You’ve heard the bad excuses for not wanting to pay a photographer, but the sad thing is that many aspiring photographers still get caught in traps when they’re first starting out. When you get caught in said traps, it can be tough to get out of them. Unfortunately, they can sometimes lead you into bankruptcy, heavy debt, unemployment, or bad legal issues. As a guy that is a former professional, I’ve seen and experienced much of it.
These are the traps that many get caught in.
Looking for Gigs on Craigslist
Craigslist is an awesome place for purchasing and selling used gear. Period. That’s it. That’s all it should be used for with the exception of reading and humoring yourself from the Missed Connections listings. But getting and finding gigs are Craigslist aren’t worth it for you for a number of reasons. For one, many of the people are scammers, low ballers, are looking for “the cheap photographer” and most of the people there just simply do not care about or understand what goes into being a photographer at all. In this digital age and in a time where camera companies are marketing their higher end cameras as being so simple to us, people don’t consider that it is the photographer that takes the images.
I once had a client on Craigslist that tried to talk me down from $150 to $100 for a photo session. He stated that since I was shooting his headshot and portrait for his album cover that it would give me quite a bit of promotion once he sells them.
Then he wanted me to design the album cover for him and didn’t want to pay the price for it.
There are lots of others like him too—the owner of a magazine actually called me to tell me that all he was paying me to do was show up, go “click click” and then fork over the images. And he only wanted to pay $75; my rate was minimum $350.
In general, Craigslist is just bad news for photographers.
Dumbing Down Your Resume/Portfolio
This goes out to graduate students. When I graduated, it was hard to find a job. Indeed, it still is. We live in a very tough economy here in America. Everyone told me to dumb my resume down to get a job. Why? Because for every interview I went for, I was told, “You’re overqualified.” In fact, many soldiers coming back from war are hearing the same thing right now.
In the end, do not undersell yourself just to get a gig.
Working for “Your Portfolio”
You are more than likely to encounter someone that will say that you will be shooting for your portfolio just to build yourself as a photographer.
Let’s get something straight: if you create the image, it’s yours and you own it unless you sign a contract with the client saying otherwise. To be more clear, if you are doing something under what is known as, “work for hire” the work will not belong to you. So of course, everything you shoot will be for your portfolio anyway. Even if you sign away your copyright, you should still be able to display the images in your portfolio.
Photographing a Charity Event as a Tax Write Off
If someone tells you that you can photograph a charity event and then you can claim it as a tax write off, they’re WRONG, WRONG WRONG!!!!
The IRS doesn’t allow write offs for labor you donate. You could deduct a dollar or so for the CD which would save you about 20¢ on your taxes.
Not Utilizing Social Media and Blogging Platforms
A lot of becoming a better photographer is about marketing yourself. If the marketing is right, you can sell babyback ribs to a vegetarian.
Your work won’t always speak for itself. You’ll need to understand the mentality of your clients, offer them what they’re looking for, and interact with them. Using tools like Facebook, Twitter and a blogging service like WordPress (or Tumblr if you want to target a younger audience) will help you to reach out to people, and put your name out there.
Also do not underestimate the power of viral videos. Having a YouTube presence can really help as well.
Working for a Company or Project that Can’t Afford to Pay The Photographer
So one day, I was offered a gig to shoot models on an airplane runway with jets, catering and a DJ. The client said that, “It would be the most legit shoot in history.”
To which I secretly said to myself, “Huh? What?”
After negotiations, he said that he couldn’t pay me and that instead he was having a lot of his photographer friends come to shoot the models for his clothing line.
So why did he invite me? He wanted a professional’s opinion to be on set.
To make a long story short, negotiations ended there. And the guy that tried to get me the gig told me that I should have tried to get money out of him. Meanwhile, he blew the entire budget on the models and the planes.
The DJ ended up just being a guy with an iPhone and a DJing app.
Not Working for What You’re Worth
This is the biggest one. You’ll need to take a look at your work, compare it to the work of other photographers out there, and ask professionals for help and advice. Also ask them to help you with pricing. The nicer ones will realize that you’re not a threat to them and assist you.
Do you have more advice to give? Let us know in the comments below.