I commonly read photography blogs, to see others views about the field, how they approach marketing, and so on. I found this today, which is a list of 12 reasons why shooting for free is a bad idea. Although I agree with the sentiment that you should not sell yourself short, I think it is incredibly ignorant to assume that all photographers want to make loads of cash off of their art.
First off, money isn’t everything. I consider myself an artist, who is making art, when I am taking photographs. Just because I am not getting paid to take the photos does not undermine their worth to me, and to those who enjoy them.
Most of the work I do is for free, or at the very least, at prices far below normal rates. I don’t feel like I’m selling myself short, and I definitely don’t feel like I am taking away paid opportunities from other photographers.
I did cut out some of the excuses, some because I did somewhat agree the points, others because I felt like I would repeating myself way too much.
# I’m trying to get into concert photography, so when bands have called to ask about pricing, I’ve told them, “It’s on me.” It’s a great way for me to break into that market.
It’s a great way to break into that market known as “free.” How many times do you think musicians have screwed themselves over and given away the farm to music labels? Too many to count. Don’t make the same mistake.
Although I agree with the sentiment of this one, if I was ever called for concert photography (especially if it was a band I enjoyed) I would definitely offer my services for free… with the condition that I and my partner get into the concert for free. Just because you do a few free shows doesn’t mean that you will end up doing free shows forever. Showing that you are actually interested and dedicated to the band, that you are willing to stay for the entire time, and that you still take amazing photos even if you are in the pit says something about your passion for concert photography. Every time I go to a concert I bring my camera, and if any of the bands asked for the photos, I gladly give them copies. Why? Because I appreciate them as artists too. Especially if I took the photos without their request.
# I just did a free shoot for a young actress trying to make ends meet, like many starving artists. It helped her and was an opportunity for me to practice my lighting techniques.
Romanticizing being a “starving artist” isn’t really a good thing. It’s nice when you’re sipping a chai tea latte with your beret in the local java house listening to beatniks recite their slam poetry, but other than that, it’s mostly a good way to remain starving. Doing a trade-for-prints/trade-for-CD deal is for C-grade models and photographers who almost never become pros. And while you may think that it helps you with your lighting techniques, it doesn’t help you grow in the area that matters most — the confidence to know that your work has value.
I have helped writers, and models with their head shots… for free. Oh no, does this mean I am a C grade photographer? Does this mean my photos really suck? You mean, I can’t actually learn anything unless I am getting paid? Fuck. I forgot that I can only value my work if I got paid for it, silly silly me.
# I got some valuable event-photography experience shooting one of my company’s employee celebrations for free. I got to shoot an event for a Fortune 500 corporation, and my pictures received excellent exposure on the company Web site, with over 25,000 hits. I was even given a free photo printer for my effort.
A free photo printer? You mean one of the dozen printers your company got for free when they ordered the last batch of CPU’s from Dell or HP? As someone who has shot for over half of the Fortune 500, I can tell you that I’ve earned $1,000 or more per assignment shooting company picnics, holiday parties, and so forth. It’s not glamourous, but it helps pay the bills. That is, unless you have someone willing to do it for a free printer. By the way, who insured your personal gear against spilled sodas or any other accidents? Let me guess: no one.
Hahah, I think this one if funny, I guess because I’ve never heard of anyone doing or saying this. I suppose it must be true that some people say this though. I mean, I would love to get a free photo printer for taking some photos at a work event, it’s certainly better than nothing. But, if I worked for a Fortune 500 then I probably wouldn’t even be worried about money, or even worried about a photo printer I suppose.
# I’ve been doing some free portraits of friends for fun, to use as their Facebook profile photos. When people see my pictures on Facebook, I’ll expand my network and it can lead to jobs.
No, it will lead to more requests to take pictures “for fun” — from friends, then friends of friends, then people who just don’t want to pay to have their portraits taken. And you’ll be making lots of new friends among the professional portrait photographers whose livelihoods you are damaging. Happy networking!
I take hundreds, probably even thousands of “for fun” photos. Lots of them use the images, with my watermark on them, on Facebook. I think that the assumption that if you do two free portrait shoots suddenly you will be swamped with random people begging you to take their photo for free is funny. I don’t think my close friends and family, of whom I have taken free photos for, would advertise me to other people as being free. If I was ever contacted by someone because of a referral from a friend or family member (which I have been), I would politely tell them my rates. I don’t think its unreasonable to tell people you only do free photos for friends and family. However, the last two sentences of this one just makes me laugh. I’ll definitely watch my inbox and my answering machine for messages from angry photographers that I have put out of business.
# I like my day job in IT, but at night I am passionate about photography. I don’t mind self-funding my work because it gives me more creative freedom.
Guess what, IT guy? When India’s night work takes over your day job, don’t call me crying about it. Also, don’t bother trying to make a living from your “passion,” because you’re already doing all you can to undermine your chances — as well as everyone else’s.
Creative freedom is very important to me. I do have a “day job”, to pay the bills. Honestly, I don’t really understand the first comment, should I be afraid of outsourcing and losing my day job? Is that comment only directed at IT guys? Is that somehow related to photography, or is it just an unnecessary, off handed and incredibly ignorant commentary on the fear of losing jobs to immigrants and foreign countries? With the last half: again, don’t blame me for other photographers failing. If their photos are worth the thousands that they want to charge, then they will find clients willing to pay it. If I want to sell my photos for far less because I think that most photographers’ rates are outrageous, thats my own decision thank you very much.
# I’m a young amateur photographer, close to graduating from college, so I’m focusing on building a portfolio I can be proud of. Money? Later.
Excellent. One more student photographer who doesn’t care about money. I predict that when Sallie Mae comes a callin’ for payback on those loans that funded your education, money will become much more important to you. And I assume you’ll have things like rent, food and clothing to worry about, too. Unless Mommy and Daddy are still paying for everything — which is really nothing for you to be bragging about.
I’m a young amateur photographer, who just graduated from university, and I’m focused on building a portfolio and producing art. Money? Just enough to get by. Yeah, I don’t care about money. I don’t need money to be happy. Am I below the poverty line? You bet. Oh and mommy and daddy haven’t been paying for anything for years. Believe it or not, some people’s goals are not simply to gain wealth and belongings.
# Once I stopped worrying about charging for shoots, I have had offers and requests coming at me from all directions. I want my photographs to benefit the world and to help other people. It’s not about the money.
Of course you have “offers and requests” coming at you from all directions. So does the drunk girl at the club who hops on the slippery oak bar-top with a short skirt and no underwear and says, “If you see anything you like, I’ll be in the back offering it for free.” You’re surprised that a line forms immediately? So, you want to “help other people.” How about helping those who earn a living producing photographs by not undercutting them? That’s the best way to ensure that great photography continues to benefit the world.
I love how you make the connection between free photography and trashy whores. Again, just because someone wasn’t paid to take a photograph does not mean that the photograph is bad, low quality, or anything of the sort. I guess I’m the trashy whore photographer?
If a photographer works hard, and they have great shots, then they will get noticed. You have to start somewhere, you can’t simply walk out of school and then tell a family down the street that its going to cost them hundreds of dollars for you to take a family shot for them, even if you have never done family photography. It is their own ambition that gets them there, its not charging their clients through the roof prices for shit. If you need more experience, then shoot for free as often as you can. Oh and if anyone is reading this in Southwestern Ontario, and is looking for a photographer at reasonable and negotiable rates send me an e-mail.
To read the entire list of bitter complaints about the over saturation of photographers on the market (which in reality the real cause of prices being driven down) and how they are blaming amateur photographers for this go here: