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Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting
  
 
MN_Migrant
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


I've recently started working for a large, successful studio. Currently, I work as a subcontractor, but the studio has asked if I'd be interested in working as a part-time associate.

Admittedly, I'm a bit naive going into this from both the standpoint of a subcontractor and associate. And unfortunately, there is not a lot of discussions about this (here on FM, or on the internet) from the subcontractee standpoint. I'm wondering if anybody would be willing to help me identify the pros and cons, and more generally, share any wisdom they might have.

In my mind, the important considerations include:

Tax considerations
Pay
Freedom/flexibility to say no on dates I don't want to work
Wear & tear on my gear (as an associate I'd use their gear)
Need for insurance



Jun 03, 2017 at 03:05 PM
MN_Migrant
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


I should also note: by subcontractor, I mean that I am NOT an employee of the studio and receive a 1099-misc at tax time. I show up, shoot a wedding, and bill for my time. By associate, I mean that I AM an employee. I have a regular schedule, shoot a lot of different things, use their gear, and help out with overflow editing.



Jun 03, 2017 at 03:08 PM
hardlyboring
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


I don't think either is better or worse. Just depends on what you feel like doing.
Perhaps the associate job has more job security?
Honestly if you will make the same money either way it may be better to just sub out so you can shoot and then be done and not have to worry about any other BS.



Jun 03, 2017 at 03:16 PM
nolaguy
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


Among other things and in no particular order, employers deal with:

FICA
Health insurance
Holiday/vacation pay
Sick pay
Marketing, advertising, collateral materials, sales (procurement of business)
Rent
Renters insurance
Utilities
Phone, internet, alarm system, other monthly services
Licenses (business, location, etc)
Variations in productivity (f*ck off time, job scheduling, inefficiencies, etc)
Human resources (inspiring, scheduling, bitching, cooperativeness, training, hand-holding, admonishing, hiring/firing, strangling)
Theft of goods or time
The cost of paperwork
Asset management (gear, gear backups, image backups)
Maintenance (computers, gear repair, janitorial)
Software licensing or purchase
Accounting and legal services
Errors and omissions insurance
Not to mention the vision of the business - the concept and creative spark, the why

So typically a contractor/freelancer/1099 has to bill two or more times their desired take home wage to cover at least some of those expenses.

The contractor enjoys the freedom/flexibility to decline work.

The employer enjoys the freedom to keep work in-house, has no obligation to keep a contractor busy and so they are often the first expense eliminated when work is thin.


For both parties, it really depends upon your personality, work ethic, priorities, aversion to risk, need for security, and on and on. Some people are very well suited to be self-employed, for others it would be a catastrophe.

Best of luck.



Jun 03, 2017 at 03:47 PM
MN_Migrant
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


nolaguy wrote:
Among other things and in no particular order, employers deal with:


Hey, thanks for the thoughtful response.



Jun 05, 2017 at 02:53 AM
Tony Hoffer
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


You should confirm with the photographer, if you haven't already. Most associate photographers are still sub-contractors. In fact, I don't know anyone that has associates that aren't sub-contractors... including our own.


Jun 05, 2017 at 02:05 PM
MN_Migrant
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


Tony Hoffer wrote:
You should confirm with the photographer, if you haven't already. Most associate photographers are still sub-contractors. In fact, I don't know anyone that has associates that aren't sub-contractors... including our own.


My impression was that I'd work part-time mostly shooting (anything from weddings to commercial), doing client consults, and some editing. I guess I just assumed this type of arrangement would be the more traditional W4-type employment. I'll definitely get this clarified.

As an aside: I'm wondering if my use of "associate" is not quite correct. I think maybe "studio photographer" is perhaps a better title. My apologies for any confusion.



Jun 05, 2017 at 02:27 PM
 

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TheyCallMeJ
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


MN_Migrant,

What are your long term objectives? Does it include opening your own studio or starting your own photography business?

The contract you are about to sign, does it have a non-compete clause? Such as main studio owning copying, not being to utilize your own images for portfolio and not allowed to compete within 50 mile radius for 2 years post dismissal or resignation.

Dedicated 2nd shooters, assistants or associates are very rare. Most aspire to build their own brand, which is understandable so make sure the terms offered are aligned with your own long term goals.



Jun 05, 2017 at 03:00 PM
MN_Migrant
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


TheyCallMeJ wrote:
MN_Migrant,

What are your long term objectives? Does it include opening your own studio or starting your own photography business?

The contract you are about to sign, does it have a non-compete clause? Such as main studio owning copying, not being to utilize your own images for portfolio and not allowed to compete within 50 mile radius for 2 years post dismissal or resignation.

Dedicated 2nd shooters, assistants or associates are very rare. Most aspire to build their own brand, which is understandable so make sure the terms offered are aligned with your own long term goals.


Thanks for these thoughts. My long-term goals don't really include creating my own studio (at least not a wedding-centric studio). At this point, my goal is to supplement my income to pay down student loans, and to feed my need for a creative outlet. So, for now, this set up seems like a good fit.




Jun 05, 2017 at 03:20 PM
TheyCallMeJ
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


MN_Migrant wrote:
Thanks for these thoughts. My long-term goals don't really include creating my own studio (at least not a wedding-centric studio). At this point, my goal is to supplement my income to pay down student loans, and to feed my need for a creative outlet. So, for now, this set up seems like a good fit.



Great! Then simply pick the offer with the higher compensation.

I will assume that the associate title comes with a higher pay (and other benefits), otherwise there would be no point in making that offer.

As long as you aren't tied to the studio, in the sense that you can utilize your own images to sell your services in the future, whether you decide on starting your own brand or work with another studio (for an even higher pay).

P.S. Congratulations!



Jun 05, 2017 at 03:28 PM
MRomine
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


Tony Hoffer wrote:
You should confirm with the photographer, if you haven't already. Most associate photographers are still sub-contractors. In fact, I don't know anyone that has associates that aren't sub-contractors... including our own.


You (you in general) need to check state laws and have a clear understanding of what constitutes an employee and what constitutes a sub-contractor. Many studios want their hired photographers to be categorized as sub-contractors so that they do not have to pay workman's comp insurance on them but in reality they are actually employees.



Jun 05, 2017 at 06:52 PM
MRomine
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


TheyCallMeJ wrote:
The contract you are about to sign, does it have a non-compete clause? Such as main studio owning copying, not being to utilize your own images for portfolio and not allowed to compete within 50 mile radius for 2 years post dismissal or resignation.


Get attorney help on this, in some locations (states) non-compete clauses are illegal or will not hold up in court when tested.



Jun 05, 2017 at 06:55 PM
Tony Hoffer
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


MRomine wrote:
You (you in general) need to check state laws and have a clear understanding of what constitutes an employee and what constitutes a sub-contractor. Many studios want their hired photographers to be categorized as sub-contractors so that they do not have to pay workman's comp insurance on them but in reality they are actually employees.


For most it comes down to:
1. Whose equipment they're using
2. Where they are performing the work (i.e. in your studio, in theirs, at home)
3. Do they perform work other than that of your business
4. Do they have their own business, insurance, etc...

Like you said, this probably varies, but those are the main sticking points... at least according to the advice I've gotten.



Jun 05, 2017 at 07:39 PM
MN_Migrant
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Pros & Cons: associate photographer vs. subcontracting


Hello all. Thanks again for the great discussion points posted above! I wanted to re-start this thread to give an update, and ask a few follow up questions.

I decided to go the sub-contractor route given the flexibility it affords me. I've shot 5 weddings for the studio, and now have questions about submitting invoices. Specifically with respect to rates that your sub-contractors charge for various photo-related activities.

We settled on an hourly rate for shooting ($110/hr), but never discussed rates for non-shooting activities like scouting, client consults, travel, etc. The head photographer is pretty coy with what she's willing to pay for these activities; so, before I negotiate my rate for these activities I'd like to have an idea of what is reasonable to charge.

All that said, for those of you that have sub-contractors that shoot full weddings, or those of you that are sub-contractors yourselves... what is a reasonable hourly rate for non-shooting activities?






Jul 18, 2017 at 08:27 PM







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