Sunday, 11 December 2011

Being Sponsored – The PROS and CONS - with an update on this entry

Imagine getting free gear from a manufacturer because our photos are so great! Wouldn’t it be fantastic!?

I talked to a few manufacturers at a recent trade show because I was thinking about writing this article. I thought I would ask them each how many times they get contacted by photographers every year, their response, well; it was more laughter than figures. But I did catch them both say it runs into the thousands each year. The advice I received from the people that make the decisions on whether you are even going to be considered a sponsored photographer... “You have to be a top tier photographer and a top tier marketer before we would even consider looking at your portfolio.”

If you are like me you think about being sponsored by a camera company. Well, let me rephrase that, I used to think it would be great. Not anymore. After talking to a few photographers that do get free gear I realized that it is not that special. Sure, you get more expensive gear, the kind us mere mortals dream about using. But the reality is that the sponsoring company holds all the power and the photographer gives up so much more than they really should.

Quite often the company will get the rights to use of the photographer’s images to promote the product you are using. Your work then ends up in promotional pieces everywhere in exchange for a camera and a few lenses. On the flipside, if you actually sold images directly to a company; you would make more than enough to go out and purchase the gear you got for free... and be able to go buy your spouse something nice because they put up with the crazy hours of a professional photographer.

Even worse than not getting the value that your images are worth, there is something that one photographer referred to as “being muzzled”. As a sponsored photographer you will not be allowed to express your honest opinion about the company’s products. Let’s face it, camera companies all make fantastic products, they also all make products that are not that great. Once you are sponsored, you are going to be expected to say that all this company’s products are great. I don’t know what you think... but doesn’t your personal credibility come into question if you are out there saying you don’t believe there have ever been issues with a camera we all know was flawed from the moment it hit the shelves?

Let’s also not forget that a camera manufacturer will want you to use only their lenses... You may not be able to use those Tamron or Sigma lenses that sit in your bag that you have grown to love.

I guess if you want to try for a sponsorship, who am I to suggest otherwise. You will have better gear than me and I will suffer from lens envy if we are shooting side by side. You will no doubt have the gear and definitely the notoriety that I don’t.

But I will have free speech, the best equipment my money can buy. I will not be tied to just one manufacturer and I will still have the opportunity to sell my images to anybody and everybody that will buy them. But then again, you have the better gear and opportunities I dont have...

Which would be better in your opinion?

Regardless if you are sponsored, or not,

Happy Shooting!

UPDATE TO THIS ENTRY - December 9, 2012

I wrote this blog post originally over a year ago and my photography career has really taken off in the past 14 months... I started a new company that has run workshops and runs seminars... and I have recently started to develop solid business relationships with some companies based in the photography business and in the peripherial of the photogrpahy business. So... guess what, I now have sponsors... but the key here is that they are "mutually beneficial business partnerships"

I will say this. I did not accept a "business partnerhsip" with just any company just to get free gear. I created mutually beneficial relationships with companies that have products I believe in... I still will not endorse a product that is not worthy of a positive review. My integrity is too important for the sake of a piece of gear worth a couple hundred dollars... but i do now use products from various companies... and I will review them, I will endorse them and I will, more importantly, use their product to help my students take better photos and help me on my own photogrpahic journey.

The key here for me... "mutually beneficial relationships"... i help them sell gear and get their name out there and in return, for the large numbers of clients that I can get their gear in front of I am paid in one form or another" ... and my partners work with me becasue I am an extension of their company. I believe wholeheartedly in their products and am an advocate for their business philosophies and their product.