I recently took some time off from photography. I had grown frustrated with things out of my control and made them bigger than they were. I didn’t think about photography for 2 weeks, probably the longest break I have taken since I started working as a photographer.
What bothered me was the lack of respect the business of photography gets. It is amazing how often I get asked to work for free or for a low payment. As a "professional photographer” I bring a valued skill set to the table. In my case I went to school to learn my trade and while this isn’t necessary, it is an indicator of my commitment to my craft. In this way I don’t differ from any “tradesman” such as a plumber, electrician or gardner. No one would think to ask them to do their job for free in exchange for “using it in my portfolio”. I doubt they could pay their bills with exposure. Why then is this an occurrence in photography? The most often excuse I hear is “we are just starting up and don’t have a lot of money’. Did “exposure” work for the lease? Did usage in a portfolio” work for the electricity company? I think you get my drift.
I learned how to exposed the image “properly”. I learned how to use light to shape and enhance my subject. I learned how to pose a person and communicate that message to my subject. I learned software skills to retouch images. I invested in quality equipment and software in order to do this work “right”. I took pictures, I made mistakes and I learned my trade. Then I had to learn another skill set. How to be a business owner. That was easily the hardest lesson of all. Charging people for my “gift”, my “talent”. At first it felt weird. It was awkward to ask for money. How do I put a value on something that is essentially capturing light? I don’t carve anything. I don’t purchase raw materials and build a house or a car or such, do I? But yes I do. I use light, my equipment and learned skills to put my subject in the best possible position to capture the best possible image. This isn’t simply pointing a camera and pressing the shutter. My break re-affirmed my belief in what I do. I have a talent and a valued skill. I create something that not just anyone can do. And I can do it well.
I am energized and ready to go.
So I ask, would you value the work of the “free” plumber? Is he going to put his heart and soul into it?