Sunday, December 07, 2008

Us amateur photographers - always shooting for free

Although I have no authority or much experience, I thought I would chime in on the "work-for-free" controversy that is going on this past weekend in the photography blogophere from an amateur photographer's perspective. (btw - I hate the term blogosphere).

In brief, David Hobby (over at wrote last week that you can really feed your photography passion by shooting for free. That is, find something you want to photograph and use the promise of free photos to help you be allowed take the photos. One example given was taking photos for an animal shelter (for someone passionate about pet photography), another was taking photos of food for a restaurant that couldn't otherwise afford it.

The responses over the interwebs have fallen into three fairly predictable categories:
  1. The pros who feel that this undermines the value of what they produce. How can they feed their families if every Joe, Dick and Jane are willing to shoot for free?
  2. The amateurs who already don't get paid for what they do. They of course think this is a great idea as it gives them legitimacy for the photos they want to take.
  3. The in-betweens who want the best of both worlds. "Only take the gig if it is for a charity" is a common theme in this group.
Me? I think I mainly fall into category 2 with a hint of 3. Amateurs already shoot for free - that's kinda the definition of "amateur". We already follow our passion and shoot what we want to shoot (or, if they are like me, are still trying to find our passion). The advice Mr. Hobby gives us is that if we want to try something out of our normal subject set, offering our photos to the subjects may be a good way of getting to shoot what we want to shoot. And I think that is excellent advice!

I've been thinking about doing a few projects. One of them requires a fair amount of driving across Ontario (it will probably need to wait until we have second car). But one of them is way more possible in the here and now. In fact, the only thing stopping me was my shyness and the thinking that I should keep all the photos I take. I think the post over at may just be the kick in my pants that I need.

But there is still a part of group 3 that I fall in. I've done a few photo shoots for money; I charged way less then a professional photographer would, but I also delivered way less as well (no backup camera, delayed proofs, mid-range resolution, amateur touch-ups). Only one of the gig's I had I think would have gone to a professional if I wasn't convenient. At this point in my life, I don't want to be a professional photographer (I like my day job too much), but at the same time I feel that when I'm not shooting for friends or family, I should be charging something just so people know that there are professionals out there who make their living doing this. But with the advent of affordable professional quality cameras and photo-processing software that professional photographers will need to differentiate themselves from us amateurs or risk going out of business. Us amateurs are a wave that I don't think can be stopped.

Anyways - those are my thoughts (as always, worth just as much as you paid).