Welcome to our 7th series of posts where we share the results from our conversations held directly with community leaders about top of mind photo-industry issues. Community Table was formed from the collective efforts of Matt Nycz and Kate Chase of Brite Productions and Heather Elder and Lauranne Lospalluto of Heather Elder Represents with the idea that there is nothing more powerful in our industry than education.
This particular roundtable was a series of exciting firsts for The Community Table. It was the first time we invited photographers and it was the first time we included a partner. So, it is with excitement that The Community Table, along with our partner, The Workbook, welcome 11 photographers from our community to the table.
Suzanne Semnacher, the Worbook’s Director of Marketing, has interacted with countless photographers over the years and because of that has had such varied conversations with them all that she was the perfect person to write our introduction.
“As I listened to the discussion and the individual experiences of the participants I was reminded of what it really takes to be an entrepreneur in a demanding business that has seen such change over the last 20 years. This group of photographers has not only survived but continues to thrive doing something they clearly love, while at the same time, many were buying homes, having babies, sending children to college and living full and busy lives.
Having worked with literally thousands of photographers throughout my 34 years in this business, I have seen a lot of evidence that this is not as easy as it looks. It takes a fine balance of creative thinking, the soft skills required to manage people, and the business acumen to make a profit while doing it. I want to thank each of the photographers who participated in the Roundtable for sharing their unique experiences and perspectives.
There was a fair amount of discussion about the challenges of staying relevant in a career, which to outsiders might look easy. But the level of experience it takes to stay focused on the idea or a concept while managing a crew of assistants, digital tech, hair, makeup artist and stylist, location, props, wardrobe, and all the pre and post and yet make it all look authentic and effortless is no easy task.
It is our hope that the Photographer’s Roundtable will provide insight on what it takes to excel in the business as well as reinforce the power and the value of great photography.”
As a reminder, each Conversation Starter was directed to one person with a general discussion ensuing. Rather than sharing the entire conversation, we included the original question and then the quotes and notes that were most relevant. Please note, often times the person leading the conversation spoke most often.
Please note, there will be 5 posts shared over the next few weeks. Tune in every Tuesday and Thursday for the latest installments.
And with that, we welcome you back to the table.
What two things could an art producer do to make your job easier? Is there anything that art producers do really well that you wish they would do more often?
Ty Cole: It isn’t a matter of what art producers could do better. Lately, I’ve been attending portfolio reviews, the speed dating kind, and have been extremely pleased with the connections I’ve been able to make. So I’d like to say “keep doing that” instead of “you can do better”. Making connections is what this industry is about and anything that streamlines that process is a good thing.
What factors determine how much you are willing to negotiate?
Scott Montgomery: It comes back to two patterns. We all get up and go to work every day and we’re all incredibly flexible within that day. That holds true to the various clients. There’s not a set pattern that says this is the only way I charge for this. We always are adjusting, moving, adapting pretty much for every job. There’s flexibility – we all have to be good listeners. Sometimes a piece of the business is smaller, other times larger with the same client. Larger clients don’t automatically mean larger budgets or experience. In the end there’s no rule or pattern. We all have to be flexible everyday.
Heather Elder/Agent: I see patterns in our group. When people are transparent with us and share all the information, expectations and thoughts ahead of time, it is much easier to negotiate. We find it harder to cut once the budget is created, the calls are made the strategy set. I am not talking about a small cut here or there or a directed reduction. I mean more in the cases when we present a firm, strong bid and hear that the budget is half of that, after the fact. People put a lot of time and effort into a bid and knowing up front if a budget is tight is really important.
Kate Chase/Agent: I try to set a walk away point so we know when we’re getting into dangerous territory so that you know when you have to fold. If you don’t have a walk away point, your cuts and solutions seem random and then resentment sets in. You need to know when it is ok to walk away.
Scott Montgomery: You have no power in a negotiation if you’re not willing to walk away, and mean it. Just saying no isn’t enough, believing it is the hard part. If you say to yourself “this is my chance, how can I say no?” Thinking like that is detrimental.
Stewart Cohen: If you’re doing a job, there are certain hard costs that just can’t change – the only thing getting skinnier most time are the fees. You’re still taking on all the liability for producing this job for a lot less money. So you need to be able to walk away when it no longer feels right.
Scott Montgomery: The treatment’s a great place to explain why we are suggesting this budget. I’m telling you how this is going to go. Ultimately, who’s responsible? It’s easier to have that conversation – not, oh, that’s super expensive. Why? If we don’t communicate why, we can’t expect them to work up to it.
What one word would you use to describe the industry right now?
And to see more from all our Community Tables to-date, go here: https://notesfromarepsjournal.com/tag/community-table/