The frequent defense of spec photographers' actions is the "intangibles" defense. Some sentiments that might be being expressed could be - "I can get more work if I can just show that I can shoot well in the big leagues", or, it was actually said that " For me it's a great trade off and I have gotten business in my youth sports photography from people seeing images I shot on spec." This suggests that the purpose for their being there is to garner images to be used in marketing. In other words, you feel you're being 'paid' by being able to have these images because you can then use them as marketing/advertising tools for your business. Yet, the idea that shooting on spec is a "building block towards getting paid", is a loosing proposition for almost all providers, and moreover, you're building a foundation on clients who don't pay up front, only when they like your work. That's not a solid foundation, it's one built on sand.
One photographer on the Sportshooter thread wrote "...this type of shooting is basically a third job. I have a day job and photography wise my main source of income comes from youth sports..... I don't have the time to work at this anywhere near fulltime at the pro level. I also don't have the time to try and market the images nor do I have the contacts even if I had the time. The last thing I want right now is a $50K job in full time photography. ...it helps my youth sports business because I actively shooting at the pro level", yet, this photographer would no doubt be upset if the DWC and MWC (Dad's with cameras, Moms with cameras) came along on picture day and started shooting over their shoulder, because that is where their livelihoods come from. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, so too are your actions detrimental. When I've photographed a wedding, and family has done this, I'm less bothered because, while it may hit my print sales a few dollars, I am earning all my major revenue from the package fee. this isn't the case here.
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