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Exchanging photos for "exposure"

According to a recent opinion piece in the New York Tiimes, I'm not alone in being a "slave of the internet."

"...being told that what you do is of no ($0.00) value to the society you live in is, frankly, demoralizing. Even sort of insulting."

No matter what you charge for your art, someone always wants you to give it away for free. I'm not referring to charities or family members, but to businesses with budgets. If I choose to donate my time or some of my work to a charity I support, that's my decision to make. And if a close family member wants a photo, I don't charge (although a request to pay me always follows). No matter who asks for one of my photos, I'm flattered they asked and it makes me happy to know that someone enjoys my work enough to hang it on their wall in their home or office. But when a business expects me to jump at the chance to have my work included in their newsletter/website/magazine/event/whatever in exchange for "exposure," a photo credit or byline (quickly following that with "we have no budget to pay you"), that's just insulting. You have a budget. That's what it's for. And I'm sorry, but I really don't believe that whatever "exposure" I may get from giving your company my photo will result in customers ringing my phone off the hook offering me more work. Do you ask your mechanic to fix your car for free, in exchange for passing along his name to your friends? Nope, you don't. Please don't expect me to do it either.

Over the years, I've been asked by quite a few people if I would shoot their wedding. The question comes from random acquaintenances, mainly, but once I was asked by a stranger on the street while I was photographing buildings downtown. Odd. I've heard everything from, "We are on a really limited budget" to "Other wedding photographers I've contacted are SO expensive!" I should clarify something here: I don't shoot weddings. I never have and I have no desire to start. I admire photographers who do (and I know some really awesome ones), but shooting a wedding is a whole new level of pressure and stress that I honestly have no need for. I always refer the acquaintenance to one of my wedding-photographer friends with the caveat that you really do get what you pay for. Professional wedding photography is not cheap and there are many good reasons why pros charge the rates they charge.

This article by photographer John B. Mueller provides a great explanation of why photographers charge what we charge for our work. Ok, it may be an extreme example, but you get the idea. I feel comfortable saying I probably speak for most photographers when I say, "Please respect the time, effort and costs that go into producing our work." We'll do the same for you.


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