At the risk of sounding defensive, let me emphasize to all my students:
Your photography is valuable – do not give it away.
Photography is at least as valuable as, say, dental hygiene, or plumbing, or sewers, or garbage collection. Yet people will pay for the latter, and pay well, and often not for the former.
Case in point. An art festival contacted me a few days ago: they wanted to use my photo of Jazz great Peter Appleyard, which they described as a “stunning photo”:
Note that this is a significant art festival, which:
- Charges up to $50 for admission per guest, for each event. Plus HST.
- Is sponsored by the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Canadian Heritage ministry.
- Is sponsored by The Cooperators and various other commercial organizations.
- Undoubtedly pays for its venues, food, drink, permits,
- Undoubtedly pays its performers.
- Undoubtedly pays its taxes, office costs, hydro, water, sewerage.
- Most certainly pays its printer for the brochure I was going to be used in.
And yet for the photo there was no remaining budget.
I would have let it go for a very small fee (my way of subsidizing the arts), but “”free” is a no-go. You see, I too am expected to pay the bills.
Why is this happening? I see a few reasons.
- “Uncle Fred has a Digital Rebel”. This makes the perceived value of photography zero, even though there’s no way Uncle Fred can produce a photo like the above.
- New photographers fall into the trap of “doing it for credit”. Don’t do this, new photographers, if you ever want to do it for a living! Instead, calculate the hours you really spend on a shoot (including talking about it, getting there, shooting, waiting, and post-editing), and multiply that by the wage you want to make (hint: you are worth at least what a dental hygienist or a plumber are worth!).
It is what it is – the Dutch have an expression that translates as “you can’t fight the beer quay” – i.e. if people want beer delivered, it WILL happen. Calligraphy went away, and if quality photography is no longer wanted by society, so be it. We’ll all just shoot weddings. Although – even those: I have recently been asked to shoot several weddings for “a few hundred dollars each”. Which is at least 20 times below my normal fee.
There will of course always be quality photography, Ads in magazines, art shows (like mine coming up: Never Not Naked – Natural Nudes) and more will always need competent artists. But it will be a market where 1% of photographers get paid, and the rest do it “for credit”.
So – a parting thought: be part of the 1% and come to me to learn how to really do it!