“Do you do anything on the side?” The Man says as he watches me process the images for The Passer.
“No.” I say and smile. “This pretty much takes up all of my time.”
I’ve been scoping out photographers on Craigslist-mainly LA, New York, and Chicago and I am pretty impressed by a lot of the ads I am seeing. But I am also impressed by the number of rank amateurs running ads, posting pretty good looking images, and leaving their contact info as a Gmail account. Not that I have anything against Gmail, but it’s not that expensive to get a website these days. Makes me wonder what kind of camera they are using, or if they are just using their cellphone.
A lot of the Craigslist ads are also being run by some pretty expensive place-people that want thousands of dollars to shoot a wedding or five hundred dollars for a couple of Headshots. These are the people I want to steal ideas from. But I also kind of like the low rent approach, where someone runs an ad and says they want to fill out their portfolio. These good folks are selling an hour of their time and 80 images on a DVD for a $99. If you can string three or four of those together, it’s not a bad afternoon. And it would be nice to have some portraits of my own to edit and showcase on a website.
One of major drawbacks of working for any Assembly Line Portrait Company is that they expect you to be available at a moments notice. It is not uncommon for a Photographer to setup a Shoot for themselves only to be told they are really needed on the other side of another state. When you turn The Company down, they tend to get mad and not give you anything for a couple of weeks. Of course, once you actually start shooting your own promotions, it’s not too long before you leave the fold anyway.
I worked with one Assembly Line Portrait Photographer who went on to open his own studio, but before he did, his website was filled with sample portraits shot on The Company’s backgrounds using the Company’s equipment. He even used the same posing, which was a bit sad. Now his images have gone in the complete opposite direction. He shoots editorial style portraits that have massive amounts of Photoshopping. I have to wonder if he makes any money spending all his time bent over a computer, or maybe he has some High School kid do all the Photoshop work and he pays him $7 an hour.
The Company has a number of things that I won’t have on my own-such as relatively cheap health insurance and fully booked Shoots. I would rather not have a PreSeller, but that means the job then falls to me. Not being on intimate terms with Beelzebub the way all PreSellers must be, I am not sure I can really get my foot in the door and book four or five day shoots every week. Not that I would really need to right off the bat, but it will be necessary at some point. I’m sure the Photogs charging $8K to shoot a Wedding have more of a marketing effort than a Craigslist ad.
Another old Assembly Line Portraits buddy of mine shot Quinceañeras, and he handed out a lot of business cards to anyone who looked to be around the correct age of 15. Since I don’t speak Spanish, such an option is not in the cards for me.
Another Photographer was always handing out business cards, and even did his best to talk people out of buying their Portraits from The Company. He would make them a better deal and take more personal portraits over the weekend. The Passer he was working with put a stop to that and he left shortly thereafter. I can see trying to drum up a bit of business that The Company doesn’t pursue, such as High School Senior portraits or architecture or portraits with Horses or portrait at the Beach. But trying to steal The Company’s business while he was working for them was a little bit low.
One of my little dreams has always been that someone will walk into The Studio, see what a genius I am, and either hire me on the spot for their world famous Studio, or offer to start me in my own Studio. Needless to say such a fantasy has never happened. But an Assembly Line Portrait photographer I know did have someone walk into The Company’s Studio, tell her he was retiring, and GIVE HER HIS STUDIO! Ok, he didn’t exactly give it to her, but it was close enough that she quit and started working in her own Studio right away. Last I heard it didn’t work out and she was pursuing other lines of interest. Just about every issue of Rangerfinder has someone selling their Studio that has been in business forever and makes so-and-so hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and has a loyal client base and so and so forth. But they aren’t just giving them away.
I worked with a college kid one time who was studying photography and working at an Assembly Line Portrait Studio to get a feel for the business. This is kind of like getting a job at McDonalds to see what it’s going to like to be a Chef, but ok, why not? He was not a bad photographer, for a kid who didn’t know what he was doing. But he really didn’t know anything. I’m sure he has his own Studio by now and is making about ten times what I make. Or maybe not, it’s hard to say.
I read Fast Track Photographer not too long ago and one of the things it says is to outsource everything you don’t like to do yourself. I like the idea of having someone else do all the jobs I hate, but right now, I’m it. So it will be Craigslist for me, and we’ll go from there.