My boss asked me to take photos for free and got what they paid for

Mar 21, 2018

Terryis Xmun

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

My boss asked me to take photos for free and got what they paid for

Mar 21, 2018

Terryis Xmun

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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My name is Terryis. You could call me a photographer.

Allow me, if you will, to regale you with a tale from my past. I once worked at a liquor store. In fact, it’s where I discovered my penchant for photography, for you see, both of my managers very enthused about the matter at the time. I decided to pick up my own camera, a very tiny Canon Rebel XS. This is where it all began.

One day, one of the newer managers came up to me and said “Hey, you have a camera and you’re pretty good with it, so you should help us with this weekly promotion we’re doing and take pictures of the products.” Of course, the obvious bargaining chip was on the table. Starts with an “E” and I think you know what it is. At first, it kind of felt great to have my talent recognized on some level. I enthusiastically agreed – but later thinking about it that day, I started to wonder how much it would theoretically cost them to have these images made, and whether or not it was fair to ask this for free of an employee who was making a baby’s dick more than minimum wage. I eventually succumbed to the notion that if I didn’t, they would just be floating cell phone pictures up on that facebook page, and I would have to just… live with that.

For a very short while, I actually took it kind of seriously. Some I phoned in and slapped VSCO filters on, but others, I actually bothered to compose using just elements around the store and outside. Each week I’d churn out a handful of images for the store. I was hardly a professional, though I could have fooled them. But you see, every man has a point at which he breaks and the visage shatters to the ground.

I remember the collapse very well. It was an overcast day in October, remarkable by no means. I had been tasked with photographing a bottle of Absolut Raspberri, and in addition, a case of Mill Street Organic and a bottle of Appleton. I curiously milled about the parking lot, Absolut Raspberri in hand, in search of something aesthetic to incorporate in this photo. I distinctly remember frustration settling in as I came up empty-handed numerous times. I’d already used that concrete barrier before for the Strongbow elderflower cider. At that precise juncture, it struck me exactly how much thought and work I was putting into something that was yielding nothing but shallow satisfaction in return. And there it was, screaming out to me: An overturned delineator.


I walked over and simply shoved the Absolut into the delineator. It was an immaculate fit. Click. Struck with newfound inspiration, the other two items met a similar fate. I turned them in. Nobody said *anything*. The photos ended up on the facebook page along with everything else I’d shot. So much for my protest.

Callous disregard for form and aesthetic took on a form and aesthetic unto itself. Items were tossed roughly into bushes, placed literally on streets. The disrepair and ugliness of an East Vancouver parking lot became my very own studio. A building got torn down across the street, leaving a vast landscape of rubble and trash to help me further orchestrate my cynical antics. The nastier I could get, the better.

How does the story end? Well, it would appear that my bosses were as insane as I am. Absolutely unfazed. Can you even imagine that? I was never called in to any kind of meeting where I had to be sat down with a very concerned management staff nor was I ever suggested to a local shrink. I quietly left the company one day – and so did my legacy.

Eventually, I started showing these to people, mostly because I thought it was kind of funny.

“But these are actually good!” People would say.

And that was the hatchet in my back. My righteous indignation had become simple “art”. Goddamn it, I give up.

The Absolut Raspberri Incident
Sometimes I’d have a sane moment
The perfect garnish
Organic indeed!
Sky burial doesn’t really cut it for a six pack
Don’t ask where I got the needle from. You won’t like the answer
Poison atop poison
Don’t drink and drive
No use crying over spilled photography
The brewery responsible for this beer actually liked this image on facebook. Why
I’d rather the coffee if I had to be honest
The King of Beers, its throne, and kingdom
I found a printer in the garbage
Cigarette butts were the only resource in abundance in that old parking lot
One of my bosses had mild OCD, this was an assassination attempt
Poor Fat Bastard
In the end, I got off Scotch free

About the Author

Terryis Xmun is a photographer from Vancouver, British Columbia. If you’d like to check out more of his work, you can follow him on Instagram and like his Facebook page. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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27 responses to “My boss asked me to take photos for free and got what they paid for”

  1. Jia Chen Lu Avatar
    Jia Chen Lu

    So… What is the article trying to say? Do a good job to inspire yourself even if it is free?

    Or is it suggesting to reject free jobs?

  2. Shachar Weis Avatar
    Shachar Weis

    So brave.

  3. JZ Aamir Avatar
    JZ Aamir

    I love it … It’s different than the usual stuff.

  4. Michael Johnson Avatar
    Michael Johnson

    If it makes you feel better, I think they’re crap – just kidding, :)

  5. Steve Lafleur Avatar
    Steve Lafleur

    From what I can tell, the whole point of this is: don’t put yourself out for nothing. The problem with that is, they still did. Whether the photos were junk to them or not, they still put in the effort to post produce and/or work the images into beautiful photos. Beautiful photos of garbage and needles and cigarette butts, but the esthetic is still wonderful. Fantastic job with the photos, happy to see they aren’t doing a free job for careless bosses anymore.

  6. Endre Baginyi-Korcsák Avatar
    Endre Baginyi-Korcsák

    The lesson could be… Photography is art that’s about the flow of feelings. Frustration helped Terris to break with the conventions and create something unique; quitting helped him to look for happiness / recognition / satisfaction…

  7. Dade Williams Avatar
    Dade Williams

    the photo quality is there, I actually like some of them, garnish not so much ;p

  8. Matthew Nehrling Avatar
    Matthew Nehrling

    It wasn’t for free. He was an employee of the company, I assume on company time. It was just expanding his job duties.

  9. Josh Avatar

    What a pretentious a-hole. This person WAS paid for their work. A “baby’s dick” more than minimum wage. Any pay for your work when just starting out as an artist is a small miracle.

    You should always put your best effort forward because you can’t predict where it will lead. What if instead of looking at these pics and seeing cigarette butts one of the breweries had liked the work and found out who took the shots. What if they hire that person for a meaningful wage?

    Opportunity is everywhere. You aren’t owed anything. Truely successful people always do their best wether someone is watching or not.

    1. Otiar Avatar

      Shut the fuck up Josh

      1. Whatdoyknow Avatar

        The reply of losers.

    2. TByte Avatar

      Shut the fuck up.

      1. Whatdoyknow Avatar

        The reply of losers

    3. TricklessMagician Avatar

      I’ll bite. Each set took half an hour to shoot, including scouting. Probably about 30 seconds of editing after the fact. I was getting paid about $13/h Canadian, so $6.50 per set.

      Each photo here was shot on a 5D III with a 135mm F2. It’s the 8th camera I’ve owned. “Starting out” is something of a misnomer. I’d already shot a few weddings for just a little more than that.

      I obviously tried to make “good” images, because as a man with some dignity, it’s the least I can do. I just did it in a deliberately terrible fashion.

      I don’t require contracts from breweries. If these photos made even one person smile, then my “okay” was in fact, not bad. That’s good enough for me.

      Everything you’ve just said is based on assumptions. So yeah, shut the fuck up, Josh.

  10. TByte Avatar

    Hell, these are actually better photos than frequently accompany DIYPhotography articles.

  11. Jeffrey Dull Avatar
    Jeffrey Dull

    I had a company recently ask if I would do some photography for them. They balked at my price and said “you work here” yes I told them I do work here as a truck driver, not as a photographer! My photograph business is mine and I set prices! This photo is from my current company and done in fun as a recruitment poster.

  12. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    Thing is… you still gave them way more than what they were willing to pay for.
    Not only that, it gets more attention and generates more discussion than your average stock photo, bland product photo and whatnot.
    If you really wanted to reduce the photos to their absolute minimum value, that’d be low res crappy photos taken quickly with the worst camera you had on hand on the store shelf or something, minimum effort.
    It’s even worse for booze… as lots of clients will readily admit that those compositions fits perfectly well, some of them with a misplaced sense of pride (for the trashiness).
    Could’ve worked better (the protest I mean) if it was a different line of products though.

  13. Jimmy Harris Avatar
    Jimmy Harris

    I did that once. I was working a design job were my bosses obviously didn’t care about design. What they did was they had us make up some designs for a potential client, then they’d take the designs to the client, and push them with a hard sell. They’d argue that they had already come to an agreement before the meeting, and use these designs as proof of that and try to squeeze them for at least some money, if a long term deal couldn’t be signed.

    Anyway, I was tasked with making a menu and website for a steak restaurant one day. I hated my job and the people I worked for/with. Frustrated, I put a bunch of pictures of half filleted cow carcasses and pasture scenes with lots of manure right next to picture of their restaurant and food. No one noticed or cared. The salespeople didn’t even mention it to me after they got laughed out of the meeting. My protest went unnoticed as well.

    That company went under years ago, and thank God! It was the worst job I ever had and about the only good thing that came from it is it has made every other job I’ve had seem so much more pleasurable by comparison.

  14. Jeff Hayward Avatar
    Jeff Hayward

    Marking this for a later read.

  15. Christopher Pang Avatar
    Christopher Pang

    Lili Belle

  16. Amy Jones Avatar
    Amy Jones

    Ya know, I think good for you and your cheep bosses. This is an example of having the freedom to learn, take a risk put some work out in the word and then move on and take what you learned and start making real money. Hey this stuff sells in this ironic hipster world. Go make money and be happy that your boss didn’t want you to do the same old something dull and over done

  17. Darrell Larose Avatar
    Darrell Larose

    But you get exposure….

  18. Margaret Battisson Avatar
    Margaret Battisson

    very clever

  19. Itsamee Avatar

    I enjoyed the photos more than the story. Good work.

  20. suruha Avatar

    I like it! Looks like you did a lot to get the images! They’re good! I’d get that camera back out and see what happens next! LOL

  21. cycleguy55 Avatar

    Art is very personal, but I like the images and their ability to communicate messages. Those messages, however, are mostly inconsistent with the messages most retailers would like to communicate to their customers. Rather than the ‘happy party’ or ‘good times’ messages so often portrayed in liquor advertising, these communicate a much darker, cynical message to me, and I believe that’s the point of the author. To me this is a ‘take my talent and my art for granted and I’ll use it to stab you in the back’ kind of message.

    I love it.

  22. Jon Miller Avatar
    Jon Miller

    Seriously, some of these really are quite good!

    One of my product photo clients has repeatedly tried to replace me because I’m too expensive. They’ve never told me this, mind you, I just know what it looks like when they assign someone to study what I’m doing while I’m shooting (at their warehouse). And I know where most of their stuff ends up online, so I’ve seen images that weren’t mine and the difference in quality is dramatic. And I’ve seen when I’ve been called in to properly photograph those same products. It’s funny to me. They always come back to me because the results are great. I’ve been shooting for them for almost a decade. Charge for your work and don’t blink when they react that it’s too much. If it’s worth it to them they’ll pay it, and if it’s not then working for them under any other arrangement would be miserable and you wouldn’t be producing your best work.