Today we are going to have a debate! And the subject is TFP, something which I have a had a fair few debates on already in Photography groups on Facebook. Now I’m pretty sure you all by now you know what TFP means and what it entails, if you don’t, you are either very lucky, or very unfortunate……or you have been stranded on a desert island from birth, catching fish with your shoelaces and drinking your own urine. If you are said, bearded castaway then let me explain :
The word “testing” can have a variety of different meanings in the industry.
But it always refers to creatives sharing their time to create something as a team.
In commercial photography the test is done to see if the model is suitable for a commercial shoot, since models cost a lot of money and “bad chemistry” can cost the client too much.
Earlier this week, the Washington City Paper made a stand against what it considered an unfair concert photography contract presented by the Foo Fighters with an article entitled Why We’re Not Photographing The Foo Fighters. Concert photographers everywhere stood up and slow clapped for the headline and main idea of the article and the stand it took on photographers rights. In the last paragraph of the article however, the Washington City Paper did something even worse to photographers than the Foo Fighters ever could have; they called on the fans to submit photos of the show, and they offered to pay for them. Instead of simply not covering the event and saying “Screw you, Foo Fighters” as the article’s title might make you believe, they’re saying “Screw you, concert photographers” and created a new class of concert photographer; the front row, amateur, on spec, freelance iPhoneographer. The ramifications are going to be far reaching to the concert photographer, the concert attendee, the artist, and the publications themselves.
It seems like Taylor Swift has had a spot reserved for her in the headlines lately. First it was positive press for standing up to Apple’s music streaming service and defending artists’ rights, but then came along a concert photographer calling the singer a hypocrite for exploiting photographers that cover her concerts.
Making valid points and drawing attention to a touchy subject for photographers, Jason Sheldon got people talking about the problem, but it was just talk.
Today, however, that changed when the Irish Times covered Swift’s Dublin concert but didn’t include any photos of her performance. Taking it a step further, the news outlet also posted an article on its website explaining that the star’s contract didn’t leave them another option.
Sometimes ranting about things works. On Friday, Jared Polin of FroKnowsPhoto posted a rant in which he expressed his frustration with Live Nation about their policy of not paying photographers for their work while retaining the rights to the images.
After replying to a job ad looking for photographers to cover the opening of their new Ascend Amphitheater, Polin was informed that the position “is a great opportunity to build a portfolio.” In response, Polin made a video as an open letter to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino. In his original bog post, Jared urged readers to “share this out with the world and lets make Michael Rapino hear that he needs to make a change inside his company and #RespectPhotographers.” And, apparently, it worked.
After my public response to Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple, I didn’t quite expect the phenomenal reaction it received. I knew it was provocative, I knew it was going to be risky and could possibly harm my chances of getting access to other concerts in future. but it needed to be said – out loud. When I thought hard about the possible consequences, and restrictions on my access to future work, I asked myself “What point is there in going to work if I can’t be paid for it – yet everyone else gets to benefit from my labour?”. The answer?
There was nothing left to lose. When you’re faced with a choice of working for free to save a millionaire having to pay a reasonable fee, or not working at all. what would you do?
[Editor’s note: Taylor Swift letter to Apple saying that it is unfair for artists to go unpaid, seems to have made make Apple take a (somewhat limited) U turn and Apple’s swiftly responded (no pun intended) with a promise to compensate artists.]
Dear Taylor Swift,
I have read your open letter to Apple where you give your reasons for refusing to allow your album ‘1989′ to be included on their forthcoming Apple Music streaming service. (For reference)
I applaud it. It’s great to have someone with a huge following standing up for the rights of creative people and making a stand against the corporate behemoths who have so much power they can make or break someone’s career.
Working for free has always been a touchy subject and while opinions may sway one way or another I think that working family events for free is not something you would do to ‘build a portfolio’.
Apparently one family from sun prairie, Wisconsin thinks differently. There are many ads asking for free photography service but this one made reddit for being especially presumptuous. (I agree) The family posted a work offer on craigslist, they offer the photographer to “use the photo’s to build portfolio“. What photos you ask? Those: “We have several occasions coming up this spring/summer and would like a photographer who would work with us“.
Here is the untouched craigslist ad (really, we did not touch it):
Hello, We are looking for someone who is building their portfolio or just starting out their business.
We have several occasions coming up this spring/summer and would like a photographer who would work with us. In exchange you may use the photo’s to build portfolio. A student would be fine with us. Please send some information about yourself and any examples of your work that you have. Experience working with kids and newborns would be excellent! This can take some patience to get the right shot!
And there is a little “compensation: no pay” at the bottom, just to keep things clear.
‘Working for free’ is a charged topic for creatives and for photographers specifically. One side of the discussion claims that getting your name out there, getting exposure and creating contacts and networking is worth working for free, while the other side says that no work should be unpaid and that ‘working for free’ is essentially the industry’s way of ripping photographers of their well deserved compensation, while devaluing the entire market for everyone.
It is interesting to see the take on this questions from some of the world’s high-profiles and now-successful photographers. Of course, they were not always high-profile and successful so they can share a view going from their early trying-to-get-out-there days all the way to their current state.
We have shared quite a few articles on working for free. And usually we are not big advocates of that. Today we would like to share a different opinion by Dann Petty who shares how working for free landed him a contract with NatGeo. While Dann is a design/UI/UX expert, I think this approach may be relevant for photographers as well.
I recently wrote a post about how to make your clients love you, which reminded me of the one key things that kick started my career and landed me the type of work I was looking for. It will for yours, as well. I am talking about working for free.
Before you laugh, slam the computer, and tweet that I’m the dumbest person in the world, let me tell you a few stories about how I got where I am today. [Read more…]