Tuesday, July 13, 2010

12 Excuses for Shooting Photos for Free — and Why They’re Bogus

Every so often, I post over at the blog of my agent, Black Star. My most recent post is - "12 Excuses for Shooting Photos for Free — and Why They’re Bogus". Below is #5 - and go check out the other 11 here.

5. Every photography job I’ve ever gotten has been through word of mouth — often because I did something for free first.

Right, word of mouth. As in, “Hey, I know this photographer who will shoot for free…” Congratulations! You’ve just become known all over town as the guy who doesn’t expect to be paid for his work. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll even get a client who offers to buy you lunch.
Enjoy the rest of your day!
(Comments, if any after the Jump)

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AdvRdr said...

Righteous advice. And welcome back!

Unknown said...

Sometimes, just sometimes it is better than hanging around on street corners or twiddling your thumbs. Besides the people you might shoot free for are unlikely to know everyone else. You can always put contracts in place on use of photos etc.

So yes I have shot for free but generally I get more work out of it from contacts in PR/Agents and word of mouth.

Larry Leone said...

I totally Agree. and I know from experience. It's funny how you get more work from paid jobs than referral work from Free jobs.

Brian Harte said...

Don't let them bully you. The only people you should consider doing freebies for are close friends and family. Apart from that unless your feeling particluarly generous to a charity or worthwhile cause it will only come back to haunt you.

That said I give a lot of time as a photographer for charities that I have chosen to work with. It's nice to know you give something back too.

Anonymous said...

OK... I am a photographer as well, and feeling the same pressures as all of us. Allow me, however, to take up a contrarian viewpoint, summarized best as "screw you!"

"You've knocked some local wedding photographer out of a paying gig."

"You'll be making lots of new friends among the professional portrait photographers whose livelihoods you are damaging."

"You're already doing all you can to undermine your chances — as well as everyone else's."

"All you're doing is killing editorial opportunities for others."

"How about helping those who earn a living producing photographs by not undercutting them?"

What have these photographers done for ME lately?

It's wonderful that you can make $1,000 shooting a picnic. Are you willing to start turning these down? 'Cause, you know, you're really making things hard on the $2,000 picnic guy. His business is really lagging because of you.

How can you possibly believe that being a photographer automagically induces an altruism towards every other photographer? We are not one team. We are not a union. We are all individuals with our own choices of how we run our lives and our professions.

The industry is changing. The barriers to entry are being lowered. Amateur work is getting better. There will always be clients that care more about price than quality. Being a photographer is like any other business, however, and you decide to deal with these people or not. Yes, it takes time and money and talent and effort to be a photographer, and you should be compensated for your work. But if you choose not to, it's your choice to make.

If you can't find enough work to make a living, then you are doing something wrong. You may have chosen the wrong specialty, you may be in the wrong market, you may be approaching the wrong clients. 80% of all new business fail, why should photography be any exception? You diagnose and focus on the problems, and try to determine solutions, not go bitching about others undercutting you and killing the industry. If you can't differentiate yourself from those that work for free, you really need to re-think your business plan. Or, you may simply not be a good enough photographer.

(All of the "you"s in the preceding post are directed towards "you" the reader, and are not in any way meant to be a personal attack on John Harrington.)

Clayton Hollowell said...

Speaking as a random amateur fighter, why should I give a flying rat's rear end about what my photography activities cost you? The only thing I can really detect coming our (amateur photographers) way from the professionals as a community is sneer, elitism, derision and attempts to separate us from our money (the last I can't hold against you, but it's not going to ingratiate you with us either).

If I were an aspiring pro, the advice you offer seems to only be (at best) half the picture. You talk regularly about not devaluing one's own brand, and setting one's own price too low (and by extension, yours), but offer nothing about how to overcome the obstacles that an aspirant runs up against (people don't want to pay for intangible goods from people without a proven track record, and people they don't know). If you are going to leave people stuck on the outside, looking in, with no good path that they see in, don't be surprised when they do things to your detriment (and possibly theirs), like devaluing the price of your work.

Steve Lewis Photography said...

I agree with the anonymous comment. You gotta do what you gotta do to get started. I just took a job with a local childrens theater company, doing headshots and production shots. They are paying me $100 a production plus a full page ad in their program.

Some of you are turning your noses up at this maybe, but to me it is a golden opportunity to get my photos and name seen instead of having said photos sit on my hard drive.

And I am hopeful this will drive in business to me. Then once things improve, I can charge more.

Plus, I have a great antidote to "I know this photographer who works for free!"

When said person appears on your doorstep expecting a free engagement session and full day wedding shoot, show them your pricelist!

Very simple, very easy!

Nice blog too, by the way!

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