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Monday, 20 April 2015


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Yes, there is a problem with peoples' perceptions of the value of things they get for free.
One idea I've heard, but never used, it to always sent an invoice, even if your are not charging. List the price you would have charged and then list a discount for the same amount whether it be a "friend discount" or "family discount." This way there is a zero balance, but they can see what they would have been charged, had they not gotten it for free.
I'm wondering if there are other TOP readers who have done this.



Not sure of the origins for this link, however, I find it amusing and spot on.

This working for free nonsense has long been a staple of fashion magazines.

A friend of a friend worked for one of these publications (can't name names but they were owned by a major, major company) recently and the cost of the shoot him personally in excess of £20,000. When I expressed my shock and dismay at this. I was given the old sop of 'think of the publicity and advertising'.

Yeah, but you've got to do twenty grand's worth of work just to break even.

PS: I know of up and coming models who have do advertising for top, top fashion labels for free because their agents tell them it's a good move.

I'll do free work, only for non-for-profits or a woman who has delivered my children.

The non-for-profit work tends to focus on making me happy with myself, and has turned into my best marketing materials over the years. It gives me the most leeway to create the work I want to create while giving me an in with subjects so I can get them to do what I need from them. So we both get what we want from it, win-win.

In the case of the woman who has delivered my children, I just don't want her to kill me, let's call that a win-win also.


My photography is used in a lot of contexts where most of the participants are donating their time, including me. I've seen photographers and others try to come in and claim that their time is too valuable to donate and they have to be paid; this has rarely ended well (since the money just isn't there, and the position is easily read as claiming they're more important than everybody else volunteering for this activity).

On the other hand, these things are most reasonably viewed as hobby activities for everybody involved, where nobody is getting paid. When one starts to get asked to volunteer to support a for-profit enterprise (I'm not really talking about the formal legal organization there, mind you), though, that seems a reasonable place to draw the line. (In fact, some states have very clear laws forbidding volunteer work for many kinds of for-profit enterprises; these often cover unpaid internships, too.)

Pat has one more choice and its the one I always choose: Yes you can use my images and the price is ... (whatever you think is a fair and reasonable price). I've found that more often than not, clients don't react negatively when they realize they're in a business transaction and that the price seems fair. And, more often than not, if the client doesn't feel the price is fair, they'll react in a way that kicks off a normal negotiation process. If you pick either of the other options Pat listed, no such negotiation ever has a chance of taking place.

"she thought the work itself was valueless because it cost nothing."

Man, I think that's the key. I hear the same thing from musicians and other artists: we tend to be treated as we price ourselves.

In fact all the way back before I was a photographer and was making a living in a different career, I took a lesson from a colleague who offered a "friends and family" rate when she wanted to provide a steep discount for her services. That way she never offended people by saying no.

These days I always charge something, even if it's just a token amount (except for one favorite annual charity donation).

I am fortunate to have had another career, so photography for me is mostly a joy, but the old line, "a person who charges no fee is worth no fee," probably still holds. I have given my work away to non-profits for them to sell and while that is all right with me, there then become two contributions to the non-profit, one from me and one from the person who buys the work. Lately the non-profits been quite happy to have the work but not so punctual at telling me it sold or for how much. I do give work away as gifts, or in exchange for favors (e.g. a nice photo for the use of my brother-in-law's beach home), but there's usually no quid pro quo in these. A person whose profession is photography should ALWAYS be paid for their work if they want to be. As a physician, I occasionally worked for free at clinics for underprivileged children, but could not do that always without putting my basic livelihood at risk.

I learned this lesson the hard way, too. When I was one of the official track photographers for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, I was contacted by cell phone by the principal of a "umbrella girls" company to photograph her models on the victory podium after a American LeMans Series race. I agreed, and spent about 20-30 minutes after the race photographing them. I was contacted by her operations manager a few weeks later, asking about the obtaining the images, saying she wanted them for publishing in a company promotional calendar for year's end. I told her I was wiling to provide the images, but expected to be compensated for them. She said to send them and she would contact me after reviewing them. I spent about three hours in post working on the selection of images I shot and sent her a CD with watermarked proofs for review. The operations manager contacted me again, said she wanted to use them and I told her to send me $500 for a one-time use license for the entire set of images (I should point out that the going rate for Photoshop work in the Bay Area is about $150/hr). She replied, "Oh well, the photographers used to give them to us for free." I asked her if the printer was going to print them for free; she said, "No." "Then why should I provide you with photographic content for commercial use to promote your business for free?", at which point she hung up.

I mentioned this afterward to a fellow pro, and he said, "You should have sent her an invoice for a "kill" fee." Lesson learned: when undertaking any photography assignment which you believe to have value, have the client sign a statement of work, license agreement, etc., for your work up front. If they like the work, they will pay for the images according to the terms of the licensing agreement; if not, they pay you a "kill" fee for work you did for them that they chose not to use.

I want to set up a hot dog stand at the fair, next to the food vendors, and I'm going to give away the hot dogs, because, hey, I don't need the money and I just like doing it. It's my hobby. How soon before the rest of the vendors run me out of there?

Problem is, people give it away all the time that I can't see to run off. And doing it thinking they are going to get exposure is a joke. "People die of exposure," is what I say. There is never another paid job down the line. Just more freebie requests. And another one behind you willing to give it away.

I had a big glossy magazine, Boulder Magazine, full of ads for jewelry and luxury cars, call and say they wanted flood photos--I documented a flood in my town which was cut off from the rest of the world for three days as all the roads leading in were destroyed, so I had exclusive photos--but unfortunately, they said, there was no budget for photos. I explained that the unfortunate situation of not having a budget isn't something that they were a victim of, but that they were the ones that didn't assign a budget for photography, because they figured they could get it for free. They didn't, not from me.

Whenever I see a caption that says "Courtesy of..." I know someone else gave it away.

I had an idea for uniting as "Artists United" -- I even made a website: ArtistsUnited.org -- and in my perfect world, venues that use photographers and any kinds of artists would be signators, and if you didn't support artists by signing up to be one, no one would work for you. And the artists would only work where they were professionally paid for their work.

Basically, I think the only way to make a change is we have to shame the folks who ask for it for free so that it's so taboo that it never happens. And shame the ones who do it for free, too. Maybe some kind of a public outing.

Seems like my plumber doesn't have this problem.

Price, among other things, is also information. A price of zero informs everyone that the value is zero. If all you want is exposure, then by all means give your work away for free. This makes sense for any field of the arts, especially performance arts, when the the artist values the size of the audience above all else.

Of course in the long term, the free distribution of art can lead to shrinking audiences. Consider a publisher that is looking to publish a book of photographs - how much could he charge for a book of photographs that have no value? If you want others to attribute value to your work, you have to put a price on it and never ever give it away for free. Discounts are fine, and barter trades are also fine. Freebies will get you nowhere.

In this particular case, I would recommend to barter trade the photographs for free concert tickets, an exclusive photo session or a free seat on the tour bus.

Giving away photos really is a zero sum game; you get zero and they get game. Dying from exposure was the topic of a welcome piece in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/opinion/sunday/slaves-of-the-internet-unite.html.

Surely you have to value your own work before other people will.

"Working for free" is an oxymoron to me, in the sense that "work" is used here. Ted Forbes of Art of Photography just did a video on this very subject, which is worth a look.

It's a complicated question, but fortunately Jessica Hische has laid out the entire decision process at http://shouldiworkforfree.com (and the answer for a band was NO).

I can share another viewpoint from the computer side of things. I used to do computer tech and often I did not think what I did was really worth much if anything because it was so easy, however clients insisted on paying me. In fact I once got paid $40 to install a mouse. Yes I plugged it in and it worked.....
The people who work for free often fall in this realm. The work is easy and fun, so they don't really feel right charging for it. I mean anyone with a camera could do it right?
The problem is that we are told as kids that work is hard, and if you enjoy it so much it can't be worth anything.

As you say, this is a thorny question.

I fear that the ease which digital- and phone-photography has brought to the act of making pictures also cheapens the perceived value of a photograph (film or digital) made by a craftsman such as yourself or many of your readers.

Of course some people, like your friend, are just plain churlish.

Never do anything for free to which you make, or want to make, your living at.

Many times they ask you for free work and you find out later their regular photographer already refused to work for free.

Also it doesn't take long with the social media of today for the word to get out that you will work for nothing.

From Ted Forbes: Should I work for free? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7B5oGcatmE

Please tell me he tried to work it out with them before he aired that dirty laundry publicly? Yes, he should be paid however, if someone offers too little for your work, that's the starting point for a negotiation. If they absolutely refuse to pay at that point then it's unfair and reasonable to call them out. Not knowing all the details, it seems to me that it's quite possible that they paid for the session that generated that photo and thought that they had rights to it's use and merely wanted to give proper credit to the artist.

If that was his first response, then I would say this was poorly handled by him indeed. Perhaps the motivation for this was that he had an ax to grind from the prior album cover photo for which he was not paid....?

The world seems to value photography less with each passing day.
If you are a professional, giving your work away is generally a very poor business plan. Almost everyone I know has done it at one time or another, as a promotion, for a charity, or for personal reasons. It is very rare that I have seen instances where it was good for future business. More likely, it just puts you on the list of prople they ask for free stuff.

If you are not a professional it's a personal choice.

I do have one hard and fast rule, if a business, charity,or agency ASK for free work, the answer is Always no.
From time to time I may choose to send something to someone, but I never expect a business return.

YouTube , search for interview, "Harlan Ellison - Pay the Writer"

If you are dealing with a multi-million-dolar band like Garbage, I think you should consider the promotion factor.
They're not paying you with money, they're paying you with advertising. You instantly become "the Garbage photographer" (wich is actually way better than it sounds). Your pictures will be seen by millions of people that would never glance at you if you weren't there.

On the other hand (that is, the real world with the small jobs most of us usually get), you should always charge for your work.
Your time cost money, I don't care if you're a photographer, a lawyer or something else.
If you work for free, then all the other photographers make less money ("Why should I pay you X when that guy will do it for free?").

A friend of mine use to tease me saying that I don't really work. According to him, I just press a button and that's it.
He's forgetting the years I studied to learn when and how to do it. Most of the people tend to make that mistake.

This is a question many freelance and budding freelance photographers have to wrestle with. My advice is to never work for free. I'm not saying that you should never offer your services for no fee especially when there is a cause you want to be associated with, but there is always something you can get in return. Please understand that I am not talking about having your name in the byline, this is a stunt often used to get Photographers to work for nothing. Having your name beneath an image rarely does anyone any good. I'm talking about thinking that your services are indeed worth something and perhaps there is a trade or some barter that you can get out of it. Perhaps you are looking to further your portfolio with a particular kind of image, then perhaps you can do the shot your way and offer them usage. The point is ALWAYS think of your work as having value, and you decide what that value is worth.

Short answers.

Avocational/Hobbyist? Doesn't really matter. Do whatever makes you comfy. Remember, it's a hobby for you. Some people claim to try to recover their expenses but most likely fail (and lie).

Trying to Make a Living? Just say no* sans explanations or apologies. "No." Did the barber cut that kid's hair for gratis? If you can't get someone to value your work enough to pay for it, guess what? It might really not be worth anything.

* Exceptions: Discounts in support of charities or other non-profits you emotionally want to help. Public service/community service support where you'll get good exposure that might (but likely won't) lead to business.

Perfectly fine if you truly expect nothing in return- other than more offers to work for free.

I have no idea where or when our profession got to this, but it has been around as long as I can remember and I have been a pro' for more years than I care to calculate. I find it insulting when a model, for example expects to be paid but would never consider paying the photographer.
My only answer and it isn't a good one is for all of us to STOP SHOOTING FOR FREE!
Only my two centavos (cuz it ain't worth two pesos)

My rule is simple. If the group asking for a donation is one that I would otherwise give cash to because I believe in their work I will consider donating photographic work. Otherwise no. I almost never donate photographs, but I don't think that a complete blanket "never" decision is necessarily the right one.

And, of course, "exposure" is never going to convince me.

There is no problem; photography as a vocation requires payment, eventually.
A credit line is not payment in my book.

Donating your work for a good cause is one thing but to giving your work away to a for-profit business is wrong. Even if you don't need the money, you're wrecking an already marginal profession when you do professional work for free.

Same goes for selling images to Getty for cheap. It deprives other hard working photographers of getting a fair value for their stock images. Please pass on all those various Getty-backed schemes with Flickr and 500px, they are reprehensible and evil.

Really, I would spit in their eye.

If you want to make a living from your work, then either find customers who are prepared to pay for it or find another industry. The former assumes you are good enough.

Without trying to sound narky, keep in mind that many hobby photographers can to a comparable job to a so-called
"professional" photographer. NB: some photographic genres do require special equipment and/or skills.

Without putting to fine a point on it, there aren't many "hobby dentists" out there.

I believe for many consumers, photography that is near enough is more than good enough. As with the digital transition, there is also a shake-down happening for photographers: only the ones with the right equipment, technical skills, artistic skills, people skills and business skills will survive.

[I work in IT ... photography is strictly a hobby! ]

Let's say 80% worked and produced nearly 100% of the GDP and also paid nearly 100% of the tax at rates high enough to keep the remaining 20% at an acceptable living standard (including free education for their children), then this 20%, which could potentially include artists, photographers, classical and/or failed musicians, and mathematicians, wouldn't have to get paid for their work. They would be happy to do their own work.

You ask the question, "Should you EVER work for free..."

Well, sure. Occasionally. And on those occasions, it may be tax deductible (I'm talking about photos for a legitimately good cause.)

But as for work-work, hell no. You're not only screwing yourself, you're screwing other photographers who can't compete with "free."

Not quite the same situation but recently I was asked to photograph a unique event, with a retired professional photography; I am not a professional.

The event is enacted every 80 years or so; last time in 1928. But the organization running it is worthwhile but strapped for cash; all of its monies pay for its charitable work. If the retired pro and me had not given our time for free the event would not have been properly recorded.

The catering for the event was paid; so the local golf club made a profit on the event but we made nothing and could have stopped a professional earning something. But the organization could not have afforded professional prices (A number of years ago the organization held a fund raising event and hired a pro photographer; 20% of the profits from that event went to the photographer).

So let the event go unrecorded or give our time for free?

Ten years ago I would have answered "Yes there are time when you should consider do work for free if it helps you with your career." Now I would have to say NO! Too many people now ask for this and for me the last straw was a large multi national mining company wanted me to photograph its local management team and fly out to a mine site and shoot that all off of my own money. I costed this out just out of interest and I'd have been $3000 AUD out of pocket (flights, car hire, accommodation) just for the possibility of a credit. I've now retired and glad I don't have to deal with these kind of leeches anymore.

I read with interest on PDN that Pat Pope regrets writing his letter because of all the negative backlash it caused.

I'm always happy to provide work for charities I support for free. Beyond that, no. I make my living from other sources, though.

I agree with Ctein's comment. This is not economic rocket science. There really is no issue. People want free stuff because they do not want to pay for it (duh). I'm a firm believer in the written contract, up front, before any work is started. No one should do any work of any kind (in a professional/business sense) without a written contract that simply spells out the terms (old established clients would be different, of course). If the contract says "no charge," then you are working for free, and you know it going into the situation. At the very least, get a verbal agreement up front, then if the client tries to wiggle out of paying, it will be clear between the parties who is doing what to whom.

Consumers value items by price hence the existence of LUXURY brands. Everything has a price. Zero is not a price. If someone offered 1 cent for a photo's use would you regard it differently from someone who asked for the photo for free.
Photographers price photos by size. Explain why a 5x7 should be half? the price of a 8x10.
Write done a list of the actions involved in taking a photo and beside each give a very conservative time for each action. Add it up and ask the client how much per hour they regard as reasonable (or alternatively offer to do it for their hourly rate or the hourly rate of any tradesman).
If you agree a price for a job and someone asks if you could do "X" as well, give it a price (even a really low cut to the bone price) and be prepared to be amazed at how very few times the client tells you to go ahead and do "X".
Clients who play really hard ball on price are going to continue to play hard ball on all other aspects of the contract with you (including most likely when they actually pay you).
The Open letter as a response was wrong. I would give the band the benefit of the doubt that the request was not known to them and probably just a junior exec. who didn't give the request a second thought.

In the late 1960s, with a newly minted fine arts degree in photographic illustration from the Rochester Institute of Photography, I decided that photography, though a wonderfully satisfying recreation, would likely prove a less than fulfilling way to make a living. I signed on as an urban middle school teacher and, for 30 years, found plenty of satisfaction as well as frustration in that profession. And it allowed me to pursue photography as I wished without the limitations imposed by the need for income. It's worked out well.

Last year I had quite a heated discussion with a friend of mine who was upset that I wouldn't print a picture of him and his family. One that was taken by a professional photographer at a wedding they had attend.

I've provided him and his family with free portraits for quite a few years, and now he was asking me to print somebody else's picture for him. I told him that I wasn't a printer, that he should go to the photographer who took the picture (which cost my friend nothing) and pay for a print.

He didn't get it, still doesn't. He's yet to get the picture printed. I can only think that's because he's become accustomed to getting pictures for free, and doesn't like the idea of paying for it

A long time ago, I decided to avoid the question by not offering my photography as a service, but rather only offering my photography as a product. I offer only finished prints...and I price them accordingly (not necessarily by size). Sometimes I barter, sometimes I accept checks or credit/debit cards, but other than to some friends and family, no one gets my work for free.

But if one gives an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of cameras, an infinite number of free photographs will naturally become available.

I was/am an IT freelancer. If I choose to do low price work for charities I always invoice at full price but show a one-off discount so the client is aware of what they are getting.

There is no sensible answer to the 'get the first free, pay for the next' conundrum as people are too used to getting freebies. Perhaps do the first one half price with a voucher of 50% off for a subsequent booking made within 6 months?

Nobody should work for 'free'. You should always consider what you get, money, exposure, good feeling for helping someone or something out. If that is worth the effort and expense then do it. If not, then don't. Only
you you can decide what your time and expenses are worth. Nothing is free my friend. Not even the monkeys. Somebody has to feed them and pay for the paper and ink.

Is it just me, or are we all ignoring the elephant in the room? Specifically Mike, as a full-time blogger, to what extent do YOU work for free? Sure, you receive income from your affiliate links, but I venture to guess that the great majority of your readers have never paid a dime for the daily dose of TOP. This suggests that there are circumstances where one has to "give it away" until they can eventually earn income from it. Or is earning an income as a writer somehow different from earning an income as a photographer? I don't mean this to sound confrontational; I just want to hear your opinion on what the difference is, if any.

Yeah, what Ctein said...I love Kenneth W.'s hot dog analogy too (mine's always plumbing, as in "I like plumbing, so i'll come over to your house over the weekend and install a new water heater 'cause it's fun!").. There is never a time when you should give it away; you can work at discount rate for charities that you believe in, or situations like that, but even the printers are getting paid for those brochures, maybe not at full profit. Sorry Alan Farthing, but yes, let it go unrecorded; if they cared about it, they'd be finding the money to document it.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, that has a 'real' job on here, and is doing photography work on the side, is killing the business, because I know for a fact that you are NOT charging what I have to charge to stay in business. Ditto for those on here who are professional, full time, but aren't charging what I have to charge because you're basking in your spouses subsidized medical insurance or retirement plans. How many of you are paying liability insurance for your business, how many of you are paying property taxes on your professional equipment? Yeah, I thought so...

Exposure? No one has ever come to me and hired me out of work I did that appeared in a magazine. No one can prove to me that the type of people that would hire me, or could hire me are even reading those magazines. I worked for a city magazine one time that had rates that didn't change for years, and they finally had to hire one on-staffer because no one would work with them anymore, and nobody ever got a job off of anyone reading the magazine.

Even the non-profits you work for are looking to make money off of what you do for them; they aren't expecting their on-staffers to work for nothing.

When you work for nothing, you establish the low end of what you're willing to work for, and people will remember it. There's no getting 2K a day, "next time", when you did it for nothing this time...BTW, I've also done work for people at deep discount for start-ups, promising that they would get me 'real' work when they get the ducks in a row, and then when they hire an ad agency, I don't get the work because the agency has their own suppliers they're used to working with.

Always charge something.

I work for free if I want to (and only if I want to), or I work for full price. I don't work for reduced rates.

I don't want to be known as the "cheap" photographer.

Seems to be a different way of looking at it from most.

Worst case I can remember was quite a few years ago. Someone called me and asked if I could cover something in the UK called the business games in my home town. Guy came to see me, gave me a spiel and showed a video clip on his laptop which made me suspicious as it was more like a sales pitch than a job. He wanted me to cover the event from Friday lunch time to Sunday afternoon. When I asked what the fee was he said there was none, as it was an "opportunity." When I pointed out what I was going to do with his laptop (which was probably a biological impossibility) he left my premises very rapidly indeed! Generally not a good idea to work for free, even for causes that you support or clubs that you wish to help as I found out recently with a local jazz club, as gratitude or goodwill cannot be assumed.

I suppose that I would sum up the reality of my marketplace this way: I can readily see the difference between "adequate" and "done well" in the field of photography. But just because I can see it, doesn't mean that the difference I perceive is valued by the public in general. The technical tools available to almost everyone, and their diminished expectations, these days have made "adequate" so readily achievable that the market for "done well" is smaller than it was -- and it was never that large to begin with. This is one of the reasons that I don't use photography as my main source of income. Digital ate it. :)

I recently was introduced to some related-by-family members who are getting married. The wedding is about 100 miles away and would take a day to do and probably two-three days of post processing, book layout, editing etc. I quoted them a price that is a fraction of my day rate, but that would make me feel not-taken-advantage of. I am confident that they can't get a pro for less. Not even for 4x what I quoted. Their response? "We'll get back to you." And you know what? That's fine. I think a fee keeps everyone honest about what is going on. I have donated my services to charity auctions, I have taken pictures for free for friends, like others on this thread, I would happily give my services and time to organizations where I already volunteer.

People do not appreciate what they do not pay for.

Gary, I can't believe lawyers expect you to work for free because one thing lawyers HATE is people asking for free legal advice. But then again, lots of lawyers can be shameless so I guess I'm not surprised after all!

Do you value your work? That's the question you really have to ask.

About ten years ago I stopped giving away most work to charities that asked. Instead, I now charge them and then make a donation of an equal amount.

I'd say this really applies to all the "work for free" questions that come up. What is the value of that work? If you don't know that, you can't make any judgment call at all on whether to do it. Likewise, you have to assess the value you get back. With charitable work, sometimes that's just satisfaction, but satisfaction still has a value and it better equal what you gave for free.

In this particular case, the whole barter idea probably is the best response: "I'm giving you something of X value for free, what can you give me back of equal value?"

But frankly, this is all just another example of the Race to the Bottom that seems so important to everyone these days. Making things of value isn't as important as making lots of them at low cost. If you want to race to the bottom, be aware that the bottom is zero. Just how fast do you want to race there?

I prefer to work for free. As a professional engineer (now retired) I was well paid, and did my best work whether I felt like it or not (part of the definition of 'professional'), and there were very high barriers to casual practitioners.

But I have also worked as an artist in woodturning and photography, and I almost always give my work away. I have also worked for the government giving anger management training to prison inmates, again for free. I like it this way as I have complete freedom over how the work is done.

When I hear about artists complaining of others who work for free I am reminded of a magazine article I read some time back which was basically a long interview with a high end call girl then in her mid thirties. She was complaining that it was becoming very difficult to make a living as more and more women were doing it "for free". When a convention came to town ten years back she could count on lots of business, but now there are many women in the work force happy to do her work and charge nothing! Perhaps she could have pointed to her greater skill and experience, or perhaps even her pro-level 'equipment'(!)

Basically I think in the best of all worlds, all art would be free, and done by amateurs (in the best sense of the word), including entertainers and athletes. We probably came off the rails the first time a stone age story teller got an extra piece of meat at the end of a particularly good story.

I would not have started by going public.
If I want to donate work for a project or cause, I do so. Prints for our local High School Dollars for Scholars program - to be sold at auction is one of those.

Businesses, bands and whatnot - do they expect the printing house to donate their work for free? The sales and distribution chain - all for free? We know that is not happening.

Pick and choose what to donate to. The idea that a photo and both you and your time have no value is often why you are asked to work for nothing. As I tell most who ask, when the bank accepts a credit line on a photo to pay the mortgage - I'll do it.

I work in the software industry. I'm not sure how we ever got to the point where people think that software should be free, but here we are.

So if the photographer would reply to the band with a request for a free concert given to him in trade, to put in in his choice of location for him to profit from the event,..........the answer would be possibly including some dubious hand signals!?

Ah, this old chestnut. I've heard it so many times on p*tapixel...

It's like on the one hand, there's the photographers who deal in artistic vision and have aspirations of making a buck or a living out of it, and on the other, there's the general public who side with Melissa Mayer on "everyone's a photographer now" - and never the two shall meet.

The sneaky ones in the second camp are the ones who approach you saying "...I have this project with a limited budget".

Increasingly I've found myself thinking, "well, if you will try and make a business out of it..." - you will have to deal with non-cognoscenti and folks out to rip you off, so quit whinging about the costs of doing business.

Perhaps the alternative way around this is to *not* be a single freelance photographer, forgetting the individualist American dream, but to actually be a company employing a handful of folks. That way you can have marketing people to publicize you, sales people to handle transactions and yourself to point the camera at things.

We don't hear an awful lot of that these days, however.

Alan writes: "The problem is that we are told as kids that work is hard, and if you enjoy it so much it can't be worth anything." I think that's right - we're further away than ever from living a life where work is fun and fulfilling; instead, the Protestant work ethic holds a tightening grip on employment of all sorts. For example teaching, I am told, used to be a fulfilling and sometimes even enjoyable job in the UK - but this was seen as morally reprehensible - you're meant to suffer for your money for goodness' sake! - and so, I am told, it has been made more and more bureaucratic, more and more target driven, less and less autonomous and enjoyable. Photographers are no less susceptible to the belief that work shouldn't be fun than anyone else and those that underprice themselves or give their work away for free are simply following this cultural expectation to its logical conclusion - sadly, being freelancers, they don't even appear to need bosses to facilitate the process...

How to make a small fortune in photography: Start with a large one!

I'm not a professional photographer, but a UX designer. Back in my graphic design days, working for spec was evil, working pro-bono was an honorable way of building your portfolio. I think it still is, and I believe the (common) position that if others are donating I might consider as well is cool.

Working for free for for-profit clients will almost never lead to anything. My experience. They 99.999% of the time will forget you if they ever make it. If you are naive enough, you may believe your success depends on the charity of others.

I'd say, you would imagine it depends on the kindness of selfish people.

Only for family or friend because you want to as a gift. The average person won't find value in your photographs, but don't give them away just because the suitor is ignorant. I spend thousands of hours per year thinking about and creating my art and it's sad how little the public values photography. I also paint and for some reason ppl value original paintings 1000% more.

As a general rule, everyone thinks that their own work and time is valuable and that other people's work and time isn't.

I used to write software for a living and the current state of the industry baffles me. Nowadays you can buy complex programs for next to nothing, but then we complain when we find bugs and can't easily get help, but we expect to get the help for free.

Intellectual content workers are the machinists of the digital age. One hundred years ago machinists at GM and elsewhere formed into bargaining units and negotiated decent living wages for themselves. But we modern digital machinists fell for the absurd notion that we were on a mission from god and worked all sorts of hours for free. We thought that made us valuable but it made us suckers.

I think Ctein covered the bases completely in a measured and thoughtful manner. What more is there to add. Btw where's
the r3000 review?

If I saw that JG was tearing up the prints afterward, I would assume he didn't value them. This could have helped create some of the perceptions discussed.

i've listened to and participated in this conversation in many different venues for many, many years.

in the distant past i was long-haired hippie, faggot freak working with a bunch of real men. seriously...just this side of cowboys or outlaws, depending on your world view. for the most part good men, but not soft or sensitive types.

i made more money selling paintings, illustrations and design work than i ever made at my "real job".

my boss was a crusty ex-marine, short on tact and long on meting out object lessons. he was more than happy to express his opinions regarding "art" and some of the more peculiar forms of sexual deviancy. he had a story (he always had a freaking story and this is one that can be rendered relatively sanitary).

it happened late at night in a bar (of course).

A: will you have sex with me for a million dollars?
B: well, uh...ok.
A: how about for free?
B: no! what do you think i am?
A: we've already established that. now we're just haggling about the price.

a few nights later, in a bar, in the dark. where no one would notice his blubbery inclinations he expressed his opinion that if you did a thing for money it was a job. if it was a job, you did it well, with as little effort as was necessary and for as much money as the market would bear.

he went on to let me know that my artistic sensiblities were wearing thin. that my "art" job was no different than than my day job. well, except that i was good at one of them.

it has seemed to me over the years that "artists" trying to translate their passion into income have one of the most difficult jobs imaginable and they take themselves soooo seriously while they do it.

if you are getting paid to do what you love and the way you want to do it, rejoice!

if not, put your head down and to a job of work or move on to something else.

either way it's not your concern how the next person tries to solve the riddle.

at any rate that's the opinion of someone who had the art knocked out of him along time ago.

I don't understand the question or issue here. And I feel Pat Pope is taking out of context- he clearly said no.

@ Fred:

You've raised an interesting point. But really, who keeps "work prints" forever? I don't know about others, but once I'm comfortable I have a good file from which to make a final print when necessary, any intermediate prints I've made to reach that stage have served their purpose. So Yes, you are correct that they don't have any further value to me, which is why I throw them away.

In a way, I suppose this further validates my argument (i.e., the average person doesn't value a physical print), because if they did, then they would understand the distinction between a work print and a final print.

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