angeles, United States | | Report spam→
Hi Lisa,
I’m still surviving of photojournalism only, and my solution till now has been to offer stories with photos & texts but, and this is a big BUT, is working less and less. Your problem, like mine, it’s that today nobody ask for our subjects, Australia’s aboriginal peoples for you Mexican Indigenous peoples for me. So I accepted different assignements travelling other destinations but this way I’ m missing my “core business” and I don’t have the cash to work more on these subjects, missing contacts etc…And I’m afraid my clients don’t have more than 2-3 yars more of business!
I don’t think at all at local assignements, at least here, too few with a lot of people working for free, or nearly. Also for agencies, till few years I refused, today I have some but doesn’t work., and I build a solid archive in many years of travel stories around the world, not only stock photos. Still today to be in control of my pictures gave me the opportunity to propose stories directly to the magazines. Also the archive market is really poor because agencies like Getty or Internet, full of amateurs shooting subjects (and often well). Many pictures editors first look for Flickr’s images or, this appened to me 2 in a month with a leading magazine, decide to publish a story looking at my images, asked me the text…and publisheslow cost stock photos.
I tried with ONG but more and more they are looking for free work, probably in your country you could try with public agencies or fundations, here is impossible because we are nearly in bankrupt. I proposed multimedia to some tour operators, they where interested but no money, as usual. Commercial photography? Many utilise a amateur working employee! A friend set up a spectacle with his images and a famous Italian movie and theatre’s actor, worked only one evening. Multimedia for editorial market? Perhaps in future but today here the leading newspapers often offer only to publish free, “helps to build your brand”.
Too dark view? Honestly some days, like now, I’m really on the depression fence but I need survive so I try different opportunities, For exemple cultural travels (not a workshop, there are too much!). For me It’s starting to work. I don’t act like a guide (this would be behind my tolerance borders!) but speaking about the local culture (that’s arrive from my travel stories texts). For that you are in the right position. I think another real option (and I checked this in the real life) could be to sell you as person with stories, telling your experiences, directly to the general public. For exemple in Germany this work, the people pay for conferences and multimedia of trawel writers and photographers.
As you see I don’t have a honest answer but I think we need anyway still try. At least to defy all the bean-counters that would kill our creativity!

by Enrico Martino | 27 May 2013 20:05 | Turin, Italy | | Report spam→
Again, what are the reasons of this drought of money for photographers? Enrico said that there are too many work for free. I think we need to understand the causes. There are facts common for most of the countries and some that are particular cases. I don’t think this is the case in my country, you can change and change amateur photographers but I doubt they will form an interminable line waiting for publish for free. And serious media need professionals photographers when something important happen or for do portraits or a fast coverage. In the other side, what Lisa told about travel expenses, this is something that will not change. Except you are a famous photojournalist star or something close, they will prefer to not pay a simply coverage travel expenses cause they can find a local photographer that can transmit the photos. This is the reason why they low the levels of money they offer. You want to travel, ok, but we will pay the same as we would hire a local photographer. They have an alternative to negotiate so I think would be a good idea to improve your work as local photographer or show them what are losing not sending you and paying the travel expenses.

by Hernan Zenteno | 27 May 2013 22:05 (ed. May 27 2013) | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
You guys are the best… I love the support I get from LS…I guess though Enrico and I are pretty much in synch… There just is no local work where I am at the moment… and even in the city there is little there… I write and I have been able to get a few stories that way.. I am writing an online curricular for teaching beginners photography and I don’t mind teaching… I just don’t want to “brand” myself that way…

But I guess if that chick who was the Penthouse model that went into teaching beginner photographers has got this huge online following…I guess I can’t do it as well… just I am not so, er that way endowed! LOL

Though thanks so much for the support you guys I really appreciate it!

by lisa hogben | 28 May 2013 04:05 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Lisa—-Go into the Sydney Morning Herald tomorrow and see what they think about a new chick freelancer, and then go in the next day and the next——maybe have some fast stories with you when you go, they are only going to say NO a couple of dozen times at first but eventually they will have something for you——go for it, what’s to loose—-?——in a year or two you’ll be laughing about it—-


by David Bro | 28 May 2013 06:05 (ed. May 28 2013) | Orange County-Los Angeles, United States | | Report spam→
Lisa, when I’ve read your thread I decided to answer because was more or less in the same mood, because I still have assignements but I’look myself like a African hippo looking his river more and more dry! Of course has never been easy but today when I still contact magazines often they offer so low money that, as David wrote, is better if I don’t accept. And this for works so boring…
The problem Lisa, I’m afraid, is we are born as photojournalists and we need to change of course, but a different work requires different skills. I don’t think so much about technical or marketing skills, more about the value of your work is less important than yours followers.
Anyway I’m nearly sure that the way is more and more to sell to consumers (workshops, conferences, expos, anything you think) or, if possible (here at the moment in Southern Europe not so much), sell your specific style for some kind of commercial works.
@Hernan, I agree with you about the waiting list of amateurs (lovely image!) but this apply only for news, and here some leading newspapers publish only galleries with free images, but you must think also of many pros working for free to show their are still in business or trying to build a portfolio. Only in Italy 2 journalists have been killed on Middle East, and they were really professionals, one was a dentist, the other owned a advertising agengy! And if we speak of documentary works, travels etc..here you have people working for free for ONG or selling at really low fees images for magazines etc. So the difference with the pro is, as you wrote, reliability and professional quality, but how many pay today for this? They are, but not enhalf to sustain a pro market I,m afraid.

by Enrico Martino | 28 May 2013 14:05 | Turin, Italy | | Report spam→

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lisa hogben, Visualjournalist! lisa hogben
Sydney , Australia
Neal Jackson, Neal Jackson
(Flaneur, Savant and Scapegrace)
Washington, Dc , United States ( IAD )
BignoseTW, Videographer/Photographer BignoseTW
(Tobie Openshaw)
Taipei , Taiwan
John Robert Fulton Jr., Photographs John Robert Fulton Jr.
Indianapolis, In , United States
Windsor , Canada ( DTW )
seol, seol
[location unknown]
John Louis Lassen Perry, Photoanthropologist John Louis Lassen Perry
Califon, New Jersey , United States
Yves Choquette, Photojournalist Yves Choquette
Montreal , Canada
John Brown, Photojournalist John Brown
[undisclosed location].
John Robinson, Photographer John Robinson
(works with light)
Pigeon Club , South Africa
Hernan Zenteno, Photographer Hernan Zenteno
Buenos Aires , Argentina ( EZE )
David Bro, freelance editorial David Bro
freelance editorial
Orange County , United States ( LAX )
Enrico Martino, Photojournalist Enrico Martino
Turin , Italy


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