21 January 2009

shooting for free: thoughts and opinions

Just need to get something off my chest, as this issue has been buggin me in the last little while. And this has to do with the subject of FREE. I've been mulling over this subject and been working on this post literally the whole day.

As mentioned in my previous blog, I'm offering to shoot a complete wedding package for free. Free works because I like what I do when I cover weddings. And if it means working for free (and for fun) for a wedding so that others can be aware of my work, so that they in turn can pay the generosity forward, then it was worth putting in my own time and effort for the benefit of others as I'm true believer in karma.

I should also mention that the free wedding offer is something i hope to do just once a year as i have my own related expenses from each wedding shoot that needs to be taken care of. i prefer not be known as "the guy who shoots weddings for free!" but instead as "the guy who offered to shoot a wedding for free!"

And so I'm noticing an exploitation of photographers in a sense that they're being requested for a service but they're not being paid accordingly or compensated accordingly. Perhaps this has been going on since the dawn of time but I've seen and experienced this too often in the last little while. I'm usually under the impression that a certain photographer will get hired for his/her certain style as well as his/her personality. Not every photographer will shoot the same way, let alone act and react the same way given the task at hand. But yet some people think photographers are disposeable and take their skills and dedication of this art for granted.

Without a photographer, how else would an event be documented? Sure you can hear how the event went from those who attended, or you can read about it from those who wrote about it. But for those wanting a quick view (a glimpse if you will), they look at the pictures and they can see for themselves how everyone was having good time and see everything else that happened during that moment in time. Hello Facebook/Flickr/MySpace galleries!

Case in point: Can you imagine President Barack Obama's inauguration with no television or photography coverage? As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words" - and seeing the joy and jubiliation from the millions of people present during the inauguration was, in a sense, a "mind blowing" experience. There were millions of people gathered together for one man. There were tears. There was laughter. There was sense of unity among those of different color and class during this historic moment. To understand the grandeur and emotion of this event, one would definitely have to see the moments captured during the day.

So what really grinds my gears is the audacity of some people that request for event coverage but don't want to pay for services or compensate the photographer for the work he/she has done and yet they still want the pictures to be used for their own commercial use. Seriously?! This I have an issue with. If promoters think snapping pictures is easy, they can do it themselves. But I don't feel that they should have the obligation to call the shots and get the images if they make the photographer pay for the admin fee/cover charge of their event or at least come to some sort of mutual agreement of compensation. "Free" should be something that should be "freely" negotiated between all the parties involved.

Another case in point: Edmonton Fashion Week. As noted on their website, a photographer can apply to get a photographer's pass upon signing the release form. Which is understandable. But they still expect the photographer to pay for an event pass at a "special rate." As a colleague of mine said "Its not like the photographers are taking up seating or anything." Pictures can then be submitted for the Edmonton Fashion Week website for consideration (optional) and can then be up for sale for commercial use to designers, models and/or those in need stock photography from the event. But the photographer who took and submitted the picture is not going to be compensated or at least get a portion of the amount received for their work - like how most stock photography sites work (?). Umm… Yeah. The only one that tends to financially benefit from this arrangement, is the person heading up the photography part of this event so that he can get his own work out there but yet the photographers are "encouraged" to submit their work.

All I ask, and hope to see, is for photographers to be treated with a little bit more respect for the work that they do. If you're asking for a service to be done, I don't think it should come to a surprise that you can expect to pay in one form or another or at least negotiate something of equal value that will benefit all the parties involved. After all, it is a "service." Free will always have its moments when it comes to business, but just don't expect free every single time and don't feel that you're always obligated to get things for free. If that's the case, you might as well keep wearing those rose tinted glasses. From a photographer's standpoint: if it means standing your ground, declining some shoots, hurting some feelings and/or streamlining your clientele in order to stay true to your ideals and beliefs so you can be treated as a serious photographer so be it. the "Golden Rule" applies to all aspects of life - photography included!

I think this is all i have to say (for now!) about this subject matter but as least I wanted to get that concern out there.
thoughts? opinions? feel free to comment below.

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