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Old Sep 17, 2009, 5:33 PM   #1
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Default Got an assignment offer today from ESPN... and turned it down

You know there are some times in life when principles really SUCK

I was contacted today through my sportsshooter page by a person at ESPN with an assignment offer for this Saturday. It wasn't for game-time action but something else. I called another pro shooter I had gotten advice from on Sportsshooter since I've never done anything like this before and discussed a list of questions, rates etc. At the same time I sent the person at ESPN an email indicating I was available and wanted more details. They sent me a few details and their pricing - all hourly rates. And, a better hourly rate than I'd get doing ANYTHING else photography related.

But, fortunately I knew better. I knew publications should and do pay for usage. They pay not only for your time but how they will use the photo. So, I asked them to provide details of usage so we could finalize terms. Unfortunately they replied "their rates are non negotiable..." and if I wasn't interested they would have to find another photographer.

So I passed on the job. I would have made more than I make on anything else and would have gotten some minor visibility (again this wasn't feature stuff - most likely would have been promotional in nature so it's not like it was payment for game photos). But I knew from people on sportsshooter what ESPN was offering was actually much less than what the product was worth. All in all, I'm a little bumbed but feel pretty good about the decision. Organizations are looking for more and more free or discounted product and photographers looking to put food on the table with photography as their sole source of income are losing their jobs. Mostly because people are willing to work for access or for notoriaty.

Why am I posting this? Just to help educate people. If you shoot sports and get a reasonable proficiency at it sooner or later a paper or other media organization is going to want your work - for under-market compensation and very often for free. So, just give it some thought before you agree - for most of us this is a hobby we enjoy but some people pay their mortgage by doing this. So, please don't let your hobby and your ego take food off someone else's table.
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Old Sep 17, 2009, 5:43 PM   #2
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that just shows the increadible talent you have john- regardless of your decision, i would feel honored. keep up the good work!
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Old Sep 17, 2009, 6:51 PM   #3
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If enough photographers will work for substandard compensation, the "pros" will find it harder and harder to make a decent living. For what it's worth, John, I think you made the right decision.

Robert
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Old Sep 19, 2009, 3:32 PM   #4
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I think you certainly have some valid concerns John, but on the other hand being able to have ESPN on your sports photographer resume, may have been worth it.

I'm thinking of future considerations, not necessarily with ESPN but when you can say to other potential clients that you have and or/do assignments for a organization with the status of ESPN, I can't help but think it would enhance your perceived 'value' in the eyes of potential clients.

Just my thoughts, having worked in the publishing industry many moons ago.

Les
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Old Sep 19, 2009, 5:32 PM   #5
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While I agree with every word you said John, I cant help thinking your generosity to your competition is somewhat misplaced. If you wanted to be a full time photographer, would you say no because you would be taking the food from another photographer's plate. Its a dog eat dog world out there and Im sure the work you would be doing wouldnt be hurting anyone else. Until the time you have a reputation with the big boys, and you have the time, and are happy with the rate they offered you (which you initially were) do it. You shut that door with ESPN, think about shutting the next one.
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Old Sep 19, 2009, 5:57 PM   #6
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It's not generosity to competition - it's helping to protect the industry. If hobbyists keep undermining the price structure because they can afford to do it the industry suffers. Usage fees are the larger portion of the fee structure. Once you agree to give that up, that client will continue to expect it. If you try to charge for it down the road they'll simply move on to the next person naive enough to give up their photographs on the cheap. So there's a fundamental difference between paying a person a lower rate because they are not a proven freelancer for you and trying to undermine the established pricing structure. So, if ESPN had offered a lower hourly rate but industry standard usage rates I would have accepted. That way they would be protected - lower up front money to an unproven freelancer but if the final product is good enough for publication, it's good enough for publication. But that's not what they're trying to do. Does that make sense?
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Old Sep 19, 2009, 6:11 PM   #7
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To make the decision you did based on principles is mighty big of you and says a lot about the person you are. Of course we the readers are not fully informed as to the details you considered that would be 'crossing the line' for you and there are always pro's and con's to making those tough decisions.

It's true that having ESPN on your resume would look impressive on the outside or at a surface glance to anyone reading it but what readers of your resume would not know is, at what cost was it for you to forego your principles to get it? Maybe other pro photographers who know the inner workings of the system would see what you gave up and view you in a negative way,...maybe?

I think you made the best decision for you and because you based your decision on "principles", you were not able to live with your name if you set them aside, after all our name is the most important treasure we have.
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Old Sep 19, 2009, 8:23 PM   #8
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In my opinion, I think you should have taken the assignment if your intention for the future is to benefit from the experience. There are more important things to me, than money. I wouldnt worry about trying to save the economy, and just do what you like to do -- take pictures. After a short time, when you have established your reputation with ESPN, you will know if you are being taken advantage of or not. Then you can make a decision whether you are going to continue. At this point you know whether you made the right decision. Would you do it again?
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Old Sep 19, 2009, 9:53 PM   #9
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Bynx, if I may assume to understand John's position, ESPN wasn't offering a "fair to the industry deal" but was rather undercutting what would have been right to offer, therefore if John would have taken the assignment in spite of his intention for the future, he would not have benefited from the experience.

He already knew up front that not only he but the industry was being taken advantage of from what ESPN was offering and, if knowing this, John decided to set his principles aside and take the offer then he wouldn't have to wait a short time to establish his reputation. The industry would know right away what it is and that is why John turned it down.
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Old Sep 20, 2009, 4:56 PM   #10
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John C. said:

Organizations are looking for more and more free or discounted product and photographers looking to put food on the table with photography as their sole source of income are losing their jobs. Mostly because people are willing to work for access or for notoriaty.


Les says:

I wonder how or where, photographers who are beginning their professional career would fit.

When your relatively new in many career areas, you in all probability will work , dare I say must work, for lesser compensation, because many clients are not willing to pay as much for 'beginner' as they are for a well established, proven individual with a known reputation for high standards of achievement.

There is an old saying in business and in life, you get what you pay for.

I haven't used a professional photographer since I was married, 26 years ago.

At the time I asked around, talked to others who had recently used wedding photographers and finally made my choice after viewing several portfolios of several photographers.

They were, BTW, all from the professional ranks who specialized in this area, had appropriate equipment and when I reviewed their previous work, obviously knew how to use it.

We selected the photog whose pictures we liked the best. He wasn't cheap, he used good equipment (Hassleblad). We were fine with all this.

The reason we selected him?

We were only going to get married once. We were/are both professionals and could afford top quality.

We didn't want any screw ups.

But not every client can be so choosy. A young couple with a child on the way, with very little money, may well look at more economical options, because that's all they can afford.

Companies also have a range of budget and have to make the decision as to whether they want or can afford, either a Cadillac or a Chevy level of service.


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