Be Nice To Photographers

Aug 04, 2019 · 3 min read
Although photographers at the moment are prepared to take less and less to try and hold onto their careers, photography has taken a very weird turn in 'the race to the bottom', with the onslaught of free image sites such as Unsplash and Pexels. These sites have somehow convinced good photographers to give them their photographs for free, completely free, not like microstock, which at least can make these people a little income on a monthly basis, these sites have convinced photographers to give their talent away for completely zero income.

Agreeing to work for very little money was never a good career move!

What is it about photography that clients always try and persuade photographers to work for free. Would a plumber fix your boiler on the possibility that you will pass their name onto someone else or a dentist give you an implant because you promise to tell everyone about their great work? All photographers have their own stories about being asked to work for free but I really thought that no one actually agreed to this. I learnt early on in my career that if clients ask you to take a cut in the payment because a certain job can't pay much, then the client does not think that they owe you a favour to be repaid at some time in the future, they just file you away in the "they'll work for less money" file and hence remember you for this fact and you will keep getting the lower paid jobs, whereby the photographers who respect themselves enough to turn down these jobs will be the ones who usually get the better work. Agreeing to work for very little money was never a good career move! Agreeing to work for very little money was never a good career move! Although these free libraries, promise that your name will be passed onto hundreds of potential clients, do people really believe that this will actually be the case. Out of the thousands of photographers shooting for these sites, there are always going to be a few good luck stories that get pushed to the top of the pile but I would imagine that there won't be many photographers getting any longterm advantage from these sites. I just don't think that clients who have worthwhile work will go to free sites to look for photographers, when there are loads of great sites, showcasing photographers work, with people who have total respect for where their images will be used.

So why do photographers give their work away for free?

* Maybe they don't realise how good their images actually are.
* They don't know that people can actually make a living from selling images.
* Photographers truly believe that this will be a good way to start their career.
* They are just stupid.
* All those 'likes' are just too tempting.

One thing that definitely shouldn't be underestimated is that little thumbs up button on each image.

The most surprising thing about these free sites is the quality of images is actually very good and easily good enough to have given these creatives an income only a few years ago. The images would look fine on microstock, royalty free or even a lot of rights managed libraries. Maybe the fact that everyone is carrying a camera in their pocket brings down the value of photography and people view it as an easy pastime, that just doesn't warrant being paid for but the amount of people who are trying to make an extra income from photography who submit to these sites, suggests otherwise. One thing that definitely shouldn't be underestimated is that little thumbs up button on each image and the way it drives so much at the moment. The dopamine rush that receiving a few likes every day is very strong and just like every other drug, that buzz is never quite enough and always cries out for more, creating a loop that never gets better but keeps you in enough anxiety that you need to feed the machine with more and more. Although it is really hard to believe that people would give up their photos just to receive some 'likes’ it seems the reality is quite the opposite.

It is the libraries that should receive most of the blame.

Ultimately though, it is the libraries that should receive most of the blame by tricking all these people that they are contributing to some wonderful community when the truth usually points towards a sell out to one of the FAANG companies and a retirement in the 40's. I don't know the specific details of these new libraries (but have started researching them for a follow up piece soon) but I just don't believe that they are giving their time for free as they expect every one of their contributors to do, they are not working from the basic cooperative guidelines and hence I think they really should be a little more answerable to the community for the damage they are doing to these photographers, let alone the damage to the industry. After the introduction of microstock, which put the balance, clearly in the favour of the larger companies, I guess it was only a matter of time before 'free' became the norm and the stupidity of photographers would kill the industry.
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