Question for Pros on Fashion Photography and gear barriers to entry (Digital)

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by BenPhoto, Mar 8, 2012.

  1. BenPhoto

    BenPhoto TPF Noob!

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    Hi Folks,

    I've been involved with film photography for a long time (I'm not a professional that does it for his living). I've always shot with Nikon 35mm film, and on occasion Mamiya medium format film (the results of which are simply stunning).

    If I was serious about a career or going pro in fashion in 2012, I would almost certainly have to get a serious digital rig. The cost of this is very very high as opposed to (film) just a few years ago when one could get a Mamiya RZ film setup for maybe $10-15 Grand with several lenses and accessories etc.

    Digital Medium format setups with Leaf backs that are required for getting serious results in Fashion, also require a Mac Pro computer with appropriate pro monitor, along with all the software ....Capture one and full Photoshop along with the expertise to use it. Possibly training costs associated with the software etc.

    We're talking maybe $40-50 Grand realistically which is daunting. Then putting a book together to start out .....real models/real hair and make-up people which make or break a shoot for real.

    How does someone do this? Even if they have assisted....to go out on your own (presuming the confidence, ability and reasonable contacts are already there) when the barrier to entry on gear needed is so outrageously high in order to compete?

    Thanks for responses.


     
  2. KmH

    KmH In memoriam Supporting Member

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    Compared to many other types of business, capital equipment start up costs of $50,000 isn't a big number, let alone 'outrageous'.

    A new Pentax 645D (40 MP) is only $10,000 - Pentax 645D 40MP Medium Format Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD Screen (Black)

    In all honesty, most people making an attempt to break into doing photography as a profession, fail. Not because they lacked the gear or the knowledge of how to do photography, but because they lacked business acumen. For example, the main theme of your post is about gear, not business.

    Figure a certain amount of luck and being in the right place at the tight time helps, but I'm a believer you make your own luck by having confidence, energy, and the kind of positive personality people like to be around.

    Elyse Weissberg was a very successful photographers representative in New York City. Fortunately, before she died in 2001 she wrote a book you may find helpful, if you don't already have it - Successful Self-Promotion for Photographers

    I would also recommend - Best Business Practices for Photographers, Second Edition

    ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography
     
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  3. BenPhoto

    BenPhoto TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the response,

    I'm speaking about gear barriers specifically because that is what I am facing. I've run a successful business before but not in the arts. I understand a plumber can pull up to your house with a van with $100 grand in tools in it, however getting consistent well paying jobs as a plumber is different than doing the same as a fashion photographer. So an outlay of $50k including all ancillary gear as mentioned in the first post then the spend to do a real book which could run $20-25K realistically just to get it off the ground and the question is where does the money come from. It's a lot of dough. I have many contacts from working in the music industry and know well about positioning oneself for "Luck" to happen.

    The barrier for me is the start-up capital in a creative arts field.

    I will take a look at those books
     
  4. gsgary

    gsgary Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Last edited: Mar 9, 2012
  5. chuasam

    chuasam Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I've seen a friend do really well with a 5D MkII and a 24-105, I've also seen someone else do really well with a simple D90 and 35mm lens.
    That depends on where the final output is destined for. If it is for a billboard or huge prints, sure...rent the camera and tack it onto the invoice.
     
  6. Nikon_Josh

    Nikon_Josh TPF Noob!

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    Fantastic inspiring advice, here Keith!
     
  7. CCericola

    CCericola Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    If you don't have any contacts in the commercial photography business you are years off having to buy equipment. It is more who you know vs what you know. You are competeing with the younger students in art schools that are interning for people shooting for VOGUE, Cosmo, etc... You are competing with the graduates that take the minimum wage job as their assistant and fetch coffee and gaffers tape all day.

    There is no need to buy the expensive equipment until you are getting the assignments. Before that you rent equipment.

    I don't want to discourage you from going forward but realize that commercial photography is a lot differant than retail photography (portraits, head shots, weddings. etc...) Your first step is to look for assistant jobs. As you progress you may have the opportunity to start building a portfolio. Then you take that portfolio and try to get represented by a Photography Agency. The ad agencies, the magazines, etc... hire their photographers through agencies. The agency is your agent. For a percentage they go out and sell you to the creative directors and the art directors in charge deciding who to hire.

    In between working your butt off you plan out your own shoot ideas and when you have a free week-end, you rent what you need, you use Model Mayhem or friends for talent, make-up and hair and you shoot yoru heart out. If you are good enough and what it bad enough, you'll succeed.

    There is a member here on TPF, benjikan, that has been doing quite a bit for VOGUE Portugal. He would be a great resource for more information.
     
  8. BenPhoto

    BenPhoto TPF Noob!

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    As I said in the first post..."Presuming confidence, ability, and reasonable contacts are already there"

    I work as a record producer and have an agent/manager that gets a % of my work, not unlike what happens in commercial photography. I should have said that before. I'm a little too old to be a runner although if I were 20 years old and just coming out of SVA I would stay in NY and push that hard as that is the best way for a kid to break in. That is in fact how I broke into the music business.

    I've run several shoots for music acts of mine and learned much in doing this (basically acting as creative director) not the least of which is that professional hair and makeup can make or break the day. The photographers I've hired for these shoots were young, not out of school long and were able to deliver what I needed with the results a Mamiya RZ 6X7 can deliver and at a greatly reduced rate. I know photographers that use 35mm digital slr's, and nothing against anyone that does, but I can almost always tell the difference when something is shot in medium format, particularly for what is needed in high impact shots when the competition is mad.

    Through this process and also from being in and around the fashion world I've thought seriously about pursuing this. I saw that video from Mathew Jordan Smith and his shots look great, but I would say it is rare that anyone shoots 90% on film today. Just as almost no one records to 2" analogue tape in the music business any longer (even though it sounds better) its nearly 100% obsolete.....It seems that digital for instant feedback from a client is a must in fashion photography, which brings the whole question back to the ancillary cost of all digital equipment needed beyond the camera in 2012 (as opposed to shooting in MF film ten years ago). It seems much more equipment and expertise is required with digital.

    I guess renting from Calumet or others is the way to go.

    I have long thought that with the contacts I have that if I put together the right book that shows my eye,
    that I may be able to jump-start the whole thing.

    I have long thought both in music and photography that all the technical aspects on earth can be taught....but as far as the the eye and ear....one either has it or they don't.
    They are completely unique to each individual.

    Once again I appreciate all the responses.
     
  9. CCericola

    CCericola Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Thanks for the additional info. In your case you can rent until you can afford what you want or take out a loan.
     

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