Bill Dobbins : Things Change

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Why I’m Charging For Photo Shoots

By Bill Dobbins

I’ve been doing photos in the fitness industry for a long time. A very long time. In fact, when I started shooting bodybuilding photos for Joe Weider’s magazines there wasn’t any bodybuilding for women. At least almost none. I was the founding editor of Flex and could assign myself any kind of photos I wanted. I was photographing the men, the women came along, I figured now both men and women competed in bodybuilding just as they did in tennis, basketball and other sports, so I started doing photos of the women as well.

It’s very hard to find a new subject for photography. People have been shooting pictures since 1827. Pumping Iron author Charles Gaines has pointed out that women developing their muscles for primarily aesthetic purposes in a totally new phenomenon in history – so here was a subject that had hardly been explored before. Something “new under the sun.”

So I did a lot of female physique photos for magazines and I published two art books of female muscle: The Women: Photographs of the Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan) and Modern Amazons (Taschen). I started some subscription websites which for a time did very good business.

But a lot has changed in the past decade or so. The magazines all started to have financial problems because of the Internet. And business models changed so that there is now much less money in subscription websites. So where I’d always been able to make at least some money from my photos and could shoot on a “trade for print” basis with the women, this was suddenly no longer possible. But the women (and some men as well, I do still shoot photos of men) still needed photos for their own websites, for publicity and promotion and to make prints to sign and sell. So I set up a program in which I charged them a booking fee, enough to cover my expenses and make a small profit.

A lot of women tell me that the free photos they get at contests are “good enough.” Sometimes they are. But generally free photos are worth about as much as free advice, as we all know how much that is.

Nowadays I have women (and some men) flying to LA on a regular basis to do photo shoots. One advantage of booking a shoot is that it is your shoot – the magazines only want certain kinds of photos but you can ask for physique, fashion, or glamour photos, a modeling portfolio, whatever you want. And while so much is changing one thing remains true – having really good, high quality photos makes a difference in how people see you and make promoting yourself more successfully a lot easier. And with all the “noise” out there nowadays, every little bit helps.

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Some of Bill Dobbins recent shoots from his LA studio:

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