Thursday, July 18, 2013

Q/A Paid/Unpaid Testing and Revenue Streams

Q: Hope this message finds you well. I am definitely a fan of your work, not only in your portfolio but also with your marketing. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't see your avatar here on MM. Great job!!!

I do have a question about your line of work I hope you can help me out. Like you, there are other very well known photographers who are constantly shooting with well known and beautiful models. My question is, who is making money in these shoots? Are models charging you, are you charging them? Since I consider both your models and yourself to be equal in talent and a high stage in your careers, do rates cancel each other out and you basically get together and shoot w/ no compensation? I'm really interested in where the source of income comes in from. Right now, I'm shooting friends and also booking TF shoots with models here on MM who like my concepts... but at some point either party has to make money!

Just feeling a bit confused and naive about our industry at your level. Hope you can clear things up for me.

I truly appreciate you!

A: Thanks for the kind words!

These are great questions. I'll give it to you straight. Lots of guys that you look up to (including me) don't make money off of the images you see on tumblr/facebook/instagram etc. Those images are for marketing purposes. Yes, I shoot paid tests. But those are few and far in between the unpaid tests. Recently I've priced myself above the $1k mark so I'm only taking a paid test a month on average. Why price myself so high? That's a whole 'nother story. In short, I hate paid tests. Yeah, you can quote me on that.

But if I'm only shooting one paid test a month, I wouldn't have very many images to show for myself. So I take personal projects to keep the "marketing machine" going.

Yes I shoot unpaid tests. The frequency varies. In 2012 there was probably a 4 month period that I didn't shoot a single unpaid test. Right now I'm in a "growth spurt" and have been testing more frequently which for me is about once or twice a week. I know some photographers are shooting unpaid test nearly every single day. Different strokes for different folks.

Yes, I have commercial fashion and cosmetic clients that shoot once or twice a year SS/AW (Spring Summer/Autumn Winter). These are on top of the paid tests. Those are large budgets and great money. But the infrequency of those shoots means I have lots of free time in between those jobs.

You'll want to read this too.

For the record I've never paid a model for a test. But I do pay models when they model for my workshops. Then again, technically the workshop photographers are paying the model.

So where does the money come from?

You'll want to read this and this.

Specifically for me I have good revenue streams from the education side of fashion photography. Webinars, workshops (group/private), consultation, Calumet, New York Film Academy... on top of paid tests and commercial work.

Will this work for you? Probably not. But that's the point, you'll have to create your own recipe for success. But it all starts somewhere.

Cheers :)


  1. wow. thats very insightful and appreciate the honest answer and the time spent blogging this. I'm another fan... not only your work and technical explanations but of your psyche and what goes on in your head.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words! :) I never quite know who's reading these words but I'm glad some like the text :)