The video above is not specifically related to shooting models or even photography in general but it manages to perfectly sum up the approach of certain companies and individuals who attempt to obtain something for nothing in business. Nowhere is this problem more evident than in photography…
Unfortunately this kind of attitude is something that countless professional photographers face on a regular basis. How many times has a client said “we don’t have much budget this time” as though it was somehow different last week or will change next week…
Then there are those classics about doing the first job cheaply or even free as a test. Why should somebody who has been shooting professionally for years have to prove themselves with a test? Do you ask an electrician to rewire your house for free as a test?
Then we have that old chestnut called recognition with the infamous credit line. Let us publish your pictures for free and you will soon become a legend in Council Bluffs Iowa! In reality of course you’ll just be a soon forgotten struggling photographer who was taken in by a scam artist. The next time you get a request like that try asking the other person if they are paid for their work… Usually they are paid a nice reliable salary.
It’s frustrating and we’ve all be there at some point or another but for some reason photographers are generally far too “understanding and reasonable” (read gullible) when work discussions go in this direction and I think it has become much worse in recent years for all kinds of reasons.
There are far more part time photographers nowadays. These are the weekend warriors of photography with a day job who want to throw their hat in the ring without ever really considering the true costs of doing business. They figure they have a digital camera and that makes them a professional photographer but how long did they spend as an assistant learning how to deliver pictures according to the brief, on time and within the budget every time? How expert are they in colour management and preparing files for commercial print? This list goes on.
The stock agencies selling images for peanuts also deserve special mention… They take a pile it high and sell it cheap approach that grossly devalues both the perception of photography as a profession and the real monetary value of images by selling at prices that reflect neither the photographer’s costs nor the value to the client. They can only do this because they didn’t have to pay for the model, makeup, location, styling or retouching and just before I forget to mention it the photography!
On the other side of the equation there are substantially more corporate bean counters working in companies who only care about an immediate short term saving but have no real clue about the value of good photography and how an experienced professional can help their business. This makes it harder all round and is short sighted from every perspective, not least for the clients themselves.
It is the nature of a market economy that people are free to enter discussions over price and on the whole that is a good thing but the simple fact is that business exists to make a profit. As a professional photographer you need to make a profit, so you must know your real costs and price accordingly to earn a profit. It’s not rocket science and if you fail to make an adequate profit you soon go out of business.
The next time somebody approaches you and wants you to work for free or at below cost price just say no. Chances are you’ll lose that “client” but at that point you can breath a huge sigh of relief because it then becomes somebody else’s problem. Somebody else’s loss if they accept the deal.
Rather than worrying about it spend time on finding clients that are prepared to pay a fair amount for your work and looking at ways to bring added value to your work by improving your skills as a photographer. Fighting to become the cheapest is a miserable business model.