Reasons Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work for Free

JamesMillerJamesMiller Posts: 10Member
edited April 2014 in General Discussions
I've found that a common complaint is that photographers are often expected to work for free - for close friends.

http://www.photographytalk.com/4315-reasons-why-professional-photographers-cannot-work-for-free
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Comments

  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,100Member
    one hotel manager said to me " this young couple dont have much money so we need to do our best for them"
    I replied that "if we dont make a profit we wont be doing anything for anybody" hotel now up for sale..!!

  • framerframer Posts: 491Member
    Regardless of profession, you are disrespecting them for asking. They are aware of the situation but I can think of several reasons for them not to offer. Now taking a camera and snapping a few pictures to share would be done just like any guest might do. Having been self employed most of my life I understand what it costs to wakeup in the morning.

    framer
  • ElvisheferElvishefer Posts: 329Member
    While not a 'professional' photographer, I did a job a couple of weeks ago and gave a 'friends and family rate' to do it.

    Got a parking ticket while I was shooting. Suddenly, the good mojo I got for doing the job and small fee did not cover the costs of doing the work.

    I think if I was a pro I would need to be tougher about setting fees.
    D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 24-70mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4G, 200mm f/4 Micro, 105mm f/2.8 VRII Micro, 35mm f/1.8, 2xSB900, 1xSB910, R1C1, RRS Support...

    ... And no time to use them.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    Now taking a camera and snapping a few pictures to share would be done just like any guest might do.
    This is something I now try to avoid; as it inevitably leads to " Ah 'glad you brought your camera, would mind just photographing ............... "

    I have also stopped doing a "friends rate"



  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,351Member
    Many professionals do work for free for friends or people without money. My brother is a doctor and about 10% of the work he does is for free. I am a lawyer and about 10% of the work I do is for free. That amount of fee work is typical of all the doctors and lawyers I know. Why shouldn't it also be true of professional photographers? I do believe professionals should feel an obligation to provide their service free to people who need it and don't have the funds to pay for it. To me part of being a professional is having the sensitivity to provide your service to people who cannot pay for it. I often take my camera to events so I can provide free photos of children and facebook profile type photos. People often have very cute charming children and they do not (or will not) pay to have good candid photos taken of those children. I have photographed bands for free. But I never take my camera to a wedding because I do not want to interfere with the professional working the event or to reduce the number of photos they sell because the couple as a lot of free ones from me. I don't want to reduce anyone's income but I do want to produce some images which make people look good, feel better about themselves because they look good, and have some images from their childhood which later will make themselves feel good about having been a cute child.
  • MikeGunterMikeGunter Posts: 543Member
    Hi all,

    I don't ever recall being 'asked' do something for 'free' that bothered me.

    @donaldejose - probably the best position to take on professional work (one inserts percentage of comfort due to station in life).

    My best,

    Mike
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    There are some professions which I am aware of which have a cash flow large enough to provide some "free" or pro bono services. Often in medicine individuals will ask a physician for a prescription for this or that. In every state I know (USA) the practice of providing medical services to a patient, i.e., writing a prescription is illegal unless the physician has examined the patient and has a medical record which includes a diagnosis and treatment plan. Failure to do this can result in suspension of one's medical license if for instance a complication occurred.

    A photographer may be asked to take photos for some event with no fee. In cases like this one response can be, "Do I arrange the camera and lighting rental or will you take care of that. Here is what I think we will need." etc….. Or, "I would love to do this job for free. Unfortunately I have something already schedule for that time."
    If invited to a wedding, then asked to shoot some photos, " I am afraid I have to leave right after the service.

    One issue we all face is our misunderstanding of our personal boundaries and when we can say "no". It is presumptuous of someone to ask for free services. Like going to the car dealer and saying, "Can you get me a car for a wedding?" Usually, fi we feel as if we are being taken advantage of, our response will be anger. This creates a far more difficult interaction as psychologically we are now impaired by our own emotions and the appropriate response may not be available for us in the moment.

    There is no need to give an explanation as to why we are refusing free services. But, as narcissistic behaviors (asking as if entitled) will often result in an angry response when confronted, the nest method may be to offer a reason for the refusal which cannot be argued against. Or, one of the ideas above.

    If anyone has specific inquiries about my qualifications to offer this opinion, please PM me.
    Msmoto, mod
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited April 2014
    In my experience friends do not ask for something for free, they will ask how much it will cost
    The problem can comes when you tell them, it is going to cost 10 times what they were expecting



    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,290Moderator
    "our response will be anger. This creates a far more difficult interaction as psychologically we are now impaired by our own emotions and the appropriate response may not be available for us in the moment."

    Well put Tommie. IMHO this also applies as the reason for some interactions on internet forums.
    Always learning.
  • TomBTomB Posts: 44Member
    Tommie hit the nail on the head.

    I usually tell folks that I take pictures of Birds for a reason. Cause birds don't require contracts. I do....
    Www.timbersnakestudios.com
  • Vipmediastar_JZVipmediastar_JZ Posts: 1,708Member
    edited April 2014
    My cousin has a DJ music business. For the family he has never charged and for friends I am not sure. Whenever he needs something from me in return he gets free IT work and he never needs photos but he does volunteer for photos when he visits.

    For family I may or may not discount it maybe I'll do it for free if they are close and I can use it to practice. For friends I give them my rates and contract to sign.

    I have asked people for Time for prints scenarios but when they approach me it is usually my rates and I don't hear from them again. I'm ok with that and when I do get a gig its the money used to add to my wants.


    this area requires money to continue but it is a rewarding hobby over spending the money at the bar or other activites. IF it comes to it you can sell and recover some of your money back.
    Post edited by Vipmediastar_JZ on
  • manhattanboymanhattanboy Posts: 1,000Member
    In every state I know (USA) the practice of providing medical services to a patient, i.e., writing a prescription is illegal unless the physician has examined the patient and has a medical record which includes a diagnosis and treatment plan. Failure to do this can result in suspension of one's medical license if for instance a complication occurred.
    This is not true. A physician can write a script for anyone (no documentation or exam needed) but by doing so opens him/herself up to the liability from those actions... e.g. patient has an allergic reaction, etc.

    I would think the same also applies to a photographer, wherein you can shoot for anyone, but if your lighting set-up accidentally catches fire, you are liable for all damages. The rate should be adjusted for the risk.
  • FritzFritz Posts: 140Member
    I understand how professionals in a highly competitive marketplace feel. In my own occupation I will not pick up a tool unless I get paid, but then I've got 44 years of hard won experience and knowledge and I'm not about to give that away for nothing. People forget that what might be fun for them is work for me and how I put food on the table. I would never ask another self employed individual to work for me without compensation and I expect the same courtesy in return. That isn't to say that I won't barter my specialty for some one else's or that I won't donate my services to a worthwhile cause because I do, but I don't consider that giving my services away. How would most people feel if when they went to work tomorrow the boss said to them " how'd you like to do me a favor and work for nothing today"? I suspect I know what the reply might be.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,290Moderator
    How would most people feel if when they went to work tomorrow the boss said to them " how'd you like to do me a favor and work for nothing today"? I suspect I know what the reply might be.
    Haven't you heard of the new 'zero hour' contracts that are in widespread use now? You can easily earn less than minimum wage these days. Welcome to the 21st century - one step forward, two steps back.
    Always learning.
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,200Member
    People forget that what might be fun for them is work for me ....
    I think this is a huge contributing factor in why people tend to ask for photography services and never offer compensation in return. They view images on your website or have seen your work somewhere, like it, and ask you to do some work for them not really knowing how much work went into capturing those images that they've liked. I can understand people who hear your rates and then change their minds, but I don't understand how some pelple - even friends or family - can ask you to do a job and not even hint that they would like to give you a little something in return.

    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    I wonder how many professional photographes ask other professionals (computer people for example?) for free services?
    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • framerframer Posts: 491Member
    Now taking a camera and snapping a few pictures to share would be done just like any guest might do.
    This is something I now try to avoid; as it inevitably leads to " Ah 'glad you brought your camera, would mind just photographing ............... "

    I have also stopped doing a "friends rate"



    You do need to know how to say "NO" like a politician. Don't look or act like a photographer at the event. Think Coolpix...

    framer
  • Parke1953Parke1953 Posts: 456Member
    Reasons why professional photographers cannot work for free. 1, They will starve to death.

    To me a professional photographer means they do some kind of photography for a living. No pay no food.
    Go back to #1. I would trade services though. Mom or dad would be free.
  • safyresafyre Posts: 113Member
    Only a couple reasons to justify a professional (as in getting paid for a living) photographer to not charge (or charge less than normal) for services.

    1. Trying to branch into a new field of photographer and needing to build up a portfolio to eventually get paying clients.
    2. Taking part in a major project (publication, media, etc) that will generate enough publicity that could eventually lead to more paying clients.
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    I find most of these conversations about not being paid coming from non-pros who get sucked into doing work for free, then spending 20, 30, 40+ hours editing photos and knowing it is a "job" at that point. Those who are working pros, know exactly what they would do for free - and it evolves making average work with little or no editing unless it is truly a gift for family or friends.

    When I talk to people very few really understand that a good photo takes hours not just a click of the shutter.

    I'll use a story board line like;
    "Take 400 photos, 30 sec each to review and decide which are good.
    That get's it down to about 100. That is about 4 hours or a morning.
    Second pass - 5 min each and end up with about 25. That's half of my afternoon.
    Figure about 15 min on each of the 25. That is another 6.5 hours.
    Pick 5 for "really finished" photos and that is an hour each of editing. 5 hours.
    1 hour to "package it."
    A 1-2 hour to shoot results in 20 hours of work."
    When they do the math: Minimum wage for 20 hours = $145.

    I have that conversation with those who I know will ask for "free" work way before they ever get a chance to ask.

    If it involves me doing something outside of me going about my day, I always charge something - even if it is just "minimum wage". If I'm out with friends and capture a great moment, free. If I'm asked to "bring" or "could I stop by?" I'm charging something or getting a case of beer for free. ;)

    I do not believe in "could eventually lead to more playing clients" - it never does.


    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 690Member
    edited April 2014
    Only a couple reasons to justify a professional (as in getting paid for a living) photographer to not charge (or charge less than normal) for services.

    1. Trying to branch into a new field of photographer and needing to build up a portfolio to eventually get paying clients.
    2. Taking part in a major project (publication, media, etc) that will generate enough publicity that could eventually lead to more paying clients.

    I spent the morning today taking pictures of belts, bearings, and bolts. (Someone on this very forum once commented that my photos are boring,) At least I am getting paid for them.

    Recently I took a number of family and personal portraits for almost free: I got the cost of the materials back for the prints, but I didn't charge for my time. As stated above, I am not a portrait photographer, and I thought it would be fun to try it out, as nobody ever paid me for portraits before. With the valuable experience I've gained, I believe I am now ready to get a job taking driver's license and jail booking photos.

    I am proud to say that one of my subjects told me the photo I gave her was the best portrait she has ever had in her life. (She's 82.) I admit it, I worked for the compliments!
    Post edited by Symphotic on
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • manhattanboymanhattanboy Posts: 1,000Member
    Only a couple reasons to justify a professional (as in getting paid for a living) photographer to not charge (or charge less than normal) for services.
    [ ]
    2. Taking part in a major project (publication, media, etc) that will generate enough publicity that could eventually lead to more paying clients.
    Number 2 is dangerous as many clientsthink that they are in that league, but most are not. It's a harsh but necessary statement to say I am not working for free, AND you are not that famous. :D
  • michael66michael66 Posts: 231Member
    I wonder how many professional photographes ask other professionals (computer people for example?) for free services?
    Heh. I'm a programmer by profession. And make twice what most pro-photographers make. They come to me all the time and ask for help and/or advice. When I go to them with specific questions/issues... oh, the hemming and hawing. My Dentist does better quid pro quo.

    And while I'm here; ever do charity work? Would I be able to count hours worked x my rate for tax purposes? :D
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,135Member
    A similar thing happened a week ago. My school had some sort of speech event where they give talks on ideas and stuff. It was supposed to be with TED Talks or something. My class mate that I don't even know too well asked me to do the event. She said the event was from 11 to 8 at night. Lunch and booze is free, no other payments go to me. Even if I do go, that doesn't even include the time it takes to review images and the physical and mental stress I need to go through.

    People need to understand, I like photography, but that doesn't mean I like photographing people I don't know.

    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • DeanMoriartyDeanMoriarty Posts: 15Member
    I usually just have seminars for my "free work" helping some one who is in another profession and may not be a professional photographer or would just like to understand the dynamics of shooting or shooting in a certain environment. I believe in helping your fellow man but "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" sorry if any one gets offended it is from the bible, but its the only good quote I remember from when I was little lol.
    D800, D700, D300s, Nikkormat FTn, Hasselblad 500c, Holy Trinity, 50mm1.4D, 10.5mm 2.8g, f-stop gear.
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