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Going Pro

Going Pro

There are two steps to being a professional photographer: one is to value your own work, the other is to create work of value. You do not have to do these in order, but doing neither is unsustainable.

The above photo I shot while on assignment for my local paper the Kitchissippi times. While it’s not my most involved portrait work, it was a paying gig that I also highly enjoyed. They’ve also given me the creative latitude to shoot as I want, or as I can, depending on the scenario and as long as I get the requested assignment

I’ve been approached by similar publications, and not for profits, in the past to do similar event work – but they did not offer compensation. Well, unless you’re the kind of person who thinks photo credit is compensation: it’s not, it’s your name in print that nobody ever… EVER reads. And while I think most can agree that if a paper (even a free one) gets ad revenue, then its photographers and writers should also get paid; the line isn’t as clear when it comes to not for profits.

Let me be clear: not for profits (NFP’s) are hugely “profitable” businesses. I know, I worked NFP for 6 years and helped fundraise millions upon millions of dollars. The “profit” I speak of, of course, goes to great causes like cancer research, and food for the homeless, and innoculating children in poor nations. I’m not trying to diminish the work they’ve (and I have) done, but not every thing a NFP does is worthy of YOUR charity as a content producer or photographer.

If you create work of value, photos of a run or walk or a fundraiser of some sort, that the NFP will use for promotion, then it’s worth them paying for. The people who organized the event, likely, were paid, there are staff positions that are paid, and paid well for people to do great work at NFP’s so they can raise the most money for the cause – but it’s also money for their paycheque… so my argument is this: if they get paid to help raise money for an event and a cause, so should you and I. It will actually HELP us create more and better work for them, sustainably, and give us time to do what I truly deem charitible work.

The only work I do now, charitibly, is the kind I choose to do – I will do work directly for the people who need help. If it’s a women’s shelter I’ll help take family photos of the women who’ve been running so long they don’t have a photo of their kids. Or I’ll photograph a family who is losing their only son to cancer – the last they’ll have. You can shoot these on your terms, on your own level of creativity, and you’re truly helping the PEOPLE you want to. But I’m not going to show up at a $1,000 a plate fundraiser, where the caterers are paid, the venue is paid, they’re under budget and just want more freebies. This doesn’t help me, I’m going to say it doesn’t help you, and it doesn’t value your work and you don’t need it.

Again, I’m not knocking paid fundraisers, I did it and got paid well. I also helped raise lots of money to help further research, build community, and directly help save peoples lives. It’s rewarding work, but, and maybe this is just me, shooting an event isn’t “rewarding” in the same way. Though I do think you, as a photographer, should be rewarded for that level of work. Does this make sense? I’m sure some of you disagree… sound off in the comments!

7 thoughts on “Going Pro

  1. mykl4 says:

    I absolutely agree with you. 100% buddy!

  2. RobertB says:

    Here! Here! I agree with everything you said…100%. The only ones profiting from freebies are those getting the freebie…except for the exceptions you mentioned…then you profit from feeling good by your own generosity.

  3. sabrina says:

    Do you have to value your own work AND create work of value to be a professional? Is doing only one of these enough? I know photographers who I think are creating work of value (that is usually subjective anyway) but living on the thinnest of margins.

  4. Greg says:

    The things you say, they make sense.

  5. DaniGirl says:

    I recently turned down a very good friend who asked me to do a photo shoot for her new business for a "photo credit" on her new site. It was incredibly hard to do – and I was so relieved when I did it. It's hard to find the line in the sand sometimes.

  6. CL says:

    I agree free has it's place- like a registered charity. If your business makes money you can pay money for services. I find when doing free work nothing is valued and the demands are high. I too need to feed my kids and if most people bosses asked them to come to wor, 2 hours early stay two hours later and than say oh yeah we aren\'t going to pay you this week not many would show up but yet we are expected to jump at the opportunity for the photo credit- FYI- nobody reads photo credits (except photographers)