Exploitations of Photographers – True Stories

Illustration Photo Courtesy of http://www.digitaltrends.com

Often, I was asked by fellow photographers how much do I usually charge for various assignments – and my answers usually varies from person to person. The harsh reality is; a photographer should determine your own worth rather than asking others how much you are really worth. If you are one of these “photographers”, you are worthless in the eyes of other working photographers – simply because you cannot even place a price on your own works.

The (already tough) market has shifted so much that photographers are viewed as abundant & readily available (and fully exploitable). Sad as it is, and the irony to it all, many (still) allows themselves to be used – some without a choice, while as many decide to take the chance and allow oneself to be used while corrupting the industry further.

Let’s take a look at some real life examples below.
(All names & organizations had been changed or masked)

Case 1: Charging Peanuts for a SGD $2,500.00 Assignment
Illustration Photo Courtesy of http://www.birdsong-peanuts.com

Just 2 weeks ago, a fellow photographer friend told he charged a well-known “Hair Restoration” company a mere SGD $250.00 for an assignment – I almost flipped but kept my cool since he is just an amateur. Instead, I turned on my “keep cool” mode and continued the conversation with him. It’s people like these that really affects the industry pricing as working photographers are literally forced to lower their rates in the face of such competition by these freelancers.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly good amateurs or freelancers out there, then again, if they are good, they should be charging market rate like the working photographers are charging and not belittle themselves by charging token sums which is like a fraction of what the rest of us charge. With these rates, they are putting us out of business faster then you can reach for that shutter button.

Case 2: Since He Works for Me, He Shoots for Me – Free
Illustration Photo Courtesy of http://blogs.photopreneur.com

Another common scenario, an employee was known to be pretty good at photography by his employer. It does not help that his boss is on his Facebook & Flickr and looking through his photos and everything else he posted. Then one day the boss pops the question and asks him to shoot for company events, the company’s product shoots, etc and all these extra duties are to be carried without payment. This is exploitation to the max. I can fully understand this guy is facing his boss who determines his bonus & salary, but owning a DSLR and shooting great photos outside working hours has nothing to do with work!

In this case, the guy has no avenues to say “no” but allows himself to be exploited. By having one such employee, another working photographer lost a client. Such is the cruel reality of the industry.


Case 3: Will Credit You for you Photos, Here’s Your Photographer Pass.

official photographer pass signature landscape
Illustration Photo Courtesy of Google Search.

Now, this is the best lie in Singapore now. What the person is actually saying is “I am going to use your photo, but I am not going to pay, but I will announce to the world that you shot this and gave me this photo free!” Sad as it is, many companies are finding their ways to free photography through this channel and name it “below-the-line” while it is really a cover for shamelessly hitting below the belt.

Respectable corporations & even some ………. are using this cheap lowdown trick. They make it sound so glamorous like you are the “appointed” this, “appointed” that, gives you a “Photographer” pass so that you can wear on your neck and flash it to those “non-official” photographers while shooting on site. All the photos that you shot, becomes theirs – in reality. And all that the photographer is left with? Fatigue, sweat and a worthless Photographer Pass with tons of photos to be processed and to be given in exchange for the “experience” and the overrated “pass”.

Case 4: Photography Competitions
Illustration Photo Courtesy of Google Search.

And there are other companies that employ a similar tactic by organizing photo competitions. While prizes are sourced from sponsors vying for a logo display (so the prizes is free), then when all the photos are submitted, read the fine lines, those photos are at the organizers’ disposal – means they can use for anything they like from entrance tickets to posters to advertisements to everything and anything they can think of.

And after that, some good photos will be selected and they qualify themselves as competition organizers by doing an exhibition while shutting up the photographers at the same time giving these photographers a false sense of “glam” & recognition. Sounds familiar?

Case 5: Friends
Illustration Photo Courtesy of collegecandy.com

Friends around a photographer will remember the photographer when photography is required. Otherwise, this photographer will not be remembered at all. I am sure many of you can relate to this. Then when asked about rates, these people will be expecting you to quote a super low rate or “token sum” while most of them will (really) expect you to shoot for them for free – that’s what friends are for right?

Wrong. Friendship aside, Photographers are people too, with bills to pay, with family to feed and a photographer is 100% human just like you. If they truly regard you as a friend, they will ask for your market rate, not friendship rate. Get the drift?

Sad as it is, there are many photographers who still allow themselves to be used and exploited in various ways. Some exploitation methods are even creatively masked so that the photographers do not even realize that they are being used like a commodity. I fully understand that it takes 2 hands to clap, but who created the demand first?

Definitely not the photographers in this sense. And since there are many photography forums which advertising components are built into it, some of these companies even try to source out photographers from such communities by advertising paid assignments while trying their luck and hope that the next photographer who responds will be able to accept a token fee and yet produces world class photos.

Some things which all organizations must understand, a good photographer will be busy and kept busy, where got time for posting on forums and chit chatting with other “photographers”. Must be the really wrong place to find photographers isn’t it?
I leave the rest to your imagination.

To close this article, I have included a little price list below for those who had tried to exploit me in the past. This list was originally compiled at the end of 2012

Photography Assignment Price List
You Pay I Come with
$3000+ Canon 1Ds3/ Nikon D3x/ Sony A900
$2500+ Canon 1D4/ Nikon D3s/ Sony A850
$2000+ Canon 5D2/ No Nikon or Sony for you.
$1500+ Canon 50D/ Nikon D90/ Sony A700
$1000+ Canon 600D/ Nikon D5000/ Sony A230
$750+ Canon 1100D/ Nikon D3000/ Sony A100
$500+ Canon Powershot G12/ Ricoh GRD3/ Pentax Q
$250+ Holga Cams, Lomo Cams, Lego Cams, Go-Pro
$100+ iPhone 5.

All scenarios quoted above are taken from real life stories from real photographers and experiences. Any similarity to the shit that you had done or (still) doing to other photographers are purely coincidental and unintentional. All the shits above are also creatively weaved in such a way that photographers reading this will not know that I am talking about you & your tricks.

This article is not to slam amateur photographers working hard to be a pro one day but to educate those morons who charges peanuts for assignments or even shoot free. Whether you are a hobbyist, amateur freelancer or a pro, you should charge market rates if you are good at your craft. It’s time to corner those organizations who are exploiting photographers while cheapening the industry at the same time. Although this is easier said than done, everyone should at least try to say “No” once to a potential exploitation.

Maybe only then, everyone will learn in this Decade of Decadence.

About Editor AL

About The Web Editor: http://about.me/shutterjourney
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11 Responses to Exploitations of Photographers – True Stories

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for your comments.
    The article was targetted at a few specific people in my country. Not referring the general group out there.

  2. Ashley Surin says:

    Photography – Today everyone can be one, a claimed Photographer! Some even go as far to claim that they are a Professional Photographer. As for me I make no claims to any of this, all I want is to share my view of life as it happens. Not asking for rewards but more of respect of an art and discipline for my close to 30 years of imagery. The days of loading roll films and darkroom process is far behind most of us, and as we all move forward, we must never forget the respect of our forefathers of this discipline. To you I hold close to my very existence and extend a far more greater respect and give you all acknowledgement of the contribution to PHOTOGRAPHY. – Ashley Surin

  3. Alex Dela Cruz says:

    Thanks your article helps a lot of people to understand the works of a photographer.

  4. After reading this, I can conclude that photographers all over the world are not treated fairly by clients. In the Philippines, the general rule is if you’re cheap you got the job. They don’t care if you are good or not. If you’re expensive you might still get to work but payments will take longer. Sometimes (as in Singapore) they take advantage of an eager photographer to get his name on the pages so you have a byline but no payment, happens here too.

  5. OWO says:

    Hello, hello!

    I’m Elias, life & style editor of Eastie Brekkie and I’d love to share this content out on my portal (www.eastiebrekkie.com). FYI, it’s a newly-minted magazine covering all things quirky + need-to-know-stuff / helpful content. Please let me know what are your terms and conditions for sharing.


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