Ted Forbes on the ‘Should I Work for Free?’ Question

Apr 20, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

Ted Forbes on the ‘Should I Work for Free?’ Question

Apr 20, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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The “should I work for free?” question is one of the more controversial topics in photography these days and is right up there with the “Canon vs. Nikon” and “prime vs. zoom” debates.

Ted Forbes, the man behind The Art of Photography YouTube Channel addresses the question that comes up at some point in every photographer’s career in this 8-minute video.

Right off the Forbes says he “hates the idea” and doesn’t work for free, and then goes on to give an in-depth explanation as to why he is so opposed to it and why you should be too.

YouTube video

Forbes raises a few good points in the video, and although the example he provides is of a specific incident and is not always the case, it is a solid argument.

On the other hand, many will contend that working for free is a valid marketing strategy and essential at times to gain experience and get your name out there.

As Forbes says everybody’s career path is different, and while he’s got a very strong opinion on the matter, I think this question is a tough one to answer without reviewing the specifics of each case.

For more opinions on the matter check out Pat Pope’s Final Word on his open letter to Garbage, and 5 photographers chatting ‘working for free’.

What’s your opinion on pro bono work? If you do it, what are your criteria for it?

[via PetaPixel | Lead Image: William John Gauthier]

 

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Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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3 responses to “Ted Forbes on the ‘Should I Work for Free?’ Question”

  1. LensLord Avatar
    LensLord

    I am a pretty good photographer, and I am good at my work. … In the past I have worked some jobs for free, on speculation. ,,, I have never, not even once, been hired for money from a free gig. I have been asked to do more free work from the same people, but never have they offered to pay me. … Not even gas money.

    I have had people, photographers, offer to work for free with me, for their own training and experience. I have either paid them, or refused their help. I refuse with the explanation that I no longer work for free, and because of that, I no longer let anyone work for me, for free. … Fun is fun, but fair is fair, and honest work deservers money in return. …

  2. IL Avatar
    IL

    I consider myself an amateur photographer in the strictest sense, in that I make a living doing other stuff that I like doing (writing), but photography is something I only do if I am going to enjoy it or if I am personally challenged by/interested in the concept. Most of the time, I incur losses due to photography, as I absorb studio hire fees and equipment attrition.

    But there have been a few instances where taking on a free gig led to paid jobs, mostly in the event coverage space. In one instance, I sold usage rights for the images from a “free” event coverage. In another, I covered an event for free, then got asked to do another documentation shoot (paid). And yet another where I gave an architect permission to use my photo in their literature for free, then got two paid jobs from them after that.

    These might very well be exceptions to the rule, and to be honest, paid photography jobs happen far too rarely for me to be able to rely on it as a full time thing. But I guess all I am trying to say is, sometimes free gigs act as very effective networking opportunities for potential paying clients to see first hand what you can do, and can lead to other doors opening down the track.

  3. Ian Hecht Avatar
    Ian Hecht

    I do free work for charitable organisations, but photography isn’t my business, so I feel I can afford it. Perhaps if it was more than a sideline, I would feel differently.