At 30 years old I like to think of myself as fairly well experienced in the world of business. I spent 10 years in retail management as well as running my own business for 6 years (3 years full time now) and I think this has given me a pretty decent “apprenticeship” to life in business.
Now this is probably true in all aspects of creative businesses from web design to singing to photography, but one of the great mistakes I see photographers make these days, particularly those new to the industry or those looking to make a name for themselves is; pretty much taking on every single bit of work they can, whether that be paid or unpaid.
Even as I look around the Industry in the North East of England, I can think of a couple of photographers in particular, and don’t get me wrong here I’m not bad mouthing them or saying they’re wrong, who shoot a whole lot. For Free. With the other party commercially gaining from the images.
There is a time and a place for this in my honest opinion. You may do this once or twice within your career in order to get some images in an industry or genre you’re not experienced in, to give you a “leg up” for future work. I get the thinking behind that. I have done this myself.
However, the time to stop doing this is when the other party continually gains from your effort and all you have to show for it are images for your portfolio. I ask, “What is the point”
Most creatives these days know that “Exposure” doesn’t pay the bills. I learnt that lesson quite hard a few years back thinking I was going to get fame and fortune working with a big name.
That. Didn’t. Happen.
One of the strongest things you can do in your photography business is to say NO to the stuff that won’t benefit you and concentrate on the stuff that will help you. If you get offered the chance to work for “exposure” its a simple process for me. I ask myself a couple of questions;
Will I enjoy it?
Will it really lead to more work? (99 times out of 100 this is a big fat fuck no)
Do I have something better to do with this time?
If I answer Yes, Yes & No, then its worth thinking about. If I won’t enjoy it, and it won’t lead to more work then what is the point of doing it? Just to show off on social media and say “Look at me I shot this today” when everyone really knows you did it for free anyway?
Now there is a wider issue as to why this happens. Some of it is the fault of photographers and some of it is due to a lack of value in photography as seen by the client.
I see it week in week out on Facebook groups where someone will ask for a service, a host of pro’s will offer their services and links to their websites etc and then you’ll get a random guy or gal comment “I’ll do it for free”
FFS- At this point you do really want to give them a swift kick to the lens pouch.
I have to refrain from commenting or messaging these people, not that it would be out of nastiness or anger, it would literally be to ask what were they thinking???
There should be a level of common courtesy around this sort of stuff with photographers. If there are “pro’s” offering their services, they most likely do this for a living, they need that money to pay the bills, put food on the table and live. Why on earth would you jump in there and offer to do it for free and take work away from these people? This is why the industry is getting harder to work in, particularly with charity and event work.
I’m not going to go down the route of calling out charities, but you can guarantee the Executives in these charities get paid, usually a fairly handsome sum. I’m all for raising money for charity but don’t do it by working for free. Go and do a fun run if you want to clear your conscience.
Well thats just my opinion on it anyway.
So I’ve deviated fairly widely from my original point, but I guess its because there is a huge spectrum to this issue and so many opportunities to work for that all elusive exposure.
All I would suggest is that you have a look at your photography, whether you be in business or not, and think to yourself. Does this benefit me? Is it worth me doing it? What would be a better use of my time?
Hey, if you do it for the fun of it then do it for that but think of the wider implications you’re having on an already growing industry with a shrinking value against it.