Yesterday Simon Longhurst penned a thoughtful piece focusing on the difficulties photographer’s often experience in making end’s meet in the bodyboard industry.
As a follow up, we speak with an experienced lenseman who has been involved in many aspects of the bodyboard industry to hear his experiences and thoughts on this important topic.
Can you comment on the relationship you have with companies in terms of how you negotiate the use of your photography by them?
It varies for each individual situation. Typically most of the companies in the industry do not have any budget whatsoever to pay for content or it’s very limited so a majority of things shared on social media go unpaid unless it was for a funded project.
If it is for a project, we will negotiate rates based on the amount of work they need done but in reality, most of the videos and clips you see online are self funded by the riders themselves with an exception of a handful of riders who actually have some degree of a travel budget.
Typically the relationships are formed with the riders themselves rather than the companies (for me personally) and I negotiate rates based on what I know they can afford and what is fair for the work.
A majority of the highest paid riders in the world are on average making probably about half of my salary from my everyday job (and I have a very humble salary) so you have to be realistic in regards to what you can expect. It also depends on how excited I am about the trip, if I know there is an opportunity to make additional money outside of the trip, I am generally more inclined to accept. (For example I could make more off a handful of clips to a stand up on the north shore than I would for an entire project with a bodyboarder.)
Have you ever experienced a situation where your images were used without your permission by a company?
I could probably find over a dozen clips/photos within my feed at this present moment that were unpaid and or used without permission.
There is also constantly photos and video clips that are posted without credit which doesn’t bother me if they pay for it, because at that point, it’s theirs and they can do with it what they want but when it is used as marketing material to advertise and sell their products and do not give credit to where it came from, it definitely irks me a bit. And to be clear its not because I need a pat on my back and for people to know who shot it, its the simple principle that it is not theirs yet they are claiming it to be.
How did you go about resolving this situation?
At this point, I don’t even bother pursuing it anymore. It is simply not worth my time. It’s going to probably be reposted again and again anyway by other accounts.
Given that without photographers and Videographers to document the action happening in the water that there would be basically no bodyboarding content to consume, why is it so difficult to get a financial return for your efforts?
That is a great question with a relatively easy answer. There simply not enough ROI (return on investment) for a lot of these small companies. That is the reason why there is a great lack of high quality content in the sport. It simply is not fiscally sensible or possible for a small company to drop a couple grand for a trip when they will not sell enough product directly from the project to warrant it.
Up until this year, the entire industry had also been struggling for some time with dropping sales with many teams reducing salaries or making cuts altogether. But even with those factors in mind, there is still a need for content because as you mentioned, without it, bodyboarding content would cease to exist.
In my personal opinion, each company should have a paid photographer, filmer/editor for their riders and social media director, given they have the budget, which for most board companies, they do. These three figures are absolutely crucial for a companies success in these modern times.
There also needs to be an incentive for both the riders and filmers to get them out there and producing content. If they have nothing to work towards like getting shots in a mag or a video part for a movie, where do you find the motivation besides personal passion to create something for yourself? The companies need to create the initiative with their teams for this.
Pride is a perfect example of a company that sees the true value in these things and you can see that they clearly stand out above the rest in terms of quality and volume of content being pushed out on a regular basis. If more companies would follow suit, there would be a plethora of content coming out on a daily basis. I would guarantee their sales would see a noticeable increase as a result of this.
This model is not only feasible for the larger board companies because even the smaller companies can find a single person that can encompass all those things and compensate them with a salary to make it worth their time and build from there. Even the larger companies can work with a single entity to encompass all these positions for a salary in which they can make a living off of and make it work.
Social media. Has it had a positive or negative impact on your ability to make money from your photography?
Social media essentially destroyed the entire print industry so yes it absolutely (changed) how photographers can make money. I wouldn’t necessarily say it is all negative now though. Take a look at guys like Chris Burkard who’s career flourished throughout the dawn of the social media age and he now has a successful career greatly in part because of it.
There are countless photographers now who can make a successful living from social media alone and for them, I think that is great. The purists will say that it ruined the ability to make money because of the lack of print but that is simply because they were unable to adapt. You have to be able to reinvent yourself and adapt to the times in order to be successful in any industry and this is no different.
For me personally, I don’t think that is has negatively impacted my ability to make money, it is more so the (bodyboard) companies not adapting to the modern times and failing to see the value in having those media assets as well as just overall lack of budget in the smaller entities. I still am able to make good money from other avenues within photography so filming bodyboarding is (luckily) not my sole source of income.
If you could make one change in the relationship between photographers and companies/ media outlets what would it be?
I have kind of touched on this already but I think there needs to be a mutual benefiting relationship between both the photographers and companies/outlets. The outlets and companies essentially depend on free content to the point where it is almost an expectation which I think is so wrong.
The photographers and filmers in this industry have been greatly underappreciated in recent years and thus many of them have left after having a bitter taste left in their mouth by how they were treated and taken advantage of as well as greatly undercompensated.
These companies need to set aside a budget for each year for each of their riders to have filmers/photographers with them as well as having social media directors to help facilitate quality content. This is something that will be absolutely necessary to their future success and the filmers and photographers are an integral piece to that. They need to invest into their media content which means paying these guys for their time and effort and not expecting free content to just fall from the sky for them to use for their benefit. One can simply not exist without the other and the sooner they realize that, the sooner there will be more quality content for people to consume or quality clips and images will continue to become fewer and farther in between. Filmers and photographers can easily leave and go to a different industry where they are more fairly compensated and appreciated which they will continue to do until things change.