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a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

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  #1  
Old 02-20-2012, 07:59 PM
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shift studio shift studio is offline
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a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

I didn't write this, but I thought this was a good read. It was posted on Craiglist here: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/crg/2861305260.html

I got a good chuckle after reading an AD for a Photographer / Retoucher (150 jewelry photos plus retouching....budget $700) In the late 90's, the standard rate for one web photo on a white bkgd was $30-50 depending on the client. For Print and web usage it was $1-200 per image for "catalog". Today on Craigslist the average offering is $4-6 per image (retouching included). The minimum wage in San Francisco is close to $10 per hour so if you like abuse and actually think you're going to break into the industry by doing this Job you're absolutely delusional. A client who offers this rate has absolutely no respect for what you do, could care less if you have school loans from developing your talent and thinks "digital capture" is free. At the proposed rate, it is implied that your skills are no more specialized than a "burger flipper". Remember though, we'll let you use the photos in your book and there's a ton of work in the future at minimum wage. Moreover.... "the budget" is never really the budget. An absurdly low budget implies that I'd like to keep you working at minimum wage so I can have 2 homes in the Hamptons. I know people are desperate out there but allowing these rates to continue will put your profession on par with a minimum-age worker. Why waste thousands of dollars going to art school if your profession can only command minimum wage? Remember, an assistant gets paid $2-300 per day and that rate has held for 15 years. The cost of living always increases and the rate for your work has now depreciated by 2000% if you accept work at these ridiculous rates. Craigslist photo jobs are not a springboard to better paying photo gigs and market visibility - 100% guaranteed. Karl Marx articulated this sort of exploitation over a 100 years ago and his insight lives on. As an aside, you'd think that wearing the hat of photographer, stylist, retoucher and assistant would make one more marketable price-wise but at these rates each of the "incarnations" would make $2 per/hr if you split the "minimum-wage" rate among 4 professionals. Today, companies expect to pay you the same $40,000 a year that they paid 20 years ago but want you to be an expert at 5-10 programs and do 4 jobs instead of one. I've had my pulse on the market for 20 years and I 'd have to say that capitalism no longer works in America and the divide between rich and poor will only worsen in the years to come (out-sourcing has destroyed the growth of the American wage) Learning more and more skills does not increase wages since it's expected that you do 3x as much for the same stagnant pay rate. A receptionist makes more than a photographer at "craigslist rates" and he/she didn't have to spend 4 years in college, spend thousands on equipment and spend thousands of hours mastering programs. You just have to laugh to get through this ridiculous landscape we call photography. Your rant is also welcome.;-)

Last edited by shift studio; 02-21-2012 at 06:42 AM.
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Old 02-20-2012, 11:58 PM
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

I can understand your pain, Shift.
Quote:
Originally Posted by shift studio
... A receptionist makes more than a photographer at "craigslist rates" and he/she didn't have to spend 4 years in college, spend thousands on equipment and spend thousands of hours mastering programs. You just have to laugh to get through this ridiculous landscape we call photography. Your rant is also welcome.;-)
In my last employment I pointed out to a director that bin men were payed more than I was. He shrugged and walked away. 20+ years of experience count for nought.

Going back ~25 years, when the Mac first reared it's ugly head in repro, I recall skilled and experienced people being made redundant and a industry wide exodus. The reasoning, as one boss put it, being: The Mac has a keyboard and the secretary works a keyboard, therefore we'll get the secretary to do the work. This myopic and ignorant attitude was the beginning of the end.

I haven't looked on Craigslist, but when searching on the web a couple of years ago I found a few similar sites at the same sort of rates. The re-touching and colour correction were, frankly, laughable.

I'll stop there - my blood's beginng to boil.
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Old 02-21-2012, 12:23 AM
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

its because alot more people have access to the programs they need and can say they are professionals and set a low rate because they can.
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Old 02-21-2012, 01:07 AM
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

Retouchers and photographers are just the latest in a long line of tradespersons feeling the pinch. The low cost of equipment, access to free information/know how, ready supply of educated unemployed and a dilution of the marketing spend are just a few of the issues contributing to the issues we all face. My rates are now half of what they were 15 years ago but then again so are my bills so it's not all bad news. We have to get used to it and adapt because the situation will not change - remember dark room technicians, typographers and copywriters anyone; most of my working life these were well paid and key jobs within the greater publicity industry. Now, pffft!. You just have to up your game to stay ahead of the pack; your clients need to trust your knowledge of the overall process from layout to print (the sort of knowledge you picked up along the way standing in cold photographers studios or at the business end of a Heidelburg press) and that your promised delivery time is carved in stone. They aren't all mugs and the worthy ones will judge you on value rather than cost. Chin up chaps!
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Old 02-21-2012, 07:16 AM
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shift studio shift studio is offline
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

I'd like to re-state, I am not the author of the rant I posted. Rather, it was a cut-paste job because I thought it would be a good topic that would stay alive here.
I did email the author to say it was being re-posted.

Quote:
its because alot more people have access to the programs they need and can say they are professionals and set a low rate because they can.
Also because the cost of living in many countries can be 1/10th and even 1/100th of what it is in Canada, _____, ______. For some, $20 in a day is pretty good (I'm not a expert in this, but the scale is about right). Its impossible to compete with that. If you live in Canada, you have to offer something different/better.

I was recently horrified to hear a long-time friend that I went to university with in the early 90's just hired an administrative assistant (secretary) for himself at an oil/gas company for more per year than have ever made - and she has a GED and some courses - and I consider myself a specialist with 13+ years' experience. Bah!

okay now I'm getting pissed off again. Time to stop writing.

Last edited by shift studio; 02-21-2012 at 10:42 AM.
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  #6  
Old 02-21-2012, 12:41 PM
Imagocentric Imagocentric is offline
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

I've just finished writing rants on 2 freelance sites about just this topic!
For over 13 years I've been retouching and taking pictures, always freelance. Due to cutbacks and the general recession, many of my clients have nothing to pass to me now, so I began using Elance and PPH to seek new clients. I was told these were 2 of the better freelance sites.
It's just unbelievable what people on there are willing to work for! Just today I lost a bid. A couple hours hours photographing a family, a couple more (at least) sorting and editing the images to end up with 7 to go to print. This will earn the (lucky?) bidder 50!! And that's before any expenses!!
I appreciate we're in a global marketplace etc, but this winning bid came not from the far east or India, but from right here in the UK, from London!
These people, probably untrained, ill equipped and inexperienced will do more to destroy this profession than anything in the past has ever done. Get a PC, a ripped copy of Photoshop, watch a few Youtube videos and off you go...
Me, I will NEVER join a price war. I like my work but would rather (and have) sit on my skinny ass watching paint dry than sell myself off for these kinds of prices.
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Old 02-21-2012, 01:00 PM
pixelzombie pixelzombie is offline
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

You could also blame outsourcing for the drop in value. When i was interviewing with a very large US printer i was told they had 250 employees in India doing just photoshop work for them.
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Old 02-21-2012, 01:22 PM
Imagocentric Imagocentric is offline
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

For sure outsourcing has a big part to play here. You have to wonder when people will begin to see that a global economy cannot work... ever.
Living costs in India and similar parts of the world are really low compared to Western Europe, UK, USA and Canada. We can never compete with them on cost. There was a time when the quality of the work from those parts of the world was really poor, that's changing now. While they do still often produce poor work, there are providers there whose work is comparable to most of the work produced in the west. Clients will continue to shop around for lower prices and if they can get what they want from India, they'll outsource there. Perhaps the real high end stuff will stay with us, the rest will go east bit by bit til there's nothing here.
We'll have to up our game and fight over the bits that stay domestic. That in itself will bring about a reduction in prices as people again fight to undercut the competition and secure work.
Either way, the future looks pretty bleak unless we all relocate to India!
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Old 02-22-2012, 12:13 AM
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

all countries should make a law that makes companies that outsource make them pay the difference in taxes.

eg.... if the rate in rich country is 20$ an hour and that outsource for 10$ an hour they have to pay tax of 10$
that will stop companies going oversea for employees
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Old 02-24-2012, 11:59 AM
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

we should band together and bid outrageous prices on these freelance sites, get everyone we know that is a retoucher. Might not do anything but fill up their site with spam, but might make me feel better.
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Old 04-27-2012, 04:25 PM
emartin8907 emartin8907 is offline
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

This is very discouraging as a last year student at Brooks Institute. I honestly have not even learned anything in my last year and a half here, no one wants to hire me all the jobs I want expect me to know programs my school doesn't even touch so I've been teaching myself this past year on top of my school work. Going to be in debt probably over 200 right out of college at 22 my 18 yr old self may have gone another route had I known, hindsights always 20 20 tho.. It seems if I want to make big bucks I'm going to have to get creative with what skills I have. Maybe own a retouching house or something later on
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Old 04-28-2012, 10:28 AM
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

If he thinks "craiglist" defines the photography market... there's something wrong with him

I just wrote something about this very same mindset. http://www.facebook.com/notes/natali...78465785528265

People posting in this thread might not like it at all.
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Old 04-28-2012, 12:46 PM
RobertAsh RobertAsh is offline
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

Godmother beat me to the punch. But that's good.

I was going to say that:
  • I never, never, never look for clients on craigslist or offer my services there.
  • I never, never, never try to sell my work on eBay.
Those places are for bargain-hunters and for broke and/or stingy buyers. And such buyers will never lead you to making a good living unless you can do enormous volume with very small profit on each sale.

The only way I would use craigslist is if I wanted some quick practice to perfect a technique in the beginning, and now I'd be inclined to do it for free instead of for craigslist prices.

There are always different segments of any market. There are low-end buyers and high-end buyers. The best way to make good money is to learn to service and market to high-end buyers. That takes effort (see Godmother's link above) but it's worth it.

Dell Computer is a great example. They learned what high-end sophisticated buyers wanted, provided that with the highest quality and best execution in the market and let everyone else fight for the unsophisticated low-end retail buyers. Those companies who pursued that market all went out of business (e.g., Packard Bell).

Much the same dynamic is happening today with creative fields. It's something we must either adapt to or lose out.

Last edited by RobertAsh; 04-29-2012 at 07:15 AM.
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:58 PM
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

A comparative situation to the photo industry is the music industry. I'm not referring to file sharing and such which is having a major impact on its own, but the home studio vs. established recording studios. It may be encouraging to us to realize that even though one can make an album at home, there is still a need for professional facilities for not only recording but mixing and mastering.

As for the outsourcing of retouching, I often wonder when the workers in these countries will wise up and start demanding higher wages. Even though their expenses are low, greed is greed no matter where one lives. Perhaps eventually their prices will rise and cause Western workers to become more attractive again (ie, the swinging pendulum).
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Old 04-28-2012, 05:22 PM
RobertAsh RobertAsh is offline
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Re: a rant about the de-valuing of our trade

Quote:
Originally Posted by plugsnpixels View Post
...As for the outsourcing of retouching, I often wonder when the workers in these countries will wise up and start demanding higher wages. Even though their expenses are low, greed is greed no matter where one lives. Perhaps eventually their prices will rise and cause Western workers to become more attractive again (ie, the swinging pendulum).
Excellent point. Actually, it's already happening. Wages in China and India have gone up a lot compared to earlier. Lately I've been reading in the financial press that some manufacturing is starting to return to the US, and that other manufacturing is starting here and staying here (I live in the US) and not being outsourced at all.
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