Thursday, June 2, 2011



I am FINALLY going to write a blog geared strictly to photographers. It’s not about how to deal with models. It is not about the perils we go through in a photoshoot. It is not about discussing anything about bootcamp (finally a blog without bootcamp). I am discussing some serious issues that photographers face with regards to this business known as photography.

Photography can be a very sexy and exciting occupation. You are surrounded by beautiful people, exotic locations and ending up with magnificent billboards, magazine covers and big ad campaigns. It is there for the taking. But something a lot of photographers fail to realize, those jobs are really hard to come by and secondly, you don’t get them overnight.

So what does one do when they are sitting there waiting for GQ to contact them? You have to build a consistent form of revenue if you wish to stay alive in this business and now it is time to discuss the unsexy business aspects of this business, hence the title of this blog.

To a lot of people photography is just photography. If you own a camera, you can shoot a wedding. If you own a camera you can shoot an event. If you own a camera you can shoot a magazine spread, and we (photographers at least) know that this is soooooooo not the case.

I’ve been the conssumate professional in this arena for about 10 years now, and it is JUST now that I am finally turning a profit and making sustainable income. Could I have done it faster? Quite possibly, but then I didn’t have anyone schooling me along the way in the business aspect and a lot of work came through hit and miss.

I try to tell upcoming photographers that you do not make a lot of money testing for modeling agencies. The market is flooded with photographers that are probably a lot better than you that will shoot beautiful models for free, so it would behoove a modeling agency to go with the photographer that is free than to actually pay you to shoot their models. Models don’t have a lot of money, so if you are lucky, you MIGHT make $300.00 on a test shoot. If it is a female, you will have to pay someone for hair and makeup. You may have to pay someone for styling, so in the end, you end up LOSING money shooting for an agency. How does one counter that? Shoot 4-5 models in a single day. Discuss a flat rate with the crew and everyone will walk away with something for their books and a little something in their pockets. If you can book 4-5 models in a single shot you stand to make $1,200.00 – $1,500.00 for the day. Which is why a lot of photographers will shoot males. A lot less overhead and a lot more money in their pocket. If you are lucky enough to book this three times in a single week, that can make anywhere from $3,600.00 – $4,500.00 for the week. Not bad for a week's worth of work. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty of this, that turns out to be 20 – 25 models you will shoot in a single week. That is A LOT of work. So in the end you will EARN that $4,500.00. When you do test shoots, it is not about the bells and whistles. It is about getting the models in there and getting them out. New York photographer Rick Day ( does a complete 3-5 look shoot in a matter of 45 minutes to an hour. You can’t devote a 4-5 hour session to a test shoot. It turns out not to be cost effective.

So how do you make an agency send you 4-5 models at a single time? Who says it has to all come from a single agency? If you pull a single model from 5 agencies, you got five models. You develop a formula and shoot them all the same way (or in a similar style), so you're not playing with lights and trying to get all artsy (save that when you shoot YOUR work). Right now it is about a business, and this is why you see some photographers work and it appears to be the same thing over and over again. They don’t have the time to sit up there and changing lighting set ups, building sets and doing crazy styling. Look at the work of New York photographer Shameer Khan (, he has all the major agencies practically eating out the palm of his hand with very little overhead (if any). When you are testing for an agency, all they need are clear concise images of their models so they can be booked for paying gigs. That is the job of a testing photographer.

Not all money will come from agencies and you have to develop an income that will sustain you over the course of a year. I shoot corporate headshots for many of the law firms in New York City. Is it glamourous? Hell no, but guess what? A single headshot from any given photographer can run from $150.00 – $300.00 depending on the deals you work out. If you are lucky they will keep you on “staff” and when they get new hires (which usually happens after the summer), you will be called in to shoot their headshots. So at $300.00 a pop a session of 10 lawyers that is $3,000.00 just for headshots. Nothing changes, they sit, you click, you’re done. Something to think about.

I do work for various clothing manufacturers for their websites. They will contact me to shoot clothing for their websites. INCREDIBLY unglamourous. But for a quick $3,500.00, you go in, you shoot clothing on mannequins, you are out. My last shoot was shooting Christmas sweaters. They had a complete staff. All I had to was shoot front, side and rear of each sweater. It was boring as hell, but it got the job done. So you see where this is going.

There are multitudes of ways of making money as a photographer where in some instances a model isn’t even part of the equation:

School portrait
Still life

Art galleries need to have their artwork photograph for catalogue and insurance purposes. Insurance companies need work photograph for insurance purposes. Schools need to have their students photographs taken. College campuses need photographs taken for their brochures. Law firms need exhibit photographs for court cases. Real estate companies need photographs for their listings. The list is endless and there is NOTHING sexy about it. The only thing that is holding you back is that you are sitting by the phone waiting for that phone call from Vogue.

Think about it.


  1. Thank you so much i needed to read this Dallas you are truly inspiring, one thing I would love to learn is how to go about finding these places and how would you negotiate a reasonable price, based on a new upcoming photographers

  2. Great Post! And thats the difference between looking at photography as a hobby and looking at it as a buissnis. Using ur craft and skills for more then just one lane of revenue. plus i think pepole who look down on other types of photography show they know little about it, shooting things such as life style, forensic, nature, architecture and still life can b extremely intricate and technical if not more and the result can b just as impressive and beautiful. if you can make a bottle of liquor look beautiful or food image look mouth watering then thats amazing.
    The only issue i see with shooting multiple models per day a few days a week is who is gona edit all those? if u just shot 20 models this week and they need 4-5 pics from each shoot then what? You like to keep your reputation and quality control the best and not fill the web in pictures who dont necessarily represent your quality standards of your finished product... so would u just give them out raw and unedited? or would u do just minimal retouch and send them out....even then its alot of work! PS. Rick day does 4 looks in an hour....? lol jeeezz my hats off to him

  3. Great point. Also true about shooting guys (no make-up, don't care if they have to change shirt on the spot) opposite girls (hair, make-up, changing takes long time and a private room...). Here in Orlando I shoot resorts - all day long gig, but well paid...
    Keep it coming Dallas.
    Martin / Arrow Studio

  4. I agree 100%. As much as I love extreme beauty and fashion photography, the rent still needs to be paid. My website and online book show my capabilities outside of the bounds of glamour, therefore leaving me open to a lot more opportunities to get paid for being behind my camera.

  5. Wow Dallas thank you so much for sharing!

  6. I enjoyed reading your blog: When Shooting Is Not Sexy. I knew most of this already, but sometimes I need reinforcement. Your images are lovely on your Flickr photostream. This ed me to read your blog.

    I'm not coming with an excuse, but do you think this field is tougher for women? Curious.
    Great blog!

  7. Thanks a lot for this blog post.