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Working for Free, part 2
Dan Routh, Photographer
Greensboro | NC | USA | Posted: 1:46 PM on 06.03.08
->> I have been following this thread as well as the thread on waiting 4 months to get paid and both have struck a familiar cord. I have seen both situations up close and personnal lately and I too have been trying to come up with solutions on how to deal with the business climate in our profession. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of solutions, just a lot examples of how things have gone to s**t.

I've been in the photography business for about 30 years, shooting mostly advertising and some editorial. I've never gotten rich, but I have been able to marry, buy a house, raise two sons and in 2 years have them (with God's help) both through college. For most of those years, photography was a normal business. I offered a quality product at a fair price and recieved payment for what I did in a reasonable amount of time. There have always been ups and downs, but over the long run, I have been able to make a living.

Lately I have begun to wonder. Every week I recieve calls (usely several) from people needing photographs. When I ask them what usage they require, they get silent and when I tell them I will be glad to sell them that usage for a fee, they usually never respond again. Now these aren't individuals, they are people working for banks, builders, lawyers, etc. who want images for their business web site, brochure, etc. They want my images to market their business without any payment to my business.

At the same time, I am noticing that clients I do work for directly are taking longer and longer to pay for the services I provide. The big companies are not as bad as the agencies, trade magazines aren't too bad, and consumer magazines are the worst. Seems like the smaller the job, the longer it takes to get paid.

What's causing all of this? Wish I knew. Maybe the economy just sucks bad enough, maybe its the internet revolution that pushes the notion that information and images are or should be free, maybe it's lowballers and hobbyists that are pushing down the market, maybe it's buyers who are better at bargaining. Maybe it's all of that or more.

Whatever it is, times have surely changed and not for the good. I've heard people say that change is enevitable and we need to be open to the opportunities that come with a new economic model. I'm still looking for those opportunities. I do believe however that we've seen a general devaluation in photography, by clients and worse, by photographers themselves. Unless you place a value on what you do, nobody else will ever do it for you. Giving work away in the attempt to get more work is not a business model for success, but is rather a sure recipe for failure. You are your best and probably only advocate, so it is up to you to market your assets as being worth something. Learn to say no to bad deals and poor terms. If enough of us do, then maybe this thing will eventually turn around.

I plan on shooting for several more years, since after the kid's education, I might be able to put something away for myself and the wife. I will continue to field the calls from people that have no idea what photography is worth and will try to find those that do.

Dan Routh
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Joshua Brown, Photographer
Waynesville | NC | USA | Posted: 3:58 PM on 06.03.08
->> I'm not sure of every reason, but one reason why people want or expect free photos are the rise of the so called micro-stock photo agencies like istockphoto. I don't know how long they've been around but when money is the bottom line, if I can go to istockphoto and pay $25 for my ad or the local photog and pay $750, it's a no-brainer for the accountant. It seems to me that photo sites like this drag the value of images down even further.
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William Jurasz, Photographer, Assistant
Cedar Park | TX | USA | Posted: 8:54 AM on 06.04.08
->> Dan, I don't think those people want to use your photos with no payment to your business, I think they simply want to make a small payment to your business. I also don't think they understand, or maybe simply don't agree with, the value-pricing practice that photography has had in the past. In their mind the photograph takes the same amount of work no matter how often they use the copy, so why should you get paid more simply because they use the photograph more (i.e. its not extra work on your part). They're looking for a cost-price, you're looking for a valued-price.
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Joseph Brymer, Photographer
Lincolnton | NC | usa | Posted: 9:36 AM on 06.04.08
->> I believe several factors are at play here, the economy,micro stock agencies, the fact that everyone and there brother now has a digital camera of some sorts and will do this for free, just because it's fun to them. If I can get cousin Bob to do this for little or nothing why should I pay you. Photography has always been devalued as a real art but now that digital has become so easy to use with so many free programs why should you be paid? Don't get me wrong I don't want to sound like an old timer here. I was one of the first wayyy back in 1998 (Oh wait a minute I do sound like an old timer) to go digital with a Canon/Kodak DCS 520. But there was a certain mystic about the art before digital no one dared venture into this field if they didn't have a darkroom and know what D76, Dektol, Tri-X, E6 or K14 was, and I bet half of the newer members here don't.
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John H. Reid III, Photographer
Gates Mills | OH | USA | Posted: 10:15 AM on 06.04.08
->> William,

I do think that the people calling Dan want the images to use for free. I get calls all the time wanting photos, and when I tell them there is a fee they tell me "but(name) person, team, school gives them to us for free." I have had people tell me that they thought I would enjoy the publicity of being in/on (xyz) publication / website, etc. I've had people pull my photos off other websites (where I am paid) and when I tell them to take them off their (fanzine type) websites they are stunned that I don't want the "publicity." We never even get to the what fee for what usage stage, as they are anticipating no fee. Perhaps in the areas you work this has not become an issue. All I can say is that for those who photograph pro sports (for me it's football and baseball) frequently it is a big issue.

Joseph - ahh K14 you give us those nice bright colors...
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Dan Routh, Photographer
Greensboro | NC | USA | Posted: 10:57 AM on 06.04.08
->> William,

"Dan, I don't think those people want to use your photos with no payment to your business, I think they simply want to make a small payment to your business."

Unfortunately, William these people are asking for photos for free. A few are willing to pay for a physical print, but they think the image is free. You speak of the value-pricing practice as being part of the past. If there is no value placed on images then there will be no future.
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Mark Smith, Photographer
Elk City | OK | USA | Posted: 11:21 AM on 06.04.08
->> What is amazing to me is the the people who want to give you a photo credit are so impressed by their product that they think that your product should feel priveleged to be associated with theirs. They are proud of their product, hold it in high esteem, and charge people for it, charge advertisers, but by the some token, can't understand why we want to charge for ours. I asked an editor one time who was wanting one of my photos gratis, "What kind of product do you think you'd have if one day your publisher asked everyone to take a %100 pay cut, but everyone will still have their names in the paper?"
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Jim Work, Photographer
Alpine | TX | USA | Posted: 12:17 PM on 06.04.08
->> okay.......I have sat on the sideline of the working for free threads and I am on board with not giving my work away when someone asks for free they want something from me, they make a request of you to donate images to their magazine,publication,website,whatever,for little or no compensation. You just say no.
That being said, what's is your feeling on pro-bono work ? Other professional have done this for years (doctors, lawyers). Is it harmful to our profession at large to donate our services to what we deem worthwhile causes.
I recently volunteered my services to a Christian Orphans group. Some images are posted on my member page. I paid my own way to India (I did use AA miles to pay for the ticket) and paid for a majority of my own expenses (they picked up a meal or two).
I did this as something that I wanted to do and I was the one who approached them. It was a great experience for me personally and for my heart. As with everything in life, it was not all that I invisioned or wanted, but I am always wanting more. 2..God Spede..jim
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Dan Routh, Photographer
Greensboro | NC | USA | Posted: 1:07 PM on 06.04.08
->> I think when you are talking about pro-bono for a really worthy cause, that is not doing something for free, you are actually recieving something for it, a good feeling. IE, I have no problem for someone doing good works. That being said, however, all charities are not necessarily in need. I had a request for an image from a big national charity and the lady asked me if I had a non-profit price. I looked at their annual report online. They pay their CEO about 1/2million a year, have something like 15-20 million/year in retirement for their staff and show almost 1 billion in cash on hand. I told her all my prices lately were non-profit.
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Daniel Celvi, Student/Intern
Carbondale | IL | | Posted: 3:02 PM on 06.04.08
->> I still contend that it does have a lot to do with photographers devaluing their own work, and not even just the stooge with a DSLR. It's a lot of photographers.

As a recent example of this, a good friend of mine was in a class about writing graphic novels (I'd just say comics, but I'm told there's a difference?). So of course the final project was to have a script with dialogue, and illustrations for each "page" (as I found out, a five page comic has like 15 pages of writing stuffs). Seeing as it is a writing class, he is allowed to find someone else to illustrate it, and does. He was nice and even paid the kid (not much, but they're both college students—what'd you expect?).

So day the project is due, my friend gets the work from the illustrator. It's all just splices of scenes he stole from the movie "Old Boy." The "illustrator" didn't see what was wrong with that. Thankfully, the professor gave my friend an extension on the project when he saw the stolen material illustrations.

The point being, even artists, illustrators, and especially photographers entering the field nowadays don't seem to understand ownership, so of course they'll give work away for free. They don't even understand that it is not just a material issue of value, it takes a lot of your time and knowledge. I'm only 21, and I've already lost jobs to people the same age as me because hey—they'll do it for free. It's great experience! I'm apparently the one that was greedy that wanted to get paid for work. No seriously, I've had peers give me shocked looks when I say I charge. They seem to think I shouldn't be doing that.
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Yamil Sued, Photographer, Photo Editor
Peoria | AZ | USA | Posted: 11:12 PM on 06.04.08
->> Daniel, after 23 years in the business, doing Corporate/ Commercial/ catalog work, the industry is changing, and changing fast!!

Back in the mid 80's, when I got started, my day rate was $1200 per day for Commercial work, with todays competition and the internet, My day rate has not gone up that much, and i have been doing this for 23 years.

Yes, I can work faster now with Digital, and even deliver images the same day to some customers with FTP Sites. With less overhead and espenses (No Film, Polaroids and Processing) I spend a lot less and make a little ore, but not much more than the days of the $1200 day Rates. Nowadays some customers expect a Per-Shot fees, I give them that, but I'm able to shoot more Shots per day and make more than if I charged the Day Rate anyway.

I don't advocate giving your work away, but pricing yourself to your market and what the market will bear is more important.

BTW, I do Probono work for certain charities, one of them is the Ronald McDonald House, IMHO, they are worth my time and effort.

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Eric Canha, Photographer
Not Listed | MA | United States | Posted: 11:38 PM on 06.04.08
->> Jim you did not work for free. Some payments aren't meant to be paid here and now. You reward will be waiting for you, don't rush to get to it.

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Ed J. Szalajeski, Photographer
Portland | ME | USA | Posted: 1:24 PM on 06.18.08
->> This topic is painful enough that even the great Dilbert talks about Slow Paying, or big companies being non payers of invoices.

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Erik Markov, Photographer
Kokomo | IN | | Posted: 5:50 PM on 06.18.08
->> Getting paid late isn't just photographers. My mom works as a sub-rep for gift companies; selling cards, candles other related items. There is one head rep who takes care of lining up the different companies, collecting commissions for all the reps under him who work for him etc. She usually carries about 25-30 different lines at any one time. She's got one customer who owns a card store begins with h, ends with k (can guess which one)

This business doesn't always pay exactly on time for the items my mom has sold them, but they are pretty consistent about paying.

The customer made a comment to my mom that her job must be pretty good, traveling around, making good commissions etc. Then the customer asked about people who pay late, how do the companies handle that? My mom still gets her commission checks on time right??

My mom explained to the customer that if the customer pays late to the gift company as she has a couple times, my mom doesn't get paid until the company receives their money, who then sends on the commission to the head rep who takes his percentage for the work he does, who sends it on to my mom. The lightbuld went off for this customer, who didn't realize the fact she pays late means my mom also has to wait for her commission.

This customer likes my mom because of the personal quick service she receives on items she orders, when she has a problem my mom is on the phone with the company trying to sort it out. Customers always like that side of it, not realizing that paying on time certainly helps that along.

People are dense, I hate to say it.
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Mark Davis, Photographer
Decatur | AL | USA | Posted: 6:21 PM on 06.18.08
->> Communicate with the client the importance of being paid on time and do so on the front end just as you talk about what the clients needs are, and be blunt about your payment terms.

Then have written terms in the estimate and invoice TELLING client when payment is expected, charge an admin fee on the front end significant enough to gain attention so the client will pay the invoice quickly and advices if not they must pay additional fee. If a client advices they need 90 days to pay, charge extra for it, after all we are photographers and not a bank or loan company. I just added $450 to an invoice for that with the clients full understanding of same.

I haven't had a slow paying client in two years.
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Michael Myers, Photographer
Miami Beach | FL | USA | Posted: 1:58 AM on 06.19.08
->> Just curious - I was reading "I think when you are talking about pro-bono for a really worthy cause, that is not doing something for free, you are actually recieving something for it, a good feeling".

I think we've decided that this is acceptable, or at least that most people reading this discussion seem to feel that way.

If so, why is it not acceptable for someone to be perfectly happy to see "his" (or "her") photo in print, with their name under it, even if they received no payment?

I know why it's not acceptable to the rest of us, but apparently there are many ways of payment. When I was growing up, I'd have accepted almost anything just to get "published", which at the time I thought was one of the the main goals of photography. Most people here seem to be pretending that this isn't a valid way to do things, and for them, I'm sure this is true, but how about the people who get all their enjoyment from simply being published, and who couldn't care less about being paid?
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Rich Cruse, Photographer
Laguna Niguel | CA | USA | Posted: 2:43 AM on 06.19.08
->> Since we photographers are the "little guys" and there are plenty of other photographers out there to choose from, we need to do what we can to ensure we are paid promptly.

There are things you can do to encourage, facilitate and guaranty prompt payment from clients.

Expand your capabilities to receive payment. Being able to accept a credit card is huge. I use PayPal for credit card payments, but depending on the amount of business you do, you may want to get a Merchant Account. You can also offer wire transfer. These all cost money to you, but it ensures almost immediate payment.

Require a deposit for commercial jobs and unknown/new clients, 50% up front and the balance due upon receipt of the finished images. This one took me a long time to realize. No one has ever complained.

You can also offer a discount if the invoice is paid in full within 7 days. This gives them incentive to pay early.

When you receive prompt payment, be sure to reinforce this with the client. Thank them for their prompt payment. Some new clients will ask you to give them a discount. Avoid this and instead offer a discount (if you choose) on the next job. These types of clients do this with everyone.

As far as magazines go, my experience is that they usually pay on the 15th or 30th of the issue date. This could be 3 months from when you took the photos. For assignment work, the key is to set the terms before you start. The magazine may have a customary payment schedule, but there is nothing wrong with you insisting on your terms of 30 days. They may or may not agree, but it is worth a shot.

Be smart about your business, people will respect you for it.
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Mark Davis, Photographer
Decatur | AL | USA | Posted: 9:54 AM on 06.19.08
->> Michael,

Educating photographers if they have quality photography they will be paid along with a byline.

Sadly, photographers are KNOWN for not being good at business, so Buyers of photography use that to their advantage. Everyone can be assured BUYERS are making a decent income. They are not working FREE. Photographers can too, but they must start out demanding money instead of just asking for a byline.
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Charles Ludeke, Student/Intern, Photographer
Columbia | MO | USA | Posted: 12:29 PM on 06.19.08
->> I guess I'm definitely going to heed some of the advice I've been given and take some business classes.

I'll add a minor in business before I graduate. Hopefully that gets me a good sense of things before I really get into this career.
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Phil Hawkins, Photographer
Fresno | ca | usa | Posted: 1:07 PM on 06.19.08
->> The problem with the photography business is there is such a huge amateur element. There are huge numbers of people out there (see with increasingly sophisticated equipment they do not know how to use fully, yet are able to generate "execellent" photos, mostly by accident. A huge percentage of this group wants to make a living at it, but do not know how, are afraid, insecure, etc. And if someone comes along and actually wants to use a shot, they're so THANKFUL someone thinks they are "good enough" they do not care about the money, and sometimes would pay to get their photo used. We are in a unique industry in that regard.

On a spot basis, we will go up against this kind of situation more and more as the cost of good equipment comes down. But for a talented photographer who can be relied upon repeatedly, and has good business sense, and who can be persistent in his efforts to put himself out there professionally, success can and will happen. But whining about the stray amateur (I know, there are hordes of stray amateurs) is not going to solve your problem. It certainly is not going to get you more business or impress PEs. In the last year there has been a marked increase in this whining on this board, and it's getting old.

Forget those amateurs and focus on what you CAN control, and your head will be clearer, and your business will advance more quickly. If you need to wait tables to make ends meet, then wait tables. But amateurs are just that; separate yourself and move forward.
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Mark Davis, Photographer
Decatur | AL | USA | Posted: 2:24 PM on 06.19.08
->> One can assume PE's have SS bookmarked this is where to go for FREE/CHEAP work. There seems to be more amateurs on SS than pros. Not in the sense of shooting but in the sense of arguing why not to be paid. This is not found on other forums such as ASMP or EP.
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Rich Cruse, Photographer
Laguna Niguel | CA | USA | Posted: 3:31 PM on 06.19.08
->> I wish I had taken some business classes too.

I would have learned: not to spend money before I get it, creating a business plan, to learn about financing my business with a business loan and not personal credit and setting up an accounting/billing program at the start.

I personally recommend, not holding on to photo and computer gear you are no longer using. That is money just sitting there on the shelf. These items do not go up in value either! I had a roommate who kept every camera he ever owned- and never used them. He had at least $2000 worth of gear gathering dust! Sell that stuff and put some cash in the bank or buy that D300 you've been wanting.
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Paul Jordan, Photographer
Rochester | NY | USA | Posted: 9:12 AM on 06.20.08
->> I started shooting sports photography for the LAMRON paper at SUNY Geneseo in 1978. HC-110 was my cologne of choice, usually applied between 1am and 4am. A big hit with the ladies by the way. I loved B&W and completely sucked at reeling in the dark. Always had a kink or two ruining frames. Being published with no compensation is how I started.

I then spent several years showing bits and bytes who is boss. Fast forward a million years and I now own a manufacturing business that has nothing to do with photography. Off and on I spend a fair amount of time shooting sports. And I get paid for it. When my manufacturing business needs photography (products, building, etc.) I am fully armed and capable. I instead hire a local, slightly flaky pro photographer (for some reason those four words always seem to go together) whom I met decades ago.

I shoot for fun but get paid. I do shoot on spec on occasion but still manage to work the situation post-shoot to get paid. Unless my kids are involved, the only time I shoot without getting paid is when I need the practice.

That last paragraph comes as a sole and direct result of finding and reading this site several years ago. I lurked forever before finding a sponsor and becoming a member. So if you think these threads are tired and repetitive, just remember that someone, somewhere is reading all this for the first time.

So yes, I am the amateur photog with The Gear Paid For By Other Means (running the Blues Brothers behind-the-chicken-wire scene in head now). The vast majority of your collective photography skills blow mine out of the water, I don't pretend otherwise.

But I do insist on being paid for photographic results, even when it seems excruciatingly uncomfortable to do so. This site put me over that mental hump with regard to requiring payment. For all the bazillion amateurs out there floating around with little direction, well I don't think they have one iota of a clue what "free photography" does to the whole structure of things. And I am not sure they ever will.

So I fully concur with the "see it, process it, and then get over it" school of thinking with regard to competing with the free amateurs. The "full-time professional photographer" ranks are thinning out, and in between you and the amateurs are now a whole host of folks (there are at least 2-3 a week in this area) incorporating themselves as one-person photo businesses willing to take on weddings, etc. at entry-rate prices. They are looking for ways to supplement their income and their rates are nowhere near what the royal "you" would charge. They usually don't have staying power but any that fall out are being replaced on a weekly basis.

So some tides are turning and there is now a whole gamut between the $1500 dayrate guy and the shoot-for-free mom and pops. From what I have seen in the last 30 years, that top-dollar dayrate guy or gal now has to be pretty darned special, much more so than in years past. The end result is that there is and will be fewer and fewer in that group. And God bless 'em, because they are some damned fine and talented folk.

Finding ways to differentiate, finding ways to branch out, learning new skills, etc. all go a long ways in allowing anyone to make it in any field. Photography even more so in my opinion. Just remember there are not a ton of wanna-work-for-free accountants, brick layers, waiters or managers. Photography is cool, fun and appeals to almost everyone. To remain a "pro" means you really have to stay nimble and always have the business end of things in mind. And you have my undying respect and well-wishes along the way.

BTW before anyone asks, I am not the guy in the UK shooting models and bands. Or the BBC guy into shooting the pyramids. Or the geocaching guy who does photography. I'm the guy.
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Jim Work, Photographer
Alpine | TX | USA | Posted: 9:57 AM on 06.20.08
->> I kind of got started in this business at the ripe old age of 12. I loved photography and I loved baseball. My father, tiring of hearing me complain about how bad the baseball action photos were in the local paper, suggested that I sell them some photos.

This was 1960, I had an old Rollieflex that I bought for $50.00 and a $15.00 Metz flash. I sold photos to the paper for $5.00. They used 10-12 of them a week. Not a bad pay check for a kid with no overhead.

Now, forward almost 50 years. I have a $5000 camera, several thousands in glass, and a lot more overhead. The local paper still wants to pay me $5.00 for using one of my photos.

You do the math.............God Spede....jim
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Richard Uhlhorn, Photographer
Chelan Falls | WA | USA | Posted: 10:44 AM on 06.20.08
->> What I have noticed is not slow payment, but an economy that is beginning to slip further and further into the red.
I'm just not getting the calls I was getting last year or the year before. Living in a rural area means a photographer becomes a generalist out of necessity, so I will photograph anything and everything as long as the client is willing to pay the price.

Last year, a lot of my business came from real estate companies trying to sell million dollar properties. This year, that business is just beginning to pick up as more of these clients begin to realize they need quality photography for advertising purposes.

My weddings are down and I can't tell you how many people are telling me that they have a friend with a new digital camera who is willing to to the wedding for nothing.

So far, getting paid has not been a problem.

I rarely do pro bono work, but have been known to give stock images for web use to organizations who have no money whatsoever, but are promoting something I truly believe in such as.

Giving this work to the Valley Vision Group has resulted in more than enough work to justify the gift.

My biggest hope is that the dollar will regain some strength and that a new administration will begin to change the economic climate in this country.

As Chase Jarvis said in his wonderful slide show he presented in New York to the Photoshelter convention:
"Turn That Frown Upside Down"

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Thread Title: Working for Free, part 2
Thread Started By: Dan Routh
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