When does taking pictures for free cross the line?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Yasa, Aug 6, 2009.

  1. Yasa

    Yasa TPF Noob!

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    Stemming from a topic in a different sub-forum, I was wondering how people feel about taking photographs for free.

    I understand the reasons for both, mainly; many people live off their photo revenue and doing jobs for free can cheapen it for the rest of photographers. Then there are those that feel since it's "only a hobby" or however they'd like to word it, then working for free is no skin off their back and it's fine.

    When do you cross the line? Should hobbyist start to charge, and if so; when can you tell if you're good enough to charge, and how much? (although the latter part of the question is dependent upon the former.)

    This isn't a discussion about whether or not it's right or wrong to work for free, but rather; when do you begin to charge?
     
  2. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    "When does taking pictures for free cross the line?"
    It is quite the simple question, at least from my point of view.

    Pretty much only 2 circumstances:
    1. When someone else is making money off of your work.
    2. When YOU are hurting the industry by not charging enough or at all.

    Now this assumes that you are good enough to be charging for your work in the first place.

    As far as when to start charging, that is IMPOSSIBLE to say just like that... this is answered on a case by case situation.

    I started charging when I felt I was good enough. I decided when I was good enough because I set my own standards and compared my results to others in my chosen field. I then worked my a$$ off so that my work matched or exceeded them and am now charging for my work.

    All in all, a simple but effective way of thinking about it.
     
  3. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    As an ex-pro who lost part of his business (and one I enjoyed quite a lot) to people willing to work for free, I tend not to like the idea. But there are limits. The main one being that everyone has the right to do whatever the h*ll they want.

    Because of what happened to me I tend to react negatively to the idea but the reality is that, even though I didn't like what happened to me, I just moved on to another aspect of the industry and it was not that big a deal. There are so many outlets for photography that if you're a decent photographer, you'll always find something to do.

    I got my DSLR about a year ago to shoot stuff I sell on ebay because after studying ebay I decided that good photos brought in higher bids. After a while, word got around and I started getting requests to shoot for other people. I'm not interested so I turn them down but it's another possibility for making money if I ever need it.

    And I once did a job for free. It was for a non-profit that I like and it was going to be a national campaign. The exposure I was going to get was worth way more than my loss by not actually getting paid for the shoot. The designer and model also worked for free on that deal and for the same reason. The designer and I worked together on the idea for the image and it was going to be a beauty. In that case, there was really no reason to not do it.

    All that to say that sometimes there are very good reasons to work for free. At the same time I hate to see hobbyists being taken advantage of, because let's not kid ourselves, there are hobbyists who are much better photographers than some professionals, and I don't see any reason for them not to get paid.

    As for the second part of your post, it's kind of tricky to answer. I see people on this forum who claim to book jobs even though the quality of the photos of theirs that I see seriously make me doubt it. But, at the same time, the sad reality is that if somebody is willing to pay you, you are ready to charge. There are plenty of cases when you deal with clients who don't know the first thing about what you're doing. You give them cr*p and they don't know the difference.

    Because I don't really want to point my finger at some people in this industry, I'll give an example in a different industry. One day, I was chatting with this editor of a publication about some photos I was going to do for him and I just picked up some papers on the desk and glanced at them. In that one glance, I realized I was looking at a translation and a problem caught my eye. I asked my editor friend for a couple minutes and started correcting some major mistakes.

    I handed over my corrections and told him he'd better get a new translator. His response was: where am I going to find someone else? Mine was that I didn't know but considering the influence his publication had on international politics (yes, true) he'd better find someone who didn't say the opposite of the original...

    If somebody is willing to pay you, you are ready to charge.
     
  4. Yasa

    Yasa TPF Noob!

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    Great answer Cloudwalker! I think the final quote sums that it up fairly nice.
     
  5. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    Unfortunately, yes.

    I hope you read me through and understand that I'm not really happy with this idea.
     
  6. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Let's shift the discussion to another field [literally].

    There are many sports teams [eg, local weekend baseball and softball teams] which play for free -- and are watched by spectators who also don't pony up a single penny. Should these players, like their professional counterparts, demand salaries to play? Should they charge admission for their games? By not doing so, are they hurting the salaries of, say, the New York Yankee players? Is Derek Jeeter suffering because of the 'Beer Leaguers'?
     
  7. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    That depends. If a team in the Beer Leagues is capable of kicking the Yankee's butts... yeah, they should be paid, and on top of it, play against the Yankees while doing so.

    If not, well, then they should not be paid. Pros are paid becuase they have the skill that is worthy of being paid for. It's the salary thing that gets me... getting paid millions to toss a ball and hit it with a stick, when there are tens of thousands of people who have skills of more value (nurses for example), that make 1/50th of that kind of money, work FAR more and longer to get to where they are, and never will come close to their salary no matter what they do.

    Sometimes the value system is all screwed up, IMHO... lol
     
  8. DScience

    DScience No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think it's foolish how people place all with a DSLR in the 'industry'. What if some people could care less about making photography a business venture, and wanted to do some shoots for people at no charge? Are they hurting the 'industry'? No because photography isn't JUST a means to make money. It's also an art outlet, and a way for people to express themselves. And I don't believe you lost your business because of people shooting for free. :eek:(
     
  9. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Tell that to someone who does ONLY photography for their income and has a crying child and a mortgage. ;)

    Yeah, it does hurt the industry. Uncle Bob and MWACs definitely hurt the industry. Newphew Jimmy with his new 1 week old dSLR doing weddings for $300 *is* hurting the industry.

    But... here is where a little character helps... you can get all bitter and get lost in the shuffle, or you can do something that works for you. That is what I am working on currently... a nice little semi-secret weapon that is going to assure me that I will be impacted minimally, if at all, by this segment. It's a work in progress, started maybe 2 months ago. It's far from ready, but as I have time, the parts of the puzzle get put in place.
     
  10. musicaleCA

    musicaleCA TPF Noob!

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    ...

    Well now I'm curious. What're you cooking up in your underground lab now, Jerry? :lol:

    (No, seriously, I'm really curious to know...)
     
  11. PhotoXopher

    PhotoXopher TPF Noob!

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    When should you stop doing things for free?

    Whenever you get sick of doing it for free and want to make some money at it.

    To be honest (and this is probably the wrong place to say this), how I impact a photographer by doing something I really enjoy doesn't come into play with my decision.

    Sorry...

    Same as my ability to do some work on vehicles, I enjoy that as well and have helped quite a few people for free - did the thought of a starving mechanic ever cross my mind?

    Not once.

    My wife and I cook our own meals every night for each other and our kids, and up until this point I really can't say I've ever felt like I was taking business away from any chefs :lol:
     
  12. Annamas

    Annamas TPF Noob!

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    Love it!

    As far as the questions go. I think Cloudwalker hit the nail on the head.

    For me personally. I plan on shooting myself until I am comfortable enough with my camera and equipment that I can ask friends and family to stand in as models. Then I'll want to photograph models, more than likely for free until I'm confident enough to be able to start to charge.

    It has nothing to do with trying to hurt the industry. But at the same time, I don't want to jump right in and demand money for a product I know I cannot produce. Even if I produce one professional quality miracle shot every shoot, until I can produce it consistently, I don't deserve the money that is being handed over.

    Same goes for athletes. When you look at a major leauge, or AAA player you have to think about what makes them qualified. They may not have a formal sport education. But they have more than likely sacrificed alot of their life to the game. Most athletes have been playing since they could walk. They played through elementary and high and school. They played through college and in college leagues, they played in A, AA, and then in AAA. They sacrifice alot to play at their caliber. Joe Schmo who playes every other week does not have the qualifications to demand the money.

    So really, I guess the answer is: When you can meet the demand with quality is when you SHOULD start asking for compensation. (I highlight should, because we all know their are sub-standard everythings out there).
     

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