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|| News Item: Posted 2003-06-30

Let's Talk Business: Step Up to the Plate
By Rick Rickman

Photo by
It's been a year since the birth of Sports and I've been reading all the kudos laid down by so many of the photographers who seem to really enjoy the site as a place of education. is indeed one of the finest places in this industry to find out just about anything you need to work as a photographer today. The amount of information that's present on this site is mind blowing. It's marvelous to see so many photographers share their feelings about how much they learn. That's why I felt it particularly appropriate to talk a little about the importance of Sports to this business on its one-year anniversary.

There were comments in a recent topic like these:

"What draws me to is the incredible amount of knowledge there is to draw from."

"I don't know if I can pinpoint it particularly, however, like the other posts, I learn so much from all of you."

"Where else can you post a message and have a response from NYT, USA Today, SI, AP photogs give you real-life advice, humor, and opinions -- all while the new kids on the block (like me) can ride right beside them sharing and learning at the same time."

"I am learning more from this site than I ever thought I would. And in some ways, I learned more here than in many of my classes."

"I cannot believe the amount of information that is on this site. I have learned so much here in such a short time."

What Grover Sanschagrin and Jason Burfield have done here is to create a photographic informational library from which the average photographer in need of information can actually come, research out their answers, and prepare them to be effective in today's market place. Bert Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, and Joe Gosen, originally put the idea together to do something that would allow photographers to become better. Better technicians. Better photographers. Better business people. But most importantly, better people. The initial effort was through the Sports Shooter Newsletter that still continues today as part of the Sports Shooter web site.

Thanks to a cadre of talent that has joined the Sports Shooter group like Robert Beck, Joe McNally, Bill Frakes, Anacleto Rapping, Al Tielemans, Dave Black, David Burnett, Jamie Squire, Jim McNay, Mark and Joey Terrill, Peter Read Miller, Robert Seale, Skip Dickstein, V.J. Lovero, Vince Laforet, and Wally Skalij, This site has become a literal wellspring of knowledge from which to draw. It goes to show that in an age of unlimited knowledge and technological advances that we, as photographers, should be on our way too much better things.

Unfortunately, sometimes I feel like no matter what happens or how much we learn it won't matter. It won't matter because photographers are not willing to take personal responsibility for their own actions. This so distresses me at times that I feel like I should just put my head down, take care of my own business, and just let the rest of the world have at their own devices.

I was due for a column last month and I was so discourage that I actually couldn't write one. The reason I was discourage was this.

As many of you know, the recent market has been terrible with the state of the economy and all. Many many photographers have been out of work and the work that has been available has been weak and low paying in many cases.

Anyway, a good friend of mine was bidding on an ad job that was going to be a good one. The agency involved was taking bids from 6 photographers for the job and my friend was one of those six. To make a long story short and somewhat palatable, when the bids went in, a week went by and the art director of this agency who is a close friend of my friend and who really likes to work with him, called up and said that he wasn't going to be able to work with him on this project. The art director expressed sincere regret and told my friend that the reason he wouldn't get this job was that the photographer who will get the job underbid everyone by so much that she didn't believe the photographer could possibly be able to do the job without losing money.

My friend pressed a bit and found out that all the bids had come in at near $60,000.00 give or take and the fellow who was being awarded the job came in at a little over $18,000.00. That figure wouldn't even cover the expenses of my friend's bid!

The truly distressing thing here is that this low bidding bosco is a fellow known to probably many of you and I. I can't say for sure but my best guess is that this fellow placed a bid like this thinking that he would make an in road into the advertising market by bidding low and getting the job.

The reality is this. The art director is dreading the project because she knows that this guy doesn't know up from down and the company took the bid for strictly budgetary reasons. The art director told my friend that this doesn't do anybody any good and the poor photographer is in for a tough ride now because he will be known as the "cheap go to guy" from this point forward.

This guy is a nice guy! He's got a family and he's trying to expand his business. He does good work, but his business model has always been a bit misguided. I've spoken to him on several occasions and he always says he can't seem to get ahead and get the kind of work he'd really like to have. It's very possible that if he uses this kind of model in all the work arrangements he does, he will never be able to get ahead because he's doomed himself to being "Mr. Low End Photographer." This is the kind of guy that is always seeming to make bad deals from himself and baffled as to why he can't seem to make ends meet.

Recently, we've seen a number of occasion in which photographers have made some pretty silly deals that have allowed various clients to paper the industry with their pictures for free. Most of the photographers who do these "less than stellar" deals are, for the most part, nice guys who just don't seem to think about what it is they are doing or, don't bother to read what it is they are signing.

That my friends, is being lazy and stupid.

In my book, there's really nothing admirable or endearing about laziness or stupidity. Not making the effort to get a good deal for you with any client is exhibiting cowardice. Not being willing to stand up for yourself out of fear of losing a client is an unseemly form of cowardice. It has a residual effect of diminishing personal esteem.

The business of photography has not been hit as hard as it has because there's a lack of information to be had. The business of photography keeps taking hits because photographers are afraid to use that information to their own benefit. If there is one lesson that needs repeated teaching it's the lesson of personal responsibility. If we all realize that nobody forces us to make the decisions we choose to make, each of us, make those decision by ourselves.

Each decision we make has consequences tied directly to those decisions. We all need to be cognizant that we all own those consequences. We can't blame those on anyone but ourselves. To be good at business we have to make good personal decisions. Good personal decisions come when good information is available to you and you have the courage to put that good information into play.

Thanks to, tons of good information is available to you. What you do with it is up to you.

(Rick Rickman is a freelance photographer based in Southern California. He is a regular contributor to the Sports Shooter Newsletter on business issues and will be part of the faculty of the 2003 Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau.)

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