PetaPixel

How to Respond to Requests for Free Photography

Photographer Tony Wu constantly receives requests that ask whether he would be willing to work for free in exchange for “credit” and “exposure”. Instead of a lengthy response explaining why he doesn’t want to work for free, Wu often leaves the emails unanswered, or worse, ends up sending snippy responses that he later regrets. He recently came up with the idea of writing a generic and informational response that all professional photographers can respond with.

Here’s the letter (which you can tailor to suit your needs):

Dear potential photo buyer,

If you have been directed to this page, it is likely that you have requested the use of an image or images for free or minimal compensation.

As professional photographers, we receive requests for free images on a regular basis. In a perfect world, each of us would love to be able to respond in a positive manner and assist, especially with projects or efforts related to areas such as education, social issues, and conservation of natural resources. It is fair to say that in many cases, we wish we had the time and resources to do more to assist than just send photographs.

Unfortunately, such are the practicalities of life that we are often unable to respond, or that when we do, our replies are brief and do not convey an adequate sense of the reasons underlying our response.

Circumstances vary for each situation, but we have found that there are a number of recurring themes, which we have set out below with the objective of communicating more clearly with you, and hopefully avoiding misunderstandings or unintentionally engendering ill will.

Please take the following points in the constructive manner in which they are intended. We certainly hope that after you have had a chance to read this, we will be able to talk again and establish a mutually beneficial working relationship.

Photographs Are Our Livelihood

Creating compelling images is the way we make our living. If we give away our images for free, or spend too much time responding to requests for free images, we cannot make a living.

We Do Support Worthy Causes With Images

Most of us do contribute photographs, sometimes more, to support certain causes. In many cases, we may have participated directly in projects that we support with images, or we may have a pre-existing personal relationship with key people involved with the efforts concerned. In other words, each of us can and does provide images without compensation on a selective basis.

We Have Time Constraints

Making a leap from such selective support to responding positively to every request we get for free photographs, however, is impractical, if for no other reason than the substantial amount of time required to respond to requests, exchange correspondence, prepare and send files, and then follow-up to find out how our images were used and what objectives, if any, were achieved. It takes a lot of time to respond to requests, and time is always in short supply.

Pleas of “We Have No Money” Are Often Difficult to Fathom

The primary rationale provided in nearly all requests for free photographs is budgetary constraint, meaning that the requestor pleads a lack of funds.

Such requests frequently originate from organisations with a lot of cash on hand, whether they be publicly listed companies, government or quasi-government agencies, or even NGOs. Often, it is a simple matter of taking a look at a public filing or other similar disclosure document to see that the entity concerned has access to significant funding, certainly more than enough to pay photographers a reasonable fee should they choose to do so.

To make matters worse, it is apparent that all too often, of all the parties involved in a project or particular effort, photographers are the only ones being asked to work for free. Everyone else gets paid.

Given considerations like this, you can perhaps understand why we frequently feel slighted when we are told that: “We have no money.” Such claims can come across as a cynical ploy intended to take advantage of gullible individuals.

We Have Real Budget Constraints

With some exceptions, photography is not a highly remunerative profession. We have chosen this path in large part due to the passion we have for visual communication, visual art, and the subject matters in which we specialise.

The substantial increase in photographs available via the internet in recent years, coupled with reduced budgets of many photo buyers, means that our already meager incomes have come under additional strain.

Moreover, being a professional photographer involves significant monetary investment.

Our profession is by nature equipment-intensive. We need to buy cameras, lenses, computers, software, storage devices, and more on a regular basis. Things break and need to be repaired. We need back-ups of all our data, as one ill-placed cup of coffee could literally erase years of work. For all of us, investment in essential hardware and software entails thousands of dollars a year, as we need to stay current with new technology and best practices.

In addition, travel is a big part of many of our businesses. We must spend a lot of money on transportation, lodging and other travel-related costs.

And of course, perhaps most importantly, there is a substantial sum associated with the time and experience we have invested to become proficient at what we do, as well as the personal risks we often take. Taking snapshots may only involve pressing the camera shutter release, but creating images requires skill, experience and judgement.

So the bottom line is that although we certainly understand and can sympathise with budget constraints, from a practical point of view, we simply cannot afford to subsidise everyone who asks.

Getting “Credit” Doesn’t Mean Much

Part and parcel with requests for free images premised on budgetary constraints is often the promise of providing “credit” and “exposure”, in the form or a watermark, link, or perhaps even a specific mention, as a form of compensation in lieu of commercial remuneration.

There are two major problems with this.

First, getting credit isn’t compensation. We did, after all, create the images concerned, so credit is automatic. It is not something that we hope a third party will be kind enough to grant us.

Second, credit doesn’t pay bills. As we hopefully made clear above, we work hard to make the money required to reinvest in our photographic equipment and to cover related business expenses. On top of that, we need to make enough to pay for basic necessities like food, housing, transportation, etc.

In short, receiving credit for an image we created is a given, not compensation, and credit is not a substitute for payment.

“You Are The Only Photographer Being Unreasonable”

When we do have time to engage in correspondence with people and entities who request free photos, the dialogue sometimes degenerates into an agitated statement directed toward us, asserting in essence that all other photographers the person or entity has contacted are more than delighted to provide photos for free, and that somehow, we are “the only photographer being unreasonable”.

We know that is not true.

We also know that no reasonable and competent photographer would agree to unreasonable conditions. We do allow for the fact that some inexperienced photographers or people who happen to own cameras may indeed agree to work for free, but as the folk wisdom goes: “You get what you pay for.”

Please Follow-Up

One other experience we have in common is that when we do provide photographs for free, we often do not receive updates, feedback or any other form of follow-up letting us know how the event or project unfolded, what goals (if any) were achieved, and what good (if any) our photos did.

All too often, we don’t even get responses to emails we send to follow-up, until, of course, the next time that someone wants free photographs.

In instances where we do agree to work for free, please have the courtesy to follow-up and let us know how things went. A little consideration will go a long way in making us feel more inclined to take time to provide additional images in the future.

The next time you receive a request that you don’t have time to deal with, copy-and-paste the above text as a response, or link them to this page that Wu set up.

Reasons Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work for Free [Professional Photographers]


 
Get the hottest photo stories delivered to your inbox.
Get a daily digest of the latest headlines:
  • Anonymous

    This. Is. Classic.

    Cheers to Wu!

  • Jcarey56

    I agree with the concept but not the execution. Mr. Wu should seek the services of a writer. All this could have been said with 75% fewer words.

  • Rob-L

    Good idea, but too long. No one will read all of this.

  • Cory

    Well, I read it all. It was quite good and liked it. It was fluffy on purpose, it was wrote to be kind to people who’d be asking for free photos.

  • Clvrmonkey

    Maybe he can find a writer that will do it for free.  It’s for a good cause after all…

  • Steve

    As an essay it is spot on as a response to inquiries it sucks on many levels. Furthermore it reflects on his chosen profession pretty badly. The other thing to keep in mind is that he works and is probably at the top of a comparatively small niche. If the majority of photographers adopted this approach it wouldn’t be long before their bottom line was impacted. 

    There are much easier and less confrontational ways of doing things albeit without the satisfaction that comes from such a passive aggressive strategy.

  • http://twitter.com/code_coyote Craig A. Cook

    A good redirect for photographers who get inquiries for free photo use, would be for them to have a small portfolio, a fixed group of shots that perhaps aren’t the ones who would pay the most, and have those, pre-marked on their site (so individual permissions wouldn’t be needed), in the same vein as programmers contributing to open source software.  Few developers give all their software away, but often they have small projects with which they do.  This might not satisfy all those who make requests of the photographers, but it might work for some.  By creative commons-ing a few images, it sends the message that *other* images from that photographer are *not* open.

    I’d like to give away all the software I write, but I can’t, just like the photographers, I have to earn a living.  But I do contribute to open-source, and not just because I use it.

  • http://www.casagli.com Alessandro Casagli

    Useful. Thanks Wu.

  • tvphotog

    Steve, please elaborate on “much easier and less confrontational ways”.
    I am at the point where I think I have to be at least “passive aggressive” with these type of people. Thanks for any “free” additional comments, :-)

  • http://twitter.com/bz_icehorse Birgit Zimmermann

    thanks for this! if you don’t mind, I will translate it into German and make it available on my website.

  • Anonymous


    If I Had More Time I Would Write a Shorter Letter”-Mark Twain

  • Nick

    Too long I agree, could be summed up in probably a couple of sentences, would scare most people off.

  • Melo

    There is little chance they would actually read it in its entirety.

    I simply reply with “if you organize a feasible budget I’ll be happy to send through my rate card”.

    If its an idiot freeloading stranger a good ‘ol “Fuck Off” works well.

    I don’t waste my time on those who don’t respect mine.

  • http://www.citysnaps.net citysnaps

    Or, you could just send this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

  • Goldie~

    ..and here’s the Cliff Note version of that letter.  “Hell naw I’m not shootin’ that fer free.  If hookers don’t work for free, neither will I!  Have a good’n!!

  • ernest nitka

    What Goldie said!  F-U and the horse you rode in on  also works.

  • Adam

    I just send them this link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2kV9SMDKe8

    But sometimes I take the time to explain.  Which is short goes like this:

    “Would you ask a carpender to come and build you a new kitchen and if you like it, you’ll pay for it and tell all your friends who did the work.”

  • Adam

    I just send them this link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2kV9SMDKe8

    But sometimes I take the time to explain.  Which is short goes like this:

    “Would you ask a carpender to come and build you a new kitchen and if you like it, you’ll pay for it and tell all your friends who did the work.”

  • Juan Prieto

    Just what I have always wanted to say. You put our thoughts in a great package! Thank you for all the time it took you to do this. Wish I could send you money for your writing but I am an unappreciated photographer as well! : )

  • http://profiles.google.com/don.giannatti Don Giannatti

    Really freeking amazing.

    I simply reply with a “Thank you for your interest. I do not allow free use of my images.”

    Is that too hard?
    Not enough “teeth” in it?
    Not enough righteous anger?
    Not enough condescending bull…?

    Come on.

    The ones who think this is cool are obviously NOT in business.

    You don’t know if this art director was INSTRUCTED by a client to ask.
    But you lecture in a condescending and righteously indignant manner.

    You don’t know if this art director was INSTRUCTED by his/her boss to request.
    But you lecture in a condescending and righteously indignant manner.

    In short, you have no idea who and where this person works. No idea of the context of their inquiry. No idea of where they may be in 2 or 3 years.
    But you lecture in a condescending and righteously indignant manner.

    I am starting to have a much clearer idea why so many photographers have less work than they think they should have.

    I always regarded it as a business. Never thought that it could be a great arena to show people how full of myself I am. I think I will pass on this TERRIBLE TERRIBLE advice.

    Good luck to those of you who use it.

  • Grungebob

    There is little chance they will read past the first line if they are asking for free work. Length doesn’t matter at that point then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1444195588 Aaron David Cole

    Mike Monteiro has a great video. It’s more to do with web design but, it gets the point across.

    F*U, Pay me.
    http://vimeo.com/22053820?utm_source=swissmiss

  • Kenjyi

    I wonder what the SOP is for people who want images you’ve already taken for free. My current dilemma: I photographed a concert with 2 acts, I covered the 1st act to warm up and the 2nd act was the actual job. Now the 1st act wants the images I took for free…

  • Anonymous

    Here here.

  • Viragored

    Same rate as the second act……

  • http://twitter.com/jasoncollin Jason Collin

    Like how?  Can you imagine a doctor being asked to work for free?  How about an auto mechanic?  Do you randomly call plumbers and ask them, “hey, if you come over and fix my leaky sink, I’ll put a link up on my 50 view per day site.”  Please tell us how to be less confrontational than Tony was?  You HAVE to point out to people the problems with asking us to work for free.  For me, it ruins my day to have to reply to someone  or some company I know for a fact has the resources, asking me to work for free.  

  • Zenstyle Designs

    Awesome!!!!!

  • Philippaopao

    Well photographers and other artists for that matter have to express their needs and their (financial?) situations in a way that they can also be understood by people, particularly those who are in the booming business sector.

    But I wholeheartedly agree that this could be pretty much be solved by a simpler statement/request, and not be too overly self-righteous with it up to the point of prejudice. The letter is spot on about the photographer’s needs, but I think it should be more of an eye opener and a guide for those who are interested in turning their photography practice into a profession, not necessarily a “terms of agreement” that you should pass and shove on to every client you work with. Afterall, negotiation is part of business.

    But then again we just couldn’t avoid some situations where “one’s rights ends when another one’s rights begin”, haha.

  • http://twitter.com/richardford Richard Ford

    I’ve provided a couple of pics in my time for various causes.  The people always agreed to my terms to send me a copy or two of the book or publication.  Again I make healthy money (in far apart bursts) from shooting as a hobby – not as my main income.  However the author’s point stands.  However he needs to work on his communication skills.  That piece is WAAAAAY too long and wordy.

  • http://www.LettieriPhoto.com Rob Lettieri

    Without reading any of the other responses I will say with respect that the fault lies with photographers for doing all they do for no charge…..it’s never free. free would mean that no one incurred any charges. Either way people have to be professional and charge a fee that makes them a profit.
    I have been in business almost 25 years and continue to make a profit asnI did from the day I started. If I ever did a job for no fee then I asked them to write a recommendation and had them sign an agreement thatbtheybwould never say thatbI did a job ” for free”. There is always a price.
    Good luck out there!
    RL

  • http://www.LettieriPhoto.com Rob Lettieri

    Sorry for the typos…it wouldn’t

  • Nappsack Photos, LLC

    I love it and I will be using some of the responses the next time someone asks me for free services. 

    Thank you for sharing

  • Bartolomy

    Could not agree more, found this on Craig’s list the other day and just had to place it at my own online diary.
    http://bartolomy.com/blog/?p=2609

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JH2RRLQJIKDZR6M6FEAKHTSLDM kruemi

    If I have no idea, why and for what purpose someone asks for free work, it is even more right to lecture them!
    IF you are asking for free work at least have the dignity to provide ALL the information about the whys and whereabouts!

    People who already KNOW the stuff that is written there and STILL ask for free work have more than earned it! And noone is forced to read it all!

    Your answer is correct but might be considered a bit on the harsh side. That’s not because is a harsh answer but because people don’t necesarily understand why the request is denied.
    So I think it is a good idea to give the people that do not know better an idea of whythe reqest was refused.

  • http://alkisahnyalah.blogspot.com Famia Huzaimatus

    I finished reading it too. It was good ^_^

  • http://www.ptsuksuncannyworld.com ptsuk

    Anyone asking for free service isn’t going to read this, unless you can sum it up in a sentence or two, as soon as they get the gist of “sorry but i’m not working for free or you can’t have my photo for free” is when they click and move on.  If you think otherwise you’re fooling yourself.  You won’t be able to “educate” who have the “free” mindset.  However they’re is nothing wrong with working for free if you so choose to(think of it as practice if anything), but being solicited to work for free is unacceptable.

  • RM Prehn, zxorb

    Bull shit Why should we give away are pictures.{Cameras,lens,printers ,ink paperAND TIME! )          hAVE A GOOD DAY !         rm pREHN

  • Im sorry its so long -

    Thank Wu very much.. This is PRECISELY why I love PetaPixel and is my top 3 daily reads. Seriously. – I am very well aware this is the longest response ON THE PLANET TO DATE. But, knowing that is first step to healing a warped mind!

    My response is 5000% for newbs. So, the other 12 million of you, don’t read further! :)

    There are no droids here – move on…

    I know it’s long, and I am sorry. – but, if one thing I say can ring a bell for a newb. So please don’t flame me or try to contact me or be nasty. I’m trying to point some things out that maybe someone who just ‘happens’ across this entry.

     My response, is unnecessarily VERY long, and provides way too much
    information, but – I don’t care.  I’m writing this in hopes that maybe
    it will give a little insight to a new-tog on  a variety of things, and
    some advice in general. I have way TOO much experience with doing freebies because I can’t say NO – and it’s cost me tons of money and a bit of self respect. But, I know my heart is in the right place, and thank god I have a mate who understands my need to try and do good for our struggling society. (blah blah blah)

    First, I’ve been shooting for over 10+ years and never call myself a professional photographer because of the negative overtones associated with professionals. Alot of pro-togs have over inflated egos and charge so much that the only people who can afford them are the ‘elite’. Now, that is NOT a bad thing, but, what IS obnoxious is the attitude and total lack of humility involved. Just because you really are technically or creatively advanced, it doesn’t give these types of photographers the right to be jackasses. Yet, again, it’s everyone’s right to charge what they want, and treat others how you want. But, whatever you toss out there you always get back. Jus’ sayin those are the types of people who are going to be annoyed with my response – but, as I said before: THERE ARE NO DROIDS HERE, MOVE ON..

    Second, you can still be a nice photographer without being taken advantage of. Just because you are nice – doesn’t mean you are a push over or easily guilted into someones sob story. Being nice and being taken advantage of are NOT the same thing. But, unfortunately they go hand in hand.

    Please learn from MY mistakes – PLEASE…

    And, as for this response from Jedi Wu, no way Jose’ , not even a SINGLE person who asked for freebies read past the: “due to, blah blah”. The realized there were no droids here and moved on.. So the point is 5000% LOST.  None of the rest of it matters and the bite that was intended was a mere whisper of a breeze of a thought.

    Either be a jerk or don’t.

    They won’t read any of the passive aggressive ‘sting’, even though it feels so good sending something like that sometimes – especially to the excessive requests or the rude requests or the annoying ones – it’s simply not worth the time to even respond with a phuck off – seriously. That even cost you money. Even though we are thinking 400x worse than this NO response could ever have attempted to resemble.

    I am not calling myself a wordsmith or an editor, either,  but – this ‘essay’ from Mr. Wu, has not been reviewed or edited by anyone other than himself. The beauty of it is that he doesn’t obviously give a shit which in itself is refreshing.

    Again, that is totally okay because he is a photographer not a literary genius. However, along with the territory of being a professional photographer – you always in all respects should represent yourself as a professional and this Andy Rooney letter is very far from it so, I wouldn’t use this as a template. It is just all over the place and is so passive-passive-agressive-back to neutral-agressive it would confuse even the most intelligent bargain hunters out there if they bothered to get past the: yeah but – NO. I mean the point is NO. But all the other fluff is not necessary, in my opinion, either be a dick or don’t. Pick a side already!

    We as adults know EXACTLY what we are doing when we ask for free sheit.. We aren’t stupid. However, 99% of the asshats who do ask for free photography only know it as being an expensive luxury that they really do need. Yet somehow we as creatives don’t ‘deserve’ to be paid for our services? Are we all hobbiests and do this just for fun or because we are bored?

    Do people pay for web design? Do people pay for a nice building? Do people sit on furniture that is comfortable (even uncomfortable) -? Someone had to work out a creative process to create and design those things. All those nice folks got paid (some in China) :) some in America, but regardless Photography is the same ‘idea’ – but it’s something you have to create from scratch EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU GET A NEW CLIENT WITH NEW REQUESTS. If you truly love your craft and everything about it – then you will need to do an awesome job free or not.

    Unless they at one time were or are at present a photographer, then people  have NO CLUE how much money we have tied up in our gear. They’ve no CLUE how long it takes to prepare and pack for a shoot, cumulative traveling,  set up and tear down. They have no clue what’s involved with the process, the shoot, the editing, the cropping for multiple images. Then, final push of print, delivery of prints and or digital files. They don’t ‘need’ to know either, they just need to be happy with their ‘finals’. Whether free or not –

    If you do happen to charge like any NORMAL person out there, then CHARGE ACCORDINGLY. If you think you may be charging too much, for service, fuel, or even prints,  – top it off with another 15%-20% … If folks scoff a bit, then you have room to go down. Never box yourself in – always leave room to grow and bend and stretch and mature. But don’t underestimate yourself if you continually are getting compliments and bookings – you should reevaluate your pricing, then grow a pair and call other photographers and ask for their HONEST opinion on what they think of your work and pricing. But if you suck, then you suck there’s no charging for suck – unless you find an idiot.

    Even when we aren’t working on an actual job, we are still working. (if we take our ‘jobs’ seriously) Even counting the minutes.. It all ads up to a tremendous amount of time, energy and money. Not to mention there’s  marketing and design of our websites, blogs, biz. cards. There’s sending tweets, updates on facebook, new images posted on our websites and flickr etc. However, if you can afford it farm it out to someone who is better than you and charge them for it.

    Let me get this straight non-paying-client:  you want me to provide you with free photography, free editing, free time, free printing, free paper, free ink, free electricity, my free time I spend either making money on a paying job or spending time with family, friends or my own personal hobbies outside of photography. You want me to travel for free and plan for free and fuel my huge ass Suburban, again that is going to be a minimum of 30$ unless you are a few blocks away. The second I agree to a freebie, it’s literally COSTING ME MONEY. – NOT TO MENTION losing the opportunity to recoup if we havent already, the thousands and thousands of dollars put into just the essentials: your rig, lenses, filters, flash, reflectors, tripod, pocket wizards, computer, hard drives, online storage, software. If we do have these things then there is always something to upgrade or repair.

    FREEBIES ARE NEVER FREE, THEY ALWAYS COST THE ONE PROVIDING SAID FREEBIES. Unless you can afford to GIVE FREE MONEY AWAY TO STRANGERS, or even people you know or organizations you are passionate about then don’t do it. At MINIMUM tell them you need 100$ to help pay for fuel costs. (And what are you going to do if you pop a tire out on their remote dirt road? 150$ minimum for a tow and 100$ for a tire. How are you going to change a tire on your truck?) They aren’t going to pay for it unless you have it in your contract, and then – good luck collecting EVER if something like that god-forbid should happen to you.

    You have to realize that every SINGLE move you make after you made that decision to be a photographer for PROFIT,  affects the amount of green in your pocket. PERIOD.

    Unfortunately, non-profits are the-w.o.r.s.t. PERIOD. I’ve provided over 8K in free creative work not including about a grand in fuel and coffee. I don’t over-price my work and don’t charge a ‘session’ fee or anything like that to paying clients, I charge 75$ – 125$ an hour, dependent upon the shoot plus fuel and 100$ an hour for an assistant + fuel. Always with a minimum of 250$, minimum 150$ for the assistant. If there is more than an hour trip time, I charge 30$ an hour drive time and will only travel 4 hours each way (driving) – and won’t leave the state.  Editing depends on how many images they choose based on straight out of the camera choices. I charge 75$ also for editing every hour 1/2.

    And no, I don’t purposefully take my time – once I am done with a shoot, I am usually over it and want to get them gone. *yeah, kinda like this post* Your charges are going to vary obviously, but – the fine line and balance is between getting what you deserve and donating yourself right out of your home.

    If my husband didn’t work full time, I would have NEVER been able to give a single service away for free, at ALL because of the amount of time that it takes away from the people who pay your bills.

    Paid or not,  give 101% – ALWAYS. As you never know who will see your work – and you need to always have pride no matter how annoyed you are with them or over you are with a non-paying client. Or just over the ‘idea’ of now being stuck and tied down by this non-payer. Somehow being paid justly for your skills and your services is a great motivator and aid to keep that ball rolling. And a great deterrent for telling said paying clients to pound sand…

    No need to be a douche bag when telling them no – but, you need to be prepared, especially if you live in a small town like I do – that if you are a jackass to someone and are rude or obnoxious, word will be guaranteed to get around and you will lose potential business. But, on the other hand, if you do say YES to the freebie, I guarantee they won’t call all their pals and say oh – ‘xyz photography’ said HELL YES TO MY FREEBIE REQUEST. They are going to give me free prints, free fuel, free time, free creativity, free electricity, and let me put wear and tear on their gear they spent thousands of dollars on. Not to mention if they get a flat tire in their truck on their way here or back they are screwed out of 300$ easily!!!

    I digress:…  You have to keep in mind that every single person and company out there is a potential client, everyone has pets, kids, dogs, a project car, quilts to put on Etsy, models, senior portraits, educational materials and text books, ebay stuff,  family reunions, family portraits, weddings, engagements, food for menus and websites. Everyone who owns a website needs photography. Let me say it again: EVERYONE WHO HAS A WEBSITE OR A BLOG NEEDS PHOTOGRAPHY. If you need practice go do it on your OWN time or do it for family so if you get a paying client in the meantime, you can always put off family and friends. *unless it’s a wedding* weddings are the spawn of satan. Next to big corporations and doing commercial shoots weddings are the biggest money makers – and for good reason.. Just DONT DO IT – do yourself a favor, if you have the wedding ‘itch’ that needs to be scratched be a second shooter or 3rd shooter if you are super new. You don’t want that responsibility. It is a ridiculous amount of time, prep, planning, post production, emails, phone calls, neurotic brides, drunk groomsmen, ovebearing mothers and mother in laws, the obnoxious pocket photographer, Uncle George who is standing 3 feet to your right and now 1/2 your people are looking at you the other half are looking at him and the rest are blinking.. (did you catch my killer math skills?)

    Know this:  If you are looking for adoration, appreciation, a thank you card, an
    email saying kiss my ass, you will never get any of that. My thanks has been in the
    form of: We want more sheit for free.. so you really need to go into freebies knowing you won’t even possibly be paid with a thanks or even a kick in the ass afterwards.

    The hardest part is to know when to trust your instinct on when it is a MUST to say NO and when it’s okay to budge and play with the numbers or do something for free or give a print for free or a couple of small digital images for facebook for free.  The more freebies you do, the cheaper your work becomes.

    Let me say it again:  THE MORE FREEBIES, THE CHEAPER YOU ARE. Don’t cheapen your  craft no matter what urges you may have. Have someone whose been doing this for years punch you in the face to wake you up!

    Unless you can literally afford to take cash out of your pocket or are independently wealthy and want to give money away – then go for it. If you say no, im sorry I can’t – you wont go to hell. Even tho knowing Karma is there with a few extra points to balance out your past doesn’t hurt.  

    Saying no is uncomfortable for a lot of people. But if you say Yes to them – then you will ultimately be saying NO to your house payment or new tire or new lens.

    For me,  It would be easier as a parent to say no – or if my husband didn’t work. But, I am the luckiest girl on the planet because I don’t work anything other than a camera. If I had to live off of my income I made from photography and were divorced, I would be dead.. My gear would have been sold a long time ago.

    I have given away and done so much for non-profits, I have freebied myself to a point of no return and I am burnt out. Being burnt out is awful because of all the feelings which surround that and that TOO affects your income.  Vicious, perpetuating circle.

    Think about yourself FIRST and then everything else will fall in place if it were meant to  be with hard ass work, your own formula, and of course tenacity and humility.

    I know I am a partial hypocrite as if I get a request for recovered abused animals looking for adoption, I am a sucker for it and will almost always say yes. So, saying NO depends on your hearts full or empty gauge.

    I also know it’s my OWN fault I am burnt out on  doing the freebies now.  I had noone to turn to and learned the hard way and it hurts falling on your face multiple times. Thank gawd I have a supportive husband I would have to be working a fulltime job outside of the house and would NEVER be able to put in the time I ‘need’ to. I love photography, yeah – I get burnt out, but photography is my life.

  • http://twitter.com/Soiden Sebastián Soto

    How about:
    “Dear potential photo buyer,

    no.

    Sincerely, [Photographer].”

  • Rusto

    Trade “photos” for “play music for free”  
    There’s a cartoon at the music store where I teach. A plumber is standing there. “we can’t afford to pay you but the exposure will do you good.”
    I was come back with, how often do YOU work for free? I’ve got kids and I’d rather spend my time with them than to play at your stupid benefit.
    A local band got asked to play for GW Bush’s 2nd inaugural ball. But they could afford to pay them. This was the $12million ball. And they couldn’t afford to pay the band. They had to beg for donations. 

  • Oblomow

    who farted?

  • Pulecz

    I like the concept, but it really is long. In fact even longer than very very long. I’m sorry, but I didn’t even finish reading it. And I got as far as I did just because I’m interested in the field. No outsider (meaning outside the field of photography) will probably even reach the first bold headline. They came with simple intention to rip you off your time, money and talent, so don’t be too nice explaining why no.

  • http://www.adrianwilson.org Adrian Wilson

    I just had the St Regis in NY ask me to shoot a room for free that was going to be featured in Conde Nast Traveler. Not sure why they thought I would work for nothing but I did ask them if they would provide a room for free in one of their exotic locations for a weekend as a trade for my free photography.
    I didn’t hear back, so I guess their business model was a one way concept.

  • Guest

    lovee when crappy personal businesses say they’ll give you good exposure by “crediting you” on their website. their site probably gets like, all of 4 visitors a day, 0 of which click the “credits” page. exposure my ***

  • Guest

    you seem like a well-established, respected photographer in your field. why on earth they thought you would do it for free, boggles my mind. I could imagine chumbucket tourist with a DSLR, but not someone experienced.

  • http://www.enzodalverme.com/blog enzo dal verme

    To all the clients that are asking me to shoot for free, I am now sending a link to this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6B6OXnyaRk

  • http://www.facebook.com/windelena.lindsay Windelena Lindsay

    The same is true for all artists. Everybody wants free or cheap. I have 15+ years in the industry and still have to fight to get paid for my work. I recently launched into photography. I started doing sessions for free at first but they paid for the prints. Now I’m charging for the session but not getting work. The problem is I’m competing with all these beginner photographer that are giving the images away for the same price. I learned as an artist not give away files unless you command a high price for them. It’s frustrating.

  • http://www.hkphoto.com/ Ken Tam

    Professional know they cannot, but all other man with a camera think they can… fair game?

  • Guest

    Actually, no. Have to use many words, often having to repeat things before it sinks in.

  • LuciCJ

    Happened to me… I simply did not want to go and stand form some 10 hours at a christening party – for some guys who pretended to be my friends, but had not talked to me for almost a year. And since I turned them down, they pretend they don’t even recognize me in the street anymore.