If you’re good enough to get published you’re good enough to be paid

I sporadically read PictureCorrect photography posts. Sometimes I find them interesting, sometimes not. Sometimes I laugh at the lack of experience unwittingly betrayed by the writer and sometimes writers provide perspectives I’ve never considered before.

The best posts give me interesting ideas (rarely those intended by the authors because I tend to think out of the box) and I’ve found the worst to be insufficient rather than damaging That was until today. ‘How to get into concerts as a photographer’ has me enraged.

I believe it to be misleading, short-sighted and irresponsibly damaging to the photographic profession. In part I think it’s just plain wrong.

This is why:

  • It tells readers that stringers don’t get paid. They do. Being a stringer is an established job. Not a hobby or charitable activity. Some stringers get paid per piece taken, some per commission, some per hour or per day and sometimes (albeit rarely) some stringers get a retainer too.
  • It suggests that readers tell the publication they’ll cover an event in exchange for a press pass. Now I don’t know how it works in the US but doubt very much it’s different to the many countries where I’ve worked. In these countries it is the organising agency – often the event PR – who issues a press pass and not the publication or media agency at all.
  • It misses out the most important thing, that the photographs, once taken, and unless very specific contracts are signed in advance, are yours.

Now here’s a thing… If you’re good enough to be printed you’re good enough to be paid.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never contributed to the media before. It doesn’t matter that it’s your first piece. You are either good enough to be printed or you’re not. Of course a portfolio helps, but since no editor worth their salt is going to plan space for your image without being sure you can deliver to a sufficient quality, you need to develop that elsewhere.
By offering your work for free you are devaluing yourself from the start. The same is true for blog posts. Just like with this blog the words and images are all yours. Don’t devalue yourself or what you cover by accepting what you don’t want associated with you and remember the value.

If you believe that a business that has taken your work for free will suddenly start paying you, when they can go to the next hopeful photographer and take their work for free instead, we’re not living in the same world.

You’re worth it!

It has taken you a long while to learn how to take good shots. It has taken longer for you to develop your low light photography to an extent to which you think you can get good shots at a concert. It has taken you longer to get in touch with all those organisations to find out if they want your work. It will take you time to travel there, time to take the photos, time to choose your images, time to process them, and time to select the best few for the editor’s choice. Your camera is expensive, your processing software not free and by giving away your work you’ve given the message that none of that counts. You’ve further damaged your reputation because not expecting to be paid is an unprofessional approach.

You’re hurting others too!

And that’s not all. By giving your work away you’ve given a message that it’s OK to pay little or nothing for other peoples work as well. They will have taken years to hone their skills, will have expensive kit and software and will also be spending time and money on travel and pitching. They may be struggling to make ends meet in an economy that doesn’t help them and an attitude to copyright that is often  tantamount to theft. You’ve damaged every single other photographer and all their dependents, making it just that little more difficult to make a living through documentary photography at a time it’s already really hard.

If it’s your dream to become a professional concert photographer, you’ve made it a little more difficult for yourself as well. Don’t start thinking ‘its only me’ because if everyone else does the same you’ll never have a chance.

Listen to me

So listen to me. I’m going to say it again. Take responsibility for your actions. Do justice to yourself and other photographers. Follow the other parts of that post but expect to be paid from the start.
If you’re good enough to be published then you’re good enough to be paid.

Live up to this from the start.

Each how-to blog post is the synthesis of my experience as a pro-phtoographer and years of teaching photography to adults, children and teenagers. To attend a group course find me at City Academy or for flexible one-to-one tuition and portfolio building contact me directly.

this post, like all posts, is my exclusive copyright.