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03-10-2013, 01:15 AM   #1
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Custom Assignments

Hello everyone! I am wanting to try something kind of different from what I usually do. I am wanting to start to take some small, custom projects from individuals. Of course, I am still doing full scale assignments and any other fine art and photojournalism for clients, but I want to do some small and less time restrained assignments for individuals.
I got the idea after being asked by people when traveling back west what certain things are like here in Japan, or if I see this or that, or they may just say something that they have seen and really love about Japan or the Far East. So, I was thinking, if there is something that someone likes or is interested in, I will go out and specifically shoot for whatever criteria the person wanting the photograph asks for. For example, if they want a photograph of traditional Japanese carpentry, farming, youth street culture, etc., they can tell me the specific details of the photograph they are wanting. I will then go out (note: unrestricted by time as this would be side work unless I am not busy) and try to make the photograph for the individual. I would then let them see proofs of the photographs and they can decide if they like it or if I should keep trying.
Pricing for such a project would work something like this: For me to take the time to go out and get this photograph would cost between $50 and $250 depending on how far I have to travel. This pricing would not change even if it takes me months to get a photograph that is accepted by the individual. I would ask for a $50 deposit at the start, just to ensure I am not running around for nothing, and that money would then either go to the price of the work. If the individual wants my prints of the photograph, I would give a discount rate for this as well. Again, I want to do this as a fun trial, and am not looking to make huge money from this. It is mostly so a normal person can get a photograph that was taken custom for them and for cheap.
Sorry for the long post, but what do you all think? This is just a quick idea I had and it sounds like it could be a fun break. Thanks for any input in advance!

03-10-2013, 07:29 AM   #2
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I wish you well with your venture, but I can't see many folk would be willing to pay the $50-250 fee for an image.

Also I think that the costs you will incur in doing this will not be covered by such fees.

But hey, you know the Japanese market better than me, maybe this is the niche product service that everyone wants and you could become like a dot com millionaire by doing it.

Last edited by Kerrowdown; 03-10-2013 at 07:37 AM.
03-10-2013, 08:38 AM   #3
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How is this different from what you do now?

Why should I hire you when I can grab a stock photo or something off Flickr for a few bucks or less and get it now?

M
03-10-2013, 04:53 PM   #4
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Haha! I don't really see myself becoming a millionaire anytime in the near future (or distant future)! I know that the $50-$250 number seems a little high, but that it realistically the amount that would be needed just to cover the gasoline and such to get out. The benefit, as I was thinking, would be that the person could have an image made for them and I would not be losing anything because I could probably get my other images while out to use for other work or personal projects. This would mostly be something for people in the west; such as America, Canada, or Europe. I guess the reason I was thinking it may work sometimes would be that if the person has a specific image in their mind, you know, something that symbolizes something they are interested in or love about the far east, they could have it made just for them. No one else would have the same image and it would be completely theirs.
Stock photography is very cheap, and there is an amazing variety of photographs out in the stock photography market. But, since I live here in Japan, it seems like most of the photographs are of the same sort of cliche Japanese things. There is a lot more to the country than most would realize and even more ways to see those cliche things than most would think. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with those images. In fact, the fact that those things are so photographed are because they are great: things like temples, cherry blossoms, kimonos, tori gates, hot springs, macaques, etc. I know that this is not something that would appeal to many, and I do not intend it to. It would basically be something for me to be looking for while I was out on my normal trips and assignments (if schedule allows!).
It is just an idea that floats around my head that I may not be able to explain very well yet. I think it is a premature idea to some degree, and I totally agree with the points of it being hard to find people to pay that fee for a photograph and to hire for the work when the stock libraries are so extensive. Still, just a thought. I appreciate the input so far!

03-10-2013, 05:04 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by CB Knipp Quote
Haha! I don't really see myself becoming a millionaire anytime in the near future (or distant future)! I know that the $50-$250 number seems a little high,!
Actually, by setting some kind of a retail price list or range, you are not doing youself any favors if you are doing commission work, the value of your photos really depends on the application of their use. if a client pays you $150 for an image that is key to nationally marketing a high ticket item with a fat markup, then you are getting ripped off.

Really, for what you are considering you really need an agent.

M
03-10-2013, 05:13 PM   #6
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I realize that I could be getting ripped off. But at the same time, in this case, I am not concerned. I would like to do this for an "average-Joe" who just wants an image special to them. Things are so complicated and expensive. Sure, I am possibly losing a chance to make a great deal more money from the image, but there will be others. Sometimes it does not have to be about the money, but rather the process of just making a photograph for someone who would have otherwise probably not had the chance to have a custom photograph. Also, while I would not market the photograph or use it in anyway, I would still have to ask (on a dangerous trust basis) that the individual not resell the image. I know I sound like a lunatic, and maybe I am, but I just thought this would be different and maybe nice for someone.
03-10-2013, 05:48 PM   #7
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I don't know about Japan, but most "average joes" will either take the desired shot themselves, ask a friend or brother-in-law who owns one of them pro cameras, or simply rip it off the Internet, often without thinking something's amiss. Sometimes they will buy it at a gallery, but more likely they will buy a poster.

In my forty+ years of shooting, among them working at a large photo licensing agency, and advertising agencies, and as an exhibiting artist, very few people will commission an image that isn't intensely personal. If they do it is usually their property or family events or formal portraits fir more than you are seeking. The common exception is for business use, but we covered that.

Don't ask, tell them that you retain ownership and have it spelled out in the contract. Be a professional.

M
03-10-2013, 06:02 PM   #8
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All valid points, Miguel. I know I should tell them that I retain ownership, and I would, but I was more looking for something actually less professional in terms of transaction. But, then again, you are right. I am a professional and even though I would like this to be a little different and less strict and bound, I still need to have some firm guides and lines. While I may tell that I retain all rights and the image may not be shared or distrubuted in any form, I would also like to make it clear that I will not distribute it either.
You are very right about only intensely personal work being seeked in private commission work. But, that is also more expensive than this. As I said, I know the market for this is extremely tiny to say the least, but it still may exist... I don't know. And again, this would not be for the Japanese, but rather those on the other side of the globe that have some sort of interest in Japan. I would like to think that there are people out there who would pay this fairly small amount to have a photograph made just for them, based on their guidelines. Again, thanks for the input and keeping me grounded on this lofty idea!

03-13-2013, 12:16 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by CB Knipp Quote
For example, if they want a photograph of traditional Japanese carpentry, farming, youth street culture, etc., they can tell me the specific details of the photograph they are wanting. I will then go out (note: unrestricted by time as this would be side work unless I am not busy) and try to make the photograph for the individual. I would then let them see proofs of the photographs and they can decide if they like it or if I should keep trying.
I like the spirit of the idea in the context that you would be capturing something authentic rather than cliched but I think it may be difficult to manage the expectations of your clients, at least in some cases. Someone who has not experienced the things they want you to capture will be influenced by their own perspective, and that may lead to them being disappointed if the end result doesn't match what they had initially imagined. Then again, they may end up pleasantly surprised. Tough to say!

Problems could also arise if the client isn't able to effectively verbalize what they want. In that case you could end up frustrated trying to please them, continually trying to recapture the same photo in a slightly different way. On the other hand, if a client dictates in painstaking detail what they'd like then your creativity could be stifled.
03-13-2013, 06:10 PM   #10
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Very good points. People can only base their perspective from what they have seen and that is often the slightly more cliche things when you are talking about foreign places. However, if there are people who know the type of thing that they are wanting or have a general interest in, I hope that I could communicate with them enough to get a good understanding of what they expect as well as what they would be willing to embrace.
It can sometimes be quite a balancing act trying to meet a client's somewhat restricting expectations while still being able to utilze your own creativity and personal style. That is not nothing really new to being a professional photographer. I do feel it very important to me in my work to be able to express what I feel and use my own vision to make a photograph. That is something that I would have to communicate to the individual and insist upon them seeing some of my other work and getting a feel for how I work. That is not to say that I do not work by their guidelines, however. After all, it would be their photograph. Just with my way of presenting it.
As those of you have stated, it is not a simple or profitable endeavor by any means. Should I decide to try it, there is a lot to consider. Again, thanks to everyone for their thoughts. As for now, I have a friend in Canada who has never been to Japan, yet is interested in sewing and fabric work. I am going to be in Kyoto for a while at the beginning of April, and my friend has given me some guides as to what he would like in terms of a photograph to represent traditional Japanese fabric making. Something of a trial to see how it would work. I know of some traditional shops where kimono fabric is made in the area near where I will be and intend to spend the harsher-light hours there a couple days to try to capture his image. We will see how it works!
03-14-2013, 04:26 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by kerrowdown Quote
costs you will incur in doing this will not be covered by such fees
Remember you were originally talking about charging folk $50-250, I still think you will need to reconsider this fee upwards to cover your expenses and time alone, for this very unique bespoke service that your offering.

Good luck with it.
03-14-2013, 04:40 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by kerrowdown Quote
Remember you were originally talking about charging folk $50-250, I still think you will need to reconsider this fee upwards to cover your expenses and time alone, for this very unique bespoke service that your offering.
But then it just turns back into my normal work! I really want this to feel different and be something for those who usually would not have this sort of thing. It is not too bad if I can obtain the photographs while already out for my own private or perhaps even client based work. The thing I am really yet to see is how I handle a "side project" while I am out for other shots. I get extremely focused and I may not be able to set time and mind apart for these photographs. I guess I will be able to see better come April. Perhaps if it does go well I could start doing this for profit and really get a market going!
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