The Biggest Loser

I was thinking the other day about what really went wrong with the photography and modeling industries (apart from the massive oversubscription) and who the biggest loser is in all this. And I think it’s the photographer.

‘TF’ shoots have always been a thing. Every industry has it. It’s a way for newbies to get work under their belt before they are deemed worthy of pay. In other industries they are called work experience placements or internships. They can be just as unrewarding and not necessarily lead to paid work. It’s the gamble you take.

So why did I choose the photographer as the biggest victim of austerity in the creative industries? Simply because he is the final end in a production process. If everyone was paying for services, the photographer would be at the end.

Let’s take me as a fashion designer for instance….

There was a time when if I wanted to shoot my latest collection, I would have paid a team as part of my business to bring all the elements together of an advertising campaign. I would pay a model, a makeup artist, a hairstylist. I might even have a stylist to complete the look. I would then pay a photographer to shoot and finish the images that I would then use to advertise my products. And that’s how I would make my money back – by selling clothes.

In the world of high couture that may be how it still works although I’m sure they manage to get their share of freebies from interns. Photographers shooting purely for images, or as part of fashion campaigns, would often look to editorial to make their money back. Magazines used to pay for sets of images worthy of print space. But the bottom fell out of that industry and now many magazines exist solely on the internet, run by skeleton teams in between their day jobs.

Equally, models used to pay photographers for portfolio updates that they would then take to agencies in hope of securing modelling contracts. All this has changed. Girls who have no hope of being taken on by agencies often go freelance. But many can’t command hourly rates.

There are too many people in the industry all desperate for images and, person for person, most of them are working in a skills trade off to get them. Whilst some of my TF work is absolutely worth it, I have been on shoots where the images have been worthless to me as a designer. It’s supposed to be a TF shoot but if the images are unusable for me, I have wasted my time.

I’ve had a couple of these in the last year. It’s the gamble you take and you just have to get good at sniffing out the duds. By rights, I should pay for all my shoots where I am asking to shoot collections. And if I had the money I absolutely would. But right now I don’t because I can’t. I’m just happy if I can pay all my bills and expenses every month. There are plenty of creative people out there not even managing that right now, so I feel that I am moving in the right direction, just slowly.

My feeling is that the industry is only going to get worse, as every year we convince more and more creative wannabees that they need a degree to do it and promise them a healthy income if they get that all important 1:1.

The truth is, there are many areas of the industry where even that won’t get you anywhere because there just aren’t the jobs. Starting your own business might help get you the position you want, but there still isn’t any guarantee you will make enough to survive.

The question is, how are you going to stand out from the crowd, and how are you going to survive whilst you get there.


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