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Yep it still happens, should you work for free ?

We all get these mails, and trust me also we get them on a very regular basis.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about…. read on.

“Dear mr Frank Doorhof,
My name is xxxxx and I’m the owner of a fashion brand, we are making outfits that are worn by several sporters in their activities of and on the track.
We have a new line coming out and we need a nice and above all capable photographer that can shoot several amateur sporters (not the pros) in their own environment spread across the country.
The images will be used for our catalogue, website, billboards and of course advertising.
The quality has to be unique and that’s why we mailed you because we think your style really fits our audience.
We will mention your name at the end of the catalogue as photographer.”

Well that sounds interesting doesn’t it ?
About a months work, creating unique light setups for the sporters, different locations spread throughout the country.
And although they are not the pros I would still love to do it, so I replied that I was interested but that I needed a bit more information about the budget they were working with and the number of shots, volume, licence years etc. so I could do the calculations according to that.

To my surprise I got the following mail back…..
“Dear Frank,
We love to have you on board.
There is no budget for the photoshoots, all our money goes into printing and advertising, so we want you to do it for the mention of your name, because we are talking about heavy use of the images this can really be a nice deal”……

Yeah ok,
Let me see, so I have to travel to let’s say 30 locations spread out over the Netherlands (and ok it’s not a big country), I have to shoot 4-5 images per sporter, so I have to deliver 150 images retouched for billboards, and I get what…… my name mentioned…. let me think about that one……

Yes this is true…
Because I don’t want to print loads of these mails I combined several mails into this one example.
If you think I’m joking, I have to say I’m not.

The same goes for models that mail our studio.
We get a lot of mails from starting models that need their portfolio build, however they all want to do a TFP shoot (Time For Print), in other words you don’t get paid but you do have to work 2 days because they often are not satisfied with 5-6 great images, no they want a CD so they can choose and you have to retouch what they want….. hummmmm good deal ? didn’t think so 😀

Yes there is a budget…..
Often we also get mails from companies that do have a budget, but also there it’s not always what we want.
“Dear Frank,
Thank you for your reply.
We would like to have 28 dresses shot for our new catalogue, they have to be worn by 4 models.
Locations have to vary between 50% studio, 25% street or outside city and 25% nature/beach etc.
Looking forward to your reply”

Ok now these are the interesting assignments, because with this kind of work you can really create something and because we can supply the models ourselves I also can work with the people I like to work with, so I decided to make an offer they could not resist.
In our quotation I used a very extensive matter of explaining all the costs, like the sample you see here :

Shooting time : 5 days xxxxxxx
Models : xxxxxxx
MUA : xxxxxxx
Assistants : xxxxxxx
Retouching : xxxxxxx
DAM : xxxxxxx
Licence fee : xxxxxxx
Small extras : xxxxxxx

We also added some extra materials and other costs of course but as you see we decided to make a very clear quote.
The reason for this is simple.
There are a lot of photographers out there that just quote one price, for the customer this can seem high, by using a method in which you show the client how the total amount is being build up it can help you get the assignment much easier. In this case however it was not of any use….. Within 2 days I got a nice reply.

“Dear Frank,
Thanks for your quote, however this is a lot of money.
We also asked another photographer and he is willing to do the whole project for € 500.00 if we can get somewhere in that region we can without a doubt talk because we really prefer your work.”

I don’t think I have to say that for € 500.00 (and yes you really read this correctly fivehunderd euros) there is no chance in a lifetime I’m doing a weeks work with renting locations, hiring an assistant and doing the licence etc. etc…….

It’s a snakepit
I do consider myself extremely lucky with the assignments I get and the work I do.
I mainly focus on the workshops and seminars and the assignments I do take on are the ones that are great for my own portfolio or the ones that do pay you the amount you deserve, and of course I often take on jobs that don’t pay the money it should but you sometimes should, some assignments can give you a great exposure or give you the option to work with a great team, talented people or unique characters. And yes sometimes you will break even or even loose money on a job, welcome to the snakepit called running a photography business. It’s been so for many years.
I once read an interview from a famous photographer (sorry forgot his name) in which he stated that all his work for Vogue cost him that much money he had to work for a while to earn that back, but he could simply not pass that by and would do it anytime even it meant working for free or giving away money. And I have to say I 100% agree with him/her.

So what to do and what not.
It’s of course ridiculous to shoot a wedding for € 250.00, an advertising campaign for an unknown brand for free etc.
However you REALLY have to realize that sometimes you HAVE to work for free or throw money at it to get further.
I’ve had my images published in almost every photography magazine in the world for over 6 months in a page wide spread for a big brand and they money I got from that was….. well let’s say we did not loose money on it. However it did bring me further in my career (a lot further).
I’ve also done work that paid very little and didn’t pay back anything, waste of time, waste of energy.

You NEVER know in advance.
So the moral of this story is double.

1. The photography business is being destroyed by GWCs (Guys with cameras) that work for free.
And the troubling part is that they do deliver nice work most of the time 😀

2. Make sure you choose wisely.
Don’t never work for free, but choose your assignments.

Also remember that when you are working for free all the time people are not willing to pay top dollar the next time.
So that’s why I call this the snakepit.
This is an open blog post…. meaning it’s not done yet……
Share your experiences and build the post from here on and I will participate and answer any questions.

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  • http://www.verbrugghedavid.be david Verbrugghe

    ok what to do as a hobby/enthusiast when shooting for family?

    ok wedding stuff, I do not do!! and furter than familie I don’t go to!
    Rather start as partime/freelance photographer and a day job to be 100% legal, and sure of money exposure gets to big on that point.
    Had questions before for wedding!! just said no, don’t have the gear, the experience (just shooting for 3/4 years no), …
    and it isn’t my cup of tea (yet)! still learning a lot. and far from a descend level to get paid for my work!
    butt if I get there, for free??
    no way! time that it takes, gear, … it’s not that good to go that way.

    ok like you say a great chance with a great exposure you can not let go that easy but you can’t live of them I guess.

    looking forward to what will follow

  • http://www.fs-photography.nl Floris

    I confess, I sometimes shoot for free ( but then it’s not work) It’s for fun and for my own experience, so then it’s about my own projects and experiments.. When I get an assignment it’s different, then I have a customer, and he/she needs to pay for the costs, offcourse not too much, because I can’t deliver professional quality (I always warn them for that), If they want professional quality i’ll send them to a professional photographer and I don’t even think of making pics of them. It maybe costs a bit more, but that’s how it should be in my opinion.
    Floris

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  • http://www.sarah-pictures.nl Sarah D.

    It’s time for everybody and I mean EVERYBODY ( Modells, Photographers , Make -up artists and Stylists ) To….WAKE UP!

  • Fransg

    These are discussions that go on and on.
    And I think everyone is right and everyone is wrong 😉
    I don’t believe that there are many pro’s (and semi-pro’s) that never started to create their portofolio with working for free.
    Sometimes free work is an investment. And will sometimes pay-off more then your normal fee.

    On the otherhand, there are too many people doing work for free almost constantly. Well, don’t be surprised that you will get what you paid for as a customer.

    And if you are an amatur or semi-pro, how do you calculate your fee? (As said, the customer gets what he is paying for).

    What I don’t like is the fact that companies and the media are not willing to pay “because others will just do it for free”.
    And maybe this is a result of people that are constantly offering their services for free or that they are just happy that their picture is on the frontpage of the newspaper.

  • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

    I agree with everything above… didn’t expect anything else.
    Main problem is indeed that there are so many instances, people, situations etc.

    The main problem I’m sensing however is that most companies are now COUNTING on photography to be costing next to nothing and that’s weird and the same goes for models, recently I had a discussion with a 16 year old starting model that was angry she had to pay € 199.00 for our basic photoshoot, photography should be free she said because she was a nice girl and good for a portfolio…..
    It’s a sort of trend that photography is getting more and more done by people doing it for free, and again as mentioned in the blog post the main problem is that the quality they deliver is not that bad as you might expect.

    I know there are some parties working on making the photographer a profession again but I’m also afraid that maybe it’s a bit too late and in a few years we maybe have to earn our money by renting out the studio and doing the photography for free in some cases.

    On the other hand I also see that with some companies the call for really good photographers is growing and they ARE willing to spend money, we recently did a campaign that paid the normal fee but they specifically wanted me. If that’s the future it will be harder and harder for starting photographers to make their name and get paid, and when the “big” names stop what will happen then…..

    As soon as someone that is doing everything for free gets to busy they have to stop or start charging…..

  • Fransg

    Well, public transportation should also be for free right?
    And why would we all pay for CS5, our camera and other equipment.
    My fee will raise at the same rate as my experience will raise. This way, the customer will get what he paid for 😉

    But I totally agree that some just ruine the market.
    And this includes also the companies that accept a trade off by not wanted to pay for work (but that will bring them profit).
    I think that my only exception would be a Non-profit orginasation that I support.

  • http://www.fimphotography.com.au anthony byron

    Hi Frank so far i have had 1 paid job for a mother and daughter who approached me after they saw some of my model TFP work. I have done a number of TFP shoots as i still im nowhere near where i need to be, with startout models to help improve myself and practice new ideas ect and i have another 1 this weekend to play with my new strobes outdoors with a MUA friend who also aspires to model. I have also recieved a similar email like the first 1 you listed above that i just ignored at the time as i wasnt confident enough at teh time to even reply haha. My wife is on my case though to somehow make money to pay for all the gear i just bought :) all the models ive shot have come from modelmayhem except 1. i have gotten a few msgs from girls on MM though that say they like my work and if i would like to shoot them here are thier rates ect.

    Anthony

  • http://www.photoadrian.com Adrian

    Well, I think we need to distinguish between shooting a commercial work for a big (or small company) and shooting young, unknown models. The first instance calls for a reliable pro with the high-end equipment, who will deliver on time, big prints, fantastic locationts etc. and that costs.
    The second thing can be done by enthusiasts like me. Thanks to great teachers like Frank, Scott Kelby, Chase Jarvis (Thank God you are here to help us) we can deliver decent quality photos for free/for fun, but that’s all. we should never venture beyond that, or we should become pros and start charging for our work.

  • http://www.jvfotografie.com John Verbruggen

    It’s ridiculous that a professional company expects 5 days of work of your quality for 500 euro. [sic] A company like that is absolutely not worth spend a minute of time on.

    I’m happy that I experience these problems less in my field (mainly architecture) of work. I work for mostly big companies, who know that professionals can’t work for next to nothing.

  • Anthony falsarella

    Thank you for this post. Where they are trying to skimp on is to increase their profit margins at the photographer’s expense. I would like to see them try the same tactics with the designers or even those on their staff. If they did, they would find out real fast that they do not have a product let alone a business. This is truly a post that is needed to be read by many inside and outside the photo community.

  • Hans

    Hi,

    What happens if we look at it in a different way? The markets are changing in a rapid way. How do photograpers change with this new markets? Do we develop a new business model to generate income? Or do we stick to the old?

    In yester-years a wedding photographer would set his price while knowing that he would get a good income afterwards with the ‘small reprints’ for the family. That doesn’t work anymore n these days.

    See it like this: when I get my house painted, I pay a fixed price. It doesn’t matter to the painter if lots of people will look at it in a busy street or a just few people in a small neighbourhood. But photographers insist on offering a price based on the quantities of the printed matter or the size of the website. Why?

    So let’s develop a new businessmodel that the clients of today understand. Then there will be free photographers for clients who just value the aspect ‘it is free’ and professional photographers with added value for paying customers. We only need to establish what values clients are willing to pay for. Any suggestions?

    BTW: I have learned a lot during your workshops and I am very happy with what I have paid for. Hope to attend another workshop in the future.

  • http://www.markbeaumont.co.uk Mark Beaumont

    I’ve only just discovered this site, and what a great first read! Totally agree with what’s been said so far.

  • http://N/A Joe

    I see it this way, if they have the budget for prints and advertising, they should have factored in a budget for the photographer. The photographer’s role is just as important as everyone else. I’ve seen weddings for example, where the couple chose a photographer based on “TFP”, almost a freebie. The shots were as if they handed a point & shoot camera to a monkey with ADHD, then the couple had the nerve to try to take this poor sap to court because the shots were horrible. Just because someone gets a Nikon D90 for Christmas, doesn’t make them a photographer. This is the problem these days, they think they just point the camera, the camera does all the miracle work and they collect cash.

  • http://fotocinethesis.com Jeremy O’Donnell

    Greeting Frank,

    I think that Frank, you are really getting the point out there. However, I am stuck because, I am trying to move out on my own. (I worked for a studio for a few years.) I am trying to get my name out, and I have done the “free” weddings, and shoots. Now, I am known to be the cheap guy, and people will look at my prices and scoff. Now, how do I break these trends that people have come to know me? How do I get to another clientele? BTW, love the Kelby training vids. Thanks for letting me rant a bit.

    Jeremy

  • http://fotocinethesis.com Jeremy O’Donnell

    Also, we don’t call them GWC’s. It is just Uncle Ned.

  • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

    @Jeremy.
    Difficult to break something.
    But you could change some things around and market it as new, now professional or something like that.
    People won’t every pay for something that they know was free before 😀

    That’s also why I will probably never shoot microstock.

  • http://www.geraldv.nl GeraldV

    camera about € 2000
    lenses around € 2000
    Lamps set around € 2500
    PC / Imac / Laptop around € 2000
    Software around € 2000
    3 years investing time to know what you know now, before you ask money ……. €
    Your house, your toilet, not free
    Web hosting, CDs, insurance, etc.

    if all you read above was free, it has still a decent value.

  • Richerd Reynolds

    Well said. I forget who originally said this, but the gist is “Work for free, or work for full price, never for cheap…”. That is how I tend to look at my work. I will occasionally work free, but never for a discounted price. When I first started as a graphic designer, I took on anything at any price. As I gained experience (and a mortgage) I realized the difference between working hard and working smart. In some cases I’ve even added a PIA (pain in the ass) fee.

    The problem that I saw coming into the graphic design industry at the, more or less, introduction of using computers as a design tool (rather than pencils, paper, xacto knives, rubber cement and rubylith), is that clients had the mind set that “He is working on a computer, he can work faster and with less effort, so why should we spend as much?”. I think we’re seeing the same thing now with digital photography.

    As I faced with the design industry, it’s up to us to educate our clients Yes digital photography does change some things, but there are still many fundamental things as well as some new challenges that have to be addressed, and is worth paying for. Especially when they want the experience and expertise that you bring to the table. Yes they can go to someone cheaper, but in the end they get what they pay for. I don’t know how many times I’ve turned down work for clients just to have them come back later and pay me even more than I originally quoted to repair the damage.

    Sorry for the small novel.

  • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

    Don;t worry love to read all the replies.

  • http://digitalfotografen.dk Anders C. Madsen

    Yes, let’s see – what do you do when cheap GWC’s undermine your line of business? You get bloody better at what you do, that is what you do!

    Granted, the market for high quality photography is shrinking, not because fewer images are used, but because the threshold for “high quality” has been moved up a huge notch. That means that you either get really, really good at what you do or you get run over and out of business by a GWC who deliver a quality that was very good five years ago but now is considered average at best.

    And I’m not talking about the images here – it’s the entire customer experience. It doesn’t matter if you are a business or a couple getting married – when it comes to photography you hire someone because you don’t feel that you have the means to do it yourself, be it time, equipment or skills.

    Hence, the photographer that will continue to get new work will be the one that can make the client feel warm and fuzzy all the way through the entire process, and not the GWC who may be cheap but also inexperienced. Word gets around and while you can fool everyone once and you can fool a few people every time, you cannot fool everyone every time.

    I’m aiming to go pro at the end of this year as a commercial photographer and I’m confident that there is a spot for me. It may be more difficult to find it and require more work to reach the needed level than I originally thought, but I still believe that if you can prove to the client that what you bring to the table is significantly better than the GWC’s, you will get the business.

    And yes, you can call me an idealistic fool. It won’t matter because I can’t help – I have all these images in my head that I need to get out. 😉

  • http://digitalfotografen.dk Anders C. Madsen

    – and that should have read “..because I can’t help it…” :)

  • http://fotocinethesis.com Jeremy O’Donnell

    @Anders,

    Well said, you kind of gave me the goose bumps. Freakin A!

  • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

    @Anders,
    There are more than enough options indeed.
    Main problem however is that I believe the demand for quality has gone down instead of gone up, and budgets are shrinking a lot.

    HOWEVER, indeed when you are prepared to work, work, work and simply be the best you can be there still is a market without a doubt.

  • http://www.fimphotography.com.au anthony byron

    just had a model i did a TF shoot with send me a email today as i was just about ready to send her the images i retouched that i chose from the session and this is the crux of her email.

    Hi Again,
    No rush with the photos from the shoot just was wondering if it would be possible to send me a disk with all the photos taken- both the re-touched images and the raw images.

  • http://www.arnsmedia.nl Hein

    “The main problem I’m sensing however is that most companies are now COUNTING on photography to be costing next to nothing”.

    This quote is out of Frank’s 5th reply. Last saturday I did a billiardshoot. There were some world best players in the neighbourhood. So I just went there and made some pics. Just for my own sake, nothing further intented.

    Yesterday I got an e-mail from a big paper specialized in and exclusively reporting on billiard. They asked me if I was willing to give them one of the group pics I took because all the pictures they had received were either to small or blurry. They couldn’t pay me a fee, but they would put my name underneath the picture.

    I replied that I normally don’t do free things anymore because even I have do do some shopping at the end of the week. I told them I had asked my local supermarket to supply me with food and so on and would put their name on it. The supermarket refused to make the delivery.

    The bottom line is that people, magazines, newspapers, companies, and so on are expecting you to deliver for free or next to nothing. They haven’t got a clou what costs there are for a photographer. Their main opinion is that a picture doesn’t cost anything because these days everything is digital.

  • http://www.foto-concept.nl Ron Rutgers

    Ben even lekker eigenwijs en doe dit in het Nederlands.

    De hele discussie over tegen belachelijke tarieven werken wordt op alle niveaus al geruime tijd besproken.
    Naar aanleiding hiervan heb ik een rekenmodel gemaakt (in samenspraak met Pim van de Maden) speciaal voor fotografen om tot een verantwoorde minimale uurprijs te komen.
    Dit rekenmodel is inmiddels overgenomen door o.a. de fotografen federatie en photofacts. De diverse vakorganisaties zijn er ook erg enthousiast over en ik heb begrepen dat zelf een aantal fotografie opleidingen dit model inmiddels bij hun cursisten bekend maken.

    Het rekenmodel is gratis te downloaden van mijn website: http://www.foto-concept.nl onder het kopje Dokumenten.

    Doe er je voordeel mee!

    Is gratis werken zinvol?
    Die vraag kun je alleen zelf beantwoorden!
    Wel is het zo dat jij en alleen jij degene bent die bepaald of iets een toegevoegde waarde is voor je portfolio.
    Gratis werken voor b.v. een naamsvermelding in een magazine lijkt leuk, maar wees eerlijk…. Hoeveel mensen gaan opzoek naar de kleine lettertjes die vertellen wie de fotograaf was en denk dan “Die wil ik hebben”…..

    Kortom, bepaal je eigen verantwoorde prijs op basis van feiten en denk goed na over wat je gratis weg geeft!

    Succes.

    Ron

  • http://www.moniqueheijboer.com Monique Heijboer

    I get these mails all the time requesting my services as a makeup artist and I keep getting madder and madder with every single one.
    For the companies that send them: if you have no budget for photography: you have not done your homework (ie you didn’t look at the photographers body of work) or you are simply not ready to launch your line.
    If you want THAT kind of work for free, email a hobbyist and don’t expect to get pro results. Or wait until you can afford quality work.

    I agree that we can benefit from doing work for free or low pay sometimes (and lord knows I’ve done my share of that) but these kinds of projects are not it.
    It’s commercial work and commercial work demands PAY. Yest P-A-Y. There I said it.

    Problem is, as long as there are people willing to do it for free, we will not get decent rates. I do sense a change though, companies are gearing towards quality work more and more because they are finaly seeing (once again) that you get what you pay for.
    And the argument that budgets are shrinking with the larger companies, I just don’t buy it. As long as the top dogs keep getting their bonusses, theres is a decent rate to be made for all of us. They are just too damn cheap to pay it, and thats a fact.

    So please pro’s, request a normal decdent day rate and STICK TO IT!.
    End/rant

  • http://www.janrsmit.com Jan R. Smit

    For free means also not valued by the “customer”. Charging for the delivered goods means customer will value it and if positive will a/ recommend you, b/ hire you again.
    So some how, some way the customer must pay for the performance delivered. This does not have to be money, but the customer must “feel” that it is a payment.
    This is for me the model! Even for me while it is not my job, so when someone asks me to do a shoot of something i charge some kind of fee.

  • http://www.grahameariss.com Graham Eariss

    As mentioned, people percieve digital as free and the instant feedback you get combined with lots of info on the web allows people to improve quickly if they put their mind to it. Cheaper cameras and high iso that allows people to get decent results with a much smaller investment in lighting gear AND fix/cover up their mistakes in photoshop and you have more people running around with cameras than you can point a camera at. I’m not saying they are great, but a lot of people will accept mediocre when its free or cheap.

    I think the thing to remember is that there is a lot more to running a photography business than photography itself. Having great work is a good thing but you need to give customers a positive experience all round.

  • http://www.hondenfotograaf.be Kurt

    Interesting discussion! I’m happy that Frank opens the discussion from another point of view than on the regularly treats at the photography forums.
    The question is indeed: why are media, advertising companies and other businesses trying to get images cheap or for free?

    On the regular forums, most semi-profs or profs, started on the same forums a few years in the past, are fighting amateurs who are asking price questions or are delivering shoots for free to build up an portfolio. They should be aware of there roots!

    About working for free… If it is a big opportunity to build up a portfolio or promote yourself to a market niche, why not? It is cheaper then renting the locations, models etc…
    When the images will be used by a commercial business or advertising company, I think (and this is also true for upcoming Semi-profs or hobbyists) it is not ethical to give the images away for free (or cheap) as it will ruin the market.
    Another one is assisting a well experienced pro for free. I’ll do immediately if I can buildup knowledge and experience. (So Frank, if you have an assignment within an hour drive (or even two) from Antwerp…)

    As I shoot mostly animals for specialized media and calendars, I have never paid for a model (yet). Printing media (illustrations for articles etc…) is not paying well and mostly the fee is not for discussion. A few times I made a quote for an advertising campaign (dog food or treads), I lost every opportunity. Probably because I was too expensive. But if I have to scout locations, have to cast all dog models (or use a casting agency), rent stuff and want to get paid for my time, why should a dog portraiture be cheaper then human? I will not lower the price. I simply don’t want to spend the time and have the risk without a fair payment. In my opinion the subject is not driving the rates. The complexity, time and expenses do. A second reason why I probably missed the assignments is the lack of commercial images in my portfolio… And then we are back on the question about working for free to build up portfolio.

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  • http://www.dennisebben.nl Dennis Ebben

    Good post, Frank. Thanx!

    It’s not only in photography business. See:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

    (Harlan Ellison — Pay the Writer)

    Greetings,
    Dennis Ebben

  • http://www.alluringperception.com Mark Kaye

    Ahh, lots of people agreeing with stuff here. But I’m going to disagree with most of the commenters.

    Those people that shoot for free, they are a part of the market that photographers choose to work in. Sure, some of those guys will be amazing. The retired pro with years of experience now doing it as a hobby for example. Some will be average, and some will be useless. You know, some of the guys that do charge aren’t so great either. But in the end, the customer is king. Without them, there is no free and there is no payment.

    The only thing you can do is offer something else, something different. You have to be outstanding in your own way. It’s a fact of life that competitors enter every business and you have to adapt to those changes or die.

  • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

    I agree Mark, main problem however is that there are SO MANY storming the market that the real customers are thinking that photography is free and should be free.
    Or in other words that photographers can live by having their name in a magazine.

    As mentioned before for example in my own situation I get 20-30 mails a week by models wanting to model for me, when I talk about the model for a day packages they are surprised…. “I always thought Photography was free ?” however they do want compensation for travel 😀

    When I tell them that I’m in another branche than a hobby photographer and that we deliver a different quality they are often silent after that or they try to get a 50% discount because they think they look great. Now you have to know that our model for a day packages are already not expensive and you can see where the market is going.

    In the past we sometimes did do it because I hate sitting still, however we are so crazy busy the last few months that we don’t change our prices just to have a shoot, I also decided to work closely together with another photographer who I know and trust to run our model for a day program.

    So yes you can survive as a photographer but the guys/girls that can will be less and less.

    The main problem I see however and what worries me more and more is that we will loose a lot of great photographers that could produce stunning work but are now working at Burger King or McDonalds because they can’t live from their work.

  • http://digitalfotografen.dk Anders C. Madsen

    Fantastic discussion!

    I agree that the current market is a challenge for everyone trying to make a living from photography, but at the same time I’m idealistic (or stupid) enough to firmly believe that GWC’s are the storm and professional photographers are the trees in the forest – whoever is left standing once the storm is over will come out stronger.

    Let me add that I don’t think that this will be true for every type of photography. Wedding photographers and portrait photographers are facing an extreme challenge and only a few will prevail, simply because these types of photography doesn’t pay for themselves. On the other hand I think that the market will return for most types of commercial photography, simply because the professional photographers will add their knowledge to the advances in technology and run the GWC’s over once they get their bearings in the new market.

    The thing (at least as I see it) is that at some point commercial photography will be taken to new levels by skilled professionals and that will leave the GWC in the dust. Even though the clients may have been spoiled by decent photography for free for a few years they will still need marketing material that will stand up to the competition, and if the competition uses Frank Doorhof armed with high-end equipment and years of practical experince, they will be forced to do the same whether they want to or not, and they will have to pay the price for it.

    As for great photographers flipping burgers: They can still produce stunning photography in their free time but the harsh reality is that if they don’t have the necessary business skills to use their photography skills to run the GWC over, they can’t expect to make a living from their photography. Cocky words from an amateur with a dream, but nevertheless the truth, I’m afraid.

  • Sergio

    I want people to put up with shoddy photographic work. I want them to be complacent with shoddy work, with amateur results. I want them to think that their nephew could do what I do. I want them to trust their wedding photographs to an uncle who chose his camera because it was heavy and big. Because it had lots of buttons and megapixels. I want people to put up with ‘OK’. I salute cheap results. Get used to being asleep visually, artistically and emotionally.
    I want people to fear the GWC.
    Why?
    Because while they are putting up with the cheap and nasty photography there are a group coming up that still believe that art matters. Who are serving their apprenticeship the good old fashioned way.
    Who believe with all their heart that what matters most should NEVER be at the mercy of what matters most.
    Most of all, I want you all to fear the GWC.
    Because that makes my artistic path clearer.
    How is that for a mission statement?

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      To be honest I think it will be a wave we have to sit out.
      People are now shooting stuff that’s not amateur quality, heck it’s very professional but they don’t charge.
      There is a time when they get so busy they HAVE to start charging and they will loose their work because there is no way someone will pay for something they got for free for so long.
      Now everyone wanted to become a photographer because there was money, beautiful locations, loved photography etc. what more to wish for.
      Now the story about photography is changing to, hard work, no money or no money at all and you can’t make ends meet, so who in their right mind want to be a photographer. In other words in a few months/years there will be less real photographers coming into the market, the good shooters will have to start asking money but they will probably just stop because they don’t want to give up their jobs, and when you as a pro do something that’s unique you will get the customers back…. however I strongly believe that especially in the future it will be MORE and MORE important that you really bring something unique.

  • Bonnie Gustin

    Hello Frank! I was at the Photoshop World Conference, and LOVED your classes! I am in a mid life career change, and have been studying, learning, and doing free photo shoots for 2 years. I plan to launch my business in June, and need to come up with a good pricing structure. This is the hardest part for me, and I am wondering how to go about it. Any suggestions?

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      VERY difficult.
      To get prices right is working on your network and build prices from there, being good to your clients, but not being too cheap.
      My prices vary per project to be honest, we don’t work with fixed prices.

  • Yourt

    Like Bonnie, I’ve been studying, learning… even had to adapt from film to digital. And as I read above, it does take more to get the better pictures. GWC’s like to point and shoot and that’s it. I strongly belive in Franks “why fake it”… but that goes for modelling. On a concert or weddingparty, there’s little room for creating. So I unleash my built up CS skills, including brushes, filters, sharpening techniques,… on my pics that need it. Getting paid as a photographer for concert shoots is also very hard. newspapers got rid of their photographers and they ask their reporters to follow a course and take their own pictures (well, most of the time). Or they buy pictures from the local press agency. So there’s no money in that. Band shoots and CD covers maybe? Same problem as with the models: preferably for free (beginning band, laxck of money, mention my name,…). No, thank you. So for now I build more experience and stay on my job ;-))
    Makes me a GWC? I don’t think so, because I do things for free entrance, backstage access, and some drinks in a market that doesn’t ask for quality no more (you should see some of the pics in newspapers these days). And modelling? I do help some models a little getting a look at what modelling and photography can be… and if they are serious about it => they pay Frank or another pro for a pro portfolio. With me? They have fun, practice a hobby,… And I also filter part of the “ugly” ones, the incompetent ones,… and open the eyes of others. Saves the pro some work already.
    So I agree with the fact that it’s a changed world, and that GWC’s can destroy soem markets. but on the other hand, part of them realise they are hobbyists, realise they don’t have “the eye”, realise it takes a lot of skill and practice,… and so the market cahnges and it is up to the pro (or those that want to work as a pro) to find their place in that market. So never do a pro shoot for free, or get commercially exploited. If I ever see a picture they ripped from the web and published (yes, it happened): I send them a bill. And for now? I search my place in the world of photography… somewhere between GWC’s, Uncle Ned, Frank Doorhof, Alex Vanhee, Stephan Vanfleteren, Piet Van den Eynde, Henk Van Cauwenbergh,… en de resterende dorpsfotografen.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      It will depend per topic indeed.
      But with weddings and concerts you can create…. Think about compositions, angles, finding the available light, hitting the right moment etc.

      That’s were I was going with the post.
      I think there are too many people out there that think there is a magic filter that will make a normal image like Mario Testino. What they forget however is that he finds the light and everything else is pretty much perfection before he presses the shutter.

      Just look at the retouch fora.
      There are so many people asking “how to create shots like xxxx” and they show a nice image of xxxx but after that show their own which for example has a totally different light setup, it doesn’t work like that.

      First you have to have the skills and than finish it off in photoshop, and again I love photoshop, it makes the look I use, but even without the images already look pretty decent 😉

  • Yourt

    Last part should read: “and what’s left of the local (village) photographers…

  • Eero

    Most of my models have been TF shoots and from MM web site, here is an email I got awhile back.nnMM= Model (if I recall she listed her age as 18-19) my cut off age is 21+ unless I know them personally nnMM: Photography looks great ! I am interested in doing a semi nude shoot..let me know if your interested !nHopefully your having a safe and prosperous new year :)n===nME: Yes I would be interestedn====nMM: Alright, I have some very creative and fun stuff in mind !nI am doing semi nudes for compensation ! My rates are very affordable and worth it trust me lol ;)nLet me know your availability for this month,aswell as a contact numbern====nME: My rates are high but reasonable.nSo I guess we can call this a no go..n=====nMM: Alright then ..nhave a nice evening.nn–nInteresting thing I read:nnThere have been many modern photographers that have tried to recreate Ansel Adams work with modern equipment like GPS to find the exact spot he was at, and at the exact same time of year and they still fail.n

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Sometimes models can be …….nnYeah imitating someone is good but trying to copy them will never work. It’s not math 😉

  • Keith Robins

    Hi Frank – I’m a plumber / builder and have enjoyed photography as a hobby since 1964 and flash lit portrait work since 1974. I can remember when a visit to a photo studio cost a fairly large portion of a weeks wages for a family of four and a queue to assist a top local photographer was unheard of.
    So what happened? We did our own thing and not realising the implications, we worked for free or for the lucky ones it was for a few peanuts.
    Fishing as a hobby doen’t pay, they give away most of their catch for the goodwill it brings. So too with gardeners who give away a lot of their produce because they cannot physically eat it all themselves – again for the goodwill.

    Now come back to photos, with a female ‘Make Over Day’ costing well over a weeks wages per person and more often and not with absolutely dire results due the money grabbing GWC’s is it any wonder the queue to use any studio is virtually non-existent and real photographers are finding it hard going to make ends meet.

    This year I have operated 6 two hour ‘Free Portrait’ sessions and without exception every single person said they would not have gone to a studio for a portrait shoot,
    Over two hundred people and no one of them considered a professional shoot! Why? Most didn’t think themselves good-looking enough. A lot were camera shy and a family member brought them along, etc, etc.
    They all went away with what they considered amazing photos of themselves and their families, plus they now know that strikingly good portraits can be produced as long as a mobile phone is not used.
    Ureekaaa!!! There is hope for the studio yet!

    At one such free session the clients were asked to make a donation according to what they thought the photos were worth. The cause was for a church wanting money for a project close to home. They wanted £2,000 for a new kitchen and two hours and sixty clients later the money raised was an astonishing £1,965 only £35 short of target!
    Now, I’m wondering who all those clients will be contacting for their next photo session, be it wedding or otherwise – hopefully it’ll be me. But, if it’s another local photographer then I shug and go back to my plumbing.
    Either way I will have succeeded in raising the profile of REAL photograhy by using creative lighting to produce high quality results within a few minutes.
    i could have produced 1,000’s of flyers and adverts costing hundreds of pounds, which would probably have ended up in the bin. As it is my photos are hopefully hanging on walls in dozens of homes where one day some one will say ‘Who took that photo? I need a wedding photographer.’

    I feel good and the client feels good and as an advertising exercise – which is best?
    Keith Robins of yeophotogroup (Google it in to find out all about the use of flash – for free!)

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      It’s indeed sometimes very wise to give free goodies to get back.
      But of course it should always be labeled as that.
      I also do work for free.

      However the amount of mails I get from models wanting to shoot with me on TFP so they can start their modeling career with good images is staggering. When you offer them a model for a day package (which is actually very cheap at 199.00) they claim that they will never ever pay for photography but want to get paid.

      That’s also were photography is now, and that’s a bad thing I think 😀

  • Ken

    I totally agree with a lot of the responses here, I too have done work here the odd time for free in exchange/ and or to get my name out there here in Holland. But I too have found the crap attitude adopted by either the fashion industry or a very few modelling agency’s that have either just began in the business or have been around for a short amount of time. Some have also emailed me to attend ie. “Fashion Show’s” and have said basically the same friggen thing… come on out we would love to have your images, doesn’t pay anything and if we use your images we’ll be sure to include your name… having said that…

    Only to find a well known clothing manufacturer used an image from my shooting that night in an online publication with no mention of the photographer and I found out that they actually took the image from someone else’s FB page that had been tagged. No regard for the “copyright notice” that is included on all works….

    Needless to say I was truly pissed off and spent a bit of time in phone calls to the web mag. I too feel that if these models are getting paid and companies sell the products that they are wearing, why shouldn’t they also pay to have their images as well, I think it would normally be part of the cost of doing business.

    We too all have families to feed and or equipment to pay for that we need to bring good images and that talent we develop over time truly has to account for something.  The crap attitudes need to be changed…
    understand that this is the mentality of many that I choose to Stand against.
    And no I will not work for free…unless as some have said here… it truly benefits my portfolio or it’s for the charity of a great cause. Of which yes, I have happily done before.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Always fight for those rights.
      And it’s indeed pretty weird.

      Yesterday I received an email from a model that she wanted to work on TFP because we were both professional…. from her mail and images I did not see any chance that she would be an addition to my portfolio so I offered her a commercial shoot. According to her this is weird because she is a model that needs a portfolio and models never pay for a portfolio.

      pfffffffff
      Next time I ask my plumber to do everything for free because we are both professionals.

  • http://twitter.com/MadKeanePhotos Andrew Keane

    Ive found the same, people have wanted to buy my framed prints for less than the cost of the actual frame.  With DSLR computers getting so clever now, any mug can pick up a camera and get what most people would think is acceptable images   Similarly with the rise of Facebook and so  on, people dont want nice prints from you, just some jpegs that can put on FB or print at their local supermarket chain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002713763980 Jan Wybren Vellinga

    your fully correct inyour thoughts. for free let them do it self,bon change,a trade should be staying trade. Jan V

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  • nanci france-vaz

    As a professional fine art painter, I have come across all of the above as I paint from life- need models and I paint from photos- can’t afford to pay models to sit all the time. It astounds me that people think it takes a blink of an eye to produce great photography or great painting (even worse) Painting takes sooo much time. Even when I was starting out, I did not work for free as my materials cost so much money plus the equipment. That said, I do agree with many of the feelings above as it is worth exposure as long as there is a light with your name on it at the end of the tunnel! Many artists are working for free…what a shame. In todays market of technology and immediate gratification, everyone thinks they are an artist because they own the camera or easel. The light is that some people know the difference between great visual work and just getting by with technolgy mediocre work. Talent is being compromised by digital and everyone with photoshop, digital cameras etc, think they are visual artists…NOT

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