I thought I would add this to my blog today. It’s from my fellow Pole Photographer, Mindi Burji, who is based in Australia. He brings up a good and valid point when comparing the pricing between event and studio photography. It’s taken from his own blog and he has given me the permission to quote it all here with some of his images. Thanks Mindi ! 🙂
“Pricing and usage restrictions: an explanation for those wondering.”
I’ve had a few people ask me why the usage rights, service and pricing structure of my pole photography work differs from other people who have shot pole, so I’d like to shed some light on this.
Firstly, photography is not an actual source of income for me, and itís not my career. However, I am trying to see where I can go with it.
Each event Iíve shot costs me a LOT to do: I have to use my own annual leave (thatís my own holiday time folks) from my real job to shoot events, and I’m struggling to just cover my costs. I’m doing this all off my own back. If I lower charges for each image sold I simply won’t be able to shoot, period. As a result, you won’t see the major pole events in our country documented in a photoset the same way. From a monetary view, I just want to cover my costs so I can continue to shoot.
So here’s a short version of how my work differs from other pole photography you see:
The main difference between my work and that of other known pole photographers is that at present, my work focuses on pole in a LIVE setting. To my knowledge no other pole photographer in the world currently does this. They specialise in STUDIO shoots, or rather STUDIO PORTRAITURE. Thus, I can’t price my work similarly to that of the other photographers as I don’t offer the same thing they do.
Here’s the long detailed version for those of you who want to know more:
Among other things, I shoot LIVE competition/performance pole. Other photographers shoot STUDIO pole poses, or to be precise, they shoot STUDIO PORTRAITURE. These are not the same things; they are in fact very different. One is a posed studio representation of what is being done live. What is done live is the real thing in motion.
Live pole is far more difficult to shoot than studio pole due to factors such as:
– low natural light: akin to shooting a music gig light levels are low, slowing the shutter speed right down which makes the difficulty of shooting greater. Some photographers try to use a flash, but flash photography is not permitted at major pole events because it is dangerous and can disorientate the performer (aside from how bad it makes performer look by exposing artefacts in the skin and all over the body). Shooting anything in natural light is a nightmare for any photographer. Ask any that you know, and their face will screw up.
– shot placement: for photographers who don’t understand pole it’s almost impossible to shoot tricks at the right time due to not understanding the basics of pole, performance art and dance (yes, all three). On top of this, pole movement is FAST. Thus, a particular method of shooting successfully combined with knowledge of the subject is required.
– respect for the pole dancer’s body form: there are favourable/respectful ways to shoot a pole dancerís body, but most photographers don’t care about what the performer looks like. As a result, some performers have been horrified by what they see online and untag themselves immediately. It’s not easy to get up on stage practically bare and do something akin to extreme sports, this requires a lot of self-confidence! The person with the camera needs to respect this!
– performer’s skill level: the results of live pole photography is strongly dependent on the standard of the performance the dancer delivers. It’s not possible to document a dancer’s most prized trick if it wasn’t executed well: I can’t fake a split which wasn’t straight; I can’t push your Static V / Ayesha away from the pole etc. Hence why sometimes, I have less photo samples of some performances than others. Itís not like a studio shoot where you have a guaranteed number of images to pick from. Things like light, performance style and even costumes can affect the results. I donít have any control over these factors (although sometimes, event Organisers have been very kind to work with me on lighting suggestions).
Any photographer with studio experience can do a studio pole shoot because the dancer can instruct the photographer (and yet Iíve still heard many pole people complain about the results of their studio shoots). In a studio setting, what is shot is not an actual pole PERFORMANCE – it’s just statically held poses. All the photographer has to do is set up the lights, and wait for you to hold whatever trick you want shot, and shoot it. Studio shots, while they have more flexibility with lighting, CAN be reproduced. You can hold or do that trick again and again until you get it right. Studio pole shoots are somewhat disposable, and that’s why the pricing tends to be done as a bulk package with unlimited usage because there is no subjective value to the image. Each shot can be generally recreated with any model because it is a pose only. Countless pole shoots have been duplicated by many performers. The same lighting, the same props, same backgrounds, all around the world, just as has been done with standard interchangeable studio portraiture.
I understand that because of this having been the only way pole was photographed previously, some people expected my work to be priced the same way, with usage rights being applied the same way. But my work is not studio based, and I don’t offer the same service as a studio portrait shoot does (because I don’t studio portraits). My live pole shooting is of a single performance at one event. That moment in time is unique. You won’t find anyone else in the world that has that same image shot through the eyes of someone who understands pole at the event which actually mattered.
When Allegra King first stunned the pole dance world her one-handed centre split and spinning Allegra at MPD 2010, it was the real moment when everyone saw it debut: the smile on her face throughout her routine was because the crowd was screaming at the same time. The groundbreaking doubles performance of Ministry Of Pole, all that momentum and atmospheric energy was frozen in time after I’d shot that routine. Matthew Shields’ mind-blowing work at APDC 2010 combined pole dance and indigenous dance for the first time in the WORLD, and the shots from that day are a document of a very historical performance art moment he created. My doubles shots of Suzie Q and Toby J at Polecandy on trapeze shows Suzie staring right into Toby’s eyes, it highlights the relationship required for the two performers in their craft. None of these things can be accomplished the same way in a studio setting. The same pressure, the passion of the dancer’s craft won’t be there.
Because these images are unique moments/are not “disposable”, I don’t sell the copyrights to my live images. I sell my work under a restricted license to people or businesses, and this is as a well known practice – there are many ways an image or artwork can be sold or licensed. Because my work is not studio portraiture, it is not sold “as studio portraiture”. Like studio portraits though, I do post-process the photos. As far as I’m aware, no other live pole photos available are properly post-processed.
To give you an idea:
– after I’ve shot an event, the first step is culling or sorting: this can take several hours, sometimes even a full day, as I have to reduce several thousand photos down to a few hundred or even less. I have to inspect and choose the best individual images which have the potential to become great shots. A bent leg can ruin it. Perfect form, but bad facials? Delete. An exposed breast due to a badly fitting bra during a move (yes, thereís been a few). Goodbye. I will absolutely not release anything which has the potential to ruin the performerís reputation. Any such images are culled and permanently deleted.
– Retouching: wrinkles, cellulite, sometimes even unfavourable lines on a performerís body are “shaved” out. If a performer looks too pale under the light, I’ll fix their skin tone. Moles, pimples, veins, pole bruises. GONE. Event presenters in the background? Bye bye. A backbend which makes the ribcage look too sharp? Fixed. I’ve also had to remove other poles and even other performers from a photo to create a balanced, properly focused atmosphere for a shot. Sometimes this involves actually rebuilding certain parts of the background or surroundings, and as far as I know, no one realises I’ve done this (which means mission accomplished). I treat each photo like an artwork: some take 15 mins to retouch. Others can take 2 hours. When you purchase your images from me, ask to see a before and after snapshot, Iím more than happy to show you.
– an initial small set is created before start of business the very same morning so that the event Organiser can provide images of their event to the media. This means I’m up until around 5 or 6am. And my eyes are badly bloodshot.
– then I have to plan each photoset to release to the public as awareness grows post-event. More sorting, very long hours. Believe it or not, there are actual strategies for releasing photos are particular times.
Most of the above processes repeat themselves over a period of not days, but WEEKS depending on how big the event is and how many photos were successful. And this is while I’m working fulltime in my real job: go to work a 12 hour day, come home, straight into processing. No free time. No, Iím not kidding.
I’ve had other photographers saying I’m badly undercutting myself and should be charging *at least* double of what I do currently. Many photographers charge the cost of one of my images as an additional charge to retouch alone, and they will charge several hundred for a set of unprocessed images anyway. Equivalent live images seen in galleries go for thousands per image.
A couple of people have complained about charges for using my work commercially in printed & cinematic media for advertising. The main thing people need to keep in mind is that copyright to my images is NOT sold so they need to pay for a license. The charge for this depends on the usage, the length of time the license is required for, and so on. It’s not as straightforward as simply buying the image for a fixed price because commercial usage types vary.
Because many people have bought studio portraiture where copyright is also obtained, they are used to having unrestricted usage of their images. I try to align my commercial charges in line with that of the rest of the industry. Using an image for a long period of time with a massive customer audience requires the appropriate charge. One can’t expect such a huge usage requirement to be charged under a private license. If you want extensive use, you’ve got to pay for it. You’re getting the best live pole photography in return.
In light of everything Iíve said here, Iíve had people also ask me why I do live pole photography. Itís because I enjoy it. Seeing the results of shooting as I dump images from the camera over to my computer is one thing. But when you start to work on the images and transform them into a real piece of work, thatís where they come to life. And when Iím finished, I sit back and look at how itís come out, and think to myself ìI hope this performer sees this and likes it, and feels proud about their performanceî. When I see the DVD cover of the Australian Pole Dance Championships 2010, it feels good to know that the hard work paid off and someone liked it. If Bobbi’s Pole Studio uses my work for an advertisement of theirs, it’s flattering because we’re visually on the same page. When Pole Spin magazine decide to use my images in their publication, it’s an honour to be chosen among the peoples’ works they select for this performance art form to be expressed with.
I hope what I’ve written here gives people an idea of how much goes into every single image and what sort of things they need to think about when approaching me for commercial licenses of images. I also hope that people realise that what I produce is very different to studio portraiture. My live pole work is in the best interest of pole as a performance art form: I shoot pole FOR pole and I work extremely hard at the imagery you’ve seen, just as hard as you have to when you deliver your performances.
And PS: there WILL be studio shoots coming hopefully later this year 🙂
Thanks to those who have been supportive since I first started this – you’ve been amazing and inspiring. And to those who needed some answers, I hope the above has helped to explain some things.