How do you make money with your medium format camera?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Ric Trexell, Nov 24, 2011.

  1. Ric Trexell

    Ric Trexell Member

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    I suppose this question could be put in any of the forums on APUG but since I'm thinking of my RB67 I'm posting it here. I have looked on Flickr and entered 'taken with a Mamiya Rb67' to see photos that people took using an RB. Ofcourse you could do this with any camera so if you have a Rollie or Hassy you might wish to try it. Anyway, the photos that are posted, which ofcourse are scanned, usually with a flat bed look great. The colors just jump out at you and being that the shots are usually shown at about the size of a 5X7 (once you click on the thumbnail) look as good as any of the digital shots. So my question is to you, do you use a medium format camera (or any other film format for that matter) to make money with your photography? I know it is hard to compete with digital in speed, or should film cameras be just seen as toys to take family pictures with or what? I would love to create some great shots with my medium format camera and make some money, but I'm wondering if that is not doable any more. If you are using a film camera to make money, would you mind telling me how? Thanks. Ric.
     
  2. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Subscriber

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    Just making money with any camera is a nearly impossible dream. Unless you're willing to dedicate years of having virtually no income spending far more than you earn on film and gear, while working 18 hours a day at nothing but your photography to get to where you have enough of a clientele to make money off it, don't bother. If you aren't willing to do that, you'll be competing against guys like me who did and will. I sell mine off my website, some as prints some licensed to commercial users. It took me 10 years and badly damaged my health from going days at a time with no food at all, and I have been homeless twice. I do make a decent living now, but like I said, the life I had to live to get me here badly damaged my health, permanently. The market is just to small and every fool with the $300 it takes to buy a digital SLR or a used film camera thinks he can be a pro. You have to be someone with no other marketable skills or interests in life to want to dedicate to it what you need to do to succeed.
     
  3. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Does this count?

    I have an arrangement, I send mounted an framed photographs to an off-road supplier and he sends me off-roading equipment. Neither bills or money is exchanged.
     
  4. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Making money or making a living off of it? Good luck with the latter, as Chris pointed out. I make some money with photography but I'm certainly not ready to quit my day job :smile: As far as medium format, I don't know how that would set anyone apart from everyone else using a 35mm well, and digital. Format is irrelevant for the most part, at this point.
     
  5. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    I'm hoping to make some when I sell it but it will have to start appreciating as right now I'm not sure I could recover 10% of my investment.

    I think it is possibly to make money with it but not like in the old days when it was the only system around. I see it most possible in studio use for portraits and still life as the buyer is loonking for the art and not concerned how it was done. In this day and age where fast turnaround is mandated, that other capture system does make more sense as a business tool.
     
  6. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    If you feel inspired when you use your medium format equipment, it can help. If it gives you confidence, it can help.

    Otherwise, it really doesn't seem to make much of a difference in what I understand to be the current market.
     
  7. kminov

    kminov Member

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    you most certainly do not try to say that the tonal range and the quality of the prints are the same at 35/digital as they are in MF film.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I'm not trying to say that at all. I'm saying that the market doesn't value those benefits as much as it should. :sad:
     
  9. Pupfish

    Pupfish Member

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    Pros get paid. FlickR posters are giving their stuff away. Feel free to ignore the latter if you like.

    So go sell an assignment e.g. ask someone for their business, and close the deal. Get a 50% deposit up front. Get paid the remainder upon delivery of prints. That's one scenario where it doesn't much matter if you're using film instead digital.
    In fact, wedding pros used MF for the longest time because print film does a fantastic job with white balance and deep shadows all on the same exposure with a lot of latitude. IOW, film is hard to screw up too bad. And MF film has terrific resolution. (BTW, it wasn't any perceived lack of quality that drove wedding photographers to digital, it was recurring costs).
    There are doubtless a number of instances MF film will be actually easier to get better print results in an hour or two if you've still got a decent 1hr lab to whom you can hand off film-- most can do a great job with MF print film-- and hand you a CD with scans to boot.
     
  10. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    That's a pretty devastating summation. And one not to be taken lightly. However, there are other outcomes, Ric...

    I know of someone, a youngish single mom, who spent the $300 (actually a bit more, it IS digital after all) and started up a photo business on the side. Baby portraits. Yeah... And yet, she's doing well enough to have quit her day job.

    Is she extremely talented? Probably no more so than all the rest of us who hang around here thinking we are. But her business model revolves around the truism that no portrait of a baby is not gorgeous to that baby's mother. And when the photogapher is another mom similar in age with her own baby, also similar in age, there is often an instant bond formed that goes beyond merely making and selling photographs. They are Moms. They are in this adventure together.

    That model seems to get her virtually unlimited word-of-mouth recommendations. I don't even think she advertises. And photo sessions usually end up morphing into afternoon teas with lots of chit chat, combined with defacto play dates for the babies. Oh yes, and as long as the kids are happy right now, how about I take out the camera and make some photos as well? Sounds good. Oh, and did you hear there's a new restaurant in town? Click. Why yes, I did. Click, click...

    So again, is she talented? You betcha. Shrewed as hell, if you ask me.

    Ken
     
  11. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    How to make money with your MF kit: Sell it!...
    :munch:
     
  12. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    It has nothing to do with MF, or any format, but how your execute your skill and knowledge of subjec to bring it out in the best possible way on the format you are using, and that format can be 35mm, MF, LF, ULF, anything. Too many photographers spend a King's fortune on cameras and lenses but produce just mediochre images that pepper Flickr, Tumbler et al. Scant few invest time, money and energy in printing and producing a finished image for presentation or exhibition — even as a hobby. It is wanton waste. Besides which, remember the camera (any camera) is just a tool for holding the film: how/if it makes money depends on how you put your skill to knowledge: the camera is just there to record time and place. I did OK producing images to the Ilfochrome process from 1994 to just recently. There were lean times as well as good, and the small client base was built up by word of mouth — not by the web. The money coming in allowed me to continue doing it (squeezed, as usual, by frequent price increases pursued by Ilford) and periodically re-invest in new equipment based on merit and use, not "WOW!" factor. Now it's pano format that has attracted the attention of some of my old clients who have seen recent work. And I'm moving into MF (initially B&W) but have no real anticipation of making serious money with colour production being all-digital now. It's much harder to make a beautiful, inspiring print through digital than it is in Ilfochrome. I think it's much, much harder to make money as a photographer now with so damn many thinking the latest and greatest DSLR maketh the pro.
     
  13. KevinM

    KevinM Member

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    Like others have said, I think it depends on your business plan.

    If you know your system like the back of your hand and can produce the results clients want, then definitely use your MF. I couldn't do it. I *do* make money with photography, but I do it with a Nikon D3s, fast lenses, a high frame rate and high ISOs. I couldn't do my commercial photography with my manual focus, 10 frames per hope-you-got-the-shot RZ67/120 roll of film. Others can, have, and do.
     
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  15. DarkMagic

    DarkMagic Member

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    I think digital captured photos are about 2 or 3% of my selling images. Mostly it is rush-orders for newspapers. In the rest of my photo buisness i sell photography and i make the terms. The customer, a magazine, commercial client, ad bureau or a private customer buys images from me beacause the want what i can deliver. I findt the format that suits the assignment. 6x4,5 or 6x6 or 4x5" oer some times Tri-X in 35mm. Shooting film for me is even faster than using electronic capturing on a CMOS. I have my own lab and have the contacts from C41 or BW in 25-35 minutes. Som analouge photo is 98% of my income. I live in one of the most expensive contries in the world and i live very good.

    In this Master set, two images is captured digital. Guess who: http://www.tmax100.com/photo/pdf/showcasekompressor.pdf
     
  16. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    That's right, Ken. Which again brings me again to the the undeniable truth that format (or cameras) have absolutely nothing to do with commercial success. Yes, there needs to be talent but it's mostly about marketing and finding one's niche. It's a lot harder now because digital has brought a dilution of talent (meaning that it is a lot tougher to stand out simply by originality and quality of images) and therefore marketing and carving one's spot is 99.99% of the battle. It is certainly not about whether MF is better than 35mm or digital at the quality level. The question one has to ask him/herself is 1) does anyone care and 2) how do I market myself, successfully, to those who do, if that's the route one choses to take.
    I personally feel that most don't care, therefore, the choice of format or a particular camera is simply a choice for the photographer and nothing more. It is not going to make or break anyone, unless of course one feels that portraying an aura of elitism by shooting a MF film camera will add to sales.
    Let's take prints for example: I have printed fabulous inkjets from digital and scanned negatives and the same images in the darkroom. Most people couldn't tell a damn difference, nor they cared to find differences. This is not to say that some people would not appreciate how the image was captured and printed but many just don't. I personally shoot film and mostly print in the darkroom because I enjoy it. I don't feel that my 35mm, MF or LF sets me apart at a commercial level from the guy using a cheap digital and strictly printing inkjet. Heck, in my small world I probably sell more prints from my $20 piece of crap Holga than anything else. That says something.
     
  17. Ric Trexell

    Ric Trexell Member

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    Interesting answers.

    I didn't intend that question to be only about MF, but rather about film being used to make money. I only went with MF as I figured most would at least work with it or LF. I was surprised that no one said they did fine art work with film, as that is probably the last hold out because time is not all that important. As for those pictures on Flickr, I don't go there much as people will upload 20 pictures of the same girl in the same position and you have to look close to see that she moved her finger in some of them. I suppose that a person can still make sales with film but it will be getting harder. I guess with film you have to present the finished print to the buyer and then hope they buy it.

    Here is something to think about, when film cameras ride off into the sunset, it will have to be a film camera that captures the scene. If you point a digital at the sun, you can hurt the CMOS from what I hear. With film you just burn a hole in the film. Thanks for the replies. Ric.
     
  18. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2011
  19. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Sounds about right. In fact, I'm currently working on a series of 20x24 enlargements from 8x10 of each of my kids.
     
  20. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    I feel sure that there are many members here on APUG around the world that do produce work to fine art standard from film (e.g. especially B&W). And doubtless they make money from it in whatever way happens by.

    The production I undertook over the years certainly qualified as fine art in the sense of very high quality finished work (printed, matted and framed) or it would not have had a following by a small number of loyal clients, only two of which remain sticking by me as we navigate the often fraught and testy waters of digital production. Many, many studio photographers are producing fine art predominantly B&W work from MF and LF, often with obscure media e.g. lith, xray, composite media etc. It's not always professionals making the money, but students and amateurs, particularly those in final year university studies or folio presentations, and those working to old methods. There will always be rebel elements in tertiary education that cheerfully thumb their noses at the current vogue (e.g. digital) and explore creative pathways with film. A case in point is at a Christmas alternative lifestyle festsival: amidst a sea of mud-covered bodies in a clapped out dusty farmer's paddock, a woman completing a Masters by research (fine art) wandered about the teeming, seething mass of humanity hauling a monster Linhof on a tripod over her shoulders. All around here people carelessly wielded digital, but not her. And the work she produced from that camera was so breathtakingly simple and beautiful that the lot sold out at exhibition, at a mean price of $900 per framed image. Don't get the impression you need a Linhof to make a stratospheric income. The skill was in her composition, technical grasp, energy and highly refined, engaging people skills.

    On your second observation, clients are more likely to take an interest in photographers who have been sticking to the same thing over many years and have consistently produced to the same high standard, without variation, polemic or rhetoric. All I did was landscape and scenics on 35mm and it sold — I often hoped it would sell, but never pressed it. Others doubtless overtook me over the yearrs and made a fortune with the larger formats in all their crippling detail-rich beauty.
    Getting talking with people and showing them a folio of your best work, is one of the tricks I used repeatedly, packing APs in a viewing folder and 'introducing' people to my work in anything from campsites to outback cafés.

    Saturday morning markets that put your best works on display are a good springboard to earning a bit of income. Friends doing this prints-from-film market hop in the coastal markets near my home lament that for all the cost of producing the work, stall costs, materials etc., they will be very lucky to come away with $40 for all the money and labour invested, and it goes toward set up costs. Often they come home with nothing.
     
  21. mesh

    mesh Member

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    Gee Chris - you're a cheery guy ;-) Life's not that bad is it?
     
  22. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Subscriber

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    Yes, it is that bad for photographers in the USA, especially younger ones. I'm fortunate, most people I know trying to make a living as photographers have done far worse than I have. I now get to eat every day, and I feed my son too (Thankfully, I was making enough to live by the time his mother was locked up in the state psychiatric hospital and he came to live with me). I know a lot of people who are not eating every day in my hometown, and in the USA.
     
  23. edge-t

    edge-t Member

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    Excellent work, Sir. Prove that you can still make a living off film photography.
     
  24. DarkMagic

    DarkMagic Member

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    Thank you so much!

    I think many can live better of film than all other solutions. You dont need the expensive digital stuff. :smile: When a customer need a photographer, he need his pictures, not his gear. As long as you have a decent scanner or lab who understand your needs, making living out of film photography is easy. The hard part is how to be a photographer who is doing somthing the clients wants and need.
     
  25. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I'm curious why you are trying to make money at photography. Nothing wrong with that...

    If you are trying to make money to buy more film/gear, there are often easier/simpler/more efficient ways to earn money.

    If you are trying to earn money at it to boost your ego as a photographer, too many people see right through that, and it won't likely produce happiness.

    If you are looking for a career change toward photography, probably babies and weddings are the easiest money if you do it well and a good reputation spreads by word of mouth. Digital would likely accompany film for situations where it does the job better or is sufficient (such as reception photos).

    The one benefit I forsee regarding earning money as a photographer is that your hobby could become a business and receive the tax benefits of a money losing business and purchases could be deductible business expenses, rather than your taxed income going out the window to paypal, cl meetups, etc... Things like insurance and bookkeeping would probably erase most of the benefits of doing this small scale.
     
  26. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I make money with medium format the way I do with all my other formats. I shoot, I develope, I print, I sell. Is there supposed to be any more to it than that? If you want to make more off medium format, use it more.

    The one thing I miss most since the advent of digital, others using common sense. It's like the friggin' Nike commercials all say, get out there and do it. This ain't rocket science.