I’ve started a Patreon page to provide limited edition artwork to patrons and with the goal to create a community. If you would like more information, you can read about it here: https://www.patreon.com/mikeshipman
Here are some of the workshops I have scheduled for 2017. Come join me and explore these amazing locations while learning to improve your photography and way of seeing. I’m working on others for summertime and into 2018, including an Antarctica workshop for 2019.
Here is my upcoming class schedule. Please visit my class page for more details and to register and contact me with any questions you may have. All classes are available as one-on-one or On Request. If you don’t see a date that works with your schedule, let me know and I can work with you to fit it in.
Nov 1 – 21 (first session is on Tuesday, the remaining are on Monday) 6 – 8pm
Jan 3 – 24, 6 – 8pm
Before You Buy (best for new camera purchases and gift buying. Don’t buy what you don’t need)
Oct 26, 6-8pm
Oct 28, 6-8pm
Nov 2, 6-8pm
Nov 4, 6-8pm
Nov 5, 1-3pm
Nov 7, 9-11am
Nov 16, 6-8pm
Dec 6, 1-3pm
Dec 6, 6-8pm
Dec 10, 9-11am
Basic Camera Operation
Nov 2, 1-3pm
Nov 5, 9-11am
Nov 9, 6-8pm
Nov 12, 1-3pm
Nov 22, 6-8pm
Dec 7, 6-8pm
Dec 10, 1-3pm
Jan 5, 6-8pm
Jan 7, 1-3pm
Here’s a special deal offered by Icelandair: 5 days, 3 nights, hotel, some meals, some activities, and airfare, starting at $685. I’ll sweeten the deal in that if you pay my way (double occupancy or single), I’ll provide you with one-on-one photo assistance during the trip. I’ll pay my own transportation to Seattle as the departure city, meals and other expenses. You pick the dates (for Northern Lights, go with February or March). I will depart from Seattle. Here’s the link with info. The catch is the deadline for booking this deal is July 31.
Icelandair Hot Springs & Northern Lights travel deal
Contact me for more information and to make arrangements.
Here is my schedule for upcoming photography classes for the rest of May, June, July, and August, as well as a list of upcoming workshops that still have openings:
For a complete list and to register online, go HERE
June 17 – July 8
June 21 – July 12
June 29 – July 20
August 1 – 22
August 3 – 24
Basic Camera Operation
Photoshop I: Basic Photoshop & Bridge
Photoshop 2: Layers & Adjustments
June 29 – July 13
Light & the Light Meter
Before You Buy
Workshops: for complete list and to register, go HERE
Alvord Desert, Oregon June 3 – 5
Oregon Coast, June 7 – 12
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, June 14 – 16
Cyanotype printing, June 18
Oregon Coast, Sept 6 – 11
Scotland, Sept 21 – 28 (only 1 space remaining!)
Iceland, Oct 3 – 14 (only 1 space remaining!)
Acadia National Park Oct 19 – 26 (pending)
Bruneau Dunes, Idaho November (date pending)
2017 Workshops in planning
Death Valley, Feb
Oregon Coast, April
Yellowstone National Park, May
Iceland Twilight, May 16 – 25
Scotland Highlands, May 28 – June 6
Grand Teton National Park, June
Palouse, Washington, June
Palouse, Washington, Aug 13 – 16
Yellowstone National Park, Sept
Acadia National Park, Maine, Oct
Yosemite National Park, Nov
Monterey/Carmel, California, Nov
We all hear the complaint, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth, the disbelief. Why the high prices? Why do I have to pay so much for your work? Well, sir/madam, I am an independent business owner, not an employee. With the work I perform, the services I provide, I must make a living. Simply put, I must be able to provide for my home and all that comes with it, my business and all that comes with it, and protections for me and you in the form of insurance and other measures.
I’m not a small part of a larger organization. The documents I filed with the Secretary of State and the IRS list me as the owner/manager/CEO. No one else.
But that’s not the primary reason you may think my fees are too high. Sure, I account for the value I bring to your project in the creative fee I include in my project estimate. Wouldn’t you? My creativity, my problem-solving skills, my efficiency, my professionalism, my ability to provide you with the thing you need has value; this is what you’re hiring me for, isn’t it? Otherwise, you could ask anyone to fulfill your request. You probably have a staff person who’s handy with a camera and who might be able to figure out how to accomplish the task. Do you have time for that? Do they have the equipment or facilities ready at hand? Can you spare them from their normal duties? What will it cost you in actual time and salary to shift them from their regular job to this project? What will it cost if you have to do it all over again with a professional? But, that’s another discussion.
Here’s the primary reason you think my fees are too high. This refers back to that single word following the first paragraph and the fact that my business is mostly a Business of One. Kind of like the Army, except without all the support. Here’s a breakdown of real world numbers showing both the actual cost of being self-employed and the assistance provided by an employer. When you look at these numbers, imagine if your employer suddenly decided to stop its sponsored benefits and you had to provide them on your own. That’s me.
If you’re just starting out as as a self-employed person, or considering the jump, look at these numbers and halt your leap for a moment. Have you considered all your costs and expenses and factored them into your fee structure? If you haven’t calculated your cost of doing business, have a look at this online calculator. It doesn’t have all the fields you may need and it may have more than you need, but it will get you started. You can create your own calculator in a spreadsheet using these fields and make it as extensive and inclusive as you need for the independent needs of your own business. Have a look: NPPA Cost of Doing Business (CODB) Calculator
Here are the numbers I was talking about (these are amounts from 2015 employer rewards statement data, your specific numbers will vary). I’ve rounded the figures for visual clarity and ease of calculation:
Let’s begin with a base employee annual salary of $46,000
This is the amount you earn before taxes, whether it’s through an hourly wage or salary. It includes other compensation like paid holidays and sick leave. This is the amount you enter into the CODB calculator as your desired annual salary (or whatever amount you’d like).
If you are an employee, your employer pays for some things and you pay for some things. These are “voluntary” benefits. Your company could take these away:
Employer Sponsored Benefits
Employer pays: $9800
Employee pays: $2450
Employer pays: $500
Employee pays: $275
Employer pays: $0
Employee pays: $160
Employer pays: $110
Employee pays: $0
Long Term Disability Insurance
Employer pays: $224
Employee pays: $0
Business Travel Insurance
Employer pays: $2
Employee pays: $0
Employee Assistance Program
Employer pays: $20
Employee pays: $0
401K (matching and deferral)
Employer pays: $1400
Employee pays: $3200
Employer pays: $2300
Employee pays: $0
Total Employer Contribution: $14,356
Total Employee Contribution: $6,085
Total Contribution: $20,441
The government also mandates that employers provide some benefits (these your company can’t take away):
Government Mandated Benefits
Employer pays: $2900
Employee pays: $2900
Employer pays: $670
Employee pays: $670
Employer pays: $350
Employee pays: $0
Employer pays: $260
Employee pays: $0
Total Employer Contribution: $4,180
Total Employee Contribution: $3,570
Total Contribution: $7,750
So, to tally the numbers, for an employee with an annual salary of $46,000, an employer will pay $46,000 for the salary, $14,356 in employee sponsored benefits, and $4,180 in government mandated benefits. The employer actually pays for their employee a total of $64,536.
The employee will pay $6,085 for their share of employer sponsored benefits and $3,570 for their share of the government mandated benefits, for a total of $9,655.
However, the employee’s share ($9,655) comes out of their earnings, reducing their annual salary from $46,000 to $36,345, before taxes, which will take out another chunk for the federal government, state government and, in some cases, local or city government.
But, the self-employed person would actually need a gross income closer to $74,000 (the employer contribution of $64,536 plus employee contribution of $9,655) to cover all the listed benefits and deductions, just to cover the $46,000 ($36,345) annual salary. And that doesn’t account for the higher costs for individual business owners for things like insurance and taxes, and additional overhead expenses like studio rental, equipment, continuing education/training, marketing and promotion/advertising, etc. And this is where the pain resides.
A large company can distribute costs across its operation, especially if it provides multiple services or products. The self-employed creative individual has limited options because they have limited resources of time and individuals. It would be great if I could split myself into three or four pieces, each handling a separate aspect of my business while I concentrated on the most important task. But, because I am a Business of One, I have to set aside time for making calls, preparing marketing materials, preparing estimates, quotes, and invoices, bookkeeping, meeting with attorneys or accountant (which is a cost), chasing down late invoices, researching and chasing down copyright infringement, registering images with the copyright office, researching and developing new products or services, web designing, social media engaging, networking, learning, researching and purchasing/replacing equipment, eating and sleeping (hopefully at least twice a week), all of which take time and are not usually billable to a client. I don’t get paid for the day to day administrative upkeep of my business. If I did, if I wanted to be paid every day of the week, like an employee, I would need to charge you, the client, even more than you don’t want to pay now.
So, when you see the fees listed for the photographer, don’t freak out. It’s ok to ask questions and for the photographer to explain all this, if necessary. Just remember, we don’t have an employer, we’re not a small part of a large company. We have to provide all our own benefits, our own incentive bonuses, our own Christmas party, our own marketing, our own company vehicle and office space, our own existence.
If you like what we do, if you appreciate the value our work brings to your project, all we request is your understanding and that you look beyond price. Because, we provide more than a necessary cost of operations (an aspect of your own cost of doing business), and while we are able to negotiate and hopefully reach a win-win situation, and while we would do the work for free if we could survive doing it (I think I speak for many creative business owners with that thought), we can’t lose money every time we take on a project. We can’t stay in business if we’re essentially paying you to do the work you request.
Episode 2: Photography as a Way
What does photography mean to you? What role does photography play in your life? This episode we delve into photography as a “Way of Life” and what that means.
A Way is a kind of path, a personal philosophy, a type of quest or journey of self-discovery to seek and address questions about ourselves and our world, to find our place in the world amongst our family, friends, community, society, and culture. It’s the manner in which we live our life in a a direction toward an idealized lifestyle we select for ourselves. Five characteristics of a Way are:
- 1. Vision
- 2. Values
- 3. Passion
- 4. Talent
- 5. Goals
Two concepts of a Way are:
- Wa: harmony, peace, or peacefulness
- ensō: a hand-drawn circle symbolizing the interconnectedness of things
My photography workshops & classes
Where to find me on social media
Episode 1: Phodogma
In my inaugural podcast I introduce myself and the podcast. My first topic is Phodogma, a term I think I just coined, which refers to the dogmatic belief in photography of various things from “status” to the “Rules”. I’ll occasionally have a segment about unwarranted beliefs in photography. Are there distinguishing characteristics between amateur and professional photographers and between those just playing at photography and those who are serious about learning the craft and exploring the possibilities? Certainly. But the characteristics of the pro and amateur, dilettante and practitioner, do not revolve around how the photograph but around why. In this Phodogma episode I talk about four dogmatic beliefs some people think convey a kind of status on a photographer and explain why none of those beliefs matter in defining who those photographers are. These four things are:
1. Auto vs Manual
2. JPG vs Raw
4. Film vs Digital
My photography workshops & classes
Where to find me on social media
This project, in part, has been an exploration of crowfunding and the various options and successes and failures.
There has been and continues to be talk about how the professional photography industry has been “overrun” with amateurs, flooding the market with photographs and driving down photographer income. This is only one part of the phenomenon. Three main elements are 1) technology which allows nearly anyone to make a well-exposed and, if they are competent, a well-composed photograph, 2) the capability to distribute photographs worldwide for almost no cost, and 3) buyers who enjoy increased profits from lower fees paid to individuals who have very little or no knowledge of the photography industry or how to price their work accordingly to make a reasonable profit.
You could distinguish amateur from professional based on a wide range of criteria. Some amateurs are very competent and in many ways operate similar to a professional while others have really no clue or care what they are doing.
One critical factor that separates amateur from pro is commitment. Commitment to stick it through the tough times, to understand the industry, to build relationships with clients, to maintain a certain level of technical and creative skill, to use ethical and moral business practices, to help others become better professionals.
Another term for an amateur who isn’t committed is dilettante, an Italian word which in its first usage referred to a person who loved art. But today, the term is more negative, describing a person who engages in non-serious dabbling within a presumably serious field and is ill-equipped (or actually has no intention or desire) to meet the minimum standards of that field, study, or practice. One of my pet peeves is hearing someone tell me “I don’t want to be a professional” when we’re talking about pricing work. That’s the sign of a dilettante. They’re happy to make a little money from their efforts, but not committed enough to take it further – to learn about the business side of things, to help themselves make more money, for one thing. You don’t have to be a “professional” to act like one and just because you don’t intend photography to be your career doesn’t mean you must give away your work for free (or nearly so) or not understand copyright or how contracts work. Meeting the minimum standards (and in photography, the minimums are fairly reasonable to meet) would help boost the industry, help raise the “standard of living” of photographers across the board.
I wouldn’t presume to call myself an auto mechanic because I have a complete set of tools and know how to replace an alternator belt, and if I did I’m sure auto mechanics across the nation would scoff. I might make a decent pizza dough or cornbread, but I’m no baker. I painted landscapes and abstracts a lot when I was younger, but I don’t claim to be a painter.
I’ve been making photographs since I was young. I don’t have an art degree, but I’ve been a full-time photographer for 15 years and part-time for 6 years before that. I study copyright law and business methods even though it’s not my favorite thing. I’d much rather be out photographing. I’m a member of professional organizations and become involved in their operation, though I’d much rather be out photographing. I spend hours on the computer processing photographs, keywording, uploading to galleries, creating marketing materials, creating invoices, chasing invoices, calling and emailing clients, even though I would really much rather be out photographing. I attend professional education programs and continue to learn online and from others so I can maintain and improve my skill level (this I enjoy, even though I would still rather be out photographing).
I have a college degree and graduate education in wildlife biology and ecology. I worked in that field for over 10 years. I still mention that in my bio and casual conversation because it helps inform others about my background, but I don’t call myself a wildlife biologist anymore because my commitment to that field is much less than it was when I was actively conducting research, working in that field and getting paid for it according to the standards in that industry.
When I was working as a wildlife biologist, people would be envious of my job when I mentioned what I did. They had a romantic ideal of what it was like to be a biologist, imagining how beautiful it was to be “in Nature”, sitting beside gurgling streams or contemplating existence on a mountain top, handling cuddly animals, or having the pick of hunting and fishing spots. Sure, those times happened and it was incredible when it did. But, that was in between days of fighting off mosquito attacks, avoiding sunstroke or hypothermia, getting drenched in freezing downpours, digging a stuck vehicle out of the mud, dealing with the politics of government and private agencies and organizations, egos of co-workers and supervisors, writing reports, writing grants, filling out job applications, packing and unpacking.
The same applies when I tell people I’m a photographer. They imagine the romantic National Geographic travel photographer roaming the world seeing beautiful places, meeting new people, having an ongoing vacation. Yes, that happens, and when it does it’s magical (I’m not a National Geographic photographer – but for an ideao f what it’s like check out this short video about NatGeo photographer Joel Sartore, and his full length video called “At Close Range”). Most of the time, it’s simply work, background stuff. Especially these days when I’m doing all my own marketing, image processing, accounting, doing shows, in addition to being in the field shooting.
Being a professional is not about how much you spent on equipment. It’s not about your level of education, how much you charge, whether you are full time or part time, if you have a studio or work out of your house, although these things can contribute to the appearance of professionalism. It’s the level of commitment you choose which meets or exceeds the minimum standards for whatever industry/career you’re in.
“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.