De auto van de fotograaf

Vandaag ging mijn trouwe blauwe vierwieler over de 400.000 km! Ik had er al even naar uitgezien, want persoonlijk vind ik het een hele prestatie dat een anti-techneut als ik een auto zo ver krijgt. Als de motorkap opengaat begrijp ik er niet veel meer van, maar dankzij de assistentie van een goede garage rijdt mijn Ford Mondeo nog steeds. We zijn er net mee op vakantie geweest (2675 km), en hij deed het nog voortreffelijk.

Nou ja, voortreffelijk… de maand voor de vakantie heb ik wel een aantal reparaties moeten laten uitvoeren. Dat begint met een eenvoudig ‘de pomp van de airconditioning-pomp’ moet vervangen worden’, maar wordt al snel een stel vallende domino-stenen: de ene reparatie veroorzaakt de volgende. Bij elke reparatie heb je dan de vraag: is de auto het nog waard? Maar ik was de 400.000 zo dicht genaderd, over die grens wilde ik toch even heen. En ik moet zeggen: hij rijdt weer als een zonnetje!

Dat ik dus vooral dankzij de voortreffelijke garage waar we de auto’s sinds een flink aantal jaren laten verzorgen: JBR Autoservice in Rotterdam. We zijn Jan en Brian van JBR erg dankbaar voor hun goede service en adviezen en bevelen hen van harte bij u aan!

In wat voor auto rijdt een fotograaf?

Toch begin ik langzamerhand wel na te denken over een volgende auto. En dient de vraag zich aan: wat nu?

Toen ik deze auto in Juli 2008 kocht was ik net begonnen als fulltime fotograaf. Ik had nauwelijks geld, en dus kocht ik deze Ford voor €11.000. Hij had 76.000 km op de teller. Een snelle berekening is dus dat ik zo’n 35.000 km/jaar rijd (een getal dat gestaag stijgt om dat steeds meer opdrachtgevers zich realiseren dat de juiste fotograaf voor hun opdracht misschien niet in hun dorp of stad woont). Deze auto heeft het dus uitstekend gedaan, maar het wordt tijd om een plan te maken voor de toekomst.

En daarmee stuit ik op een dilemma. Van mij mag de volgende auto wat luxer zijn, en wat representatiever. Zo’n auto waarvan mensen zeggen: de zaken gaan zeker goed? (Dat gaan ze ook!). Zo’n auto waar je met plezier in stapt, en met plezier naar kijkt, en die ook wat steviger op de weg ligt. Zeg maar, een stevige Duitser of Zweed

De vraag waar ik mee worstel, is of het slim is. Denken opdrachtgevers bij het zien van een wat duurdere auto: die fotograaf is te duur? Of denken ze: die fotograaf weet ten minste van kwaliteit. Die auto getuigt van goed zakelijk inzicht?

Ik dacht: ik gooi het eens in de groep. Ik ben heel benieuwd naar jullie meningen. Wat denken jullie?

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Vacation: the perfect place for a photographer to contemplate retirement

Every summer I do the same thing. I visit some exotic location and, while there, start thinking about retirement. I don’t do this on purpose — it just happens, and I cannot stop it. It happened to me two years ago in Tuscany, and last year in Canada, and this year in Cornwall. I think I can see a pattern emerging. 

Make no mistake about it: Cornwall is absolutely gorgeous. Sophie came to me from Cornwall 28 years ago, and together we’ve been back every few years. Generally she really enjoys living in Holland (she has even applied for citizenship), but once in a while she longs for the green rolling hills and the rocky coasts. And who can blame her?

Because Cornwall is a piece of paradise! The narrow windy roads with the high flowery hedges; the beautiful cliffs that stand tall in the ocean, with the beautiful beaches in between; and the green friendly patchwork of meadows with quaint farmhouses in between. And not to forget the beautiful moors…

So is it any wonder I start thinking about retirement? Not that I am tired of my work, or am looking for way out — on the contrary! I could move here and do photography all day… Life would be so sweet: perpetual holidays! Is it any wonder I think like this every summer?

Three possible scenario’s

This summer I came up with three possible retirement plans. I presented them to Sophie and told her she could choose. Obviously the financial implications of each plan differ a little… I am not sure she was very impressed. But by plan three I had her — well, almost, I think.

Plan one: buy a fishing boat

My retirement urges started with this fishing boat, which I saw in Porthleven. For some reason I suddenly found myself thinking, somewhat uncontrollably, about retirement! I could buy this fishing boat! Sail out to see every day, catch a few fish at sunrise, and then spend the rest of day pottering around my little ‘Starfish’. Maybe take some tourists out occasionally. What a sweet dream… There is, however, one problem, as Sophie (dryly) noted: ‘you don’t even like fish.’ Oh yeah…

Plan two: buy the Mullion hotel

Of two plan #2. This one is a little more expensive, but I though we could buy the Mullion hotel, at the top of the cliff on Mullion cove. What a great location! And what a magnificent view. How could this hotel not be booked completely full night after night…

The first thing we would do, of course, is to change the name to ‘Million Dollar Cove Hotel’. Or perhaps the ‘Million Pound Hotel’…

Here’s the hotel and the view.

Plan three: buy and renovate the old factory on Poltesco beach

OK, we can probably not afford plan two. Two days after visiting Mullion Cove we came across a beautiful beach, on a walk from Cadgwith to Kennack Sands. And here both our hearts were stolen. Because, right on this beach is an old factory that could be restored beautifully (with a little vision). The beach is empty and beautiful. There are wild horses that graze around it. There is a natural pool. The stones on the beach are beautiful and rare… Sophie and I spent a few hours there, almost in complete silence, just enjoying the quiet, peaceful scenery


Back to reality … soon

Three rather wonderful daydreams to fantasise about. I’m sure our actual retirement will be nothing so glamourous. Photographers tend not to make that kind of money. Yet, I can dream, can’t I?

I wonder: do you have wonderful through unrealistic dreams of retirement while on vacation? What do you dream of?

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Working for exposure? No thank you!

All photographer’s get this request from time to time: “Hi, we love your photo’s! We are looking for a professional photographer to cover our event. Unfortunately we have no budget, but this event will give you great exposure! There will be lots of celebrities and interesting contacts. And what’s more: these photo’s will really help boost your portfolio!”

The request may come through email, by phone, or through social media. Unfortunately I see fellow photographer’s fall for it regularly. Which is why I wrote this blog: I want to explain how I respond to this ‘invitation’.

Seeing it for what it is

First, there is the way you deal with the invitation on the inside, in your mind. You need to see this invitation for what it is. Basically, it comes down to this: this person wants you to bring your professional camera gear, your years of training, your professional skills, and your valuable time — and work for free.

The tone of the invitation may sound nice, but in it’s essence it is an unprofessional and offensive question. It does not respect you as a professional.

You can also bet your behind that the person making the request isn’t working for free. So they are asking you to do something, they themselves are not doing.

But there is no budget! you might counter. Listen, budget is a choice. They choose not to budget for photography. To prioritise other things. What they are really saying is: we did not think it was important enough. Or we could get someone for free. Either way, it is not very respectful of your skill.

But what about the promised exposure? Here’s how exposure works: only a select few of photographer’s have name recognition. Think of Annie Leibovitz or Mario Testino. Those are names people recognise (and you better believe they don’t work for free). But when you work for free, you essentially become a volunteer. And no one remembers the name of a volunteer.

Or, if they do, it will be only to ask you to do more free work. The moment you ask a fee, they will disappear. Why? Because you taught them your work had no value.

How to deal with it

Here’s what I do. I delay in giving them my final answer as long as I can, perhaps asking an innocent or ignorant question here or there. I do this for two reasons. One, their approach of me was disrespectful and offensive. Two, as long as they are thinking I will take their job, they are not trying to seduce one of my colleagues.

At some point they will email or call me: it’s tomorrow! we need to know you will be there! We are still waiting for your answer. Here’s what I write back:

I’m sorry for not responding sooner, but did not think such an unprofessional offer really required a response. I am a professional photographer, and I make my living from what I do. Of course I will not be working for free. My rate is xxx; if this is acceptable I am happy to be of service. Otherwise, good luck finding an amateur stupid enough to fall into such a trap. Because if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Assume responsibility for your market

Of course they never understand it. And they are always angry. But that really is not your problem. They will threaten never to approach you again – which really is actually good news.

Because here’s the bottomline: clients need to understand that what we do is valuable. Photographer’s who work for free damage their own market. Clients who get our services for free learn that photographers are gullible and naive. Not quite the message we should be spreading, is it?

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