Advice for Photographers

How do I get the break to get started?

Please don't take any of this personally; what I'm about to write is not designed to give the impression I'm better than you or sound like 'you cant do what I did, because I'm special and you're not' If I was in your position now, its highly unlikely that I would be able to break into the industry either.

Ok - so how can you get into the glamour industry and make money? It's probably the most asked question in photography. Well, the truth is, you probably can't, in the same sense that I cannot and will not achieve the sort of success my predecessors did simply because the market and opportunities are no longer there.

Had I been at the same level in this business 25 years ago, my income would be quadruple what it is now in relative terms and the budgets afforded to me for shooting would be on a scale I can only dream about. Since I entered this business, rates paid to photographers have remained static, decreased or in some cases halved, whilst overheads have increased. Also, even in my short time in the business, shooting less explicit content (i.e. lads mad type glamour) is almost impossible to make a living from. It's at the stage now where its almost pointless for most photographers to shoot any glamour sets which don’t contain at least UK level open-leg images. This contrasts to even a few years ago when the most lucrative contracts I had were the least explicit.

Why you probably can't get a break...

Well lets dispel a few myths first. Many Photographers think all they have to do is shoot a bundle of adult content and they will make money, many Models think all they have to do is open their legs and they will be paid vast sums. Not true, the glamour and adult industry is probably the least well paid of all forms of commercial modelling and photography.

Most glamour and adult content shot speculatively is unsaleable, thats the simple truth. There are Terrabytes of content on hard drives throughout the world looking for a home which no-one will pay to give it. Adult content is hard to sell, there are loads of it around and everybody and their dog wants to be or thinks they can be a glamour/adult photographer.

Even if you can sell the content, getting paid a reasonable price for it is another matter. Even if you think you have sold content for a decent price, there can still be a sting in the tail.

Let me tell you why;

Magazines, in general, have always paid on publication and in most occasions publication is at least 6 months from the date of the shoot. This was ok when the fees were into four figures per set, but very few mags have this sort of budget now and certainly none in the UK. So, even assuming you can get a foot in the door, can you finance model fees, overheads etc while waiting for invoices to be paid?

What about websites? Most won't even reply to your emails as they have a list of photographers as long as your arm queuing up to shoot for them - what can you give them that their existing photographers can't? You could undercut existing content prices, but how do you finance that? Bearing in mind, website fees are much lower than mag fees. In some cases you will get paid more quickly - perhaps in around two months, or even less, in some cases - but you still have to find models, pay them and find and pay for suitable locations….and then pay bills and just keep financing your life until you get paid…

In fairness, most websites are very honest and pay exactly when they say they will but ironically the one which gives most would - be adult photographers a foot in the door because they have lower standards than most, is also the only one which really takes advantage of photographers and models by offering low fees for long shoots and paying notoriously slowly. The website group name is an arrangement of the words Kingdom, T, K and A. I shot extensively for them at the start of my career and at one point was owed in excess of $25,000 even now they still owe me money. Just be carefull.

You can also sell non-exclussive content via content libraries, this is actually the avenue used most by adult photographers, it means that the set goes up in a library and can be sold multiple times for a small fee, the usual fee the photographer receives per sale is very modest after commission, something like £15 for a set of 100 odd pictures. Its not something I use, but I guess if you can't sell the set its worth a go.

Ok…so I’ll start my own website? Yeah, ok…and how do you finance that? From membership sign ups? No chance - in fact, not a snowballs chance in hell. Sign ups, even for the 'majors' are dropping faster than a glamour model's knickers at a Premiership footballers birthday party. I won’t go into why most websites are a waste of time and the reasons for their existence now…but maybe another article on the subject soon. The exception is if you can find a particular fetish which has not been substancially catered for...now there is an opportunity, many of the most successful smaller websites are fetish based. I can't tell you what that lucrative new fetish is, because if I knew I would be doing it, but there may be an opportunity if you can think of something.

So why is the business so hard to break into? Why is there no money? And the question which is very often asked, why do I shoot mainly open-leg/adult style? Why can't I just book a top model and sell her pictures? You can certainly try, but the figures don't add up so I don't bother. Unless you are commissioned to shoot, it's a huge risk financially.

And also, lets not confuse internet glamour models with 'top' models. Mainly, the only models you find on the internet who are genuinely anywhere near the top of their genre are Art nude models and Adult models....hence why for adult related photography, Internet model sites are still the best resource for established models. You simply do not get top mainstream glamour models relying on modelling sites. You can certainly book them via an agency, most probably Girl Management, Sam Bond or maybe IMM or Neon. The internet is the home of mid-range glamour models and such models don't really sell at glamour levels (topless/implied nude etc). Even glamour models considered at the top of internet modelling game won't sell to any extent at levels below adult. The genuine top models will certainly sell - they have fan bases and are popular, but I wouldn't shoot them as a rule, unless I was commissioned. Why? Simple economics. If I wanted to book someone like Rosie Jones, Rhian Sugden etc. we are probably talking a daily rate of £600 plus. Factor in travel etc. and you are looking at having to raise £700/£800 just to cover her fee. So, to make a sensible profit, you would need to raise at least £2000 from picture sales, which is very labour intensive and not that easy to achieve. You could syndicate the images through a picture agency, but not only would you need to pay commission, you would be competing with photographers who are far better known and probably better than you.

So what about adult? Yes, there is still a living to be made by a few people, and whilst it's still a huge and expanding market, its also a rapidly decreasing market in terms of opportunities for photographers. Magazine sales have plummeted since the advent of the internet and its inevitable that in due course will eventually disappear. Its also an interesting fact that the magazines which have been hit hardest are the glossies - the 'up market' magazines with traditionally the highest budgets. Magazines like Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler in the USA and Mayfair, Club, Men Only and Knave in the UK. The lower end 'truckers favourites' such as Escort, Fiesta, Razzle are still selling in reasonable numbers, presumably as their customer base tends to be the group who is least likely to use the internet. The 'golden days' of the internet in relation to glamour/adult are long gone. People are now so internet savvy and their is so much 'free'* content available, that it needs a special product before people will part with their porn bucks. In general, glamour/adult multi-model sites are not that special product unless they are long established with a huge content base and a sterling reputation. If they do have that sort of financial clout and have the bucks to invest in content, then they can choose from he best photographers in the world already.

*It is often assumed that free content is stolen content and often it can be, but more often free content is prommo content placed their by webmasters to drive traffic to their site, this is one of the huge boom areas in the web and some of the most successful money making enterprises are traffic and promotion sites.

One of the other boom areas of the web are the fileshare sites who can ironically, often make far more money from selling a stolen download than the owner of the content whom thy have stolen from. While the download is essentially free it is deliberately offered on a slow speed download which doesn't start until after a prescribed period of time, thus making the surfer a captive audience for the advertisers. Invariably, the surfer gets fed up of waiting and elects to pay for premium service with fast downloads.

So, I'm completely wasting my time trying?

So, that's it then, I might as well give up, it's a closed shop? No, not entirely, few industries are ever closed shops if you have something to sell that the buyer can't get anywhere else. And that's probably the surest way to get a foothold in this industry and in hindsight, probably how I got started. Although in my case it was more luck than a conscious choice. If you have read other articles I have written on this subject, you may recall that I entered this industry by pure luck. It just happened that I shot a particular model that both Met-Art and Femjoy wanted and rather than me have to chase work, both ended up competing for my services. The difference then was that the fees paid by those sites were worthwhile back then, the same is not true now, although they do still pay rates on a par with other enterprises. I guess the same still applies, if you can find a model that any of the big glamour sites or any of the magazines want, but can't get from anywhere else and you can photographer her reasonably competantly in a manner appealling to your potential customer, then you are in with a shout. It's a big ask - particularly these days when finding suitable models in the *UK is increasingly difficult, even for the established guys, but maybe with a bit of creative thinking in terms of model recruitment you could find someone suitable. It's unlikely you will turn up that star on model sites or facebook etc. that's where everybody else is looking and, to be honest, there are very few girls of that sort of standard joining model sites. I can't tell you where to look, because I don't know, but maybe you do? That could be your break.

*As a general rule, the market is dominated by Eastern Europe models who have a look and figure which generally fits the world market better than models available in the UK.

Its not all glamour.......

Glamour isn't always particularly glamorous and if you are prepared to cater for niche markets then the chances of you not just getting a foot in the door, but making a sustainable living, increase dramatically. There are various glamour oriented fetishes to be catered for, the ones I am familiar with and have made significant amounts of income from are the 'mature' and 'hairy' markets. I'm not going to pretend this is my preferred choice, but if I wanted to, I could shoot these niches and nothing else and quite possibly make more money than I currently make. There are a few photographers out there who do just this, and there is certainly room for more. Personally, I use this niche only as bread and butter; a quick and regular income which allows me to concentrate on more appealling, but slower paying work, but it is very welcome on a lot of occassions and not something I take lightly.

Both the mature and hairy markets tend to be at the higher end of solo explicitness, so bear this in mind, but it is probably the easiest market to break into and the one sector where demand probably exceeds supply. If you are a half-decent photographer and can produce consistent sets relatively quickly, there is a real opportunity. However, the secret is finding suitable models, which in theory should not be so difficult as the standards in these sectors are not so high as glamour. Average girls or ladies are fine, in fact averageness is a good selling point. This particular market does not like fake boobs, tattoos, piercing etc. but pretty/average looks/average figure are fine. Again, model sites are probably not the place to look. But there are loads of women who fit this niche out there, if you can find them.

So, basically that is your task - find suitable models. If you can, you might be in. Even in the current market, it's not impossible. If you want to give it a go, I wish you the best of luck and I am always happy to help genuine people whenever I can, within reason...obviously I'm not going to give you my client list (as some people actually expect to do!). But if you have particular questions about sets/submissions, how best to approach people, I will certainly answer polite queries of this nature.