Freelance Photographer Better Than Agency

How often have you booked a service, and someone you’ve never met comes to do the work? I’m guessing almost every time. Big companies or agencies tend to do that. You begin to feel like the woman above, kidnapped into an awkward situation that likely doesn’t end well.

It doesn’t have to be that way. No matter the brand behind the service you’ve engaged, you should be happy with the result. There are a few big reasons why you should consider engaging a freelancer instead of going for big-box, do-it-all production houses.

1. Work Directly with the Freelancer

With big projects involving creative work, you’d want the photographer/cinematographer to understand the vision completely. Imagine it’s the day of the shoot, and a stranger pops up. It’s not the person whom you spoke to, shared coffee, or signed a contract with. Both you and the stranger are on a different wavelength, and disagreements erupt. 

Freelancers, on the other hand, wear all hats. We own the business, manage the finance, post on social media, and close the sale. At every stage, freelancers are there all the way. There are no surprises, at least in the operational side of things. There will always be a healthy, creative tussle during the shoot, but the results will be better because of it.

Skeptics sometimes are worried that a freelancer isn’t as ‘professional’ as an agency. To them the presence of a privatised company entity is more credible than a solo freelancer. That’s not true. Freelancers may operate differently in terms of accounting, but they are just as professional and proud of their work.

2. Keep Costs Lower

Agencies rack up huge overheads because of their office and full-time staff. To keep the lights running, agencies need high turnover every month. It’s a grind and a churn.

Freelancers, on the other hand, are literally “free” to work anywhere. The world is our studio. And not just for photographers, but many creatives often work on-location or in a public space. This keeps overheads low apart from the equipment (such as cameras, computers) upkeep. Because of that, freelancers often charge lower than an agency, with the only exception being niche specialists.

It’s also a well known fact that agencies mark up prices for every service they offer to the client. So if an agency hires a creative or photographer, you’d be paying significantly more than what the freelancer would charge you directly.

3. Freelancers Give More Personal Attention

We’ve already established that agencies are quite massive machines. Their executives juggle multiple accounts to keep the cash flowing. When things get busy, the account managers can’t dedicate all their time to you. It then becomes a PR game.

As a freelancer, we work with one client at a time. In essence, all our attention is focused on you and your project. Yes, when the work is done, we move on to the next project. But that way, we put 100% of our time and effort into what’s in front of us.

And unlike salaried executives at an agency, freelancers control their own time. Personally, I do not take on more than I can chew. When I signed on with a project, I ensure that my time, effort and heart are committed to the job.

What Can You Do?

Firstly, forget pre-conceived notions of freelancers or agencies. You may already have a preference for one or another, but now keep an open mind. 

Do some research, and get in touch with photographers from both sides. By talking to them, you get a clearer picture on who best fits your needs. A massive project with high production values often favour the agencies. But freelancers often get the ball (i.e. work) rolling quickly and produce good and quick results.

If you are looking for a freelance photographer, I’m always open to concept discussions and a quick verbal quote. Your needs are most important, and I’ll be able to advise on the right arrangement for both of us.

Be a Freelancer or Run Your Own Company?

“Are you a freelancer or do you have your own company?”

I get this question so, so many times that I can’t ignore it anymore. We, as professional photographers (or creatives) meet so many different clients in our work. Some are not as well-versed into the life of a self-employed person. Perfectly understandable. Here I hope to enlighten both potential clients and aspiring photographers.

Must we Choose between Freelancer and Company?

To clear the air, in Singapore, even if we are a “freelancer” without a boss and working as a one man/woman army, it is encouraged to register your trade/work as a business entity. 

A business entity can be as simple as a sole-proprietorship, or an incorporated company. Hence it is possible to be a “freelancer” and still own your own company or sole-proprietorship (or any other business entity). If you’re an aspiring photographer or creative, I’d still recommend registering your business. Simply because it makes your work official and you’re able to improve your business perception and standing to clients. 

What did I do?

My photography business started off as a sole-proprietorship. Now that I am branching out into film and video marketing, I have incorporated a new company - Affinity Studios Pte Ltd - that focuses on that. Eventually I may let this PLC absorb my sole-proprietorship, or I may just cancel it altogether and have all my work fall under Affinity Studios. 

Benefits of Business Registration

  • Better perceived value.
  • Use of corporate tax instead of personal income tax (if you incorporate a Private Limited Company).
  • Ability to pitch for government projects through GEbiz (correct me if I’m wrong).
  • Keeps you motivated as your work is now official and effort must be made to keep up your reputation and marketing. 

  • How to Photograph Big Group Portraits

    There’s a saying “the simple life is a happy life.” That can be applied to the world of portrait photography too. Nevertheless, things get complicated when shooting a good big group portrait.

    For one, there are a lot more people to direct, and that’s where posing can become a challenge. Location is another, because the place you choose to make the image could also break it.

    Shooting a single person’s portrait may be ‘simpler,’ while a big group setting is infinitely more stressful, there is really a great amount of satisfaction and fulfillment when a large group portrait comes together.

    There’s amazing dynamism seeing a group of colleagues/friends/family captured in that one single moment, as though all is right in their world and the invisible bonds that tie them together are wound up tight. As a portrait photographer, there’s a sense of calm when I see a beautiful group portrait. While not every photo turns out great, I’ve noticed over time that there are certain factors that immensely contribute to a shoot’s success:

  • Colour coordination keeps the photo and its people grounded and ‘bound’ to one another.
  • A large space/setting is needed, so as to not restrict the possibilities of what a photo can become. In a tight location, a photographer is limited to certain angles and focal lengths, which isn’t a good thing. I know, it’s tough in land-scarce Singapore, but remember there’s always the great outdoors.
  • Good lighting adds ‘pop.’ While I love using natural light in some instances, having sufficient and well-placed lights make the photo stand out.
  • Shooting large group portraits (like any other sub-genre) is an art and often situational. Every shoot has its challenges, and there’s always a lesson to take away from it. If you’ve discovered a few tricks of your own, would really like to hear from you in the comments below!