We all hear long established professional photographers bemoaning the fact that rates are down, stock doesn’t pay and commissions are non-existent. Well I’m happy to say that the commission is alive and well, if albeit a little thin on the ground.
We’re relatively new to the commercial world of photography and never knew the “good times” of stock photography. For us, it is a more of a by-product of our fine art photography, and certainly something that doesn’t normally dominate our work. Though we do pay a certain amount of heed to the stock potential of an area when we are out and about, but current returns mean that stock for us doesn’t amount to much more than a source of a few good meals out each year.
We contribute to several stock libraries and we also supply clients with local stock images from time to time, but we certainly don’t specialise in stock, so you can imagine our surprise when we got an email inviting us to quote for what amounted to a major stock commission. Working on the basis that we could instantly think of a dozen people likely to be in the running to win this contact, we didn’t even consider we would be in contention for the commission. However, we decided to submit a bid on the basis that as the client did occasionally buy images from us, we’d better keep on the “preferred supplier” list.
We occasionally get offered small commissions and we’ve generally turned them down as we’ve never considered them to be financially viable to either us or the client, but this one was different. The client had included a breakdown of the anticipated shoot schedule and also included a budget figure. In my previous life in “technical sales”, I spent my days doing time and material costings and quotes, so armed with the information in the brief, it was easy for me to work up a costing on a spreadsheet. Putting a day rate against the man-day estimate from the brief, adding in expenses such as event entry fees, mileage and other odds and ends miraculously gave me a figure bang on the budget figure, so the costing was immediately turned into a detailed line quote and duly sent to the client prior to the deadline.
At this point we still didn’t imagine we would have the slightest chance of winning the contract, so never gave a second thought to an email asking for clarifications. Always a good sign in my previous world of quotes for submarine parts. So, you can imagine our surprise when got home the following day to find several missed calls and an email to say we’d won the commission! It was a case of s**t, now what do we do!
The shoot list from the client was extensive and meant supplying a significant number of images, so it did mean we were going to be very busy on and off for 3 – 4 months. Shooting scenic stock is one thing, but this brief also included getting images of people enjoying such diverse things as Michelin starred restaurants and sporting events, so completing the brief was definitely going to test us and take us well out of our “comfort zone”. The brief also took us to a lot of events such as bike racing and country shows, though I never thought I’d see the day when I got enthralled by ferret judging!
The judge examining a ferret at Duncombe Park Country fair
The next problem we encountered was the weather. We wanted to hit the wish list hard from day one and the brief called for images of people enjoying the area, but April was very cold and everywhere we went was very quiet with very few people about and certainly none sat out in street cafes. June was pretty wet too, so what was due to be a 3-month project was starting to look like it might run into 5 months.
Cobles parked up on Filey sea front
We also needed images from shopping areas, so I decided to approach the Brunswick Centre in Scarborough. In these days of security, you can image the trouble I had to go to get authorisation to shoot the internal images, but I must say they were very cooperative and I eventually had written authority to shoot the internal scenes.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see how cooperative up-market restaurants and hotels were too, giving me very good access and even the customers got into the action and most were more than happy to pose for me. All this from someone who normally shoots only static landscapes!
A seafood meal being served at the Estbek restaurant
It’s also taken me into different areas of camera handling too. My default setting is usually f11 and don’t worry if the exposure time is measured in seconds or minutes, but this project has taken into the realms of 1/1000th second to shoot the bikes and unheard of settings such as f4 @ ISO 1600 in dark restaurants.
The Broke FMX motorcycle stunt team performing at Duncombe Park country fair
So, there we are, six months on and over 1200 images and the project is finally wrapped up, signed off and the invoice submitted, but why tuna sandwich days you might ask? Well every time I needed a packed lunch for a long day out all we seemed to have in the house was tins of tuna.