Are Your Business Practices Hurting Other Photographers?

My raison d’etre in doing blog entries on the subject of business practices is to be helpful to those who may need just a nudge in the right direction of information, need a little push, or need a full-contact shove. The degree of effort made is tempered by the degree of need, and some people may not like the counsel, but that doesn’t invalidate the benefit.

Recently, a reader commented to me, “…some of us aren’t into it for the money or as a profession. We’re into it for fun or as a creative outlet of expression and art. Therefore, the business side is just a PITA and potentially something that just gets in the way…”

Here’s the problem: if you are not looking to be a photographer by trade, then don’t collect money. Feel free, by all means, to make beautiful nature images, photograph protests in your home town, or do a nice portrait of a family friend. However, if you have any respect for other creatives — and to tangentially ensure their longevity — your action of taking $50 for an assignment that should have been $500, or giving away photographs for access to the limited locations that are credential positions, is detrimental to your fellow creatives, and those whose work you admire.

Tag: ((photography business)), ((microstock)), ((stock photography))

If you enjoy looking at another photographer’s work in a gallery, or in publications, your undercutting or taking photo positions “for fun” is diminishing others’ ability to earn a living.

When that reader wrote “…the business side is just a PITA and potentially something that just gets in the way…,” what the reader is saying is that, to whatever degree they are doing so, they are doing something that is business-related, and they’re no doubt doing it poorly.

One of the business-side issues these people are dealing with is the contracts, many of which transfer copyright to their work to the people assigning them. Guess what? That means that you are no longer the author. You are no longer entitled to place a photo credit with your name next to the image. You can’t put it on your Web site without a license from the legal author, and, legally, you can’t even tell your friends that it’s your photo. You will never earn $1 from that photo again.

This article in Businessweek reports that “adding up the cost of all the parts that Apple is expected to use in the [iPhone] suggests it will cost about $230 to build the 4GB version that will sell for $499 and about $265 to build the 8GB version that will sell for $599.” Ok, so that may be the cost of the components, but it does not account for the expense of building the OS, R&D, support, and so forth. This formula does not take these things into consideration.

Saying “Oh, it only cost me $20 to shoot that concert at the arena downtown…” does not factor in the costs of the equipment to do so, the training to get you so you can, the storage/archiving of the data you produce, and the time sitting in front of a computer doing post-production (or the software to do so.)

Lastly, it’s a laughable notion that one would want to work for free (or next to free) or take a loss, and your actions are underwriting the costs that a multimillion dollar corporation would otherwise have to pay.

One Response to “Are Your Business Practices Hurting Other Photographers?”

  1. There is plenty of reason to collect money even if you don't plan to have a career in photography. There's a pro-sumer market now, people who want to cover their own expenses and afford to upgrade their equipment. They don't necessarily want thousands of dollars, just enough to make sure they can repair their autofocus motor and get the latest version of Lightroom.

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