Photography: freelancing versus paid staff positions


 

Thanks to Rigo Peña who shot this while I attempted a selfie.

Thanks to Rigo Peña who shot this while I attempted a selfie.

When I contributed to the Rising Blackstar blog, I always felt visitors to that website  had scathing comments no matter how innocuous a post that was written.

The internet in the words of Sade is “no place for beginners or sensitive hearts…”

It’s best to develop a thick epidermis.

After all, written words even with the full flavor of emoticons can never reveal the true spirit of what is intended.

Those of you who’ve met me might know that I don’t like to draw a lot of attention to myself.

This may have to do with the sort of photography I used to do: newspaper photography.

I documented the news in pictures.

If I showed up at an event and everyone knew who I was,  it might affect or cram my style as some would say.

Here's a picture of me at a Los Angeles Raiders' game. Obviously this is really old since ther Raiders no longer play in LA. Photo by Kurt Miller.

Here’s a picture of me at a Los Angeles Raiders’ game. Obviously this is really old since ther Raiders no longer play in LA. Photo by Kurt Miller.

Folks would want to visit with me and I would probably be unable to stay low key and operate as a casual observer.

Over the years, I’ve found the less I looked like a photographer, the easier it was for me to take good pictures.

At breaking news events, especially when there was a police officer involved, the police officers working the perimeter have been known to tell me to stay even further back from where the general public is allowed.

That by the way is why I ditched the photographer’s vest except when covering sporting events.

Now that I am self-employed and no longer working for the news media, I suddenly find myself in the unenviable position of having to do the opposite.

Now I have to let people out there  know I’m available for hire.

At the scene of a vehicle fire. This is off a screen capture from a video taken by my buddy Martin Orozco.

At the scene of a vehicle fire. This is off a screen capture from a video taken by my buddy Martin Orozco.

I’m developing a complex having to refer to myself in the 3rd person every time I get asked to write a bio.

I don’t consider myself a shy person.

If I were ever shy,  working in the news media and using a camera mysteriously cured me of that.

I can easily go up to anyone and strike up a conversation and I don’t even need a camera with me as a security blanket.

But what’s different now is this: I actually have to sell myself, hand out my business cards and tell folks about me and what I can do for them or their business.

It is probably the single biggest adjustment and change going from a paid staff photographer to a freelancer.

Life as a freelancer isn’t easy.

I liken working for someone and drawing a paycheck to being a caged animal in the zoo.

My needs like food and shelter are provided but I have to put up with  handlers who can sometimes be abusive.

The freelancer on the other hand,  runs loose in the wild, able to pick and choose when and what I want to photograph, the fee I would like  along with the terms of usage for my work.

So my time allocation is thus: 70% selling and maybe 10% actually doing photography and the remaining 20%?

Housework!

It’s often feast or famine.

So I often feel like a squirrel who is constantly hustling to keep reserves because I have no idea when the next meal will come along.

If lucky, I gets scraps from  former colleagues no longer at the newspaper themselves who throw me  a bone because they remember my work and my dependability.

If there were a lesson I feel every parent needs to teach their child, it would be this:

“No one owes you a living.”

Peter Phun Photography

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