The Harsh Reality is that Sometimes There Are Not Enough Chickens

Don’t count your chickens ‘til they’re hatched.

An old proverb that I can often relate to, I was reminded of it again recently. After a small spurt in published material I was looking forward to the remuneration that ultimately follows, at least where that sort of thing can be expected.

My article about alpine glaciers that appeared in the November issue of the Society for Scientific Photography members’ magazine was contributed as a member for the purpose of sharing information with other members. There is no pay, only the privilege of sharing your passion with others. My article in the new Fall/Winter double issue of Nature Photographer pays but not much, and the pay is in American funds so I just have the cheque sent to my parents who deposit it in my American funds account in a bank in Canada.

So, what I was counting on was pay for photos and words in two Japanese magazines, since that would be in yen and dumped straight into my bank account here. Based on previous experience, I had a rough idea about how much to expect. A two-page interview with four photos had paid 30,000 yen five years ago, and a four-page short article with many photos last year paid 50,000. So, for a four-page interview and six photos I was hoping for somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 yen. With that I would be able to pay for my September hike and put money toward my November hike. I was rubbing my hands together in anticipation.

The next payment would come from a magazine that previously paid me 10,000 yen for one page. This time I had four pages and though I wasn’t expecting four times the amount I was hoping for somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000. Together, I reckoned that I could expect about 70,000 to 80,000 yen. My palms were heating up from all that rubbing. Plans for having photos scanned or even prints made were swimming in my head, as well as thoughts about a December hike.

The harsh reality was that no only were there not so many chickens, but there actually never was a lot of eggs. The first magazine paid me 40,000 yen, a little less than I had hoped, and the second magazine paid only 15,000 yen. Minus 10% in taxes and I was just under 50,000 yen richer. But not actually richer because I had already spent money on the September and November hikes. So, the end of the story is me putting money back into the family account from which I borrowed for my trips, and sitting with a little left over to pay for postage and office supplies and some cheap scans.

I doubt many photographers make a living solely from sending photos and articles freelance to magazines. I don’t expect to. But I was really hoping for a few more chickens to show for my work.

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