“I would love to work for myself like you do so I could set my own hours.”
“I love this photo of me, but could you make my arms look thinner? And could you photoshop out the guy in the background?And could you get rid of the blemish on my cheek?”
“I have this great idea for my photoshoot. You should shoot it for me for free and I will let you use it in your portfolio.”
As a photographer, I hear these things all the time. Sometimes I laugh about it and sometimes it makes me cringe. Photography is art, so people think it is something we do just for fun. But it’s not. Photography is a career. Artists have to eat and pay bills just like anyone else does. The bank/electric company/gas company/grocery store will not just let us slide by because we are artists.
We put time, energy, effort, and our talent into each shoot we do. It is not simply pushing a button. Not everyone who owns a camera is a photographer, just as my having a kitchen in my house does not make me a chef. I am far from being a chef and that kitchen has been here for a long time!
If photography is your career then you need to value your time, your energy, and your talent. This means respecting your work, charging appropriately for your time, and working at learning and growing with your business. You might think your work is stellar and you might be pumped up big time about how awesome you are, but are you learning and growing? Is your work reflecting business the best it can? Are there any blurry or out of focus images in your portfolio? If so, then you are not placing value on your work and your art, you are just filling up space with images.
I love shooting conceptual pieces. I love thinking outside of the box. But I value me. I value the time I spend away from my family. It is actually quite rare that giving in to the free photoshoot under the guise of exposure works out to benefit the photographer, artist, designer, etc. People will typically want the same deal their friends had gotten and want it for free or at the very least, at a hefty discount.
For the non-photographers, if you suddenly went to work and your boss said “Hey, you have gotten this down. And since you know what you are doing we are going to add more responsibility to what you do, but we are going to cut your pay by 50%.” How would that be? Would you be ready to walk out, punch your boss, or all of those?
Standing behind the camera is not the majority of what we do. We shoot images, sure. But those images don’t edit themselves. Websites have to be maintained. Private galleries for reviewing your images online are not free. Then you add in gas, travel, equipment, time, and the fact that we do our own marketing, we pay taxes (including sales tax), we have all kinds of things we have to pay for as self-employed photographers that I honestly can’t even begin to list.
This is why when people are starting out and they want to be a real business that it’s hard for them. They find out about the expenses and their free shoots are not paying for them to be able to become a legitimate business.
Photography is not something just anyone can do. I can hand 10 people the same kind of camera and tell them to take photos for half an hour and I will get 10 different versions of the world. Some will be spectacular and artsy, some will be blurry and out of focus, and some might just be nice snapshots. Photography takes time, dedication, and lots of work. And if you don’t value your time, how can you expect others to? Asking for compensation for your work, talent, and time is not unreasonable. Don’t apologize for wanting not be a starving artist!