why are you working for free?
one of the (many) blogs i subscribe to is written by liz gumbinner, one of the owners of the cool mom picks website. she also has a personal blog and it's one of my favorites. she writes frequently about the problems with mommy bloggers giving away free ad space on their blogs to big corporations and the need for these woman to earn money from their hard work - and not just be so flattered that a big corporation noticed them that they are allowing them to advertise for free.
her post today, however, resonated with me as a photographer because of the proliferation in the photography industry of what are (snidely) called MWAC: moms with a camera. i don't like the term but i understand how and why it exists. lots of the "portrait" photographers around are moms who started taking photos of their kids and decided to call themselves a photographer.
i get it. and truthfully? i don't care. lots of industry vets complain about the newbies and how they are destroying the industry (whine, whine, whine) but i believe that most of them will flame out on their own. being a photographer isn't just taking pretty photos, creating a catchy logo or having pretty packaging; it's a lot of hard work behind the scenes. the photo session is the easiest part: there's editing, retouching, billing, administrative work and all the crap that comes with running a *business*.
the part i do care about, though, is that most of these photographers don't charge (or charge enough) for their work. i can't tell you how many times i've heard from women on photography forums that they have a hard time charging clients because they 'just love what they do so much' and feel like 'everyone should have beautiful portraits'.
um, screw that.
if you're running a business, you should be making money ~ otherwise you just have a ridiculously expensive hobby. does the sales person at nordstrom give you a new pair of joe's jeans because she thinks everyone deserves to have jeans that flatter their butts? hell, no. so why are you giving *your* work/time/effort away for free? you giving your work away for free affects the rest of us: it trains clients to expect to pay little or nothing because the "photographer" down the street will do it for free. liz tweeted last night, "Just lost a potential sponsor for CMP because they have "mom bloggers who will advertise for us for free" - so hey! Thanks for that!"
if you don't put a fair price on your work for fear that people won't pay it then you shouldn't be in business (and not just the photography business but *any* business). i know lots of moms who have discovered a love of photography and are working hard to make it a business ; they are talented photographers but they also realize that their work is worth being paid for and they charge accordingly. respect, people. if you don't respect your work then how the hell do you expect anyone else to?
it takes a while to gain the confidence to charge a fair price for your work. some people won't pay it and that's ok. it's business, not personal. and at the end of the day, if you're not making money then you aren't running a business, you're just taking pretty pictures.
the best line from liz's blog post today:
Even if you're just starting out, even if you have 10 readers and two of them are your toddler twins, your time and effort and endorsement are worth something.