Stung by the freebie bug....

Joined
Dec 11, 2007
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Janesville, WI
Hey, all, I haven't been around here in a good long while. I have taken many a good photo, and I promise I will be posting some here soon, but I'd like to talk--or vent--about an experience that I have had in the past six months.
I have fallen victim to the freebie.

You see, I snared a paying gig with a local semi-pro football team last year, whom were very familiar with me. I pulled in $75 a game, which I know will seem abysmally small to some here, but for a semi-pro team, that's a pretty good, not to mention rare, snag. Plus, the print sales in the mid-hundreds helped make it all the more sweet.

Well, long story short, I took some darn good pictures and won a championship with them. Along the way, I got to know the other guy they were allowing to shoot: a middle-aged fella who was just starting in photography, with a good personality, a penchant for learning the craft, and a willingness to do it for free(Hey! Don't get ahead of me here).

Fast forward to later this past winter. WHile perusing Facebook, I noticed that this team made a shot-out to 'their' photographer, the aforementioned rookie. I was puzzled by this, since I had been their official photographer for the 2012 season. I queried the team.

I was answered by the team's ownership, telling me that they will not be going to pay me to shoot this coming year, as they had "several" other photographers "willing to do it for free", but I was more than welcome to come in to any of their games, albeit in a volunteer role.
I promptly wished them luck on their upcoming season.

Now, I know that they did what they had to do in the name of business, running a semi-pro team is neither easy nor cheap, and in acknowledging this, I hold no ill will towards them.
However, I can't feel but a tad bitter, since this is the first time that I had lost a gig to the free competition.
It sucks, but I can honestly say that you get what you pay for.

Unfortunately, all of the other options I have available are all volunteer, but I am in talks with a different organization, which should prove interesting: The Racine Raiders, the organization that I cut my teeth with.

-jStat
 
Joined
May 9, 2008
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2,511
Location
houston tx
Sorry you lost the 75 bucks/game gig. Is the other guy also giving away his prints or selling them to the public? Wonder if they art still happy with the other guy, or if he sometimes misses a game or doesn't get as good a shot.
 
Joined
Jun 15, 2008
Messages
4,069
Location
Bellingham, WA
Photographers go through the same thing as musicians. Try to get a gig that will pay you to write a soundtrack these days. Anyone with an electronic keyboard will do it for free just to get their name in the credits. It sucks.

The few people I know who were wedding photographers have given it up as there is just no money in it anymore.

Carole
 
Joined
May 20, 2005
Messages
9,393
Location
Hazlet Township, NJ USA
Welcome to the club John! I'm a professional graphic designer and self employed for the past 15 years, I loose a lot of business to people designing newsletters/brochures for free, the designs they create for free looks very unprofessional and break every rule in proper graphic design.

Over at sportsShooter.com the pros have the same problem you are experiencing with free photographers.
 
Joined
Jun 9, 2006
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Rural Virginia
I suspect some of the "free" photographers are hoping to build experience and reputation so as to eventually get paid work. Of course then they will be in competition with those behind them who are still in their free phase.
 
Joined
Sep 23, 2006
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1,083
Location
Pennsylvania
I am an amateur and I had previously volunteered some time taking photos at a non-profit to help boost their activities. I was not competing with professional photographers - the organization simply had no budget for paying and they relied heavily on volunteers for most of their functions. With all due modesty, my photos were pretty good. I'm sure most of the knowledgeable people here would do the same.

The problems started coming when other people wanted to start taking photos also, either because they had just bought a new camera or they wanted to contribute in some way. These were nice people just wanting to help out, but frankly their photos were not very good.

The kicker was that the organization either didn't recognize the difference in quality or didn't care.

As another example, I recently offered my services to a dog rescue group and did an initial shoot with them. They seemed ecstatic about the results but never invited me back despite several attempts to hook up with them.

People just seem to be satisfied with mediocrity, whether or not it involves saving money. Sometimes you can't even give it away.

Barry
 
Joined
Jul 30, 2006
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11,635
Location
Southern California
I suspect some of the "free" photographers are hoping to build experience and reputation so as to eventually get paid work. Of course then they will be in competition with those behind them who are still in their free phase.
That, and they don't realize that they have just helped perpetuate the whole "I can get photos for free" attitude, which will only hurt them if/when they want to start charging. People will leave them for the next batch of free shooters! :mad:
 
Joined
Oct 31, 2008
Messages
1,611
Location
New Germany, N.S.
This is the DIY era of photography, all you need is a camera and skill is not required to shoot free images....Someone said wedding photography has gone that route, glad I am pretty much out of doing those - I used to get $500 for a nice 4x6 proof album 20 years ago, using (horrors!) FILM, I could take maybe 180 shots, people called me all the time to book my services.

Anyway, I can no longer be bothered with competing for scraps, let the FaceBook and Instagram shooter have his/her day....
 
Joined
Sep 18, 2007
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2,873
Location
London
I did a wedding for a friend a few weeks ago. There is no way they could have afforded to use a 'professional' and there is no way on earth they would have paid what most 'professionals' charge even if they could have afforded it. Anybody who pays hundreds and hundreds of pounds to do so is insane. Wedding photographers are a dying breed and I have no problem with that. Of course there are exceptional photographers who will photograph a wedding for an exorbitant fee and if you can afford it and want magazine quality photographs of the big day then fair enough but most wedding photographers are pretty average and 50 guests with an i-phone and Photoshop Elements can pretty much cover everything now. Most of the people I know who earn their living from photography work in very specialised areas like advertising and fine art (photographing paintings for auction houses etc) and have conceded that weddings and local journalism etc are covered by the masses now and there is no money in it anymore. Every trade evolves and you just have to evolve with it.
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2009
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5,509
Location
Alaska
..The kicker was that the organization either didn't recognize the difference in quality or didn't care....People just seem to be satisfied with mediocrity, whether or not it involves saving money. Sometimes you can't even give it away.
Photography is like many other professions, particularly professions based on things of subjective value, in that we photographers care more about the finer side of our work than anyone else. As the profession ages, the professionals tend to lose focus on what really matters to the users of the product/service and turn their focus inward on the profession itself. Hollywood awards are a perfect example of this.

I understand the comments in this thread and I understand the frustruation. But it is what it is. Photography is no longer a specialty requiring special skills and equipment. Based on the data out there, including this thread, it has become a comodity. And in comodity markets, price tends to trump quality in the decision making process. Things don't have to be perfect, they just need to be good enough.

That's the point that is hard for us photographers to grasp. By definition, we are constantly seeking to perfect our craft. But the general consuming public doesn't really care :frown:
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2007
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6,184
Location
Glens Falls, NY
Photography is like many other professions, particularly professions based on things of subjective value, in that we photographers care more about the finer side of our work than anyone else. As the profession ages, the professionals tend to lose focus on what really matters to the users of the product/service and turn their focus inward on the profession itself. Hollywood awards are a perfect example of this.

I understand the comments in this thread and I understand the frustruation. But it is what it is. Photography is no longer a specialty requiring special skills and equipment. Based on the data out there, including this thread, it has become a comodity. And in comodity markets, price tends to trump quality in the decision making process. Things don't have to be perfect, they just need to be good enough.

That's the point that is hard for us photographers to grasp. By definition, we are constantly seeking to perfect our craft. But the general consuming public doesn't really care :frown:
Very well put, and (unfortunately) spot on, IMO.

As you said, "Photography is no longer a specialty requiring special skills and equipment". .....But good photography still does (especially the skill part), and that will never change.
 
Joined
Jun 15, 2008
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Bellingham, WA
Very well put, and (unfortunately) spot on, IMO.

As you said, "Photography is no longer a specialty requiring special skills and equipment". .....But good photography still does (especially the skill part), and that will never change.
You mean, my photographs don't come out good because I have a good camera??? :biggrin:

Carole
 
Joined
Sep 21, 2008
Messages
6,374
Location
Alabama
I suspect some of the "free" photographers are hoping to build experience and reputation so as to eventually get paid work. Of course then they will be in competition with those behind them who are still in their free phase.
I hear that rationale all the time with the spec sports shooters. They will say this gives them access they normally will not get so they can build a portfolio to get better work. They don't realize when they get that good, they work themselves out of a job because there is someone right behind them willing to do the same.
 
Joined
May 9, 2008
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houston tx
Maybe we should look at it ("official" team photographer) as the license getting us into the special place near the action and when/if we get that special action shot (that can never be taken from the stands) we can sell it online. Let the team have the second-best or third-best picture as their "payment".
 
Joined
Aug 28, 2011
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919
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Northern California
People just seem to be satisfied with mediocrity...
Too true I'm afraid. People have been sold "good enough" for so long, they are happy with what can best be called "snapshots" rather than photographs!

Another example is the music world with what iTunes & MP3s have done to the audio spectrum....
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2009
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5,509
Location
Alaska
Too true I'm afraid. People have been sold "good enough" for so long, they are happy with what can best be called "snapshots" rather than photographs!...
Then again, maybe people haven't changed at all. Maybe what has changed is simply the availability. How many people do you know that even had cameras 20 years ago? One in ten? How about one in five? Now it's nine out of ten have some kind of image capture device with instant feedback on what they captured. Most people are mainly concerned about the content in the image and could care less about the blinkies or the distracting spots in the background in the upper left hand corner of the frame.
 
Joined
Dec 11, 2007
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Janesville, WI
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #18
Okay, sorry for the delay in getting back here.
Here is a sampling of what I was offering:

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Joined
Jul 21, 2007
Messages
5,262
Location
NJ
This is the DIY era of photography, all you need is a camera and skill is not required to shoot free images.....
Wrong!. The is the DIY era. Period. It's not just photography. You'd be amazed how many people think they have the skills to design their own business cards without any formal design background (and the cards, predictably, come out horrific). Or design a website themselves. Think they're professional accountants. And business consultants.

Photographers are really just as much misers like the rest of society, and are just a quick in thinking "I can do that myself with the right tool." The difference is that, as long as it's not photography, they don't see it.

When your product is a commodity, all you can compete on is price and that's a race to the bottom. Don't think that "free" is rock bottom; wait until you will get the photographers who are willing to pay (in exchange for good seats in the stadium) to take sports pictures.

Selling is always a matter of ensuring that the value of what you sell is (in the eyes of the buyer) higher than the price they're paying. As photographers we tend to put too much value in "Image Quality," something that many sportshooters here have already discovered that their customers care less about. Compete on price and you'll have to compete with the compact camera and iPhone shooters whose picture quality is, in the eyes of those who hand out the money, is good enough.
But value can take many other shapes. Professionalism; tailored image series per customer. Uncle Bob has the skill to press the button on a camera, but does he have the skills to tag the images in Lightroom? To have an individualized series for each team member at the end of the year? To have the pictures up on the website before the team gets home from an away game?
Value selling is finding out what is valuable for the team, and provide that as a photographer. Image quality is a part of that, but there's much more that can make a paid photographer more valueable for a team than a free "Uncle Bob." The trick, of course, is finding out what that is. The sooner you figure that out for "your" team, the less you have to fear rookies who work for free--or are even willing to pay to work.
 

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