I can accept an agency that puts a fee on top of my bill when they are doing the projectwork and traffic but nowadays it is not only 100% on top but they are not doing anything for it either. It has turned from a fee for work and taking risk towards a vulgar kickback.
This is not taking into account the deceit, fingerpointing, taking no responsibility ever and stalling payments indefinitely.
Having said that, there are certainly agencies that realize you are creating something as a cooperative effort, it is just that these are an endangered species.
On general, the quality is much less today (IMO), maybe not technically but in creativity and aesthetics it is. The acceptance by the clients of lesser quality is also much greater as long as the price is right. Maybe this is also a factor why agencies are acting like they do. When the incoming money is less and you still want to live like kings something has to give...
BTW, I am 43 and have missed the golden era for photography (the '80's) I guess.
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BTW, speaking about lawyers, 1 in every 30 people in Tel Aviv is a lawyer now (Jews...)
That means that legal services are cheaper, but also of much lesser quality than before.
On the other hand, it means that anyone can hire a lawyer, and anyone can be a lawyer.
Is a guild situation better than an open profession situation?
It's hard to say.
In some European countries you need a government license if you want to present yourself as a professional photographer.
Now that I am established, I would certainly want to limit newcomers to my profession as much as possible... If I was the only one in the country, I could charge $10,000 a day!
Are there bad clients, arrogant Ad Agencies, clueless Art Directors? ... sure, that can be said for any business ... there are bad, arrogant and clueless photographers also. However painting a broad negative picture is just a minority perspective for any business category (although I do wonder about the financial industry these days).
I find it very interesting that my positive posts here go somewhat ignored, and the focus is on how bad it is. In a bad economy, it is always tough ... and it is the ones who remain innovative, creative, positive and flexible that flourish, while the cynics either pine for the old days, do something else, or are forced out of business ... and then bitch about it being someone else's fault.
Frankly, those that disparage the marketing and advertising industry openly on the internet, basically indicates to me a personality trait that is probably why they don't get along so well in such an environment ... not to mention that they don't seem to understand how the advertising and marketing business actually works.
Changes without reason, while possible, is highly improbable. This is a creative process right up until the media runs, and change is part of the process. How one handles that is one aspect of being a "Professional".
Ad agencies taking 1/2 the media budget sounds implausible, actually it sounds ridiculous as media is the single largest expense of any ad campaign. In the heyday of advertising, the media fee was only 15% and any outside production costs was marked up 10 to 33% depending on complexity and over-sight requirements (most larger accounts were contractually capped at 20%). Today, most media expenditures are now handled by media buying services that pool a collective buying power for any given client. Ad agencies are now retainer or fee based depending on marketing ability, creative, production and organizational manpower aspects depending on the complexity of each separate account.
The originating clients, be they service or manufacturing oriented are not a bunch of helpless fools who wear blinders while some pirate ad agency robs them blind. Anyone who actually understands this business knows that. Most larger clients have very knowledgable 3rd party cost consultants that reviews every line item of a production budget ... and in any sized company, the bean counters are powerful forces in corporate cultures. Trust me, there is little waste today especially in such a rotten economy. How it works in other countries may differ, but this is the majority view in most of the world ... and most of the ad agencies are multi-national conglomerates these days.
Even though 67 and semi-retired now, I still do professional photographic and advertising work on a regular retainer basis with a couple of smaller local ad agencies, a very large multi-national marketing firm, and a number of PR firms ... as well as act as a consultant on a job basis, most recently for a large medical group. Plus I've innovated a fresh portrait category that is tons of fun and physically sustainable as I phase out the more grueling wedding stuff, which I loved doing. I am also advising some professional photographers and advanced enthusiasts on lighting techniques and/or creative thinking ... one of which whom just landed major employment for an international industrial expediting company.
Stay positive, be upbeat, never stop growing, always look for pony in the room full of horse crap ... the pony is ALWAYS there for those who look for it.
Regarding commissions - I believe in America ad commissions are 10-15%. In Israel they are 30-50%.
Last edited by shlomi; 12th June 2012 at 02:53.
I did not intend to insult or annoy anyone, but one of the main reasons for starting the thread when I did was to generate light-hearted debate on this forum... When I ask questions I like to think that I will not be only one who benefits from the answers, and I think there is a great deal of useful information and interesting opinion in this thread.
Personally, I still prefer the more chaotic creative environment where more flexible concepts rule, malleable emotional aspects are a key element, and subjectively expressing a Brand's personality is the objective above and beyond information. I like last minute creative discoveries, and prefer working with people that embrace a fresh way to present a product or service ... heck, I've pulled a 180º on major shoots and collaborated with the Photographer or Cine production company to re-think a creative approach to great success. Sometimes this was done after we "Shot the Board" as they say ... and I sold the client on the alternative afterwards.
FYI, for the most part, there are no Ad Agency media commissions for larger accounts in the USA anymore ... or if there are it is rare. Media is placed by Media Buying firms. Smaller, local Ad Agencies may place media but they no longer can afford a full time media placement expert on staff, and must use free-lance help, which has to be accounted for in the rates.
Higher media commissions elsewhere may well exist, but if it is at a higher rate it is usually because the over-all media budget is smaller, or serves a contained geographical area where smaller 10 or 15% commissions are unable to sustain the expert man-power and over-head to actually execute it.
Higher mark-up for other out-side services is usually 33.33% in the US unless negotiated lower by contract (the rule in today's economy). Smaller accounts usually pay a monthly retainer based on an annual contract that has to be justified each year at re-newal time. The Ad Agency adds a percentage to outside services that can indeed go as high as 50% which you think they do nothing for ... probably because you aren't there when they are doing it. The actual shoot for any client is only the tip of the ice burg, and the agency is on the hook for results, you are not.
It was the other guy that said they do nothing for the commission, not me.
What I expect from any client is: treat me with respect and civility, take responsibility for your own decisions, and pay on time. I don't think that is too much to ask. Almost all my clients do it naturally.
Again my experience with US and UK agencies was fine. In Israel I've had some bad experiences. I do think that charging 30-50% on media buy is a contributing factor to the organizational culture of this industry.
I have a problem with stylists - the only ones that exist here charge an arm and a leg and also give the attitude that goes with it. This is because they all work in the advertising industry. If I want good styling for less than $1000 a day and with no attitude, I can just forget about it.
Maybe someone should start a new thread, "Fun with Tearsheets", so that we can see the finished product and hear about the trouble and strife behind the shooting of it.
Last edited by downstairs; 12th June 2012 at 03:47. Reason: added Fun
I agree. Threads like this also get served up by searches though, so are worth answering honestly even if they smell a bit trollish.OTOH-- I have the feeling that the OP started this thread not because he was serious about this "plan" but to get the professionals going and defending their turf . I may be completely off mark, but already his first post created that impression--and all subsequent posts confirmed it...(may be it's my training as a professional lawyer that makes me think this ).
At least IMO.
Payments here in the US are on flexible scale. When smaller agencies produce larger TV jobs, 1/2 the money has to paid to the Production company up-front, and the balance before the images are released to the edit house.
I'm on a 30 day payment schedule with my clients ... but they are often quicker depending on their payment procedures internally. I just finished writing, shooting, and supervising the edit for three 30: TV spots and six 10: promo tags for a local client ... paid in full in 15 days. Fat vacation money!
Wedding, portraits and such are all paid up front before I do anything. I have a shoot coming up that requires stylists, and I just told the subject/client to secure the two stylists themselves after I approved the choice ... so the out-of-pocket cost is no issue.
Talent was always handled by the Ad Agency because most talent had to be SAG-AFTRA and follow their guidelines, which was then handled by a talent paying firm based on the media run.
Sorry for tagging you with the "do nothing" quote ... but what I said still stands, regardless of who said it.
I would regard any photography done for commercial purposes as professional, so this includes Estate Agents that make a complete mess of photographing your house, so, when I sold house, I took the photos myself - with a cheap Point-and-shoot.
I think that more "professional" photography gets done, but much of it not very "professionally", and not by full-time professional photographers.
I took the photos for my wife's website with my GH2, as it works sort-of OK in ambient light, and saved me setting up my studio flash system.
That was me Marc and in that same sentence I also mentioned I have no objection to the agencies that do put fees on top of mine when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. None whatsoever, I work with several that I know do (I also know how much). These agencies, do a lot of work I never see but is very beneficial to me (think project management, traffic, client pampering, debt collection, etc..). These also pay me on time mostly, in which they take on the risk of debt collection. Again, I have absolutely no objection of an agency adding to my fee.
On the other hand, which is what I mentioned, I notice a seemingly growing number of agencies that are; shall we say different in this area? These I am referring to. I am not trying to be negative in any sort of way but this is what I have experienced with a number of agencies over the last couple of years.
In no way did I categorically say agencies do nothing for the fees they are charging for 3rd party services.
Dick -- I do not really have an opinion on whether you can do this (largely because I know nothing of your market, nor your skills and preparation etc), but I really have to question why? You say you are in poor health and retired. You have extremely expensive equipment, so you are probably not in dire fiscal need to make money from photography. What gives? Why bother? Why not just make the kind of photography you want to make, clients be damned?
I am not at all put off by anything here--I am just realistic, realizing that being a professional photographer is hard work and that there is a big difference whether you shoot for your personal fun or have to deliver to paying client. Being 51, I have probably arrived at the peak of my lawyer career with, if I want, another good 10-15 years ahead. And since i basically enjoy what I am doing, it would not make sense to switch profession.
Having said this, selling some of my works to collectors would give me immense satisfaction, not because of the additional income but simply because someone is willing to pay for my works. Likewise, I like the artistic challenge to create a consistent body of work, or to approach a subject in a systematic manner. It forces you to think and develop your skills.
I also see a lot of attraction in doing (paid) portrait work--and if I would be based anywhere near you Marc, I would certainly like to come and meet and learn artificial lightning from you, as I find your posts about this very inspiring. I also live next to a professional who does a lot of portrait work recently and exhibits the results in his shop. Frankly, it the technical and artistic quality of his shots is rather poor, and it wouldn't take much to do better. However, I understand from talking to him that his business is booming, which again proofs the point that clients probably do not care.
Finally, I think that the business is very different in Europe compared to the US. For example, we don't have the senior shots, and I never heard someone forking out 4-5k for a wedding.
Anyway, I think this is a great thread and I thank you and all the others for their contributions.
My new website (under construction) at Zenfolio
I got into wedding work because Art Directors, Designers and Writers I worked with liked my personal B&W candid street work, and wanted their wedding shot that way. I started by telling them that I shoot what I want and pick the pictures they get, including for the album. They agreed, and I still work that way. I worked that group for almost a decade getting referrals on top of referrals ... about 15 to 20 weddings a year, which was all I could do while also working in the Advertising business.
Frankly, I never went full-time until I retired 3 years ago. Like you. I was at my peak in my chosen career ($$$$). The difference was that my career was in a related field, and I landed many commercial shoots because of those direct contacts.
Perhaps the issue here is defining "Pro" and equating it to full time income source verses supplemental. While the technical definition would be majority income from photography, I look at it differently ... from the consumer's perspective, they are paying a professional at professional rates, so I am one. I formed a LLC and keep books on it while monitoring my P&L. The trick is to be consistently good at what you chose to do. My lighing assistant hired me to shoot his daughter's wedding (with her blessing) ... when they reviewed the work the Bride was over-joyed, and her Dad quipped ... "He does it every single time, every time!"
For someone like you, it would seem that you have access to a potential cliental in certain social circles that, if approached carefully, could provide a controlled source of paying work in areas of portraiture. I have a friend in the medical supply business, that leveraged that into shooting a lot of people related work when clinics and some practices started advertising.
At the very least, it helps pay for all the toys, and explorations into new areas. In recent years, I've spent as much or more on lighting gear than on cameras/lenses (except the Leica S2, which was my retirement gift to myself ).