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05-17-2011, 12:53 AM   #1
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How much does a fashion/beauty/editorial photographer earn on average if successful?

It's what I want to do but I never really asked myself how much I might earn if I ever reach average success. By average I mean that you're not the starving artist and you do get frequent jobs but you don't get the top jobs even though some jobs you might get are pretty interesting. How much might I be earning?

Now, what about a very successful photographer? I read in an article today that no one still pays what de Marchelier used to charge (150k a day) and that they'd rather pay a very good photoshop artist 20k to get the job done and hire a lower end photographer. Is this true or just paranoia?

I hope some of you and perhaps Benjamin can answer my questions!

05-17-2011, 02:33 AM   #2
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To be successful as a photographer you have to know how to market yourself, you don't really need to be anything exceptional as a photographer. But you have to know the industry, the people who are involved in it and how to operate as a business - artistic ability does count but these days, it doesn't count for much. You can have all the artistic ability in the world but if you don't know how to market and sell your work, and make yourself visible in the industry you aren't going to get anywhere.

Few people ever achieve greatness in their lifetimes and Success comes and goes.

some of the best I know here in Australia earn around $10,000 a day.

Last edited by Digitalis; 05-17-2011 at 02:42 AM.
05-17-2011, 04:11 AM   #3
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My one teacher out in CA probably makes a lot more than 10K per shoot, but then again he's been in the business forever. He's always doing stuff for the major high end fashion magazines and he also does a lot of celebrity portrait work, major ad work for big money jewelry, luxury cars, stuff like that. I don't know exactly what he makes per year, never asked and he probably wouldn't say if I did, but I'm betting given where he's living and how many places he and his wife own that he's living pretty high. He's definitely earned it, his status, but I also think he's been pretty smart about investments, taxes and stuff too. It's not just about making the money it's what you do with it once you have it, he says.

I know a couple of regular Joe photographers in the industry though too and they don't make anything like what he does, I am sure. Most fashion photographers don't end up shooting for Vogue all the time. They're lucky if they get a lot of catalog and runway work for the local department stores and such. It depends upon how good you are, how creative, how much hard work you want to do to get there. Also I'm sure given the nature of the industry, how good you are at self promotion and avoiding backstabbing. The fashion industry, particularly on the level of couture, isn't for the emotionally vulnerable or the faint of heart, that's for sure. They tend to eat you up and spit you out alive if you don't have brass you know whats...
05-17-2011, 04:25 AM   #4
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Do you think relations in other industries help? Because I know quite a lot of successful people from the film industry, my half sister is a well known actress as well (nationally only). Anything worth doing or looking into? (Ex. Should I try and do some celebrity and actor portraits in order to make myself noticed?)

Cinema doesn't interest me at all though.

05-17-2011, 06:13 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Noob Quote
Do you think relations in other industries help? Because I know quite a lot of successful people from the film industry, my half sister is a well known actress as well (nationally only). Anything worth doing or looking into? (Ex. Should I try and do some celebrity and actor portraits in order to make myself noticed?)
Here's part 1 (I think he's up to part 23 currently). Benjamin Kanarek Blog | Benjamin Kanarek Blog
05-17-2011, 06:55 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Noob Quote
Do you think relations in other industries help?
they are critical, the people you know can give you a sense of where the industry in your particular area is headed among other things.
05-17-2011, 09:54 AM   #7
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Absolutely. You're going to have to court people wherever you can if you want to aim that high. It's definitely part of high end photography, learning to network. The business on that end is about creativity and talent but it's also very much about who you know and making something that promotes high visibility. A big splash into the pool can can really help. One great portrait of some big star or spread in some major magazine can make a huge difference in how you are seen in that world. So can the right mentor if you can find one in that industry who likes you and believes in your work. I'd find me one if I were you, seriously.
05-17-2011, 02:30 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by magkelly Quote
Absolutely. You're going to have to court people wherever you can if you want to aim that high. It's definitely part of high end photography, learning to network. The business on that end is about creativity and talent but it's also very much about who you know and making something that promotes high visibility. A big splash into the pool can can really help. One great portrait of some big star or spread in some major magazine can make a huge difference in how you are seen in that world. So can the right mentor if you can find one in that industry who likes you and believes in your work. I'd find me one if I were you, seriously.
Lol, Benjamin need to make the next 'Politics of Fashion Photography' about becoming an assistant!

05-17-2011, 06:12 PM   #9
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I've always wondered why someone hasn't made a TV series out of that, seriously.

My one teacher usually has half a dozen people that he's teaching that he uses for assistants. Quid quo pro kind of thing. I always laugh at all the catty comments they make about each other. The Sh- they say, the stupid stuff they try to pull, it is just too totally unprofessional, but he says it happens all the time, always has, both with assistants and often with the models too.

Everybody wants to be the master's favorite apprentice I guess. Me, I'm too old for that BS and I've never been into mind games anyway. I'm there to learn not to try to be top dog before I am even qualified to be one.

But what a comedy TV show it would make, no?
05-17-2011, 09:39 PM   #10
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Assistants have to be able to take the blame if something doesn't go well on a shoot, even if it is the photographers fault. The assistant is there to make the photographer look good - which I why I have never worked as one. I have a thick skin, I'm a musician but I can't make a bad photographer look good, it goes against my nature. If I see one more lame-brained idiot using incorrect photographic technique I will call them on it. I did some photography courses a few years ago and it didn't take long for my"instructors" to realise that I knew just as much, if not more about photography than they did. I only did those courses for the qualifications, though I developed a reputation for being a Know-it-all and I have all the high distinctions to prove it.
05-18-2011, 03:06 AM   #11
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Assisting doesn't seem nice now after reading what you guys wrote. Maybe once I finish school I should just jump straight into the industry?
05-18-2011, 03:57 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Noob Quote
Assisting doesn't seem nice now after reading what you guys wrote. Maybe once I finish school I should just jump straight into the industry?
"Nice"? You want nice?! Do day care.

Seriously though, I'm sure it all depends on who you're working with. That's pretty much true no matter what you're doing (day care included.)

I recommend this:

05-18-2011, 05:19 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Noob Quote
Assisting doesn't seem nice now after reading what you guys wrote. Maybe once I finish school I should just jump straight into the industry?

Assisting can be a useful stepping stone to making yourself visible in the industry, it isn't the most glorious way of doing it but it is the way many photographers I know make a name for themselves. Jumping straight into the industry isn't something I would recommend for the weak-of-heart plus you miss out on many skills that you can learn from assisting a professional photographer: giving a client a price for your work(you might think this is pretty easy but it isn't) - you can learn to organise models - find out which agecies have the best experience with working with photographers, organising/hiring hair stylists and make-up artists, hiring studio space, working with different sets of studio strobes (not all of them work the same way, especially when mounting light modifiers)

Through assisting you can learn how to use different lighting modifiers, soft-boxes, hard boxes,strip lights,beauty dishes, bank lights, snoots, grids, barn doors, zoom spot attachments, fibre optics.

you can also learn about professional workflows, and learn how to use software like Hasselblad's Phocus, Aperture,DxO,Capture one, and Lightroom,Bridge and CS5.

Assisting other photographers isn't all bad, you have to learn how to choose a photographer who will work well with you. I have had assistants I get along with really really well, but I have had others who lacked confidence and experience.
05-18-2011, 01:49 PM   #14
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Assisting can be great if you've got the right mentor. I'm partial to a more scaled down set up than my one teacher has. I really don't like shooting on a big set with 4 or 5 other assistants snickering and bickering. That's just too stressful for me. I've still got a tendency towards ulcers from being a retail queen/office slave half my life, but when I am working on my own with one of my teachers, or with another assistant who's maturity level is at least semi-decent, I enjoy it very much actually.

Closely watching someone who's been in the business for a while do his or her thing can really teach you a lot. I study almost every night on my own. I watch video tutorials. I read books. I follow my one teacher around a couple of times a week. I do whatever I can to learn, but I really think that 2 hours in a studio with one of my mentors actually watching and working can easily be worth 20 of me studying on my own.
05-19-2011, 04:53 AM   #15
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Yeah I see what you mean but I have so much to give and I feel that by being an assistant I won't be able to set free my own creativity and ideas, I don't want to be in the shadow of another man (or woman) and not have any freedom to express my own creativity and eccentric personality.

Is assisting really the way? I am after all going to go to a Photography School where I will spend the next three years, studying every possible field in photography from landscape to beauty to commercial etc, so that (as the Director put it) "I will have the best arsenal of techniques any modern photographer can hope for". First year is 100% film photography using mechanic Pentax and Nikon cameras, second year is dedicated to outdoor work and different fields such as event photography, portraiture etc... The third year is all about studio work, legal aspects of photography, how to run a business etc. In between there are of course many lessons in optional modules that we can take for example advanced retouching in photoshop (cat. beauty, cat. fashion etc..), advanced studio work etc...
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