Where do I stand as a photographer working for free?
Imagine you’re a creative business. Along comes a brand or influencer requesting freebies in exhange for the promise of ‘exposure’. This is the scenario that played out recently between a former soap actress, her party planners, and a Yorkshire bakery.
The baker declined. All hell broke loose online.
I’ve put a lot of thought into this. In the above case, my response might have been: “Ma’am, the only exposure I know is the amount of light that hits the sensor.”
The number one reason the story blew up was resentment. The public don’t like seeing influencers handed perks when they already lead lives perceived as lucrative and glamorous.
However, for us small businessses, there’s a real conversation to be had.
Because even if Beyonce hires you, ‘exposure’ doesn’t cover initial fixed costs. (Besides, the rich and powerful shouldn’t avoid paying a fair price for goods and services.)
If a brand, individual or company holds values, they will be prepared to pay.
Product photographer working for free
Pricing correctly as a product photographer is particularly tricky. People sometimes don’t charge a fee that reflects their skill level.
And then there’s the aforementioned fixed costs. Firstly the cost of a computer, a camera, lenses, electricity. Additionally there’s the lighting gear, the backdrops and props. The time and money spent sorting contracts and licensing. Editing time. Hard drives. Insurance.
People will complain to you about your prices when you’re self-employed. Because there’s an individual who’ll hear it, instead of a massive corporation. A person who will doubt themselves and their worth.
Reasons to say no
In short, I’ve seen little evidence that ‘exposure’ leads to paid work. And it keeps coming back to people being prepared to pay a fair price.
If you undervalue yourself, there will be amazing brands who won’t want to work with you. You need to project self-confidence.
However, each time there will be someone willing to do it, which perpetuates this idea that photography or other creative work is just a fun pastime. Done for the love alone.
And so the cycle continues…