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03-05-2019, 02:53 PM - 1 Like   #1
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business - vs - being creative?

not sure if these things can go hand in hand, but i'm having a hard time putting words to thoughts in my head.
I'm sure a lot of you have been where I am today. Started photography as a hobby. Got 'good' at it, and people suggested to start charging.
did a few weddings and engagements, made some money, and realized that its not as creative as i want to be, so i quit weddings. every bride and groom wanted the same thing i've donne in the past. i'm not growing. the images aren't doing anything for me. the customers are happy, but i'm apathetic to my work.

and now that i'm experimenting and being creative, once again, my friends and family think i'm an idiot for not charging people for it.

i understand what they are saying. never do anything for free, especially if you are good at it. more over, if i am doing something for free, its making it hard for those photographers that are charging to do the same thing. i am diluting my art, and ruining it for a lot of other people.

i get that.

but the issue i am having, is whenever i charge people for my work, the customers want EXACTLY (or almost) the same thing i've done in the past. sure, i can edit better, do it with better gear. but the concept stays the same.
if i approach someone with a lavish idea, and ask them to pay me, they scoff at me.
if an interest face/model approaches me, and i say i cant do it for free, they run off.

so...what is making me happy is if i dont charge. that way i am being creative. if the concept doesn't work, then it doesn't work.


so really, my question is, for those who are doing portrait work for money, and you arent' just doing the basic corporate shots, or head shots, or other technical work, how are you doing it? do you wait for models to approach you, and then you charge them? what works for you?

03-05-2019, 03:01 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Which is more likely to make you unhappy? Your friends and family thinking you're an idiot, or doing unsatisfying shoots for money?
03-05-2019, 03:20 PM - 1 Like   #3
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I think it's inevitable with all paid work. Its built into the concept. Many split the craft from the art and do the latter on own time or get funded one way or another.
03-05-2019, 03:33 PM   #4
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Moved to "General Photography"

03-05-2019, 03:54 PM - 6 Likes   #5
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What's to stop you from combining the two approaches: take all the standard shots that the bride and groom want but also sell them on the idea of doing something creative/lavish, too. Every wedding and the individuality of each bride and groom would be an opportunity to do something really creative.

Sell yourself as a more creative wedding photographer (but one who still provides the baseline standard images) and you'll actually move up the reputation and pay scale.

Oh, and if a prospective client just wants the basics, then say "no, I only work with more adventurous clients."
03-05-2019, 04:03 PM - 3 Likes   #6
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+1 to photoptimist's suggestion. You can always sneak into each of your commercial jobs a couple of well thought out portfolio building shots. The couple kissing backlit by a hidden off camera flash, the drone shot of the whole wedding party, etc.

You can also do the commercial bookings which make possible one day a month for really ambitious shoots where *you* pay for the model, props, HMUA, stylist, just to get the shots you dream of.

The weddings feed your stomach, the private projects feed your soul.
03-05-2019, 04:26 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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This is the perennial artist dilemma, one every artist faces sooner or later. Hit upon something successful and the market
will wish you stay in that place forever. But as an artist you can't continually rehash what you have already done, as it is no longer
a creative act to simply go through the motions of replicating prior creations.

I've spent the last 15 years living solely on my art. For the most part it has been a wonderful experience but it has
also been a challenge financially. Time and again I've run into that wall where I no longer wish to pursue a particular
body of work and want to try new things. Time and again my audience is reluctant to come with me and I have to
find a new audience. A few fans remain across the changes, but not enough to fully sustain.

I know artists who make it work, one way or another.

-A rare few have financial independence, (inheritance, trust fund).
-Some are retired and living off the fruits of their prior high paying job.
-Some are doing as you are, paying the bills with grunt work. If you can find enough time to also do creative work without going
insane from the grunt work, perfect.
-Many supplement art sales with teaching or giving workshops.
-A few have the talents to write magazine articles or instructional books.
-Quite a few have part or full time work outside the world of art in order to pay the bills. Definitely a drain on time,
energy and creativity.

Of late, a prior passion and interest of mine has resurfaced, one that I also enjoy and has the potential to earn income.
So, for the past two years I have been putting the burden of income on my mineral collecting interests which has
allowed me the freedom to make whatever I want without worrying about paying the bills with my art. Best of all, when
I hit upon something 'popular', yet I'm done with it, I can easily move on without the financial pressure to stay in one
place.
03-05-2019, 04:35 PM   #8
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I read about a photographer who did something with weddings. The standard wedding package was offered, and a free portrait where they would do something a bit different. The photographer found that some people were open to different ideas when they saw the results. Consider the possibility that the people you are talking to aren't sure that they can trust that they will get what they want from you when you say you want to be creative.

When I look at people who do excellent portraiture I'm drawn in by something in their work. They do something exceptional with the people they photograph. They connect in some way to them, draw them out and capture a moment that makes them look like an interesting person that you want to meet. They might do dozens of these portraits every week. Is that work creative? I would say so. Is it boring and repetitive? Not at all. To perform at that level is like winning 6 Super Bowl rings, or 5 F1 World Championships. It is very demanding, and very satisfying.

There is someone who said that incidents of real creativity that end up being meaningful are always accomplished when there are strict limits placed on the endeavor. The art that lasts and is meaningful centuries after it was created were done within very limited circumstances. The instruments were limited, the medium was limited. Early photography, the great painters, the early architects, they couldn't do what they wanted or imagined. They could only express their vision within the extreme strictures of their medium. And they did, in remarkable ways.

I'll throw in something personal. For money I do something very challenging, where the value is very difficult to attain. It requires constant learning, always is dealing with hard decisions and many times crises that need fixing. I know what it takes to make a living doing what I do, it takes a decade to understand the technology and business to make a go of it.

Then there is my personal photography. I've worked hard to reach a level of competence in my photography, but if I'm realistic with myself I'm about 1/4 of the way to being good enough to be a professional. I know what it means to be a professional, and I'm not there in my photography. In what I do for a living people ask me for a solution to what they need to accomplish. It took a long time to get there. No one in their right mind would ask me for a solution to their photographic problems, or come to me as a photographer to accomplish something because I'm not good enough. Even if I've sold some work and publish my photos. I'm not good enough to be creative. I can't crank out top notch work day in day like I do for work.

So maybe it is a matter of digging really deep, cranking out exceptional work week in week out over a few years. Define exceptional as something that is as good as you do X 2. I guarantee that over time, if you can produce exceptional work on demand, that opportunities for creativity will arise.

Some people are lead singers, some people sing backup. Backup singers are very very good. Lead singers are quite a bit better and get to be creative.

03-05-2019, 05:07 PM - 2 Likes   #9
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The age old dilemma of what you want to create versus what pays the bills.
Very occasionally, the two shall meet.

As someone who has made a living creatively for all my working life, I know exactly where you're coming from.

Some very good advice already posted.
03-05-2019, 06:56 PM - 4 Likes   #10
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Every gig comes with a complimentary shit sandwich, you just have to figure out what flavor of feces you hate the least.
03-05-2019, 07:23 PM - 3 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChatMechant Quote
Every gig comes with a complimentary shit sandwich, you just have to figure out what flavor of feces you hate the least.
Remember, as a boss once told me, "The more bread you have, the less S%^& you eat!"
03-05-2019, 07:55 PM - 2 Likes   #12
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I'm doing a bit of a 365 selfie project, started Jan 1. I've been sharing stuff in the Daily In Group.
I have always had a few people interested in prints and such, but the exercise in the 365 has been a creative stretch for me, and coincidentally, I have had a flurry of interest in commissioned creative portrait work. The two are not mutually exclusive and I think you will find the best business is one that you get to be you, and you cultivate customers that appreciate you!

03-05-2019, 08:44 PM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by tvdtvdtvd Quote

I've spent the last 15 years living solely on my art.
I tips me hat to you. Can't help admire anyone with the guts to do that.

I think I love seeing live theatre, stand ups and bands in pubs to see people having a real crack at their talent even though the financial rewards really aren't there versus a desk job.
03-05-2019, 08:46 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattt Quote
I'm doing a bit of a 365 selfie project, started Jan 1. I've been sharing stuff in the Daily In Group.
I have always had a few people interested in prints and such, but the exercise in the 365 has been a creative stretch for me, and coincidentally, I have had a flurry of interest in commissioned creative portrait work. The two are not mutually exclusive and I think you will find the best business is one that you get to be you, and you cultivate customers that appreciate you!

Absolutely love that shot, Mattt.

It'll never sell to a dentist to hang in their waiting room.

But it's that creative effort that I hope some art director at an agency notices in you.
03-05-2019, 11:13 PM - 5 Likes   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
I tips me hat to you. Can't help admire anyone with the guts to do that.

I think I love seeing live theatre, stand ups and bands in pubs to see people having a real crack at their talent even though the financial rewards really aren't there versus a desk job.
Thanks. There certainly are tradeoffs. I made more in my last full year in an office job, (2002), than I have made any
year since, by a good margin. I also work more hours a week than I ever did in the office. And yet, I feel a whole lot
freer with with my time. Any day is a weekend, if I so choose. I don't commute. No one is telling me to fill out a TPS
report.

I learned a long time ago that I only need enough money to enjoy a modern bohemian lifestyle. I eat out when I want,
I vacation when I want. I see the doctor when I need. I don't need a new car every 3 years, nor a 60" plasma tv,
nor a vacation home in Vale. Jeans from Goodwill suit me just find, figuratively and literally.

And the best part of it all: I play with fire all the time (Ceramics is my primary media. Photography is a secondary
passion, often incorporated with my ceramic art but rarely for standalone.) Firing the wood kiln this week. Quite literally,
stoked.
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