Pro Photographer on Craigslist: Why Don’t You Work for Free?


You don’t exactly have to be telepathic to know where this Boston-area photographer is coming from. He/she was probably checking over his accounts receivable, wondering how he was going to make it to the next gig, when some clueless would-be entrepreneur contacted him with a fabulous opportunity to do head shots of his entire staff in return for exposure and goodwill, aka bupkis.

Fortunately for us and our need for the occasional hilarity, he snapped a bit, resulting in this fine little screed/joke that comments not only on the photography business but the peculiar economics of the Craigslist marketplace.


Titled “Pro Photographer Looking for People to Do Their Job Without Pay,” the photographer decides it’s turnabout time. “I am a photographer,” the shooter writes, “and since people are always looking for free shoots I assume that they must also do their job, or provide their services, for free.”

“I am looking to hire all types of people to do all sorts of jobs for me, as long as I do not have to pay anything,” he continues. “Just think, you will gain more experience, and I will put the word out for you and let everyone know what wonderful work you do.”

But don’t jump at the opportunity right away. A closer look does reveal that references are required.

(via Craigslist)

Image credit: Will work for idiots by carnagenyc

  • Albertini

    Yawn. How many of these come up each year?

  • Caitlyn Chapman

    The ad wasn’t nearly as angry as I’d hoped it would be when I clicked. ha.

  • Tired of whiny photographers

    How do I know you’re a PRO photographer? Because when you aren’t arguing about gear online, you’re whining about clients.

    When someone asks you to work for free, guess what? You don’t have to say yes.

  • Jeff Davis

    And once you move beyond looking at craigslist for jobs, you also tend to find paying clients and avoid the whole “work for free” thing anyway.

  • William Torregrossa

    How does one know that he’s a Pro Photographer? 90% of people i’ve met tell me how they are a pro photographer, when I ask what kind of gear they have their like, I have a iphone, and then follow with, I don’t know why you drag that big dslr around when you could just take pictures with a iphone.

  • Courtney Dailey Croll

    I am an agency signed photographer, and you’d be surprised how often I encounter this.

  • Clayton Finley

    +1 more petapixel entitlement thread. Not to mention the guy is just clogging up CL space. If proving a point means a sarcastic craigslist posting, it really shows your lack of professionalism.

  • James

    HAHA, This is so true.

  • Mike

    A client that wants free stuff is a client?

  • Mike

    So how did they come to the conclusion that their profession is photography?

  • Sid Ceaser

    A few times a year I will check out those sections on CL. It’s like a horrible traffic accident – I don’t want to go and look but I can’t help it because it’s such a mess. ;)

  • Broseph of Arimathea

    Bitter guy who can’t compete in commoditised industry makes whiny post veiled in HILARIOUS SARCASMS on the internet because comedy.

    How interestment.

  • Broseph of Arimathea


  • /CVP

    Know how to spot a real Pro? Wallet full of moths. But I digress…

  • Sum_it

    I’ve always found it uncomfortable to call myself a professional photographer. Especially since photography isn’t my major source of income. To this day, there are times when I’ll claim the title and other days when I’ll let it pass.

  • pvbella

    My favorite ad was the one looking for a freelance photographer to shoot fashion articles. They were not paying, but, they would hire an assistant for the photographer.

  • stevengrosas

    Sometimes working for free, especially if it was a big company and or brand that would get you exposure, is worth it. Obviously Craiglist ad’s are one thing, but doing photography work for free in some circumstances does pay off in the future.

    If you had the opportunity to be head photographer for a national magazine for exposure would you take it? Or would you turn it down and stay home, and let the next person add that experience to their portfolio?

  • robandrewphoto

    If you’re a pro photographer, the amount of time you should spend marketing yourself on CL is exactly negative 3 hours per year.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    Get out of the gutter and you won’t find bottom feeding clients. If you can;t get up from the bottom rung rethink your business plan. I hang out with 5 other photographers. Only one whines about his no-pay, low-pay, slow-pay clients. Others have actual worthwhile clients. Clients and photogs find each other.

  • Mick

    They come to the conclusion because newspapers and mags have accepted their iphone snaps, and they have started a Facebook photography page, so they is a pro, right?

  • Mark Houston

    Has it worked for you?

  • Matt

    Being a professional isn’t about having the gear.

  • Philip A Swiderski Jr.

    so true but sad Craigslist is not the only place that that happens I can be out doing a shoot and have somebody come up and ask if I’m a photographer I usually answer politely but once in awhile I just snapping say nothis is just the plastic and metal box with a piece of glass in front of itand then they proceeded to ask me if I’d be willing to do we shoot for them for exposure I ask who they are where they work and use the answer is I’m in for unemployed and I’m looking to update my head shot. idiots are everywhere often if you carry yourself professionally, you really don’t run into that problem and just to clarify the only difference between a professional and amateur is a professional does it for his primary source of income an amateur does it for the love

  • Mark Shannon

    I swear i saw this exact post, word for word, published two months ago…

  • Jim

    No reputable company would ask you to shoot for free. If you think that NG, Sports Illustrated or Vogue is going to ask you to shoot a project that will appear in print for free and tell you we might give you paying work down the road, you’re nuts. Motorola, IBM, or Apple are not going to give you their prototype to shoot product shots of for advertising and ask that you do it for free this time in hopes for future paid work. Why? Because they are reputable. They know (and the marketing companies know) that they will look like idiots to even suggest.

  • KJ


    Even people who work for charities get paid.

  • shadow5d

    He forgot to say that the next time he needs those services, he’ll be sure and keep them in mind and then he might be paying…

  • analogworm

    A photographer who works for free is a professional?

  • Ilkka

    Supply and demand. There are many people who own a camera and are happy to take pictures and give them away free just to see their picture in print or whatever. There are not so many amateur plumbers who are willing to do that. Professionals charge money, that is the definition. But why would you pay more if you can get something sufficiently good for free or for pennies? Photography is one of few professions where this actually happens. Maybe you chose the wrong profession. It may be sad for some, but that’s life. Those who see their free pictures in an advertisement are happy, as are the advertisers who save money. Maybe, just maybe, some of these savings eventually trickle down to the price of the product and we all benefit.

  • Hugo Uyttersprot

    i think this kind of work, unpaid or for a very low salary is a real trend in the photo business.

    I speak for my part : architecture photo and real estate photo for example.

    In my country, nobody wants to pay young photographers for that.

    i have to work with foreign websites who are paying 60€/photoshoot.

    Nobody could live normally with that salary.

    And websites pay all the same !

    that’s globalization effect.. on the worst side !

    we have to organize to ask for higher salary.

    without international photographer organization, it won’t be possible to change things.

  • curiousphotog

    are you familiar with how charities compensate photographers at all? (I’m honestly asking, not trolling by any means.) I have this charity trying to get me to work with them, and I’m demanding compensation (I can’t afford to do it for nothing), and they’re saying they can’t “write off a service” and neither could I if I wanted to donate time, etc. or anything, which sounds right. But I know I’ve seen other photographers get paid by other charities before…you wouldn’t happen to know a point I could argue to them would you? Other than, “hey, just pay me” because that doesn’t seem to be working.

  • mthouston

    Work for Charities and Non-Profits can be written off on your taxes as a contribution, talk to your ( a ) accountant.
    FYI…Charities have money, they just don’t like to spend it.

  • Frank B!

    I hate when somebody tries to get you to use your skills.. (that it took years to build) and equipment (that took years and money to build up) to WORK for free.. (forget exposure! Im exposed to you.. now expose me to some money! MY CAMERA IS MY WHORE.. AND I AM A PIMP.. MY PHOTOGRAPHY IS GOOD SEX.. AND THE PICTURES ARE THE EVERLASTING ORGASM.. that will outlive the subjects.. that.. is priceless! *now if you just want a bunch of random pictures.. crap.. TAKE IT YOURSELF!

    with your own crappy phone or cameras..

  • ProtoWhalePig

    “Hey just pay me” seems fine. After you’re not the carity; they are. You gotta put food on the table, right?

    And push comes to shove, just tell them no.

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    Craigslist is scammer heaven. People go there to: 1) find out where you live so they can rob you if u advertise something of value 2) to find stuff to resell ..there are actually people trying to make a living reselling there 3) because they are bored 4) whatever

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    photography is dead….everyone ‘knows’ all you have to do is to buy a good camera to get good images… photography is the only possible way to make money….no pay..they are screwed…all this other stuff….they are just dicking you around

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    Photographers have Always had an impossible time making a living…Ansel Adams struggled like crazy…day to day..taking really cheesy school portraits to feed himself…Edward Weston was poor white trash his entire life and existed on donations from photographer friends who had other income (inheritances etc)…it never ends..i could go on for hours

  • Brian_Bray

    Sometimes, yes. The same way a lawyer who takes a case pro bono is still a professional. If the work genuinely advances your career, it’s worth it. Craigslist leeches don’t count, however.

    I’ll do free work for:
    1. Registered charities with causes I believe in
    2. Art directors with great concepts
    3. Talented models who will sign releases

    I filter any ad with the word “budget”. It’s guaranteed to be preceded by the words “no” or “low”.

    Under no circumstance does a pro bono image not bear either my logo or a credit caption.

  • Brian_Bray

    It’s not about owning the gear. It is about showing up at the job with the right tools to get the job done properly, whether you buy or rent.

    Plumbers don’t use dollar store wrenches. Chefs don’t use Easy-Bake ovens. Unless the clients says “I need that iPhone look”, I wouldn’t show up with an iPhone.

  • Hector

    Don’t know their current policy but I remember reading in several places a while back that Vogue rates were not that great considering their standing and that they used the increased reputation angle.

  • Eric

    Once told a magazine picture editor that his boss must be so grateful to him for working for free when he tried claiming they had no budget.

    In the end the negotiated fee was higher than I would have expected for the image use.

    Not sure whether he was scared I would suggest to his boss that I suspected he would work for free or felt guilty for expecting somebody else to do so.

  • Matt

    Nobody ever said it was about owning the gear. If a tool gets the job done, what differs the right tool from the wrong one?

    What if a plumber has to use a dollar store wrench because they lost their regular tool set? What if a chef has to use an Easy-Bake Oven as a last resort? Does that make them any less of a professional?

  • Brian_Bray

    I think we can both appreciate the difference between thinking on your feet in an emergency situation and relying on improper tools on a daily basis. Agreed?

  • Play G Arized

    this CL ad is a copy of one that was run on 2011-10-03 “Photographer Looking for People to Do Their Job Without Pay (Atlanta)”

  • Blair Wright

    How many Pro Photographers go to Craigslist to find customers? Zero, Pro’s advertise or have a customer base and relies on word of mouth and maybe their established studio name.

  • Avril111

    My Uncle Gabriel got a stunning blue Dodge Charger SRT8 from
    only workin part time on a home pc… hop over to here B­u­z­z­3­2­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Richard Ford

    Ton or tonne?

  • Ryan_Williams

    This is actually a really good tactic. I learned too late that one of my editors was keeping the money he was supposed to budget to freelance photographers. If someone tells you they have no budget, ask to speak with their boss. If they had no budget they wouldn’t be spending time searching for photos.