‘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.
In my Bag allowed us to share some of the thoughts those photographers have, for their full views head over to InMyBag.
If you’re just starting out in business, I’d highly suggest accepting projects for exposure (as I did), because it’s an effective way to build a portfolio and increase demand. But there comes a time in a business when you’ve set yourself up to not depend on those types of jobs…
In my view agreeing to work for free is the same as saying ‘I’m not sure what I’m doing so won’t charge you’ which then very easily creates a brush that could broadly touch many others in the same industry
These days I see ‘free’ as being built into the business model. Sharing sites are essentially free content delivered by the users. There are entities that promote ‘free’ as a business model in itself with free entry level services and free level memberships. Free – is never free. Something of value changes hands. What matters is what side of that exchange you are on
Would I work for free? Heck yeah, man! I love doing free work if it’s mutually beneficial to both parties, is volunteer work for an organization I believe in, or is a creative collaboration between other artists with a common goal. We get in to this craft of photography because we love the way the shutter sounds and how the image appears on that tiny screen after clicking – and most of us forget those little joys when we introduce money in to our craft. Love people, and love what you do
Luckily I was never asked to do a photo production for free. If someone ever asks me, I will politely say no. It’s better to turn down a project and stick to your principles than to hope for a career boost which will never happen (trust me). Therefore I don’t understand why some photographers work for free