Working for free, is a mugs game

A few days ago, I saw Bill Schwab post this on facebook: "I just got a letter from a writer wanting my images for a Huffington Post article. I was given the tired, old line of... "They don't pay their contributors, but the exposure would be great."

Sorry, I don't work for people that don't pay their contributors. No one should. You're only cutting your own throat and those of your fellow creatives. I've been at this a long time and never once has free exposure lead to a paying job. It only marks you as a sucker."

I completely agree and have had a fair share of this kind of correspondence over the years I've been doing photography.

Initially, what seemed like an honour to have my images used by some organisation and have them printed and available with exposure, soon gave way to a bad taste in my mouth. The exposure was pointless because no one ever asked who the photographer was, and yet, the company got a lot of value out of having a beautiful image adorn their promotional activities.

If you are an amateur, hoping to make a living from your photography, the first bit of advice I would give you is to not give your work away for free. The second bit of advice would be to tell you not to undersell yourself, so don't give your stuff away for a knock down rate either. A poor rate suggests poor work, and no one is left in a position to admire you for what you do, least of all respect you, if you don't believe in yourself.

The other thing, is that giving your photographic time and work away for nothing kills the market. The problem is unfortunately, there's always someone out there who gets so flattered that they were asked, that they forget that they need to protect and look after their own work.

I get so many emails from friends or workshop participants who have been blown away by someone approaching them to use their images, often with the assumption that they will do it for free, and get some exposure of some kind out of it. Trust me - you won't.

Respect who you are, and respect your work. If people want what you do, they will demonstrate it by paying you for it.