4 min read

What’s this talk of a photographer’s safe word?  People are busier than ever.  We have careers, second careers, hobbies, taking care of ourselves – friends and family.  Shit!  I almost forgot FRIENDS & FAMILY! I’m busy just like you are and I really don’t have the time to take pictures in a style I’m already proficient in without charging my published rate.  I just can’t [said with face buried in hands].

The work that I get paid for as a photographer is headshot photography.  There is another genre that I enjoy but I do it (mostly) for my own pleasure.  I call it “super bad-ass gimme all you got wide n’ tight” headshot photography.  These are the two genres I’ve spent most of my time practicing and perfecting up to this point.  Let’s just call this whole realm of photography the realm of “Lee’s Shit”.

Work that falls outside the realm of Lee’s Shit is work that I consider to be experimental.  Experimental work is work that I’m probably not going to charge a fee for.  I usually put it in the professional development column.  The exception to this is any work that has commercial value.  You bet your ass I’m going to charge for that.

There are some projects (photography or otherwise) where I prefer to work with a team.  An effective team will bring together a diverse skill set that results in synergy to produce an above-average outcome.  Notice the inclusion of the word effective.  This type of teamwork is generally known as collaboration.

Collaboration definition:

The action of working with someone to produce something.

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

So what am I getting at here?  Well, if you approach me about work that is 1) in the Lee’s Shit universe then you should expect to pay for it.  If you approach me about any creative projects that are 2) outside the realm of Lee’s Shit and you hear the word (or any variation of it) “collaboration” come out of my mouth this means that I’m interested in your idea… but I’m not interested in doing it alone.

You might approach me to do a photo shoot that isn’t in the Lee’s Shit lane – if we don’t collaborate on it then I might produce what I think is a really nice image.  There is a huge chance that our creative visions will not be in alignment.  That same image might be one that you think is just awful.  The reason for this is that people often see a few of my pictures but don’t pay attention to my complete body of work.

The final category is 3) photography that I just don’t want to do – not even in a collaboration.  I’ve had to have the following conversation on more than one occasion.

Person: Hi!  Your pictures are awesome!

Me: Thank you very much!

Person: My 2 year old daughter has a birthday party coming up and we would REALLY like for you to photograph it.  How much would you charge for this?

Me: This is not something that I do.  I can refer you to another photographer who would do a wonderful job for you.

Person: But we just looked at your pictures again and we REALLY want you.

Me: How many 2 year old birthday parties do you see on my website?


Let’s recap – the following are the broad (and basic) categories of photography from my perspective:

  1. Lee’s Shit – paid
  2. Not Lee’s Shit but Interested (collaboration)
    • Has commercial value – paid
    • No commercial value – probably not going to ask for money
  3. Not Interested

Safe Word

My safe word when speaking with people about potential projects is “collaboration”.  If you’ve followed me up till now then this probably doesn’t come as a surprise.

Safe W0rd Definition:

This is so that the submissive partner(s) can say “stop” and “no” as often as they want during the session and use the safe word when they actually mean it.

Source: Urban Dictionary

If you approach me about shooting some photos and I mention that this project falls into Category 2 (Not Lee’s Shit but Interested) then brace yourself.  The safe word is coming and I will quickly lose interest in you if it is ignored.  #Collaboration.  I actually mean it.

So please don’t ask me if I’m interested in shooting any beautiful models that you know if you can’t, at a minimum, tell me what you (or they) have in mind for the shoot.  Of course I want to shoot beautiful models; but I’m not more eager to shoot them over “normal” people.  You see – that’s what I dig about being a portrait photographer.  I get to meet so many interesting people.  Being a “beautiful model” doesn’t make me want to bend over backwards to service them.  They’re just people and I’ll treat them the same as everyone else.

You and I have been talking for a minute and I’ve said my safe word – COLLABORATON.  Now what?  The next thing we should begin discussing is ideas.  From there we should work on creating a mood board; then we’ll be able to see if we need to assemble a team and, if so, what players we will need.  Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Above all else… once I’ve said the safe word… please… PLEASE do not let the next words that come out of your mouth (or onto my computer screen) be something like “ok, so tell me what day you want to shoot”.  If this happens you might get another chance but I doubt it will come before I make you read this article and tell me that you understand what a safe word is and its significance in my life.

Lee Crow

Lee Crow

Creative Bedou at Lee Crow [CREATIVE]
Profesional headshot and creative portrait photographer in Bahrain.Check out www.bahrainheadshots.com and www.leecrow.com for more information about me.
Lee Crow